La Feria News

The Cameron County Bank and the First National Bank of La Feria

The first bank to be built in La Feria was The Cameron County Bank. The building still stands today at the corner of Main and Commerce Streets.

The Cameron County Bank was originally organized by Bailey H. Dunlap, Sr., who bought the lots from W.E. Stewart of Kansas City, Missouri, for whom Dunlap had previously worked in Donna. The bank opened as a private institution which was incorporated on November 16, 1912.

According to Dunlap, a “Gone Deer Hunting” sign, posted on the newly-opened bank durig deer season, was sufficient excuse to close the doors of the bank on any week day and take off hunting. The real reason for the bank’s closing was that the armored truck from Harlingen had not made the delivery of money on time.

The bank first opened for business in a frame building on a lot later occupied by the W.W. Bishop Dry Goods Store. The capital stock was $10, 000. The State Banking Commissioner, W.W. Collier, refused a state charter at that time. However, Mr. Collier granted a charter on November 8, 1913, after the bank had operated as a private business for a year. The Cameron County Bank officially opened as a state bank under the Guaranty Fund Plan.

The first president was P.B. Branch, Sr., with B.H. Dunlap, active vice president and J.A. George, assistant cashier.

A two-story brick building was erected on the corner of Main and Commerce Streets to house the bank. It had a beautiful entrance with marble facing and was very ornate for that day and time. It has been used for various businesses over the years.

W.A. Strickland had teh distinction of building the Cameron County Bank in 1912. He was one of the oldest and most experienced contractors in South Texas.

By 1918, the capital stock had been doubled and individual deposits had reached $45,000.

The bank continued to operate as a state bank until March 25, 1925, at which time the condition of the Guaranty Fund banks in the State of Texas was precarious, and on that date, the Cameron County Bank of La Feria was converted from a state institution to a National Bank under the name of the First National Bank of La Feria.

The First National Bank of La Feria’s building in the 1930’s.

The officers were: J.R. Adams, Sr., president; H.B. Noblett, vice president; B.H. Dunlap, active vice president and cashier; and D.W. Sigler, assistant cashier.

George W. Dewey told an amusing anecdote about mortgaging his mules, Jack and Jenny, which were 3 years old in 1912, to the Cameron County Bank for sufficient funds to set up housekeeping in La Feria. In 1925, the mortgage was paid off after 13 years, but Jack and Jenny were only 7 years old!

By 1927, the capital stock had risen to $50,000 and total deposits had reached $475,000. This same year the bank moved to its present site in a building of Spanish architecture on the corner of Main and Oleander streets (present day home of BBVA Compass Bank – ed.)

The officers of the bank in 1927 had long banking experience i the Rio Grande Valley and in other states. W.H. Bardwell, president, before coming to La Feria, had been associated with the Delta National Bank of Yazoo, Mississippi. W.T. Cone, vice president, had been a power in financial circles for many years, having been connected with the Hamberg Ashley County Bank, the Portland Bank and the Bank of Montrose in the state of Arkansas.

When B.H. Dunlap sold his interest in the First National Bank in 1943 to John C. Jones, Sr., and S.H. Collier of Mercedes, the bank’s resources were $1,134,340.72.

Prior to the remodeling, the parking lot at the rear of the bank was leveled and paved and a carport built for convenience of the employees.

The First National Bank of La Feria remodeled in order to provide the best service in a drive-in window and modernized the exterior and the interior at a cost of $75,000 in 1959.

When the work was completed about September 1, 1959, some one thousand square feet of floor space was added to the lobby, the vaults and the offices were remodeled and a modern exterior of brick, glass and mosaic murals with outside lighting and with a landscaped rear entrance enhanced the bank’s appearance.

The contractor for the remodeling was Danna Eddleblute.
The directors of the bank (in 1975, when this article was written – ed.) are: S.H. Collier, John C. Jones, Jr., Mrs. Pauline S. Jones, Larry G. Zamponi, S.H. Collier, Jr., J.C. Looney, H.G. George, Ted Akin and Joe Gavito. The officers are: S.H. Collier, chairman of the board; John C. Jones, Jr., president; Larry G. Zamponi, executive vice president; Ralph G. Pena, Jr., vice president; S.H. Collier, Jr., vice president; and Mrs. Oleta Coppin, cashier.

The bank’s assets as of December 31, 1972 were $6,286,139.50 and June 28, 1974 were $7,651,12.56.
A city grows and prospers only as the bank grows and offers better services.

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