US Bank building in 2005
History of Humboldt banks
Editor's note: This is the third in a series on the history of banks in Humboldt written by local historian Pat Baker.

The First National Bank has had its name changed more often than any other Humboldt bank. It evolved from the Safety Savings Bank that was organized in the spring of 1901. Ernest A. Wilder was president. His friend, Harwood Sharp, was cashier and George S. Garfield, vice president. Directors were M.A. Benton and N.O. Nelson.

The bank was located in the stone Prouty building at 626 Sumner Avenue (the Dcor Shoppe is there now).

The articles of incorporation were signed by 22 leading citizens of Humboldt, including J.N. Prouty, W.B. West, William Wallace, J. Fred Anderson, S.W. Bull, C.E. Wilson, George W. Adams, A.D. Bicknell, Carlos Combs, William J. Taft, A.A. Bravender, A.S. Ketman, D.A. DeGroote, C.F. Ropte, O.T. Gullixson, and J.J. Smart.

Ernest Adelbert Wilder (photo not available) was the third son of Eli Almond Wilder and Julia Harkness Wilder. He was born in Humboldt, where both families operated general merchandise stores. Ernest A. managed stores in South Dakota and Rutland before returning to Humboldt in 1890.

In the late 1890s, he purchased the D.A. Ray store and its stone building, located at 627 Sumner Avenue, which had been built by his uncle, B.H. Harkness. He formed the company of E.A. Wilder and Sons - Archie Elmer and Byron Howard. Later, Archie sold insurance and Byron was an undertaker.

In May 1905, E.A. Wilder bought D.A. Ray's mercantile business. Wilder stayed on as president of the Safety Savings Bank. In January 1906, Erik O. Nervig bought Harwood Sharp's residence on the southeast corner of John Brown Park and moved into town from the country. He also bought Sharp's interest in the bank.

In January 1906, H.E. Passig became vice president. Passig had been assistant cashier of the Humboldt State Bank.

In July 1906, the bank became a national bank, incorporated under federal banking laws. It changed its name to the First National Bank. The Humboldt Independent noted that "The First National Bank had issued its prospectus and showing for business . . . they have identified their banking house by placing the name on the front windows in gilt letters. It looks equal to any city institution."

In 1909, D.A. Ray was president; H.E. Passig, vice president; E.O. Nervig, cashier; and E.A. Wilder and G.S. Garfield, directors. In June 1910, the bank purchased lot 2, block 32 from Hugh McKinstry for the purpose of building a new bank. The bank moved its headquarters to the new building at 605 Sumner Avenue (see photo) in 1911.

Dennis A. Ray and Frank E. Adams brought a line of goods to Humboldt in 1882 from Fulton, NY. They set up their dry goods and shoe store in the Finch wood frame building east of the Humboldt County Bank. He and Mrs. Clara Redman Ray, a highly respected and traveled woman who gave lectures at the high school and college, lived above the store.

After Mr. Adams went to California, Mr. Ray was in business for himself, then moved his store to the Harkness building. When Ray became postmaster, he sold his store to E.A. Wilder. In 1909, he became president of the First National Bank. D.A. Ray died in 1921.

In November 1926, because of the closing of the Humboldt State Bank and the Peoples State Bank, many local depositors started a run on the First National Bank, the only remaining bank in Humboldt.

The management of the First National Bank took steps to protect its resources and cash on hand, and promptly began shipping in funds to meet the demand. The frenzied depositors who had been withdrawing their cash went back to their homes, and according to the Humboldt Republican, "now that they know they can get it, do not want their money." The First National Bank was saved.

The October 1929 Wall Street crash came and the economy took a downward spiral. A 1931 statement of the First National Bank showed that deposits had declined. Officers and directors were Erik O. Nervig, president; C.W. Garfield, vice president; B.B. Watson, cashier; with James Nervig and G.J. Bicknell directors.

In 1933, the First National Bank of Humboldt was closed during the Bank Holiday declared by President Roosevelt. On Aug. 30, 1933, a newly reorganized and renamed 'First National Bank in Humboldt' was officially opened, with C.W. Garfield as president.

Other officers were J.D. Berkhimer and E.O. Nervig, vice presidents; B.B. Watson, cashier; and additional directors G.J. Bicknell and G. P. Ruse. Better banking laws, and the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation prevented future "runs" on banks.

Clement White Garfield (1891-1974), the son of George S. and Mary White Garfield, grew up in Humboldt. He, his brother, Ted, and his father were lawyers. He served in the First World War, as county attorney and mayor of Humboldt. He was president of the First National Bank during the Depression and the Second World War. With lifelong interest in the Humboldt Public Library, his foremost ambition was to further the intellectual, cultural and civic development of his town.

In May 1950, Ben P. St. John purchased a substantial stock interest in the First National Bank in Humboldt. C.W. Garfield retired as president and George Bicknell retired as director. B.B. Watson was named president and Royal Bennett, cashier. Mary Vonderhaar was auditor.

The other members of the operating staff were: Robert Bristol, Alta Norman, Betty Heidt, Marilyn Curry, Christine Johnston, Beverly Doerning, and Joyce Sorlien. Continuing on the board of directors were Sen. J.F. Miller, B.B. Watson and G.P. Ruse.

Ben P. St. John (1897-1968) (photo not available) received his education in southern Minnesota. He farmed with his father until 1920, farmed on his own for two years, then bought grain in Rock Rapids until 1934. He was cashier of the Rock Rapids State Bank from 1934 to 1935.

In that same year, he organized the First State Bank in Webster City, where he continued until 1944. He bought the Okey-Vernon Bank of Corning in 1944, and in April 1950 sold that institution and bought into the First National Bank in Humboldt, where he served as vice president and president. His hobby was farming (320 acres). He was married in Humboldt in 1935 to Adeline Kemplay. He established the St. John Charitable Trust Fund that gives monetary grants in Humboldt County.

Royal E. Bennett, a native of Humboldt, graduated in the class of 1932. After finishing business school, he was employed by the Ruse Drug Store for eight years, then served as county treasurer from 1939 to 1944.

In 1944, he became associated with the First National Bank and was appointed cashier in 1950. He married Marjorie DeGroote in 1935, and they were parents of two daughters. He was trustee of Morningside College, treasurer of the school board, and was Youth Director of the Methodist Church, North Iowa Conference.

Bennett was the first recipient of the Community Man of the Year award in 1948. He lost his life in an automobile accident Oct. 10, 1961.

In 1961, the First National Bank in Humboldt built a new building at 16 North Taft Street (see photo). Saul's Studio moved into the former First National Bank building at 605 Sumner Avenue.

Officers and directors at that time were: B.P. St. John, president; G.P. Ruse, vice president; W.G. Stewart, cashier; and C.H. Lewellyn, executive vice president. Assistant cashiers were Mary Vonderhaar, G. Robert Bristol, Alta Norman, Roger T. Day, and Lester C. Mealiff. The directors were Adeline St. John, H.L. Knight, M.L. Baker, and Dale Fraser.

In 1966, the bank remodeled the basement of the Humboldt Post Office building that it owned, and furnished a social center for community use. In 1967, Ben St. John sold his controlling interest in the bank to Joe Dodgen. On Feb. 6, 1968, St. John was at the bank participating in the reception honoring C.H. Lewellyn, the new president of the First National Bank. Ben St. John passed away in his sleep later that day.

In May, 1981, an impressive bank building was constructed by the First National Bank of Humboldt. It was located at 701 Sumner Avenue.

Joe Dodgen, chairman of the bank board, was the man behind the project. Joe, the middle of three brothers and a sister in the family headed by C.W. Dodgen of Fort Dodge, discovered his leadership ability while serving in World War II. He graduated with distinction with a Master's degree in business administration from Harvard.

On his return from school, his family decided to consolidate its Fort Dodge and Humboldt operations in Humboldt, and built Dodgen Industries. C.W. was chairman of the board, Joe was president, and John Dodgen, vice president. Jack Dodgen served as secretary-treasurer of Dodgen Industries until his death in May 1981. Joe Dodgen headed the Humboldt Development Corporation that helped bring many industries to town.

Joe Dodgen was Chairman of the Board of the First National Bank in Humboldt. Board members were: Dr. Sam Linn, veterinarian; Orren Olson, farmer; Paul Silbaugh, church furniture manufacturer; Donald Hood, livestock farmer; Kenny Nielsen, farm equipment manufacturer; and Dale Arends, power company executive.

Officers of the First National Bank in 1981 were Cliff Lewellyn, president, and Bill Dodgen, executive vice president and marketing officer. Other officers of the bank were Roger Day, commercial and real estate banker; Larry Curran, cashier and vice president in charge of operations; Marlene Thompson, family banking officer; Sharon Blomker, assistant vice president; and Don Roberts, agricultural banker.

Linda Law was executive and trust secretary; Linn DeWinter, secretary and receptionist; and Marcine Fevold, loan secretary. Barbara Rossbach was teller supervisor, and her staff included: Sandi Cocking, vault teller; Sharon Giddings, customer service teller; and Yvonne Wurch, note teller.

Full-time tellers were Jan Dencklau, Dawn Jones, Pat Jensen, Candy Helland, and Carlene Blomker. Part-time tellers were Karen Bohl, Doris Kirchhoff, Lori Ersland, and Samene Berrier.

Don Christensen was internal auditor; Kathie Saathoff, accounting secretary; and Dee VanDeWalle, supervisor of new accounts and Heritage Club coordinator. Other employees were: Cheryl Rhead, data processing supervisor, with Mary DeGroote, Pat Allen, Marilyn Hansen, Nancy Waterhouse, Darlene Jacobsen, and Cheryl Dodd as data processors.

Lawrence Thompson was maintenance supervisor and Mr. and Mrs. Howard Minor, custodians. Other long-time employees of the bank were Sandy Rolland and Cheryl Hippen.

First National Bank President Clifford H. Lewellyn got his start at the Ida County State Bank in his hometown of Ida Grove in 1947. A World War II veteran and graduate of Morningside College, he also worked at banks in Algona and Marion before coming to Humboldt in 1961.

When Joe Dodgen bought the bank in 1967, Lewellyn served as temporary president. He was active in the Kiwanis Club, treasurer of Friendship Haven in Fort Dodge, and trustee of the United Methodist Church. Cliff Lewellyn became permanent president of the bank in 1968.

In April, 1982, Gary V. Lewellyn, a Des Moines stockbroker and son of bank president, C.H. Lewellyn, misappropriated bonds belonging to the bank to finance a stock scheme. The bank closed Friday night, April 2, and the loss was estimated as much as $16.4 million - a record for Iowa.

The bank was reopened Monday, April 5, as the Hawkeye Bancorporation, a Des Moines-based bank holding company that purchased the bank. The name of the bank was changed to Hawkeye Bank and Trust. Because of FDIC protection, depositors with less than $100,000 did not lose their money, but stockholders did.

Temporary president was Paul Dunlap. Bill Dodgen was executive vice president and Larry Curran, vice president and cashier. Joe Dodgen was board chairman and directors were Paul Silbaugh, Orren Olson, Dr. Sam Linn, G. Donald Hood, Donald M. Roberts, and Ken Nielsen. In April 1983, Robert Ritsen became president.

In 1983, with things back on track, the Hawkeye Bank and Trust completed transactions that had been put on hold: they purchased the assets of the Livermore State Bank, and the next year the assets of the Renwick Savings Bank. Rob Ritsen was transferred to another bank in 1984. Lysle Park was president of Hawkeye Bank and Trust from 1984 to 1991.

Nationally, the Reagan years were prosperous. However, these were difficult years for Iowa farmers. Prices were low because of overproduction and a decrease in markets. In order to become more efficient, some farmers wanted to increase acreage and purchase better farm machinery.

Some borrowed money from local banks and the Federal Land Bank created during the 1930s. Prices continued to decline. Many farmers unable to repay their loans went bankrupt. Land prices were less than half of what they were five years earlier.

In July 1991, Phillip D. Kennedy was named President of the Hawkeye Bank of Humboldt. He served in this capacity until March of 2001. Directors of the bank at that time included Paul Silbaugh, Bob Berte, Leo Bormann, Verle Tate, Dean Harmon, and Ron Sande.

In March 1996, during Mr. Kennedy's tenure, Hawkeye Bank was purchased by Mercantile Bank, NA. Its corporate offices were located in St. Louis, MO. It had 25 employees in 1998. In April of 2000, Mercantile Bank was purchased by Firstar Bank, NA. Its corporate headquarters were located in Milwaukee, WI.

In March of 2002, Firstar Bank, NA purchased US Bank, NA. As part of the purchase, Firstar retained the name US Bank. US Bank, NA is the sixth largest financial services holding company in the United States. The company operates 2,370 banking offices and 4,620 ATMs providing a full line of banking brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to customers, business and institutions.

Jerry A. Grundhofer is the current CEO and Chairman of US Bank, with its corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, MN.

David Cronk was the president of US Bank, NA in Humboldt in March 2002. In June 2002, Terry J. Case took over the duties of President of US Bank, NA in Humboldt, and is currently in that position.

A native of Dow City, Case is a second generation banker. Prior to coming to Humboldt, Case's most recent position was President of US Bank, NA in Centerville. His wife, Linette, is a fifth grade teacher at Taft Elementary School in Humboldt. They have three children, Alex, Emily and Claire.

The US Bank, NA in Humboldt has 17 full-time employees and one part-time employee. Current directors of the bank include Jeff Berte, Ronald Sande, Leo Bormann, Leo Tate, and Terry Raymer.


The Humboldt Independent Official paper of Humboldt County
P.O. Box 157, Humboldt, IA 50548

Telephone: (515) 332-2514
Fax: (515) 332-1505
Email: independent@humboldtnews.com