First Cannelton National Bank

by Michael Rutherford

The Goodspeed History of Perry County, page 658, concisely describes the two first attempts at establishing a bank at Cannelton. The Perry County Bank opened 1 April, 1854 with a capital stock of $10,000 and functioned for around a year. A W. H. Marston from the east owned nearly all the stock and acted as president; R. R. Hunt was vice-president and L.A. Smith was cashier. It may have been an extension of a bank based elsewhere; $70,000 worth of bank notes from elsewhere were put into circulation. "The bank received deposits, discounted notes, bought and sold exchange, and had its office in the big hotel building." (The company hotel at First and Adams Streets)

"In the spring of 1858 an attempt was made to establish the Orleans bank of Cannelton. The officers, all strangers, were James M. Monroe, president, and Levi Scobey, cashier. They hired a room for a month, hung out the sign "Orleans Bank of Cannelton," and announced themselves ready for business with a capital of $20,000." "The bank...after a month sold its safe and fixtures and left the town."

A son-in-law of Judge E. M. Huntington, James R. Bunce, in the early 1870's conducted financial business from his residence on First Street, Dwight Newcomb's "Oak Hall," which he had purchased on 26 September 1871. An ad in the local papers in late 1872 reads as follows:

"Banking Office of Jas. R. Bunce, Cannelton, Ind., Transacts A General Banking Business. Deposit accounts can be opened, subject to Sight Checks. -- Foreign Exchange on Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland or any part of Europe -- New York Exchange bought and sold -- Orders promptly executed for purchase and sale of Gold, Government and other securities -- Agent for Anchor & Star Line steamers -- Prepaid certificates issued from any part of Europe to Cannelton."

Joseph F. and Samuel L. Sulzer operated a dry goods store in the 3rd Street half of the I.O.O.F. Building at 3rd and Washington Streets from September 1879. After Joseph Sulzer left Cannelton in 1888 Samuel Sulzer continued in the business. He may have ended a centuries-old tradition of merchants graduating to bankers when he set up the unchartered "country" Commercial Bank in a separate building at the rear of the store.

On 30 November 1894 a Bill of Sale executed at Evansville by Samuel Sulzer sold the lease, stock and banking assets to a firm made up of John G. Eigenmann (Rockport), Archibald Hollerbach (Cannelton/Evansville) and Michael A. Eberhard (Troy). Eigenmann and Hollerbach were also active in heavy construction with stone, both individually and in partnership. The dry goods business continued under the Sulzer name, the three names of the new owners being added in small print at the bottom of newspaper ads.

In July 1895 the retail assets of the firm were sold to Casper & May who had been in business at the north corner of 5th and Washington Streets. This firm then relocated in the old Sulzer space where it remained until the early 1920's. The Cannelton Telephone of 22 August 1895 reported that the Cannelton State Bank would open September 16 at the rear of the Odd Fellows Building. Only the name of the president of then new bank, Jacob Heck, has been learned.

On 5 September the Telephone carried 2 items: "The Commercial Bank of this city will close on Saturday, Sept. 14, and on the following Monday the new bank will open in the same building."..."The only representative of Eigenmann, Hollerbach and Eberhard in the city is Mr. Mike Eberhard who is staying in the bank. He goes out on the 14th and will remove to Troy." Michael A. Eberhard from Troy had served as County Treasurer from 1892.

A week later on the 12th the following paid announcement appeared:

"We beg leave to call attention of our past patrons that Mr. M.A. Eberhard will be at the Commercial Bank until next Saturday Night to receive money and to give receipts to all those who run accounts with us. We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity and thus enable us to get squared. Don't fail us in this matter. After that time the accounts will be left elsewhere for collection. The place will be named in due time. Thanking all for their patronage, we beg leave to remain, Very Respectfully, Eigenmann, Hollerbach and Eberhard."

The Cannelton State Bank remained at this 3rd Street location until some time after 4 January 1899. On that date the purchase of a building on the south corner of 4th and Washington Streets was completed. The lot measured 30 feet on Washington Street by 75 feet on Fourth. It had been purchased by Mrs. Mary Sumner (June 1824 - 9 May 1904) from Samuel L. Sulzer on 8 May 1891. Her son, Jacob Poe Forbes (March 1853 - 26 March 1910), was a barber and had set up in business "in the south rooms of the building." The use of these "south rooms" was reserved by Mrs. Sumner when she sold the site to John Conway, also on 4 January 1899; he immediately re-sold to the bank. The building was referred to locally as the Forbes Building until 1899 when it became the State Bank Building. It is presumed that those "south rooms" fronted on Washington Street on the side of the building away from the corner.

Will Gerber began business on 10 November 1898 with his "Racket store in the Forbes Building." He then was in business with his brother-in-law, Herman Ploch, from April 1902 across Washington Street in the second building up from the corner of 4th. F.J. Busam operated a Wall Paper and Paint Store in the State Bank Building, probably in the space vacated by Gerber, from 1902 until he purchased Pat Shea's Thousand-Dollar Shanty at 5th and Taylor Streets where Busam's Wall Paper and Paint Store did business until early 1985 (purchased in 1906).

When James Boyd constructed St. Luke's Church in 1845 the plan was for the church to occupy lot #130 (between 3rd and Church Street, 75 feet deep) with a rectory to be built on #149 (between Church Street and 4th Street, 75 feet deep). Deeds to this effect were not made until 1890; however, four buildings were erected and used from the 1850's on this lot #149. Just how this was accomplished legally is unknown. At any rate, on 8 June 1906, the Episcopal Church leased to the Cannelton State Bank for 10 years the 30x75 foot corner lot at 4th and Washington for $30.00 per year, this is after the bank had purchased the lot in January 1899. Jacob Heck was still president of the bank at this time; he died on 13 May 1907 at 77 years of age.

The Troy Times of 12 December 1908 reported that Cannelton State Bank had resources of $189,589 (!). The same paper reported a month later on 7 January 1909 that the Perry County Commissioners will deposit $10,000 at Troy, $12,000 at Cannelton State Bank, $15,000 at Tell City National Bank and $15,000 at Citizens National Bank.

At this time plans are being made for the appearance of a new bank in town. At a meeting on Thursday, 4 February 1909, the First National Bank of Cannelton was organized. Stockholders were Albert A. May, Frank Paulin, Anton J. Kirst, Paul Lehman, Hardin Witmarsh, William V. Doogs, Herman E. Ploch, Charles Powell and Joel Bailey. Officers: A. A. May, president; A. J. Kirst, Vice-president; Charles Powell (currently of Lynnville), cashier.

Cannelton State Bank was also planning to expand. On 1 March 1909 the corner of the Cotton Mill blocks across 4th Street -- Lot 211 -- was purchased from the mill for $1600. The new First National Bank purchased the corner lot at 5th and Washington -- Lot 208 -- on 22 March 1909 for $1666.60. Since each 2-story double apartment occupied one lot, removing the corner apartments cleared the lots.

On 6 May 1909 First National Bank opened for business in temporary quarters diagonally across the corner from Cannelton State Bank in the Titus Cummings building on the north corner of 4th and Washington. In the last week of May contracts were let for construction of a 25 x 60-foot 2-story brick building estimated to cost $8,000. Frank Paulin furnished the stone for the foundation to be built by Seitz, Vogel and Rogers. Edward "Dad" Conner was to lay the brick. On 26 June 1909 FNB sold the remainder of the lot on 5th Street to Mrs. Emma Wagner who shortly built a 2-story brick residence there. This was later occupied by her daughter, Mrs. Charles Gerber, and her family.

The Cannelton Telephone reported on 18 November 1909 that the new FNB was complete and a sidewalk of Bedford stone was being laid about it. On Saturday the 20th the Bank moved into the new building. Office space in the building was rented to the law firm of Ewing and Seacat, the American Cannel Coal Company and the Cannelton Pottery Company. The latter had been started by W. J. Gerber and two others in 1908 but Gerber had already sold his share to James C. Shallcross who was also manager of the coal company.

A week later the paper reported that CSB was a story-and-a-half high and ready for the roof. The more elaborate design and possibly a later starting date let to the longer time for completing the building.

The Capitol State Bank at Corydon was also built at this time with the same architectural exterior as that of CSB. The interior mahogany woodwork for the Corydon Bank was being milled by Hafele Planing Mill of Cannelton. When this building at Cannelton was replaced in the 1970's the Corydon Bank purchased the exterior doors and windows to be used in an expansion of that building.

Measures to convert CSB to Cannelton National Bank bore fruit on 2 March 1910 when Lawrence Q. Murray, Comptroller of the currency, certified that the Cannelton National Bank was authorized to commence banking. The capital stock was $25,000.

A progress report in The Telephone on 10 March 1910 noted that the new building should be completed some time in April. However, it was June before the move across 4th Street could be accomplished. Apart from being in new quarters, "it is the same old responsible bank where deposits are safe..."

On 30 July 1914 the directors of CNB were listed in The Telephone: Martin F. Casper, Henry Heck, George J. Lindemann, George P. Smith and William G. Minor. Minor acted as Cashier, Joseph M. Hirsch as Assistant Cashier. Shortly thereafter Minor became a national bank examiner as reported on 23 November 1916.

The Cannelton Telephone of 11 January 1924 published a progress report of both banks. In addition to the $25,000 capital stock, CNB at 4th and Washington had a surplus of $25,000 and $5,000 in undivided profits. The board of directors showed a few changes; M.F. Casper, Henry Heck, Joseph M. Hirsch, Thomas W. Irvin and William G. Minor. Officers: M.F. Casper, Pres., Henry Heck, V-Pres., Joseph Hirsch, Cashier, Stanley Hayden, Assistant Cashier and Miss Nora Deen, bookkeeper.

FNB at 5th and Washington reported assets over the $35,000 mark with surplus and undivided profits over $15,000. The re-elected "old" directors: Henry M. Clemens, Clarence Irvin, August Heck, Charles Gerber and Edwin Hodde. Officers: H.M. Clemens, Pres., August Heck, V-Pres., Norman Hafele, Cashier, and John Henry Francis, Assistant Cashier.

In January 1932 the two banks helped avoid closing during the depression by merging into the First Cannelton National Bank. At the time the combined resources were slightly less than $1,000,000. The Directors represented both banks: Henry Heck, Thomas W. Irvin, Charles F. Gerber, William G. Minor and William C. Lehman. The officers elected were Henry Heck, Pres., Charles Gerber, V-Pres., Norman Hafele, V-Pres. and Cashier, Joseph Hirsh, V-Pres. and Auditor, John Conway, Assistant Cashier. Henry M. Clemens had died on 20 April 1931 before the merger.

On 31 January 1941 Charles F. Gerber succeeded Henry Heck as president and served until his death in August 1950. August Heck then served to August 1965, followed by John Conway from September 1965 to his death in November 1969. Maurice Reed served from January 1970, succeeded by Charles G. Gerber and (1990), Danny Coffey.

In 1953 an addition was built to the rear of the building for bookkeeping and storage; the interior was renovated at the same time. In 1957 the front was changed. Beginning in November 1972 the present structure designed by Virgil J. Miller of Evansville was built by Conner Construction Company of Cannelton in the center of the block; the center remnant of the Washington Street Cotton Mill Blocks was razed for this purpose. The $300,000 building was completed by 17 December 1973 and dedicated on 2 June 1974.

Ruth Heck Livers, daughter of Henry Heck and granddaughter of Jacob Heck was the first women to be elected to the Board of Directors, becoming the Chairman on 20 January 1970. A cousin, Wilma Heck, after more than 40 years in the bank, was made a Director on 5 January 1985, only the second woman director. In 1978 Hubert R. Bruce became a member of the Board of Directors; in 1985 he was appointed Chairman, serving until his death on 29 October 1988.

By early 1987 the bank had assets of more than $17,000,000. On 1 April, 1989 the name was changed to First National Bank of Perry County. "The new name better reflects the bank's market area and its commitment to be a leader in financial services to all the people of Perry County." At the time of the name change the Board of Directors was: O.W. Hinton, Tell City - Chairman; Mark Bruce, Tell City/Evansville; S.M. Dunaway, Fordsville, Ky.; John J. Hoesli, Tell City; Phillip Etienne, Perry County; Wilma Heck, Cannelton; Danny Coffey, Tell City - president and CEO.