This vintage postcard view of the Russell Bank building, marking its 123rd birthday this summer and still standing at the intersection of Maple and Shaw streets, turned up yesterday while I was avoiding excessive heat by doing some filing at the museum.
I wasn't able to find a newspaper story devoted specifically to its construction. Although the Russell Recorder was publishing at the time, back issues haven't survived. And routine coverage of Russell in the Chariton newspapers varied, based on the enthusiasm of the Russell correspondents of the day.
What I was able to do was piece together the following chronology, based upon references in the "Russell News" columns of The Chariton Democrat and The Chariton Herald:
April 1896: Mr. F. R. Crocker, cashier of the First National Bank at Chariton, was in the city a short time Tuesday evening looking over the ground as to the most advisable location for a new brick structure to be occupied by the Russell Bank. Cashier Goodwin of the bank informs us that a corner lot is desired and the choice lies between the one on which Dr. Palmer's office is situated and that east of Huston's livery barn. The project has been in mind for some time and in all probability will be carried out in a short time, as we earnestly trust it may. (Chariton Herald, April 9, 1896)
May 1896: Teams are busily at work on the basement of the new bank building. (Democrat, May 29, 1896)
July 1896: D. A. Enslow has been awarded the contract for the erection of a new bank building and Odd Fellows' hall, a large two-story brick structure, at Russell. This will be the largest brick building in that city and will contain beside the bank, another business room on the first floor and the I.O.O.F. hall above. It is estimated that it will cost $8,000. (Democrat, July 24, 1896) Note: A report in The Herald of July 23 gave the amount of the Enslow contract as $5,084, "if we are correctly informed."
August 1896: The new bank building is humming right along now. (Chariton Herald, Aug. 12, 1896)
November 1896: The bank building is now almost completed, and is a fine ornament to our little city. A stone walk has been laid on the north and east sides, which adds greatly to the appearance of the building. (Chariton Herald, Nov. 19, 1896)
As the chronology suggests, Chariton's First National Bank --- owned principally by Smith H. Mallory and his family with Frank R. Crocker as cashier --- was the major player in the State Bank of Russell when the building was constructed.
That was all well and good until 11 years later, Oct. 31, 1907, when First National crashed after Frank Crocker's suicide and subsequent revelations that he had bankrupted the institution with speculative investing of its funds.
Crocker killed himself overnight Oct. 30-31 and because of that, the Chariton bank remained closed on the 31st and never re-opened. The Russell Bank did open, however, but depositors rushed it as soon as news about the Chariton bank reached town and after $6,000 had been withdrawn in 12 minutes, doors were closed and locked.
The venerable Thomas Brandon (1826-1923), also a major investor in the Russell bank and its president in 1907, saved the day by stepping up to guarantee depositors that he would cover with personal assets any losses the bank might sustain because of its affiliation with First National. So the Russell Bank re-opened, surviving what remains as Lucas County's major banking disaster because of Mr. Brandon's integrity.