“Money makes the world go ‘round,” according to a song from the 1966 hit musical “Cabaret.”
If that’s true, then banks would be the economic engine that powers new development, businesses and many other facets of early life in Brainerd, according to newspaper accounts noted by the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and Library.
William A. Ferris and George W. Holland founded the Bank of Brainerd in 1879 in a small frame building on the southeast corner of Fifth and Front streets. It became First National Bank in 1881 with a capital of $50,000.
“The First National Bank has just put in a new Cary screw door safe. … It weighs over three tons and is a beauty ... costing in the neighborhood of $1,900,” according to the March 13, 1896, edition of the Brainerd Dispatch.
A decade later after the Bank of Brainerd was founded, Charles N. Parker organized a bank called the Northern Pacific State Bank with a capital of $25,000. It became the Citizens State Bank of Brainerd in 1906 with M. T. Dunn as president and Parker as vice president.
Parker’s bank was at the corner of Broadway and Laurel streets, but a fire in 1907 led to the construction of a new home at the corner of Seventh and Laurel streets a block away from the site of the burned structure.
“Banks are recognized everywhere as one of the most potent factors in the upbuilding of a city. … This being the case, it is not then surprising that the deposits should increase from $60,000 to over $350,000 in a little less than three and one-half years,” according to the 1910 Brainerd Tribune.
Citizens State Bank absorbed two other banks, the Commercial State Bank of Brainerd and the Fort Ripley State Bank of Fort Ripley, in 1931.
“We are greatly pleased to be able to turn the business over to an institution with the large resources the Citizens State Bank has and we trust our friends will continue business with that bank,” Commercial State Bank President A.S. Peterson told the Brainerd Dispatch in 1927.
The First National Bank that started at Fifth and Front streets soon relocated to the first floor of a new building, the construction of which began at Sixth and Front streets in 1882. The bank bought that building in 1916 and remodeled it but later relocated again to Sixth and Maple streets.
“Mr. G.W. Holland, cashier of the First National Bank of Brainerd, has been very busily engaged lately in signing up some $27,000 worth of new banknotes, the first issue of the new bank. They are all in the denomination of fives, requiring 5,400 signatures in all,” according to the Dec. 24, 1881, edition of the Brainerd Tribune.
Security State Bank was another bank in Brainerd, and it opened in 1908. It later became the Brainerd State Bank and built the building later occupied by the Citizens State Bank. The Brainerd State Bank failed in 1924, five years before the stock market crash of 1929.
“No statement was made as to the purchase price, but it is believed the Citizens State Bank acquired the handsome and modern bank building at a very reasonable figure,” according to the May 10, 1927, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.
The building on South Sixth Street occupied by First National Bank was built in 1876. The building gained national attention on Oct. 23, 1933, when it was held up by George “Baby Face” Nelson.
"One other business used the name ‘bank,’ the Lumberman’s Exchange Bank (1884-1890) but it was really a real estate office which also made loans and cashed lumberjacks’ checks — not a chartered bank,” according to a Brainerd Daily Dispatch account of the city’s institutions.