Stebbins National Bank, The

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Stebbins National Bank, The
Formerly called Stebbins Banking Co
Former type Banks
Industry Finance & Insurance
Fate Acquired by Wayne Savings & Loan Company
Successor(s) Wayne Savings & Loan Company
Founded Creston, Ohio (September 1, 1881 (1881-09-01))
Founder(s) W. P. Stebbins
Defunct June 1, 2004 (2004-06-01)
Headquarters Creston, Ohio, United States
Number of locations 121 N. Main St., Creston, Ohio
Key people W. P. Stebbins Founder; Charles E. Stebbins President

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Comprehensive History[edit | edit source]

In 1826, just 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, George Washington Stebbins, who lived near Buffalo, New York, bought a tract of land in Canaan Township in Wayne County, Ohio, from the federal government. He and his wife, Laura, loaded their worldly goods in a wagon and began their westward trek to the Buckeye State. The Land they had been given to homestead was about one mile east of the cross road village known as Old Hickory, later to become Jackson. The deed to the new farm had been signed by President John Quincy Adams.

In 1981, the direct descendants of this adventurous pioneer couple celebrated a century of business in the financial world. The Stebbins National Bank in Creston, Ohio was founded on September 1, 1881 by the eldest son of George and Laura Stebbins, William Ferry Stebbins, who was a man of wisdom and integrity. William and his bride, the former Mary Glime, were given a portion of the family farm in Canaan Township and there they built a new home, from logs cut in nearby woods. Laura became the first "schoolmarm" in the area and she was described by her young husband as "The Belle of Canaan Township". As the years passed, both families decided to move north to the small village of Pike Station, later to become Creston. George and Laura built a home in the south end of the town William and Mary moved into a new house at the northeast corner of Main and Stebbins Streets. The new owner of the homestead farm was Charles A. Stebbins, the oldest son of William, and he and his young wife, Mary Viets, lived there for a short time. Charles, however, soon moved to Seville where he became a partner in a drug store but that original tract of Land in Canaan Township remained in the family. The new owners were William Stebbins' daughter, Ada, who had married John Romich.

The Civil War ended; the first railroad came to Creston, and more people moved to the growing village. These people needed supplies, food, farming equipment and clothing. They also needed a school and places where they might worship. These men and women had ambition and energy, and they were industrious. But few of them had ready cash with which to purchase the things they had to have to build homes and barns. They needed money to buy seed for crops, to purchase horses and wagons and plows to till the soil. William P. Stebbins, now the patriarch of the family following his father's death in 1876, had saved some money and he was a trusted adviser in the community. Thrifty, industrious and congenial, he found his advice was increasingly sought after by his neighbors those who wanted to open business places, as well as by those who needed to patronize those business places.

William P. Stebbins agreed to help his neighbors and began to lend some of his hard-earned savings to those whom he considered responsible men and women. He bought a safe and moved it, along with a desk, into a small storeroom in the "Brick Block" in downtown Creston, a building Later to be occupied by Sellers and Long. The office was known simply as "W. P. Stebbins & Son, Bankers". The "Son" was young Charles A. Stebbins, now a business partner with his father in 1881.

Creston began to grow. Railroads provided brisk traffic to and from the little town and Stebbins' lending business also flourished. Charles decided, however, to move to Wooster and spend part of his time selling insurance. William's son-in-law, John Romich, joined the newborn lending firm. By the late 1800's and early 1900's, Creston was a "boom town". There were two hotels, the town had its own newspaper, "The Creston Journal", a stockyards, a pickle works, a nearby brickyard, its own school and a tannery, as well as numerous other business places and retail stores. The Cleveland and Southwestern streetcars ran right through the town, taking passengers and packages from Wooster to Cleveland, with stops all along the way, including Creston, Jackson and Seville. There were two churches in Creston by the turn of the century, a Methodist and a Presbyterian, as well as three lodges: Odd Fellows, Masons and the Macabees.

William Stebbins had not only an enviable reputation as a man of strict integrity whose judgment was praised and prized, but he also enjoyed a profitable occupation. In the Fall of 1899, he renamed his enterprise "The Stebbins Banking Company". With son, Charles, and son-in-law, Romich, Mr. Stebbins moved his office into a new building which had been constructed one block north on Creston's Main Street, the site of the bank's present location. Bowen's "History of Wayne County" describes the new bank as "a fine modern-style banking house, constructed of stone and brick". That bank, according to Bowen, "had capital of $10,000 and deposits of $65,000, a veritable fortune for the day. William P. Stebbins was president of this new bank, back in 1881, Charles A. Stebbins was cashier, and E. D. Arthur was the assistant cashier.

William P. Stebbins died in 1908 and son, Charles A., became president of the financial institution. Charles A. and Mary Viets Stebbins moved back to Creston and their oldest son, Harry A. Stebbins, who had worked in Cleveland, was asked to return home and work at the bank. That was in 1910. Three years later, Harry married Ruth Simmons and they became Parents of three children: Virginia (Mrs. R. E. Miller of Orrville), Mary Louise Marshall, now deceased, and Charles E. Stebbins. The flu epidemic of 1918 took the life of Charles A. Stebbins and, in that year, Harry A. Stebbins became president of the Bank in Creston, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

Ben Romich, nephew of John Romich, who had worked with the firm's founders, joined the staff in 1920. Romich retired in 1962 after serving both as a director and a vice president. Early in 1930, Harry A. Stebbins bought the Farmer's Bank of Sterling from Addison Slemmons, who was its major stockholder; then in 1918, Stebbins sold his stock to I. W. Maibach and his associates. After the depression of the 1930's, Harry A. Stebbins was asked to re-open the Seville State Bank, assuming management there in 1932. His son-in-law, Russell E. Miller, was named cashier of the Seville Bank. When that office merged with the Old Phoenix Bank in Medina, Mr., Miller changed his vocation, becoming owner of an insurance agency in Orrville where he and his wife, the former Virginia Stebbins, live now. Harry A. Stebbins continued as a director of the Old Phoenix Bank. On July 1, 1951 the Creston bank, one of only three in Ohio to be privately owned at the time, became a national bank and became The Stebbins National Bank of Creston.

At the time of the change, the Stebbins bank had capital assets of $50,000, with a $50,000 surplus. Harry A. Stebbins continued as president, Ben Romich was named vice president and Charles E. Stebbins, now the fourth generation of the family to be a part of the financial firm in Creston, was named cashier. By becoming a national bank, the institution automatically joined the Federal Reserve System and depositors were insured on deposits up to $10,000.

In 1957, more than a half century after the new bank building was first opened and 76 years after William P. Stebbins first began to serve residents and businessmen of the community an addition to the building was necessary because of the volume of business. New equipment was installed, more employees were added to the staff.

Three times in its history, the Stebbins Bank in Creston has been the target of armed robbers. In April, 1928, a pair of Wadsworth brothers held up tellers, the robbers later captured and convicted. In May, 1954,, two Rittman brothers took several thousand dollars from the bank at gun point and they also were apprehended, admitting to Texas law officials that the Creston robbery was one of several they had committed. On Jan. 5, 1971 a third pair of gun toting men entered the Stebbins Bank and within a matter of minutes, left with money heisted from cash drawers. Local law enforcement officials have always wondered at the brazenness of these culprits, since three sets of railroad tracks in the village could easily have stymied the best-laid get-away plans of the criminals.

The Stebbins National Bank of Creston has been unique in its 100 years of history, in that it is one of very few in the nation owned entirely by the same family for so many years. In 1997, the five directors were all members of the immediate founding family: Charles E. Stebbins, his wife, Sally Ann Coleman Stebbins and their son, James C. Stebbins, along with Russell E. and Virginia Stebbins Miller. Following the death of his father in 1974, Charles E. Stebbins was elected president of the board of directors, Miller is vice president and James Stebbins is cashier. Assistant cashier is Esther L. Shafer. Other present employees are Shirley Romich McKelvey, a great-grandniece of the man who joined the Stebbins Bank in 1881, Virginia Kay Russell, Debra Scruggs and Connie Gasser. Mrs. Shafer has been with the bank since 1950, Mrs. McKelvey since 1958.

Stebbins National Bank provided a full century of community service: surviving wars, depressions, recessions, three armed robberies and the federally-ordered "Bank Holiday" in March 1933.

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References[edit | edit source]

  1. Creston Journal. Creston, Ohio. 1904-04-21, p. 17.

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