You know the saying: History repeats itself.
Since our founding in 1876 to supply capital to the cotton industry, Bank of Yazoo has always stood behind our customer communities with unwavering strength, even as, time and time again, we have led the field in service enhancements. New branches when and where they were needed; our first drive through service in the fifties; internet banking in the nineties; we've stayed out front to keep all of our customers' needs covered.
In 1876, a group of Yazoo area businessmen gathered in the home of Robert Clayton Shepherd, Yazoo City merchant and alderman. Their purpose: to discuss the formation of a bank to supply capital for the cotton industry, rebounding at last after the devastation of the Civil War. The recovery, while welcome, was also overwhelming for local merchants, unable to supply the necessary financing for all the goods required by farmers to increase production. New capital was urgently needed.
The stockholders raised $41,300 in capital to provide funds for the new bank, obtained a charter, and on October 11, 1876, Bank of Yazoo opened its doors for business, with Shepherd serving as President, his business associate Charles Roberts as Vice President, and L.B. Warren as cashier.
Standing with a community against fire, flood and fever.
For the next quarter century, the Bank would become an enthusiastic marketing partner to local farmers. It would also provide crucial support for the entire community as it faced all manner of challenges, including deadly and recurring Yellow Fever epidemics, two major floods and a national depression which sent cotton prices plummeting. Through the credit provided by Bank of Yazoo, local cotton planters managed to weather all forms of turbulence, and by 1896, Bank of Yazoo's resources had surged to nearly $125,000.
The twentieth century dawned with much promise, as well as a tragedy that became legendary, when Casey Jones rode his locomotive to immortality near the community of Vaughan in Yazoo County. In 1905, incendiary tragedy struck when a massive fire claimed 27 blocks of Yazoo City, consuming businesses, the school, the newspaper offices, and, of course, the offices of Bank of Yazoo. Five days after the fire, the Bank's directors voted to rebuild, phoenix-like, in a more favorable location on the corner of Main and Commercial. The Bank also managed to make a recommended ten percent dividend, increase the Bank's surplus by another $100,000 and provide a $4,000 loan to the telephone company to restore telephone service to the ravaged city.
Growing stronger in the face of Depression.
In 1914, the Bank passed another milestone when it became a "guaranteed bank," with resources approaching the million-dollar mark; and, four years later, Bank of Yazoo became a Federal Depository for the U.S. Treasury.
When the great Depression reached Yazoo City, the Bank took swift action to ensure solvency. Although examiners gave the Bank a clean bill of health and congratulated the institution on its soundness, management closed the Bank doors to guard against a "run," which may have triggered the calling of loans, in turn devastating the already hard-pressed farmers. Less than six months later, the Bank reopened for business. In 1935, Bank of Yazoo began to take FHA Home Loan applications in a program that would prove to be a huge success; and, in that same year, Bank of Yazoo qualified and was accepted by the newly formed Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. At the end of 1936, the Bank reported resources of over $2 million, and a ten percent dividend was declared.
Exponential growth amid war and victory.
In the thirties, as young men shipped off to Canada to join the RAF, and a few older men cried out for isolationism, the average Mississippian still enjoyed peace and prosperity. A person could buy a fully equipped Plymouth automobile for $850 and take a whole year to pay for it at Bank of Yazoo. But war was looming, and the Bank entered into an agreement with the U.S. Treasury to sell U.S. Defense Savings Bonds Series E six months to the day before the unthinkable: Pearl Harbor. After that fateful day, young men in great numbers shipped off to war, while women began taking their jobs on the home front, and Delta farmers, though raising all the cotton they could, still couldn't meet the demand. By 1943, the Bank's resources had climbed to nearly $4 million, and with oil discoveries in the county, the Bank began encouraging yet another industry with loans for oil leasing and drilling. By 1945, resources were up to nearly six and a half million dollars, and the Bank was accepted as a member bank of the Federal Reserve System.
The fifties: Driven to serve.
Post-war America needed cotton almost as much as before, it seemed, with the expected post-war slump ending quickly. As the fifties dawned, the Bank, with resources now topping $8 million, pitched in for worthy projects: for the building of the new hospital, and later, for the building program of the First Baptist Church.
By 1954, the Bank had embarked on an extensive renovation that would add an exciting new innovation in service — a drive-through window for customers, another first for Yazoo City banking. A few years later, an agricultural officer would be added to the Bank's staff.
The fifties would also witness the birth of the very special relationship between Bank of Yazoo and Mississippi Chemical Corporation. In 1957, the Bank created a stock financing program under which the Bank loaned 80% of the stock purchase price to Mississippi Chemical employees.
The sixties and seventies: Growing fast, holding fast to a commitment of service.
In 1961, the Bank passed the magic $10 million mark in resources, and, throughout the next two decades, rapid growth would continue unabated. In 1966, the Lintonia branch was opened and additional staff was also added. In an historic move, the Board of Directors decided to create an Advisory Board in March, 1968.
By then, the Bank's need for a new facility had become obvious, and new property was acquired on the corner of Main and Broadway. The Bank also weighed in on other city improvements by formally endorsing the Delta Plaza Urban Renewal Housing Project.
In 1972, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Bank facility were held. By October of that year, resources had climbed to over $21 million. A formal grand opening was held in the spring of 1973. When double-digit inflation struck in the seventies, the Bank's Board of Directors recognized that it was unwise to allow Bank funds to remain as non interest-bearing reserves with the Federal Reserve and subsequently resolved to withdraw its membership.
In 1976, the Bank opened a personal loan department to better serve consumer needs. Because 1976 was also the centennial year for the Bank, as well as by happy coincidence the bicentennial celebration year for the U.S., an invitation was extended to Miss America 1976, Tawny Codin, to serve as the official hostess for the Bank's April 15th centennial celebration. As a birthday gift to area farmers, the Bank decided to install a commodities wire to give farmers the benefit of up-to-the-minute market information.
During the seventies, the Bank also contributed to a variety of worthy projects, making donations to the Yazoo City Community Triangle project, and adding rare books to the Library.