McConnelsville bank celebrates 150th anniversary

July of 1863 was a historic month in Morgan County.

On July 23, the forces of Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan who’d escaped the Battle of Buffington Island days earlier forded the Muskingum River near Rokeby Lock. And, less dramatically, the First National Bank of McConnelsville opened on Main Street on July 31.

Morgan’s Raid is still remembered in the history books and with historical markers, long after it and the Civil War ended.

Meanwhile, First National Bank continues to serve the McConnelsville community, now at 86 N. Kennebec Ave. In fact, it’s the oldest national bank still operating under its original charter – number 46 – from the federal Office of the Comptroller of Currency.

“I think the longevity speaks a lot to the way the bank has been managed over the years,” said Naomi Wright, vice president and retail sales manager at the bank.

That’s what’s kept McConnelsville resident Shirley Hanson, 67, a loyal customer along with her mother, Jerri Stemm, 85, and Hanson’s son and daughter. Before all of them, Hanson’s grandfather banked there.

“They do everything they can to help you out,” Hanson said. “When you live in a small town like this, they know you.”

And the connection to the bank isn’t only a financial one for many families.

“When my husband and I got married, we went to the First National Bank and got money for our furniture there,” Hanson said.

Francis C. Smith, a Dublin resident who still has a house in his native Malta, has served on the bank’s board of directors for nearly 30 years. During that time, he said, they’ve been approached about selling to larger banks but have committed to remaining local.

“We feel by being a community bank, we can be closer to the customers than some of the bigger banks,” said Smith, chairman of the board.

That doesn’t mean First National Bank of McConnelsville doesn’t want to grow. Over the years, Smith said, the bank has purchased three other banks in the area and now has seven offices in Morgan, Athens and Perry counties.

“With the new banking regulations, it’s hard to exist as a small community bank,” he said.

And while the bank still offers the on-location teller services some customers value, it’s also moved into the 21st century with Internet and mobile banking.

“We’re old but we’re progressive,” Wright said.

According to an article posted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, part of the U.S. Treasury Department, First National Bank of McConnelsville was founded with $75,000 in capital. By April of 1864, its assets totaled $224,744.67.

When Smith joined the board, he said the bank had about $40 million in assets. Today, it’s over $140 million.

The bank will celebrate its anniversary today with an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the main branch. Guests will be greeted by an Abraham Lincoln presenter since Lincoln was president when the bank was established. There will also be balloons for children, refreshments, memorabilia, a live radio remote from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and a drawing for prizes at 3 p.m.