The principal medium of exchange in the early territorial days in Nebraska was "Wildcat" paper issued by the numerous banks that had been chartered by the Second Legislature.
At the first session of the Legislature in Omaha, the Territorial Bank Act, as it was called, was bitterly opposed by A. D. Jones, one of the Loup Ferry Company and Pawnee Town Company, and an early Omaha settler. He was a member of the Council, or upper house. He denounced the bill as a "Wildcat" scheme, and appealed to his fellow members to guard their reputation; to consider the esteem in which posterity would hold the founders of this great new commonwealth. He begged them not to place upon the people of the territory a financial measure that would lead to distress and ruin, and for which they would be cursed by their constituents for many years to come.
In the course of his eloquent speech, he declared that he would have his tombstone inscribed with the inscription: "Here lies an honest man --- he voted against 'Wildcat' banks in Nebraska." He sat down, pleased with his effort. After a deep silence, a Mr. Allan H. Bradford, the representative from Otol (sic) County, arose to his feet, saying:
"The gentleman is honest. I suppose he is. If he is as honest as he says he is, he will not die but be taken up bodily in a chariot of fire as Elijah. I see him there now, a-singing, instead of down here a-making speeches which won't do any good away out here in Nebraska."
Mr. Bradford went to Denver, Colorado, during the gold discovery, and soon became quite prominent there and later served as a representative to Congress from that state.
A bill was introduced in the first legislature granting a charter to the Western Exchange, a Fire and Marine Insurance Company, authorizing them to issue policies on fire and marine risks, with one section authorizing the company to conduct a banking business, receive deposits, and issue certificates of deposit. This company was a branch of Greene, Ware and Benton, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which also had a branch bank in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Thomas H. Benton, Jr. was president of the Omaha branch; Leroy Tuttle, cashier; and A. U. Wyman, teller. In later years, Mr. Wyman efficiently filled the important office of United States Treasurer.
The Western Exchange Banking House failed in September, 1857, and its assets were declared worthless.
During the Second Legislature, the National Bank of Nebraska was one of five banks chartered. Samuel Moffat was the cashier. His brother, D. M. Moffat, president of the First National Bank of Denver, was a stockholder and director of the Omaha bank. The famous Moffat Tunnel was named for him.
In May, 1857, this bank closed its doors, with eight dollars and twenty cents in cash on hand. It later received every dollar of its currency, amounting to over thirty-seven thousand dollars.
Other banks chartered by the Second Legislature included the Bank of Florence, the Platte Valley Bank of Bellevue, the Nemaha Valley Bank of Brownsville, and the Nebraska City Bank.
Each bank note issued by these banks bore on its margin: "Stockholders individually reliable," which was translated to mean "bill holders individually reliable."
During these years, a Nebraska note had no value east of the Mississippi River. In one eastern city, a few of the bills were taken but sent back to Columbus to a mutual friend to be exchanged for eastern money.
The Bank of Florence, the National Bank of Nebraska, and the Western Exchange Bank were given preferred ratings on account of the reported wealth of the institutions' stockholders. A publication of bank ratings known as the Thompson Bank Note Reporter was issued regularly in New York and circulated all over the country. Before a business man would accept
The History of Platte County Nebraska
a bank note in payment for merchandise, he would consult this publication. No merchant could safely do business without it.
In 1926, E. W. North, a former cashier of the Central National Bank, in Columbus, gave a paper on the year 1856, before the Platte County Pioneer Association. It read in part:
"It was a time of reckless speculation. In January, 1856, the legislative assembly deemed it necessary to have more money in the country, so six banks were created, or one bank for every five hundred men in the territory, and each bank had the power to issue as many dollars of indebtedness as the circumstances of its individual stockholders demanded for their own pecuniary necessities, and what were the consequences? Everybody had credit. Unfortunately for the wise constructors of those patent mills for money-making, there was no soundness in the prosperity of that day. Farms were sadly neglected by some in the summer of 1856, but the crop of town plats, townshares, town lots and Nebraska bank notes was astonishingly abundant. This lasted until the panic the following year, when the banks closed their doors."
At the third session of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature, 1856-1857, a number of new bank charters were passed. They were all vetoed by the governor. The charter for the Bank of Tekamah was passed over his veto.
That year, Vincent Burkley, one of the Columbus Town Company, who took out his stock in the name of his nephew, Anthony Voll, together with John Creighton, Thomas Swift, Mike Murphy, Pat Gurnet, Thomas O'Connor and two other men, all of Omaha, bound for St. Johns in the Dakota country, to lay out an addition, stopped at Tekamah for the night.
Early in the morning, they awakened the cashier of the bank so that five of their number could exchange several hundred dollars worth of bank notes for twenty-five hundred dollar to three thousand dollar notes for gold. Shortly after this, the bank was closed.
The Financial Panic of 1857 had a most depressing effect upon the entire country. In this panic, the banks and business houses of Omaha and the business houses of Columbus suffered their share. The panic began in the east by the failure of a few banks, and gradually reached the west, where bank after bank went to the wall, carrying along business firms who owed them money.
The suspension of the Ohio Life & Trust Company was quickly followed by the failure of Illinois banks, and then others throughout the west.
The direct cause of the panic was the fictitious value of the currency in vogue at this time. The city of Omaha issued fifty thousand dollars in scrip prior to May, 1856, to build its second capitol, and then another fifty thousand. For a while, in late 1856 and in 1857, scrip was at a par value, but upon completion of the capitol, the scrip became worthless.
J. Sterling Morton said that there wasn't an average of two and one-half dollars in cash. to each inhabitant of Nebraska Territory, in 1858.
In the late 1850's, the discovery of gold on Cherry Creek, in Colorado, started the Pike's Peak excitement and fairly set the west on fire. Almost at once, a large immigration of fortune hunters started out in that direction. This brought about a change of fortune in trade for those along the traveled route west.
Other Omaha banks were organized and opened between 1859 and 1860, two of which are still in existence today.
The five Kountze Brothers saw their real estate investments fail during the panic, and opened a private banking business in Omaha, in the fall of 1857, which continued until 1863. In that year, they organized the First National Bank of Omaha, as a successor to the Kountze Brothers Bank. It is one of the largest banks in Omaha today.
Edward Creighton was president; Augustus Kountze, vice-president; and Herman Kountze, cashier. This bank was located in the middle of the block, between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets, on the north side of Farnam Street. A large part of their business in that day was in Government Vouchers and gold-dust from the newly discovered mines in Colorado.
The Kountze Brothers were well known in the banking field, having also established Kountze banks in Denver, Colorado, and New York City.
Following the War of the Rebellion, in 1865 and 1866, there was an inflation in currency all over the country.
In 1866, Ezra Milliard withdrew from the Omaha private banking firm of Barrows and Milliard, established in 1856, to found and promote the organization of the Omaha National Bank. This organization was effected on July 2, 1866. It is now one of the foremost banks in Nebraska.
Most of the banking business from 1856-1871 transacted by Columbus early settlers and mer-
chants was carried on through the established Omaha banks of that day.
In the Columbus story of the organization of financial institutions, only a mention has been made of the men who, as directors or officers, chartered the banks, building, loan, and savings associations, and finance companies.
These men down through the years were all prominent in business circles, and all qualified by experience to exercise the foresight of the financial institutions they founded.
In the over-all picture of banking, the trend of the times was reflected in the lives of these institutions.
Wildcat banking in the New Territory of Nebraska affected local business, and state and local financial institutions have suffered other periods of stress in international, national, and state affairs.
These downward trends which followed years of panic or depression were experienced in 1894, 1897, 1907, after World War I, 1929, and the early 1930's.
However, we always seem to emerge from these periods of stress with a new forward outlook.
The first bank in Platte County was established in Columbus in 1871.
When the town of Columbus was fifteen years old, in July, 1871, Leander Gerrard and Julius A. Reed opened a private bank. It was located between Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh Avenues near 2618 Twelfth Street where the Williams Monument Company was later located.
In May, 1874, Abner Turner and George W. Hulst opened a private banking house at Eleventh and Olive Streets. These two private banking houses were consolidated in July of 1875 to found the Columbus State Bank. The articles of incorporation were filed on July 28, 1875, with a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars divided into shares of five hundred dollars each. In 1888, the capital stock was seventy-five thousand dollars and from time to time was increased. The articles of incorporation were amended July 2, 1930, and filed for record July 8, 1930.
The original stockholders were Leander Gerrard, Julius A. Reed, Abner Turner, George W. Hulst and Edward A. Gerrard.
The first Board of Directors consisted of the five original stockholders, who elected as officers of the bank: Leander Gerrard, president; George W. Hulst, vice president; Abner Turner, cashier. On August 20, 1883, Abner Turner transferred his stock to James E. Tasker, who became cashier at the time and retained the office until his death in December, 1889. Besides those mentioned, R. H. Henry was also a stockholder of the bank in 1888. John Stauffer served as the cashier from 1889 to 1894. Melchoir Brugger, who was a bookkeeper from 1884 to 1894, became the cashier in 1894, and served until 1903. R. H. Henry was the vice president in 1895 and G. W. Hulst and John Stauffer were directors. Leander Gerrard retired from the presidency of the bank in August, 1903, but retained his membership on the Board until his death in 1913.
In 1903, M. Brugger succeeded Mr. Gerrard as president of the bank and served in that capacity until 1931 when the bank discontinued business.
William Bucher became the vice president in 1903 and remained in that position until 1917 when he sold his interest in the bank to Martin A. Stenger and opened the Farmers State Bank. Clarence L. Gerrard, who took his father's place on the Board of Directors in 1913, became the bank's vice president in 1917 and served until his death in 1928. He was succeeded as vice president by V. H. Weaver, who had been with the bank from 1887. Mr. Weaver was a bookkeeper until 1903, when he became assistant cashier and remained in that position until 1928. He served as vice president from 1928 to 1931. Howard A. Clarke served the bank continuously as cashier from 1903 to 1931. Martin A. Stenger was associated with the bank from 1914. He served as bookkeeper and assistant cashier and was a stockholder from 1917 to 1931. Bruce Clarke was associated with the bank for a few years prior to 1931.
The Columbus State Bank commenced its banking business in the Gerrard building on Twelfth Street in 1875 and remained there until a two story brick building was completed for the institution at the northeast corner of Twelfth and Platte Streets, now Twelfth Street and Twenty-seventh Avenue.
In October, 1905, the Columbus State Bank was moved from that location to a new bank building at the southwest corner of Thirteenth and Olive Streets, now Thirteenth Street and Twenty-sixth Avenue, where the banking business was carried on until the bank was discontinued in February, 1931.
The History of Platte County Nebraska
The Columbus State Bank served this community for fifty-six years.
Since 1931, the former bank building has been occupied in consecutive order by the Tooley Drug Company and Woolworth's Store.
The First National Bank was an outgrowth of a private bank established in Columbus by Andrew Anderson and O. T. Roen.
I quote from Andreas' History of Nebraska, published in 1882:
"Anderson and Roen's Bank was established in 1880. It is a private bank and though a young institution does a prosperous business. A. Anderson and O. T. Roen are both known in Columbus as sound businessmen."
On October 27, 1882, the First National Bank was organized and incorporated by Andrew and Gilbert Anderson, Peter Anderson, Ole T. Roen, W. A. McAllister, Robert Uhlig, Herman P. H. Oehlrich, John W. Early and Samuel C. Smith. It was capitalized at fifty thousand dollars.
The first officers of the bank were: Andrew Anderson, president; Samuel C. Smith, vice president; O. T. Roen, cashier. The officers remained the same until 1888, when J. H. Galley succeeded Samuel C. Smith as vice president. Mr. Smith, the father of Mrs. J. G. Reeder, moved to California.
The stockholders in June, 1888, were A. Anderson, J. H. Galley, O. T. Roen, G. Anderson, Jacob Greisen, John J. Sullivan, Peter Anderson, Henry Ragatz and W. A. McAllister, and in 1895, the stockholders included Jacob Greisen, J. G. Reeder and J. F. Berney.
I quote from John Lethen's descriptive review of Nebraska in 1892:
"The prosperity of banking concerns in any city is indicative of an era of commercial progress. The First National Bank was organized in 1882. The capital stock paid in was sixty thousand dollars; surplus fund thirty thousand dollars. A highly prosperous banking business is transacted and the patronage has been steadily on the up grade since its inception. A. Anderson, president, is a banker of fourteen years experience. J. H. Galley, vice president, is one of the early settlers and is well known in the mercantile business. O. T. Roen, cashier from Iowa, is a banker of twenty-five years experience. C. E. (Ed) Early is a native of this city. The First National Bank is committed to a wise and conservative policy and is unquestionably among the leading financial institutions of the western states."
Previous to 1908, A. Anderson and O. T. Roen sold their interests in the bank and moved to California. Men who served as officers from 1908 to 1915 were: Edward Johnson, president; J. H. Galley, vice president; and A. R. Miller, cashier. Several changes took place in the personnel during the next five years.
In 1922, the officers of the bank were: G. H. Gray, president; J. H. Galley, vice president; A. R. Miller, cashier; P. A. Peterson and J. L. Brunken, assistant cashiers. Directors were G. H. Gray, A. R. Miller, Jacob Greisen, J. H. Galley, G. A. Schroeder, George Rambour, Jacob Louis, C. C. Goodrich and P. A. Peterson.
A. R. Miller came from Calmar, Iowa, and became associated with the bank in 1891. After nine years he went to Fullerton, Nebraska. In 1908, he returned to the bank and served until 1926 as cashier and vice president. He succeeded J. H. Galley in the latter office.
Joseph F. Berney was associated with the bank for eleven years from 1890 to 1901, as assistant cashier. Others associated with the bank were Jacob Louis Jr., and P. F. Luchsinger, who held the position of cashier intermittently until 1917.
In 1919 G. H. Gray came to Columbus from Central City to take the presidency of the bank, and in 1929, Morton M. Taylor came to Columbus from Plainsview. He served the bank from 1929 to 1930 as cashier.
The private bank of A. Anderson and O. T. Roen began doing business on Eleventh and North Streets, now Eleventh Street and Twenty-fifth Avenue, and remained there until the fall of 1883. While there in October, 1882, it was incorporated into the First National Bank.
In the fall of 1883, the First National Bank moved into a new two-story bank building at the northeast corner of Twelfth and Olive Streets, now Twelfth Street and Twenty-sixth Avenue.
In 1910, the old building was replaced by the building now used by the J. H. Moeller's Consumers Credit Company and the Columbus Credit. Bureau, owned by Fred Gruenhage.
In 1930, the banking business was discontinued and at that time the Central National Bank bought a large portion of the First Na-
tional Bank's securities, and the remaining securities of the bank were liquidated through the First Investment and Securities Company which was organized for that purpose.
The Commercial National Bank was organized for commercial banking as a national bank on April 5, 1899. This bank was the outgrowth of the Commercial Bank established in Columbus November 21, 1887, and that institution in turn had its inception in a private bank known as the Columbus Savings Bank Loan and Trust Company.
This private bank was formed on April 10, 1886. The purpose of the bank was receiving and depositing money, making loans on real estate, buying and selling notes, mortgages, bonds and all kinds of securities.
The articles of incorporation listed the capital stock at one hundred thousand dollars. There were nine incorporators, namely: A. Anderson; J. P. Becker; Gerhard Schutte; Jonas Welch; John W. Early; W. A. McAllister; C. H. Sheldon; O. T. Roen; and Robert Uhlig. The articles of incorporation were filed for record on April 10, 1886.
On November 21, 1887, the Commercial Bank of Columbus, Nebraska, was organized and the incorporation papers were filed for record on November 22 of that year. The purpose of this bank was to do general banking primarily in Platte County. The articles stated that the original capital was fifty thousand dollars but could be raised to two hundred fifty thousand dollars at any time. There were nine incorporators; many of the same names appeared as in the original list of private bank incorporators. G. Schutte, A. Anderson and O. T. Roen were dropped from the list and Herman P. H. Oehlrich, Carl Reinke and John J. Sullivan were named as new incorporators. The Columbus Journal of January 25, 1888, lists the bank officers as follows: President, C. H. Sheldon, stockraiser; vice president, Honorable W. A. McAllister, lawyer; cashier, Robert Uhlig; and teller, Daniel Schram. It included the names of the stockholders as listed in November, 1887, except the name of John J. Sullivan was omitted and the name of H. M. Winslow was added.
On January 5, 1889, the articles of incorporation were amended to read ninety thousand dollars in capital stock. This time there were eleven incorporators. Of the original list, R. Uhlig and J. W. Early were omitted. The others were: Jonas Welch; Henry W. Winslow; Herman P. H. Oehlrich; J. Henry Wurdeman; Carl Reinke; C. H. Sheldon; Daniel Schram; Arnold F. H. Oehlrich; George W. Galley; J. P. Becker; and W. A. McAllister. The new names appearing on this list for the first time as stockholders were J. Henry Wurdeman, George W. Galley, Arnold Oehlrich and Daniel Schram. In 1895 the Commercial Bank had an authorized capital of five hundred thousand dollars and a paid in capital of ninety thousand dollars. The officers were: C. H. Sheldon, president H. P. Oehlrich, vice president; Clark Gray, cashier; and Daniel Schram, assistant cashier. In the early 1890's S. C. Gray's name was listed as a stockholder of the bank. Clark Gray was a brother of S. C. Gray.
The Commercial Bank probably had a state charter.
In 1899, the bank was reorganized under a new charter as the Commercial National Bank. The capital stock was fifty thousand dollars. The president of the bank was C. H. Sheldon; vice president, H. P. H. Oehlrich; cashier, Daniel Schram.
In 1909, the officers were H. P. H. Oehlrich, president; Jonas Welch, vice president; cashiers: Daniel Schram, Frank Rorer, and Albert D. Becker.
In 1915, many new names appeared in the personnel of the bank. That year John J. Galley was president; Arnold F. H. Oehlrich, vice president; D. A. Becher, cashier; and A. D. Becker, assistant cashier. The 1922 bank officers were: president, D. A. Becher; first vice president, Henry Buss; second vice president, George W. Galley Jr.; cashier, A. H. Viergutz; and assistant cashier, Otto Theilen. Directors were: John J. Galley, chairman of the board; D. A. Becher; A. H. Viergutz; Henry Buss; George W. Galley Jr.; Herman Brodfueher; and G. W. Viergutz. P. F. Luchsinger was connected with the bank as cashier from 1917 to 1919.
The personnel of the bank remained the same from 1922 until 1932. In 1931, Martin Stenger came into the bank as an assistant cashier. Louis Hollman was also associated with the bank as teller for several years.
LOCATION OF BANK --- 1888-1932
In January, 1888, the Commercial Bank opened for business in a new two story bank building at the southeast corner of Thirteenth and North Streets, now Thirteenth Street and
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