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The Bank of Speed

“Speed” is an unincorporated town in Palestine Township, Cooper County, Missouri. The Bank of Speed was the center of what was once a thriving community. It was incorporated on October 9, 1909. The amount of Capital Stock was $10,000, which in 1909 was a great sum of money.

Fast forward to January 1, 1928. Harold E. Mitzel took over the bank operation in 1928 and served in that capacity through the Great Depression until June 30, 1937. According to E. J. Melton, (who wrote “History of Cooper County” in 1938), the Bank of Speed was “the only bank in Missouri that did not have to close its doors during the bank crisis of the early 30’s.”After the Boonville National Bank and the Bunceton State Bank closed, Mr. Mitzel went through the books and then advised the board of directors how many depositors would likely demand their money. They were backed by well-supported loans, but there wasn’t enough cash on hand if there was a run on the bank. The board decided to borrow $20,000 from the Federal Reserve in St. Louis.

Mr. Mitzel took the bus to St. Louis and came back with $20,000 cash in his pockets. When he got off the bus in Boonville, he ran into O. J. Schlotzhauer who asked what he had in his pockets. Mitzel told him and let the story spread.

When depositors came to the bank and asked how much of their money they could get, they were promptly told, “All of it.” Knowing their money was safe was all they needed to know. From then on, they either withdrew only what they needed or made deposits. The bank was saved.

The loan from the Federal Reserve? It was paid back in thirty days.

Resource: A Town Called Speed, by Gerhardt, Roy B., c/1984

Citizens Bank of Pilot Grove

October 29, 1929, went down in history as Black Tuesday, and America went from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression. Banks failed and millions of people lost their jobs, homes, and life savings.

Things were still bad in November 1932, but Henry A. Seltsam, cashier and secretary of the Citizens Bank of Pilot Grove, had a plan. It was a daring plan that Seltsam presented to the bank directors on Monday, November 7, 1932.

“It is not fair to the faithful to permit steady withdrawals to undermine the bank’s stability, and then be forced to close with subsequent division of the remainder. I favor closing the bank tomorrow. “There is one chance to save it. If all the depositors will sign a moratorium not to draw out for 18 months what they now have on deposit, we can save the bank.”

After much discussion and planning, the plan was accepted. All banks were closed the following day for the Presidential election, but the Citizens Bank of Pilot Grove remained closed on Wednesday as well. Working day and night, Seltsam and director Wallace Burger began collecting signatures. The catch: the voluntary impounding of funds would not go into effect until, and unless, 100 per cent of the depositors signed the agreement. Every depositor had an opinion about the plan, but most agreed the bank must be saved. Finally, with the signatures of all depositors, the bank re-opened and deposits grew. Pilot Grove might have been on the road to recovery, but the nation was not.

While signatures were being collected in and around Pilot Grove, the people were voting for a new President. Franklin D. Roosevelt was that man. FDR took office on March 4, 1933, and immediately ordered every depository in the nation closed. After each was audited, only the financially sound were allowed to re-open. And thanks to the foresightedness of Seltsam and the directors, the Citizens Bank of Pilot Grove was one of the first to do so.

Source: Pilot Grove Bicentennial

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