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The First National Bank of Eads was the only bank in Kiowa County in 1938 and is pictured here in the same location where the GN-Bank stands today.
Kiowa County Museum

Long Time Gone and the History of Kiowa County Banks

By Jennifer James (EHS Junior, Class of 2001)

January 6, 2024

The following story was written 25 years ago as part of the series created by the Eads High School history project—Kiowa County: A Retrospective at the Dawn of a New Millennium. This series was written by EHS juniors and seniors in 1999—as the new century was about to come on to the scene. Each student chose a subject they were interested in and then through first-hand interviews and primary sources did the research and wrote the article. Each article was printed in the Kiowa County Press. The high school staff that guided this project included Pete Conrad, EHS English teacher, and Betsy Barnett, District Media Specialist. The project won a state history award in 2000.

Imagine you are living in the Great Depression. You have no money and the only place left to go is the bank. Or you hear that FDIC will be closing your bank and freezing all assets. Our bank has gone through good times and bad, but it has provided us with financial services for nearly 100 years.

The First National Bank of Eads was opened on October 22, 1906. It was located in the Wissel’s building. (Editor’s Note: Now the Sand Creek Massacre Educational Center/National Park Service). J.H. Slater was the President and George Weisbrod was the Vice President. The first board of directors was Slater, Weisbrod, A.M. Scheline, S.R. Clark, and J.W. Bowling. On July 7, 1910, Slater resigned, and John T. Gough became President. F. L. Pyles became President June 30, 1931. On September 19, 1931, the bank was bought by F.L. Pyles, Harold Pyles, and Joe Infield.

On March 9, 1933, the bank was forced to close due to the Depression. The Great Depression closed banks across the country. On October 24 and 29, 1929, twenty-nine million shares of stock sold at collapsing prices on the New York Stock Exchange. It was completely devastating to the economy and it drove hundreds of investors to suicide and countless others to poverty. A third of the nation’s banks closed during the Depression. On March 9, 1933, President Roosevelt’s Emergency Banking Act was introduced to Congress, approved, and went into effect on the same day. It said that every bank in the nation would be closed until the Federal Reserve Bank decided they were sound. The closing of the banks was known as the “Bank Holiday.” It lasted from March 9th to March 14, 1933. All banks, even ones that were in good shape, were closed.

The Eads bank was reopened on June 18, 1934, as the First National Bank in Eads. F.L. Pyles was the President. He continued as President until his death in June 1970. Kern Vincent then became President but resigned only six months later. W.R. Lewis, Pyles’ son-in-law, was given his position.

Seven years later, in 1977, five local businessmen bought the bank from Pyles’ descendants. They were Dr. John F. Hines, Eldon Reinert, Myrl E. Legg, James Reinert, and Eldon Gulley. Gully became President. He resigned in October 1984, due to a disagreement with the board. Although Gulley and the board of directors tried to reconcile their banking responsibilities to the needs of Kiowa County’s struggling economy, the inflation of the early 1980s, and the falling farm and ranching industry caused the First National Bank in Eads to be taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1985.

OMNIBANK Kiowa County, N.A. opened the next day for regular business. OMNIBANK was owned by OMNIBANCORP, a Denver company that owned several banks in Denver. Robert Klearman was appointed President. He did not last long, however, because on April 1, 1985, Kern Vincent, for the second time, was named President. He, too, resigned within the year. For the community members of Kiowa County, a change from a locally owned and operated bank to one that was run from Denver wasn’t easy. OMNIBANCORP also had a hard time keeping someone down here to run the bank. Thus, they sold the bank within two years.

The bank was purchased by Valley State Bank in Lamar on February 4, 1987. Valley State has two locations in Lamar plus the one here. The bank in Eads is run as a detached facility to the main branch in Lamar. The branch in Lamar is the boss and has the final say in what happens. Mike Lening replaced Larry Wyatt as the loan officer for Valley State Bank in Eads in 1997. Now a loan committee consisting of officers from all three banks meets three times a week to discuss loans.

There have been other banks in Kiowa County over the years. The Colorado State Bank in Haswell was open from April 8, 1909, until April 15, 1929. The First State Bank of Brandon opened March 21, 1910, and closed February 13, 1926. Citizens Bank in Sheridan Lake was the first bank in the county. It was opened two years before we became a county, in 1887. Later the bank was moved to Eads when the county seat was moved from Sheridan Lake. Eads State Bank opened December 13, 1920. It was located on Maine Street and 14th until it moved to the building where the museum is now. Eads State Bank was purchased by First National Bank of Eads on November 28, 1932.

The ways in which banks have operated have changed dramatically over the last century. They have had computers to keep track of the money at the bank for the last twenty years, or so, but before that, everything was posted manually. Each person had their own card, and every transaction was posted on your card. Now they put it on a disk linked to Lamar’s main office. They go over it in the evening and record all the bank’s activities from all three locations. Then in the morning you can look at the disk and pull up current information on your account. The three locations communicate mostly through email and instant messaging instead of the phone.

The most important man in the history of the bank in Kiowa County is F.L. Pyles. He worked there his whole life. He began in March 1909 as a bookkeeper, teller, and janitor. He was required to work 60 hours per week but could work no more than 72 hours. His first official position came on January 11, 1910, as Assistant Cashier. He became Cashier on December 15, 1914. He then continued to advance up the ladder to become Vice-President and Director on January 13, 1925. Mr. Pyles became President and Chief Operating Officer when he, Harold Pyles, and Joe Infield bought the bank in September 1931. He was honored by the Colorado Bankers Association in 1959 for serving in the banking industry in Colorado for 50 years. There have been fewer than 200 people to receive this honor.

Our bank, whatever the name, has been an important staple in our community and county throughout its history. When the banks closed due to the Great Depression or by the FDIC, it affected the community greatly. There were fewer jobs and no money because the people had no means to generate business without credit. Likewise, when the economy is good, the bank affects us. There are more loans given out and the interest rate on our investment accounts goes up.

Our bank has been through many changes and will go through many more in the years to come. However, one thing is for sure, we can be confident that it will be here to service our needs for many more years.

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