Community Bank of Bristow: A tale of community commitment.
Community Bank of Bristow has proudly served Creek County and the town of Bristow since 1924. In fact, our bank is as much a part of Bristow's history as the cotton at the top of this page.1 Want to know more? Read on.
One Man's Idea--
In January of 1924, financial fears threatened to consume Bristow when the state banking commissioner closed the largest bank in town. Citizens could still recall the "panic of 1907," when Wall Street's missteps resulted in low bank liquidity and high unemployment (sound familiar?), and they feared a repeat of the era. Walter S. Symonds, a Bristow businessman appointed by the state as liquidating agent of the failed bank, conceived the idea for Community State Bank as a way for the town to recover financially. In those days, there was no Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), so a bank failure meant the very real possibility of losing any money on deposit. At Mr. Symonds' proposed community bank, the depositors would be the stockholders so funds would be in trusted hands. After some cajoling and a promise to make good on 50% of the failed bank's deposits, enough people finally approved of the idea, and on March 19, 1924, Community State Bank was born. The local newspaper could not praise the bank enough:
"The record is one that officials can justly be proud of, as it is without parallel in the history of banking in this state...Community State Bank, a community project, formed in the dark days when Bristow citizens had visions of losing their entire savings, is another success added to the list of a successful community."2
A Rash of Robberies--
Not long after opening, Community State Bank experienced its first robbery on June 4, 1924. Two masked men locked witnesses in the safe and got away with approximately $6,500. It took police 20 minutes to open up the safe and free those inside. The crime was never solved, and the funds never located. Wanting to keep fear of another bank closure from spreading through the town, the local paper made sure to note that the robbery was covered by insurance. On April 21, 1931, a local man made an unauthorized withdrawal of $3,753.21. He was arrested within three hours. On July 1 of that same year, an unmasked couple tried to pull off an armed robbery of the bank, briefly getting away with $3,500. The couple was taken into custody after being identified by local residents. The rash of robberies prompted the bank's insurance agent to consider "the establishing of a branch office here for adjustment of robbery claims by the Community State Bank."2 The robberies dried up, as did the need for that additional branch.
A History of Togetherness--
Robberies were the least of the bank's problems, though. Well into the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first "Fireside Chat" on March 12, 1933, days after taking office. The chats became legendary for their calming effect on America's fears. In this particular chat, he discussed the status of the banking industry, saying, "It is your problem, my friends, your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail."2 For Bristow citizens, the statement must have harkened back to the day in 1924 when the community joined together to avoid a local financial crisis. Once again, the town came together, issuing so-called "scrip" currency to provide liquidity to the town's people when the banks had none. The "scrip" money allowed the people of Bristow to continue business as usual, buying and selling food and supplies, until the federal government could resolve the national crisis. And Roosevelt was busy trying to do just that. During a flurry of regulatory issuances, he created the FDIC, and on January 1,1934, Community Bank was granted entrance into the program, thereby proving its financial stability in the worst of times. The nation saw some 9,000 bank failures during the Great Depression, but Community State Bank was able to continue on. In the 1970's and 80's, Community State Bank moved to a new location in Bristow, changed its name to Community Bank, and merged ownership into a holding company. Together, the people of this town and Community Bank, were able to weather additional financial threats including the 80's Banking Crisis (1617 bank failures) and the 2008 Great Recession (492 bank closures) seeming to prove FDR's long-ago statement, "Together, we cannot fail."
What does all that history mean to you? It means Community Bank is a bank you can count on. Here today. Here tomorrow....and for years to come. And in these days of mergers and acquisitions, Community Bank remains true to its heritage. This bank is not a branch of some corporation headquartered in another state or country. We are a stand-alone bank owned by a holding company with roots deep in Bristow and the surrounding area. We remain dedicated to the community who came together with an idea to save itself with the creation of a new bank. All of the bank's decision makers still work right here, in Bristow, OK. You'll see them in the grocery store and pass them on the street. That means our successes are yours, and your successes are ours. It's a philosophy that has been at the core of our business since that day in 1924, and it's the reason we strive to keep "exceeding expectations everyday."
1In the early 1900's, the local economy in Bristow heavily depended on cotton. The town had 7 cotton gins and 2 cottonseed oil mills. Read more about Bristow and its distinctive history here or here.
2This synopsis was created using details from an article written and provided by George Krumme, current board member of Community Bank. The article was published in the November 2009 - January 2010 editions of the Record Citizen under the title, "The History of Bristow's Banks."