Texas is getting old enough to begin to take notice of some significant
anniversaries. We have celebrated sesquicentennials of the Texas Revolution
in 1986 and of Annexation in 1995, and the tri-centennial of El
Camino Real in 1991. Today, we consider an anniversary of one
financial institution in a single town. No claim is made that this
centennial compares with those mentioned, but in one community, it
is an important event. The Stone Fort Bank of Nacogdoches
won its charter on February 14, 1903, and 100 years later, is still
a familiar landmark in downtown Nacogdoches.
Banking was illegal for a time in Texas.
Too many who left behind "Gone To Texas" messages did so because of
debt and they did not want such places to follow them. So, for a time,
individuals loaned money and provided private financial services.
New laws under the Texas constitution of 1876 and the need for more
formal financing prompted the advent of banks. Several tried their
luck in Nacogdoches,
but before the Stone Fort was founded, only Commercial Bank, established
in 1901, turned out to be permanent.
founders of Stone Fort Bank included Captain I.L. Sturdevant, who
came by his military title by serving as an officer in the Stone Fort
Rifles, a militia unit formed in Nacogdoches
during the Spanish American War. Sturdevant moved to Nacogdoches
as the agent of cotton factorage, and continued to operate a cotton
yard long after he became a banker. He became president of the bank
in 1906 and remained affiliated with it as chairman or chairman emeritus
until his death in the 1950s.
A merger with the Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1919 brought another
leader, L.B. Mast, who eventually succeeded to the presidency and
then the chairmanšs post until his own death. He was succeeded by
Emery Monk. These three presidents oversaw operations at Stone Fort
for over seven decades.
Eventually, the Stone Fort passed into corporate ownership, beginning
with Texas Commerce, based in Houston,
then First Commercial in Little Rock, and later Regions Bank, with
central offices in Alabama.
Along the way, Stone Fort provided services that ranged from cotton
to poultry loans, made possible new businesses, and, along with other
financial institutions, helped thousands secure their savings and
even more realize their dreams.
Banks and bankers take criticism because they expect customers to
return money borrowed communities do not grow.
This is more than a birthday remembrance of a single bank. It is an
acknowledgment of the crucial role all banks play in our lives.
July, 2003 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical
Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and
author of more than 20 books on Texas.