First National Bank sale: End of an era

Kathryn SwanJ-C Correspondent
First National Bank sale: End of an era

The recent announcement of the sale of Pawhuska’s historic First National Bank is far from being a routine business transaction. Rather, it marks the end of 108 years of an independent, family-owned community bank and the end of an era.

Housed in an equally historic building, the First National Bank in Pawhuska was founded in 1906 by Charles F. Stuart. The following is an interview with Stuart’s nephew, Douglas G. Stuart, about his family’s legacy:

Charles F. Stuart, Uncle Charlie to family and friends, was the eldest of nine children born of Donald (1838) and Elizabeth Adams, nee Good. Charlie’s father, Donald, left Scotland in 1843 at the age of five,

Immigrating to Canada, then to Clinton County, Iowa, and finally to Walnut, Iowa, where he and his wife, Elizabeth acquired a section of good farm ground. When Charlie and his siblings expressed no interest in farming, Donald and Elizabeth sold their farm and moved the family to Pawhuska for a short period of time.

Charlie’s dream was to start a bank. He fulfilled this dream in 1900 in Ralston. Charlie had a choice of selecting Ralston or Tulsa. He chose Ralston because it was closer and bigger than Tulsa. At the time, Ralston was a tent-city boom town. Six years later in 1906, Charlie sold the Ralston bank to John Arthur Stuart (Doug Stuart’s father). He then established the American National Bank in Pawhuska and erected Pawhuska’s first brick building. In 1935, Charlie changed the bank’s name to the First National Bank in Pawhuska.

“The original First National Bank of Pawhuska built the building now owned and used by Charlie’s bank, the First National Bank in Pawhuska,” said Stuart. “This building sat vacant for a number of years until the Stuart’s acquired it in the mid-1950s and began extensive renovations. Uncle Charlie oversaw the bank’s operations from its founding in 1906 until 1947. My oldest brother and Charlie’s oldest nephew, Donald J. Stuart (1916), took over the bank’s operation at that time until 1988. The bank has had various other individuals serving as President since that time. Larry Dalvine is the bank’s current President.”

Doug Stuart is very passionate about the independent banking community and about being part of a family-run institution that has endured for over a hundred years. For him “this transaction is “bittersweet. As Charlie’s father, Donald, sold his farm because none of his children wanted to farm, so now the Stuart family is selling the bank because none of the third generation Stuarts are interested in running a bank.”

Stuart noted the bank recently completed a safety and soundness examination from the Office of Controller Currency. “The examiner in charge sat in our board room in September after completing the examination and said this was one of the first banks he examined twenty years ago. He said, ‘Today, this bank is as healthy as I have ever seen it.’

“The Federal Reserve and other regulatory agencies must approve any transaction between First National Bank and American Heritage. It is anticipated closing of the transaction will occur in the first quarter of 2015. Until then, the bank will continue to operate as it has in the past.

“We don’t know what the purchasers are going to do with this building. When buyer representatives visited First National for the first time, they appeared somewhat intrigued with its historical integrity.”

Stuart welcomes anyone with questions to visit with him or Larry Dalvine. “This bank is sound,” emphasized Stuart. “There is nothing wrong with the financial status of this bank. We are not closing the doors. We are just transferring ownership.