Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 17, 2013

EC bank to wake up echoes from past

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — The echoes from the past are a big part of an ongoing effort to honor the many days gone by for a historic bank in Elmore City.

First State Bank is holding a special celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 22 as it recognizes its 110 years of service in the EC community.

During that same event the bank is giving the public a chance to check out for themselves its old building, constructed back in 1910 and located directly across the street in downtown Elmore City.

That’s a big deal because the old bank building is being restored and converted into a museum that some local folks hope is someday listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among those leading that effort are Nancy Warren, an executive vice president at the bank, and J.R. McCaskill, a retired history teacher.

Both believe it’s an important thing to save this big part of their hometown’s past.

“Restoring, preserving and celebrating Elmore City’s history is what this is all about,” Warren said.

The old time site was the place for Elmore City residents to do their banking from when it was constructed back in 1910 up through 1962 when it was closed down for a more modern bank building still serving the town today.

Going back even further the bank’s original building was a wood structure located not far from the building constructed in 1910.

That older bank building opened in 1903 but years later was lost in a fire.

Both Warren and McCaskill stress the work conditions were not that easy even in the 1910 building as employees didn’t have heating, air conditioning or even a restroom.

Located directly across the street from the current bank building, the old bank is positioned on the same side of Main Street with other buildings all constructed by Grant Warren around 1910-1911. Nancy adds she’s not related to that long ago local resident.

Warren also used sandstone from the Elmore City area to mold into rocks at his own local shop. Those rocks were then used to construct those first downtown buildings, including the old bank site now being converted into a museum.

“There was talk of what to do with these buildings,” McCaskill said. “There’s still a lot of history locked away in the old buildings.”

After its closure in 1962 the old bank building was used just for storage; an important thing in those days with everything done on paper long before there was such a thing as online banking.

That practice continued up through the mid-1990s as the bank records started filling the building’s interior; so much so that you could look inside through the window and barely catch a glimpse of a teller window dating back more than a century now.

Around 1995 work really got started to salvage the old bank used for storage for so long.

“This is a rare opportunity for a small town,” McCaskill said.

“The easiest thing would have been to take it out,” he said, referring to the old bank building. “By saving it, it should be a great contribution to the community.”

The effort started with a whole lot of boxes containing old customer accounts being cleared out, taken away and destroyed.

Staying put were other documents related to the bank, which represent a kind of historical record of the bank’s past.

Also found inside the bank were a variety of items from the earliest days there, such as a bank ledger from 1903. There was even money found dated from 1899 to 1902.

“Amazingly all the history of the bank was still in the building,” McCaskill said. “All we have to do is go through all the information.

“We’re just piecing together the myth and the legend of the bank and the stories about it. We’re hoping to preserve the important documents and verification of the history of the building.”

Put simply, they’re continuing to document the bank’s past as a way of someday getting the building officially recognized as a historic place.

Editor’s Note: More on the history of the First State Bank in Elmore City will be featured in the weekend edition of the PV Democrat.