Lyon County National Bank
Rock Rapids, Iowa

In the year 1877, the late Col. J.K.P. Thompson with his brother, T.C. Thompson, entered into a partnership to carry on banking business, and the corporation name of "Lyon County Bank" was started with a capital of $5,000. This was the beginning of the banking business in Rock Rapids. In 1879 O.P. Miller visited Rock Rapids, with the view of engaging in the banking business, and purchased the Lyon County Bank from the Thompsons. The capital was increased to $25,000 which was furnished in equal shares by the Honorable William Larrabee, best known as Governor of Iowa, Col. R.A. Richardson, L. Sutter, O.P. Miller, and J.K.P. Thompson.

Here is an interesting sidelight on O.P. Miller. He apparently was an aggressive community worker as in 1882 he offered to buy lumber and help build a sidewalk from the depot to the main business section in Rock Rapids in response to many of the citizenry complaints on the conditions of the walkways in town. He was also an object of much sidewalk conversation in 1891 when he traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to be present at the opening of his bank's safe. It seems that the lock malfunctioned, and the safe could not be opened. The safe contained the bank money, valuable papers, and the bank's bookkeeping records. The safe was sent by fast freight back to the manufacturer in Cincinnati. Here workmen drilled and finally managed to get it opened. Mr. Miller was on the scene to take charge of the bank's property.

Now back to the bank building in the Union Block of Rock Rapids. Immediately after the sale of the bank, a handsome two-story brick building was built at the cost of $5,000. It was the first brick building erected in Lyon County. The building was completed in April of 1880, and the business was transferred from the little, old, one-story building on the north side of the street to the new building.

Then disaster stuck. One of the worst fires in the county occurred in February of 1889 at Rock Rapids when Union block was destroyed. The loss amounted to over $60,000. The entire block was reined, including all of the civic society lodge rooms, the City Council records, and the Lyon County Bank. The vaults were saved, however.

Through the courtesy of Roach & Ramsey, attorneys, the bank was permitted to occupy the front part of their office as a temporary banking room until October when the new three-story brick building was to be completed. This is the building shown at the beginning of this article, and it still stands in Rock Rapids today. The new Union block was completed in mid-year of 1890. The bulk of the construction was done the year before, and the building carries a date of 1889 in stone at its top corner. The structure was reported to be the finest banking and business house in Northwest Iowa. In addition to the bank and stores on the first floor, there were offices on the second floor. The third floor was occupied by the Masons and Knights of Pythias Lodge. The third floor was owned by the lodges and caused some problem over the years as to who should be responsible to repair the roof.

In 1904 the name was officially changed to the Lyon County National Bank. The bank was described as one of the soundest and most reliable banking establishments of the Northwest, but that description soon turned to mockery as economic conditions worsened. The Depression years brought many bank closings throughout the land. In October of 1931 the Lyon County National Bank succumbed also.

Herb McCormack, long-time resident of Rock Rapids, remembers the day the bank closed. He walked into Superintendent Whitehead's office just as Leota (Stuerman) Gossen, the secretary, returned from doing banking business downtown. She was pale and agitated as she announced that the band had closed. It was indeed a black day for Rock Rapids. I can recall my dad had just returned from a cattle-selling trip to Sioux City the previous day and had deposited the proceeds from the sales. I was probably too young to realize all the ramifications involved with a bank closing at that time, but I could sense the utter despair, consternation, and sadness that permeated our household that day.

This was the era before F.D.I.C. so there was no insurance on deposits. It was a most stressful period for depositors. Herb said that there was common talk about town that the bank should have never closed its doors at all as its financial basis was not that unsound. My father-in-law, J.T. Dykhouse, was a young man at the time and worked at the bank. I can recall he voiced the opinion many times throughout the years that the bank should not have closed.

For a few years, a Mr. Cummings was dispatched from Sioux City to operate the bank after it did reopen. I do not know how much was repaid to people having checking accounts or savings accounts, but there was money paid out in succeeding years.

Provided by Evelyn Halverson
Transcribed by Roseanna Zehner

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