First National Bank of Princeton established 1883 First Bank and Trust Company 1957 – 2005 First Southern National Bank 2005 – present
Caldwell County in the 1880’s was experiencing growth and prosperity as communication and travel had greatly improved following the Civil War. Census reports show the County population at 11,282. The county boasted eight post offices: Creswell, Dulaney, Farmersville, Fredonia, Friendship, Princeton, Scottsburg and Walnut Grove. An excerpt from an 1883 newspaper reads, “A telephone line is now completed connecting, Marion, Fredonia, Dycusburg, Kuttawa and Eddyville. Princeton ought to be and doubtless will be connected to this line. It would be a great convenience.”
The railroad had been completed in 1872. When the first train, consisting of an engine and two freight cars, arrived in Fredonia, it was met by over 2,000 people. During this time of change, several citizens of the area saw the need for a national bank. They met at the office of F.W. Darby in Princeton, on September 15,1883, to organize a national bank, which they named, The First National Bank of Princeton. The following persons subscribed for shares of capital stock; Jennie N. Gray, L.B. Sims, W.G. Glenn, Wm. S. Powell, James H. Leech, W.B. Terry, R.B. Ratliff, F.W. Darby, Samuel Garrett, H.F. McNary, Francis Ford, Wm. Marble, W.L. Edmunds, George W. Pettit, A. Koltinsky, A.C. Mayes, J.W. Jackson, George E. Hamilton and R.W. Wilson. The directors elected were: R.W. Wilson, Samuel Garrett, L.B. Sims, W.L. Edmunds, R.B. Ratliff, F.W. Darby, James H. Leech, H.F. McNary, and W.S. Powell. The directors then elected the following officers: President – R.B. Ratliff; Vice President – F.W. Darby; Cashier – G.E. Hamilton.
The bank’s first president, R.B. Ratliff, had moved to Caldwell County from Bullitt County in 1844. His first eight years in Princeton were spent manufacturing and repairing rifles. He became one of the area’s leading business men and in the 1850’s established his privately owned bank, known as the Farmer’s Bank. This bank was one of four in the state of Kentucky operating under the old state bank charter. In 1861, during the uncertain times of the beginning of the Civil War, Mr. Ratliff thought it best to move his deposits to a safer place than Princeton. During the night, he placed one hundred and sixty thousand dollars in silver and gold into wooden ax handle boxes, loaded it on an old two horse wagon and drove through the night and all the next day to reach Bowling Green. There amid a number of Confederate soldiers, who were unaware of the content of the boxes, he loaded the money onto a train to be shipped to Louisville. Mr. Ratliff re-opened his private bank for a few years during the 1870’s. He again became interested in banking in 1883 and was the largest stockholder in the newly organized First National Bank of Princeton. His experience and expertise in banking made him a natural choice for president of the bank. Mr. Ratliff’s signature appears on the first currency issued by the First National Bank, dated October 25, 1883, the date the bank’s charter was granted by the Comptroller of the Currency. This currency was printed by the Treasury and shipped to the individual banks in large sheets, a practice which continued until 1935. The scissors used to cut the money apart are now stored in the vault at First Southern National Bank.
By 1890 the population of Caldwell County had increased to 13,186. The First National Bank of Princeton continued to be progressive and on July 1, 1895 consolidated with The Citizens Bank which had been organized after 1883. R.B. Ratliff was chosen as President of the merged banks; J.D. Leech – Vice President; Edward Garrett – Cashier and R.C. Garrett – Assistant Cashier. The president’s salary was set at $400 per year. The First National Bank then moved into the building which had been constructed by The Citizens Bank at 113 West Main where it was to remain until 1968. The 1900’s brought unsettled times to Caldwell County and the nation. In late 1907, a financial panic spread across the nation. Banks were unable to secure currency from the cities, where the greater part of the cash reserve was kept, producing a premium on currency and causing a panic among depositors. The following is an excerpt from the minutes of a stockholders meeting of The First National Bank, January 14, 1908: “We were victims of conditions over which we had no control, and which affected alike every community in the entire country. In view of the above conditions and believing that the crisis is past, we the stockholders of the Bank, take this means of expressing our deep appreciation for the skillful and efficient manner in which the Officers of this Bank have financed this institution through the panic, and that during said stringency all demands made upon this institution were paid in cash without any restrictions, whatever, and at the same time emerged from the panic with a cash reserve of 50% or about $250,000 cash. And in view of the above facts, we as stockholders of this institution unanimously ask the Board of Directors to re-elect the same officers.” These officers being: Edward Garrett – President; R.M. Pool – Cashier; and L.G. Cox – Assistant Cashier. Edward Garrett had first been elected president in May, 1907, to replace R.B. Ratliff who died April 12, 1907 having served faithfully as president of The First National Bank since it’s founding in 1883. Upon the death of Edward Garrett on October 25, 1918 at the age of 53, the bank lost its second president. A quote from the Directors’ meeting of November 6, 1918 reads, “That the unparalleled growth of said bank from a position of comparative obscurity, to a commanding place among the banking institutions of the State of Kentucky, have been largely due to the unflagging industry of Edward Garrett to its every interest, and his wise and constructive policy in managing its affairs as Cashier and for more than eleven years, as its President.” Mr. Garrett’s term of office saw many changes in Caldwell County including a period in 1913 when several acres of vacant land were taken up at cost of five cents per acre. Mr. Garrett’s successor was R.M. Pool. Mr. Pool became president soon after our country became involved in World War I, “the war to end all wars”. Under the direction of R.M. Pool, The First National Bank had continued to grow and serve the community well. October 29, 1929, “Black Tuesday” entered The Big Depression. Throughout the United States, the tightness of the monetary situation was beginning to press. In the early 1930’s farm prices dropped to the bottom. Tobacco sold for fifty cents per hundred pound and corn for fifteen cents per bushel. In spite of all this, The First National Bank remained open to provide leadership and assistance to the community. On June 21, 1937, R.M. Pool tendered his resignation as president due to impaired health.
During the next six months, Sam Koltinsky served as Executive Vice President and in January, 1938, Henry Sevison was elected president. Mr. Sevison was a former National Bank Examiner and brought a wealth of experience to the bank. At this time the total assets of the bank were approximately $1,200,000. Mr. Sevison was to break with tradition and hire the bank’s first woman, Dixie Lois Jacob. Miss Jacob was to be followed six months later by Sarah Glover. During the war, The First National Bank continued to increase its staff of women and because of the lack of young men available to work, relaxed its rule against married women working. The bank still hired only single women, but if a woman married after she was hired, she was not asked to resign. Miss Dixie Lois Jacob became the first woman to be elected an officer of The First National Bank when she became Assistant Cashier in 1945. Henry Sevison served as president until 1956 when ill health forced his retirement. During the 18 years of his term, the outstanding leadership of the directors and officers of The First National Bank, through good management and sound banking policies, led Princeton and Caldwell County to a growth in trade and an increase in business. This is reflected in the increase of the bank’s assets of approximately $4,000,000 at the end of 1956
Edwin Lamb became the fifth president of the bank in November, 1956. Early 1957, steps were taken to convert The First National Bank to a state bank, to be known as The First Bank and Trust Company. Realizing the possibilities of growth in the community, this conversion provided greater flexibility and additional funds for expansion. The red carpet bank came into existence in the fall of 1957 after a complete remodeling of the bank’s facilities. This included a large parking lot and the first drive-in window service in the county. During the extensive remodeling program, the lobby fans were removed and central air conditioning was installed. New machines were purchased and hand posting was eliminated from most departments. A mezzanine was built to house the bookkeeping department, which had been located in the lobby. The bank’s assets had increased to over $5,000,000 by the end of the 1950’s. Over the years, assets of First Bank and Trust grew to almost $18,000,000. This increase in volume brought about the need for more floor space and in 1968 the bank moved to its present location at 101 West Washington. The new building’s 8,000 square feet of floor space provided ideal working conditions for the 18 employees. Provisions were made for six inside teller windows and two drive-in windows. Installment loans and demand deposits were placed on computer with Computer Services, Inc. of Paducah. Later, savings and commercial loans were added to the services which were computerized and by the late 1970’s all applications were being handled by the computer.
The 1970’s were to bring about the most rapid rate of growth in the bank’s history. Edwin Lamb continued to serve as president until his resignation in 1973. Billy Joe Farless served as president from 1973 until 1978 when Eugene W. Butters was elected president. These three men were instrumental in increasing the assets of First Bank and Trust Company to over $50,000,000 by the end of the 1970’s. The number of employees increased to 45. This growth enabled the bank to expand its facilities to include a new office located at 1013 West Main Street in 1977. This facility included four inside teller windows, two additional drive-in windows and an enlarged installment loan department. It was during the 1970’s that First Bank adopted their logo, the pineapple, a symbol of Southern hospitality. For First Bank employees, the 1970’s were marred by the death of one of the bank’s most valued officers, John Owen McKinney, on September 4, 1976. John had been with the bank since 1956. His position as Vice President and Cashier enabled him to make a lasting contribution to the growth of First Bank. John Owen McKinney was preceded as Cashier of the bank by Murray W. Sell. Murray came to the bank in 1945 and served in many capacities during his nearly twenty years in the bank. At the time of his death in February of 1964, he was Vice President and Secretary to the Board. He had assumed the responsibilities of Cashier upon the retirement of Jacob W. Myers in 1953 and served until 1956. Jake Myers started work at the bank in 1919 and was to serve faithfully during the terms of R.M. Pool and Henry Sevison. These men, by their unfailing support of First Bank, have set an example for all future officers and employees.
The 1980’s brought the loss of another valued employee when the bank’s custodian of twenty years, Charles Groom, was forced to retire because of ill health in 1982. The 80’s reflected the changing life styles of bank customers as they began to travel more and could not be confined to 9 – 4 banking hours. First Bank responded to this need by opening its 24-hour Banker on the corner of South Jefferson and West Washington. This automated teller machine made it possible for customers to make deposits and withdrawals at any hour of the day or night. The introduction of electronic funds transfer made it possible for customers to have their deposits made electronically rather than having their checks mailed to them. First Bank encouraged the use of these various concepts of modern technology and continued to utilize the most up-to-date banking equipment. In July of 1983, the bank installed new computer equipment which allowed data processing to be done in the bank rather than send the items to Paducah. Advances such as this enabled First Bank and Trust Company to begin its second century of service to Caldwell County and the surrounding area with confidence and enthusiasm. In August 1993, Rickie Huntsman took over the helm as President of First Bank and Trust Company. In 1993, First Bank and Trust Company was sold to South Central Bancshares, Inc., Russellville Ky. The new management took over January 1, 1997 with a New Chairman of the Board, Jay Slaton and President, Wayne Whisman. The Directors were Firmon Cook, Dann Hughes, Charles Coleman, Sam Koltinsky, Jr.
In February 2003, South Central Bancshares was acquired by First Southern Bancorp, Stanford, Ky. Jay Slaton resigned his position as Chairman of the Board Of Directors and Jess Correll was elected the new Chairman. Dennis Vaught was appointed Regional President. The new Directors were Jess Correll, Randall Attkisson, John R. Ball, Rickie Huntsman, Doug Ditto, William R. Clark, Charles Coleman, Dann Hughes, Sam Koltinsky, Jr. and Rick Williams. In September 2003, Dennis Vaught resigned as regional president and William “Rusty” Clark was named as his replacement. In addition to First Bank and Trust, Clark’s region also includes banks in Logan and Ballard Counties. In July 2005, First Bank and Trust Company officially became known as First Southern National Bank. Rickie Huntsman continued to serve as City Executive of First Bank and Trust Company until January 2006. Bob Hayes was promoted to Community President and Director in 2006. Anticipating retirement in 2014, Hayes named his successor, Loan and Business Development Officer, Jason Redfern, as Community President in 2012. Redfern continues to serve in this role today.