The Atwater State Bank was founded in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression and a year after the Farmers State Bank in Atwater failed due to plummeting real estate values.
The founders included the local lumber dealer, L.P. Larson, and the local doctor, Dr. Jensen. They hired a very conservative banker from Iowa, A.O. Stromseth, to serve as president. It was said that Mr. Stromseth was so conservative he wore both a belt and suspenders. He was never seen not wearing a white shirt, even while mowing his lawn. His caution and reputation for honesty helped guide the bank through the very troubled times of the Great Depression. Stromseth eventually became majority owner of the bank stock.
Also hired at the time was a young man from Atwater named T.C. Danielson. Tom was born and raised in the community and was very well liked. He liked to tell the story of how the outhouse was dug behind the original bank building. The carpenter told him, "Tom, when this is full you will be president." And so it happened that in 1962, when Mr. Stromseth decided to sell the bank, he sold to Tom and Ruth Danielson, despite receiving a higher bid from outside the community. Tom served as president for about 15 years, and when he retired, Ruth took over. She was one of the first women in the state of Minnesota to serve as a bank president. When Ruth suffered a bout of cancer in 1984, her daughter Suzanne took her place. By this time, Sue's husband Bob Meyerson, a native of New York who had come to Minnesota to earn a Ph.D. in history, was also working in the bank.
In 1985, the Meyersons purchased the State Bank of Kimball. Bob assumed duties in both banks and continues to do so. But the 1980s were tough times for agriculture and bank earnings were very thin for a few years. Eventually, matters improved. In 1998, Sue stepped down to assist her ailing parents and Bob assumed the presidency. In May, 2007 on the Bank's 75th anniversary the bank opened its first branch 7 miles to the west in the City of Kandiyohi.
Since the time of the bank's founding until the present, the towns of Atwater and Kandiyohi have seen many changes. What were once thriving farm towns with several grain elevators, hotels, retail stores and a newspaper, have become bedroom communities for the larger county seats of Willmar and Litchfield- the automobile helped make people more mobile and consolidation trends in agriculture have reduced the population of the countryside. While in recent years the town populations have stabilized and maybe even grown a little, the towns are unlikely to attain the stature they once held. Still, the continuity of Bushmills Ethanol and Central Lakes Co-op on West Hwy 12, Thompson Bakery IDK Sports Bar and Bowling Alley, Schmidty's Gas & Convenience Stores, Sticker Boy Signs, LLC, Unlimited Ag Services, LLC and most recently Pizza by Ronna and Peaceful Thymes Hardware Hank, all hold promise for the communities. The growing population of the county, stronger grain prices and amenities such as lakes and golf courses also help buoy local optimism. And there may be more to come — is the answer whispering in the wind or slumbering in a grain of corn?
In what is, perhaps, a throwback to earlier times, the local dependence on agriculture has helped to cushion the blow to the economy that has rocked the rest of the nation since 2008. One thing remains for sure — this little history will need revision every few years.
State Bank of Kimball was founded in 1901, the first bank in the Kimball community. State Bank of Kimball is a "state" bank, meaning that its charter is granted by the State of Minnesota.
The original shareholders of the bank were most likely from outside the community. Almost all had "Yankee" surnames, suggesting that the German and Scandinavian settlers had not yet made their full presence in the community known. The first president of the bank was George Sherwood, a respected medical doctor who lived in Kimball well into the 1950′s.
The great depression of the 1930′s had a significant impact on the State Bank of Kimball. With unemployment at staggering heights and widespread crop failures, coupled with occasional depositor panic, many banks failed. In 1933, conditions became so bad that President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a bank "holiday", shutting down banks for a week to calm tensions. This shutdown, along with the establishment of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which guaranteed deposits up to $5,000, helped restore confidence in the nation's banking system.
In April 1933, the State Bank of Kimball acquired the assets of the failing People's Bank of South Haven. However, by August of that year, the State Bank of Kimball was also in need of assistance. This aid was provided by a loan from the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which purchased preferred stock in the State Bank of Kimball that was finally paid off in 1940.
The acquisition of the South Haven bank also brought with it cashier E.A. Erickson, later to become president and owner of the State Bank of Kimball. His son, Elwood E. Erickson, succeeded him as president. The Ericksons sold the State Bank of Kimball in 1985 to the current owners, the Meyersons of Atwater, who also own a bank in that town.
Following the sale, the State Bank of Kimball saw difficult times during the agricultural crisis of the 1980′s. The bank quickly recovered and in 1990 built a branch in St. Augusta, that won an award for its design. By 2007, the bank had grown over 6 times its size since 1990. In 2004, the St. Augusta office was remodeled to accommodate growth in the area.