The Lohn State Bank

Very few people living in our area can remember when the town of Lohn had a bank. It operated for 10 years, opening in August of 1920 and folding in January 1930. American history buffs contend that the 1920s were the most colorful decade in our history. It has been dubbed the “Roaring Twenties,” the “Jazz Age” and the “Age of Wonderful Nonsense.” The era embodied the beginning of modern America. There was a great surge of optimism following the end of World War I and the return of the veterans. The country had survived a deadly flu epidemic, and the new decade would be a time of change for everyone. There was extraordinary industrial growth and drastic changes in life style, especially for women. Young women, known as “flappers” scandalized their elders with short skirts, bobbed hair and spit-curls, wearing make-up, smoking in public, visiting speak-easies, drinking bath tub gin and dancing the Charleston. Flag pole sitting and swallowing live gold fish was a fad among college boys, so that could be why it was called the age of nonsense. Prohibition went into effect in January 1920 and brought major criminal problems to the cities. Rural areas were less affected’a few bootleggers were apprehended here and there. The prosperity of the era, however, did not include all social groups as many tenant farmers still struggled to make a living. At the same time as the economic boom, the 1920s were setting the stage for the Great Depression. Lohn was at the height of its growth during this period, with three grocery stores, drug stores, two doctors, a hotel, silent movie theatre, caf’, blacksmith shop, barber shop and other businesses. Fifteen seniors graduated in 1920 in the two-story building. Lohn Central School boasted large enrollments throughout the 20s and 30s. If farmers had any money left after selling their crop and settling their bills, they had a choice of burying it in a Mason jar in the back yard or driving into Brady and putting it into a bank. But that changed at 8 a.m. on Aug. 25, 1920, when the Lohn State Bank opened its doors. Application for a charter was filed on Aug. 5 with the Commissioner of Insurance and Banking stating that the population of Lohn was 500 and the capital stock would be $30,000 divided into three hundred shares of stock valued at $100 per share. Preliminary preparations to establish a bank were obviously necessary by lining up investors. Willie Roberts, Jr., aided by his father, W.F., Sr., was most likely to have been the leading exponent of the endeavor. After a lapse of 87 years, it is difficult to obtain credible information on the subject. The elder Roberts had large amounts of land in the Lohn area. Willie, Jr. owned and operated a general mercantile store before selling it to William J. Reed. He and his wife, Linnie, built a spacious house in Lohn, one of the older homes still standing and in excellent condition. The house, built about 1914, was later owned by Floyd and Jewel Smith. Present owners are Brian and Jennifer Owens. The building housing the bank is also standing and in use today by the Lohn Volunteer Fire Department. The majority of the 44 investors who purchased stock were from Pear Valley, Waldrip, Fife, Ledbetter, Lohn and a few outsiders. Records from the Texas Department of Banking in Austin reveal the names, occupation and net worth of each over and above liabilities and exemptions.Their net worth ranged from $1,500 to $100,000. It is interesting to note that several who were in the top echelon bought one or two shares of stock; others invested rather heavily, much to their dismay. L.L. Peel declared his worth at $1,500; those in the $2,000 bracket were Houston Lane, Charley M. Coonrod, A.F. Mullins and Albert Cornils, Sr., all stock farmers; only one at $3,000, Jasper L. Cagle, merchant and hotel owner; at $5,000, Leon Browning, John Peel, J.W. Daniels, William W. Butler, Ward Ludwick, farmers, J.E. White, merchant, Leroy Jobe, well driller and Litt Walker, laborer. Loss Watkins was the only one at $6,000. Among the largest group, the $10,000 group, were Jon Russell Hill, C.S. Randal, Nat Randal, Thomas Mitchell, R.W. Johnson, James C. Johnson, all farmers, Dr. William Land, Cass Ludwick, merchant and Ed Jacoby, cotton buyer. John L. Smith, J.D. Shoumette, Willie Roberts, Jr., James Finlay and L.O. Marshall were listed at $15,000. Jess Shaver, D.C. Randal, John Hester, Will Priest, John H. Smith, William E. Lohn, Henry Bradley, stock farmers and Alfred S. Hall, telephone man, were in the $20,000 group; one at $25,000, O.E. Rice, Rochelle banker. Only two listed net worth at $30,000, Joseph S. Wyres and Dr. J.P. Barton. W.D. Walker was listed at $75,000 and the last three, J.K. Shelton, Percy Dutton and Willie Roberts, Sr., at $100,000. Mr. Roberts listed his occupation as capitalist. The seven-man board of officers and directors for the first year, who owned at least 10 shares of stock, were James Knight Shelton, Leslie O Marshall, W.F. Roberts, Jr., John Hester, John H. Smith, Henry D. Bradley and Percy C. Dutton. J.K Shelton as president, L.O. Marshall, vice-president and Willie Roberts, cashier and director. None of the men had any banking experience: J.K. Shelton was a farmer-stockman and L.O. Marshall was lifetime farmer until becoming a merchant 10 years previously. W.F. Jr. was a stock farmer, but he too had been a merchant and worked in the post office . He was getting experience in the Rochelle State Bank. The other directors, Dutton, Hester, Smith and Bradley, were farmers-stockmen. In November 1926, there was a new board of directors with Henry Bradley as president, Willie Roberts, Jr., Henry Smith, J.E. White and Houston Lane as directors. New investors were G.A. Rudolph, Will Hall, Pete Lembke, Elizabeth Cornils, Lizzie Bradley, Emma Shoumette, Emma Greer, Abbie Cagle, J.W. Jones from Lohn; Roy Wilkerson, Mary Ricks, J.A. Harkrider, D. Harkrider, H.W. Zweis from Brady and H.L. Groves from Brownwood. Employees of the bank are more difficult to find as only three are on record (the three who were working in 1930), Marcel Gafford Kirkman, Edna Johnson and Clifford McBee. Miss Addie McGinnis was an early employee of the bank. She was a Georgia girl who attended business school in Abilene, came to Lohn from the school, roomed with Dr. Barton’s family and married Leon Barton. Even after marriage, she continued to be called Miss Addie. Lila Reed also worked at the bank and we may discover other employees. To be continued’

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