In 1907 some young influential business and professional people recognized that the financial needs of rural Sebastian County were not being met, so in 1907 Farmers Bank was organized. Today, during a time of mass mergers and takeovers, Farmers Bank is among the oldest banks in Arkansas still operating under its original charter as when it was organized and established.
On September 25, 1907, having received its state charter, Farmers Bank opened for business in the southwest corner of C.D. Murphy's store, which was located on the northwest corner of the town square with two employees, W.N. Wilkinson, cashier and Henry P. Bell, clerk.
The first depositor was Foy Murphy, a small lad beginning school and the son of C.D. Murphy, who left .38 cents. At the close of the first day's business, the statement was as follows:
Obviously, on that first day, the actual paid up stock that was not represented by a loan in the bank's own note case, was about $3,800. This was the trend of the times in those days, when a business could open on a shoe string.
But fortune favored. By the close of 1910, deposits had climbed to the "ridiculously" high figure of $90,000. The bank by that time had a capital stock of $12,500.
In the early Fall of 1907, the Knickerbocker Trust Company of New York failed, bringing on a nationwide panic. It reached down to Greenwood and Fort Smith with a great deal of severity, and when depositors came to the new bank to get their money there was no money anywhere for them. The Fort Smith banks immediately got together and issued what was known as clearing house certificates. They were printed on blue paper in the same denominations as U.S. currency, and the bank at Greenwood had a quantity shipped down here to be used as currency.
People in Greenwood frowned and looked down their noses on the clearing house certificates. They had deposited good money and were given back blue pieces of paper. They locally began calling them "Blue Bellies". Officers of the bank met with the local merchants. The merchants around the square co-operated and agreed to accept them for trade. Soon, people got used to them and passed them as regular money. In a few months the panic began to subside and gradually the "Blue Bellies" passed out of the picture. The bank has one of these "Blue Bellies" on display and many of the older citizens here will remember them.
It was the first president of the bank, W.L. Seaman, a young lumberman, merchant and financier of that day, who suggested the motto, "The Bank of Solid Growth." That motto was adopted and has been used the entire 93 years of the bank's history. Mr. Seaman obviously used that same motto in his own affairs. The motto fit the large business structure he built up from a small beginning at Mansfield, Arkansas.
Prior to 1914 there was no state bank commissioner and no supervising authorities. The Farmers Bank, like all other state banks at that time, ran along just as it pleased. The bank kept a limited amount of information on the books. At that time in history, no one knew the financial condition of state banks. When John Davis was made bank commissioner in 1914 he authorized an examination of all banks, and Farmers Bank passed with an exceptionally good grade.
The bank's minutes show that the commissioner ordered one big reform for Farmers Bank, and that was the requirement that the board of directors meet more often.. The board had never met more than once a year prior to that time.
In 1917 Farmers Bank purchased the assets of the Sebastian State Bank, and in 1935 The First National Bank of Greenwood.
On August 22, 1922, the bank building was burned along with almost the entire business block. Temporary quarters were taken up in the old Sebastian State Bank building on the West side of the square. During the time it was located there the bank had a night robbery. The temporary safe had been blown and a final check-up showed a loss of $1,020.21.
In 1933 during the days of moratoriums and of banking holidays, the Farmers Bank had the distinction of never being on a restricted basis. During the depression and pre-depression period the bank was able to reduce its bills receivable from $240,000 in 1925 to $45,000.00 in 1933. This was necessary because of a shrinkage in deposits during those days when rapid liquidation of assets was necessary everywhere.
In March of 1938 Farmers Bank opened a branch office at Hartford, Arkansas, with George A. Henry in charge. Mr Henry had a successful banking career in Bonanza , AR and throughout Eastern Arkansas.
Farmers Bank continued its expansion to serve the financial needs of Sebastian County and opened a branch bank in Hackett in 1958 and a branch in Bonanza in 1973.
In 1990 Farmers Bank acquired the assets and liabilities of a Savings and Loan branch in Greenwood. Farmers Bank continues to operate this facility as a mortgage loan office and branch.
In 1995 Farmers Bank opened its third facility, in Greenwood on Center Street. The following year we expanded into Fort Smith, where we now operate two offices — one on the Southside of Fort Smith U.S. Highway 71 South and the other on Rogers Avenue.
New branches in Huntington and Mansfield were opened in 2004.
Today, Farmers Bank is recognized for its financial strength and its commitment to personal service. With assets of nearly $200 million, Farmers Bank is large enough to provide a multitude of financial services and yet small enough to provide personal banking to our customers.
Farmers Bank board of directors and management look forward to playing an important role in the financial development of Sebastian County in the next century, as it has in the past century.