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MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO

Bank officers (from left) W.H. Dudley, George Shirk, and Harry Mason pose in front of the First National Bank of Marion at its opening in the current location of Marion National Bank in 1882.

Banks weren’t great credit risks

Marion has perhaps more than its share of longstanding local businesses.

The Case family’s insurance agency, this newspaper, and the Hannaford family’s abstracting business, now Security 1st Title, all boast of roughly a century and a half of continuous service.

Conspicuously absent from the list of longstanding local businesses are banks.

One might suspect many failed during the Great Depression. However, the town’s two oldest banks both survived that upheaval, and its other bank, Tampa State, didn’t opened its branch here until much later, in 1998.

The town’s oldest bank, Marion National, was founded in 1905. Farmers and Drovers (now Central National) dates back to 1917. The Depression began more than a decade later in 1929.

What the town’s original banks succumbed to was a much earlier financial crisis, the Panic of 1893.

The same upheaval condemned the Chingawasa Springs resort and Marion Belt and Chingawasa Springs Railroad, which used to run down the middle of 3rd St.

It also gave rise to the radical Populist political movement, which dogged local politics for nearly a decade.

In its early years, Marion was blessed with multiple banks. The oldest and largest was Cottonwood Valley Bank, located imposingly at the west end of downtown’s Main St. in Rogers Hall.

The old stone building, demolished in 1997, was more recently known as the Wolf’s Creamery building. The land now is a parking lot across from Webster Auto Service.

In the 1870s, Cottonwood Valley was presided over by Marion pioneer Levi Billings with fellow pioneer Alex Case serving as cashier, an important position in those days.

Its rival was the Bank of Marion Centre, later known as First National Bank of Marion. In the 1880s and early 1890s, it was located in the same building that Marion National much later occupied. Marion National eventually demolished that building in 1979 to construct its present home.

In 1884, a third bank was located in what’s now JR Hatters at 201 E. Main St., the oldest surviving former bank building in Marion. Neither that bank nor First National, which was put into receivership in 1893, survived, however.

A new bank, the State Bank of Commerce, eventually replaced First National in the now vacant Donaldson and Hosmer Building at 318 E. Main St. It closed in the late 1940s.

Other early banks were located in the 1882 building now occupied by Barely Mak’n’ It Antiques. That storefront is the third and only remaining piece of a four identical storefront “block” that originally included the First National and Marion National storefront three doors to the west.

After the Panic of 1893, Cottonwood Valley Bank was liquated and re-chartered as First State Bank. It didn’t last long, however, failing in 1898 after an apparently futile attempt to sell stock to the public.

A year later, the Record reported that the bank’s president, H.E. Mason, had been sentenced to two years in prison for falsifying the bank’s books.

“Public sentiment was with him,” the Record reported at the time, “until the flower parade at Marion last fall, when Mason appeared with a handsome carriage. This angered his creditors, and the suits against him have been pressed since that time.”

Last modified Jan. 8, 2020

 

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