Alden State Bank is a locally owned independent community bank. Of the commercial banks headquartered in Michigan, it remains one of a dozen or so commercial banks that is not associated with a bank holding company. Alden State Bank’s ability to offer its customers continuity in their banking needs has contributed greatly to its success.
The history of Alden State Bank began in March 1906 when the Farmers & Merchants Bank was organized as a privately-held unincorporated bank. According to Mary Kay and Edward McDuffie in their book, Torch Lake - The History of Was-Wah-Go-ning, “The backers of the bank were thought to be the best businessmen of the village, and certainly had the confidence of everyone in town. Charles B. Coy was elected president, and Louis Armstrong vice president.” A burglarproof and fireproof safe was installed in the bank’s location in the east half of Higgins Store in Alden. When the bank opened for business in the spring of 1906, the daily business was efficiently managed by D.B. Oviatt, the cashier.
According to Irene Hawley Montney’s Historical Notes, in 1923 Charles Coy sold his Coy Mercantile Company general store. He also appears to have sold his interest in the Farmers & Merchants Bank, which was somehow merged with the Bank of Rapid City. That bank’s Rapid City office was closed. One of the new owners of the Farmers & Merchants Bank was Fred Aemisegger. In 1924, the Farmers & Merchants Bank moved about a half of a block down the street from its location in the east half of Higgins Store to a new building located on the shore of Torch Lake by the boat launch in Alden.
By the time of the great depression, Fred Aemisegger had already served many years as president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank. Glenn Ruggles in his book, Voices on the Water, wrote, “If ever this region provided a local hero, the tiny village of Alden had Fred Aemisegger. It was here that Fred earned himself immortality by actually saving his depositors’ “nest eggs” at the Farmers & Merchants Bank during the early days of the Great Depression - not a penny was lost! Fred paid 100 cents on the dollar. The doors of the bank never closed except for the brief “Bank Holiday” ordered by the government.”
In 1938, Guy Dean came to work for the Farmers & Merchants Bank. His boss was Fred Aemisegger, whose reputation for ethics, honesty, and dependability made the bank a landmark institution. During World War II, Guy served four years in the Army Air Force, flying thirty seven bomber missions out of New Guinea. In 1945, he returned to Alden and became the cashier for the Farmers & Merchants Bank.
Because of changing regulations and the need to raise additional capital to support the bank’s growth, it became apparent that the bank would be better off operating as an incorporated state chartered bank. Thus, on February 21, 1947 the Farmers & Merchants Bank was incorporated into the Alden State Bank. Its Directors were: Fred Aemisegger, Chairman and President, Violet Aemisegger, Assistant Cashier, Guy Dean, Cashier, William McCaslin, Earl Pillman, Stanley Shumsky, Vice President, Thomas Wheeler, and Fred Williams. Because of the need to grow and stay competitive, Alden State Bank applied for Federal Deposit Insurance in 1956 and became an FDIC insured bank. Reportedly, Alden State Bank was the last bank in Michigan to successfully operate without FDIC deposit insurance. At the time of its 1956 FDIC insurance application, Alden State Bank had $1,052,000 in total deposits. Alden State Bank’s nearest competition consisted of these Antrim County Banks: the Bellaire State Bank with $1,120,000 in total deposits, the State Bank of Elk Rapids with $665,000 in total deposits, and the Antrim County State Bank with $1,293,000; and, one Kalkaska County Bank: the Kalkaska State Bank with $1,320,000 in total deposits. Back then, Mancelona had a large industrial base, which made it one of the wealthiest communities in the region. This is evidenced by Mancelona’s Antrim County State Bank being the largest bank in Antrim County in 1956. Now, Alden State Bank competes with six other banks which have branch offices in Antrim County. As of June 30, 2015, Alden State Bank had $146,415,000 in total deposits, which represented 49% of all bank deposits in Antrim County. Alden State Bank also competes with one credit union which has 2 branch offices in Antrim County. Information as to this credit union’s deposits was unavailable for Antrim County.
Fred Aemisegger passed away in December 1957 and in January 1958 Guy Dean replaced him as president and Sidney Medalie replaced him as chairman. Violet Aemisegger continued to serve as a director until 1960. Sidney served as Alden State Bank’s chairman until 1962 until he was replaced Loyd Aemisegger, who served as chairman until 1963 when he was for succeeded by Guy Dean. Guy served as president until his retirement in 1987 and chairman until his death in 1997. Guy is remembered for his compassion, accommodation, understanding in continuing the Aemisegger banking tradition at Alden State Bank.
In 1946, Kenneth “Kenny” Smith joined the Farmer & Merchants Bank as a teller. Kenny’s responsibilities grew with the bank as he eventually served as cashier, vice president, succeeded Loyd Aemisegger who retired as a director 1964 and succeeded Guy Dean as president in 1987. Kenny’s personal touch, work ethic, and humor had much to do with the success of the bank. He retired in 1988. He continued as vice chairman of the board until he passed away in 1996.
In 1962, Alden State Bank built a new main office at 10564 Coy Street, Alden. Since then, this main office was remodeled and expanded several times and the bank acquired several adjacent properties for additional office space, parking and future expansion.
In 1966, Fred DeWitt was elected a director of Alden State Bank. He replaced Guy Dean as Chairman of the Board in 1998. Fred served until his death in 2002. During Fred’s term as a director, he was instrumental in keeping Alden State Bank independent during a time when most of the independent banks in this region were being sold to bank holding companies. This was a key factor in Alden State Bank’s success, as our customers didn’t have to deal with the ever changing policies, procedures and personnel that our competition had frequently experienced. (As a result of a trivia discussion about what ever happened to local independent banks such as the Antrim County State Bank, Bellaire State Bank, State Bank of Elk Rapids, Kalkaska State Bank, and Northwestern State Bank of East Jordan, on the following page is a brief history of those banks. Please let us know if we missed anyone in the ownership chains.)
Blain Russell was hired by the bank as a teller in 1974. He rose through the ranks to become its president in 1988. During his presidency, Alden State Bank grew from one to four offices with branches established in Elk Rapids in 1990, Bellaire in 1998 and Central Lake in 2002. Blain’s actions continued to improve upon Alden State Bank’s independent hometown bank image with his easy-going and friendly manner of dealing with customers. Blain retired from the job of president in 2006 and continues to serve the bank as a director.
In 1998, Thomas “Tom” Lane joined Alden State Bank as Vice President at the Bellaire Branch Office. He began his banking career in 1982 and became bank’s president in 2006 when Blain retired. Tom prudently led Alden State Bank through the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. During the years of 2008 and 2009 in what now has become known as the Great Recession, Alden State Bank never had to raise additional capital to cover loan losses. And unlike many of its competitors, Alden State Bank never borrowed any money from the United States Government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to cover its loan losses. Most of Alden State Bank’s bank competitors in Antrim and Kalkaska Counties are owned by large bank holding companies that borrowed the following amounts of TARP money according to Pro Publica’s list of Bailout Recipients from its Bailout Tracker website: JP Morgan Chase ($25 billion), PNC Financial Services ($7.5 billion), Fifth Third Bancorp ($3.4 billion), Huntington Bancshares ($1.3 billion), and FirstMerit Corp. ($125 million) who merged with Citizens Republic Bancorp ($300 million).
Throughout Alden State Bank’s history, it has been fortunate to have experienced Directors with a long-term view of trying to do what was right to maintain the bank’s legacy as an independent bank. Besides Blain and Tom, Alden State Bank’s current Directors are: Doug Dean, Chairman, Charles “Butch” Bartz, Sr., Vice Chairman, Jerry Biehl, and Mike Crawford. Doug Dean became a director in 1992, vice chairman in 2000 and chairman in 2005. Butch Bartz, Sr., became a director in 1992 and vice chairman in 2005. Jerry Biehl became a director in 1987 and served as chairman from 2002 to 2005. Past Directors of Alden State Bank who were not mentioned above are: Dr. George Crow, D.C. Kelly, Glenn MacDonald, John Strickland, Dan Way, Russell Wheeler, James Zerafa, and Wallace Zupin. Past Officers of Alden State Bank with long records of dedicated service include: Chuck Armour, Charles “Butch” Bartz, Jr., Liz Bartz, Trish Carpenter, Mitzi Chile, Betty DeVol; Beverly Ellsworth, Dave Fox, Karen Henderson, Jean Howard, Connie Kobel, Robin Knust, Sharla Leach, Robert Moler, Nancy Peal, Leon Sluyter, Kathy Spoering, and Lorelie White. We are very appreciative of our many former employees and our current staff. Their dedication, hard work and attention to customer service are the most significant factors in whatever success that our bank has experienced since its humble beginnings in Higgins Store to the present.
Here is a short history of other local banks:
Antrim County State Bank of Mancelona
(Two Offices: Downtown Mancelona Main Office and Northside Branch Office)
- Was sold to First of America Bank Corporation, Kalamazoo, MI. First of America Bank Corporation also purchased the branch office that Michigan National Bank, Bloomfield Hills, MI had established in Elk Rapids. First of America then sold the Northside Branch Office in Mancelona to Northwestern State Bank of East Jordan (refer to Northwestern State Bank’s history below to see what happened to the Northside Branch Office) and sold its Elk Rapids Branch Office to Northwestern Bank of Traverse City. This Elk Rapids Office is now operated by Chemical Bank of Midland, MI, which bought Northwestern Bank of Traverse City.
- First of America was sold to National City Corporation, Cleveland, OH;
- Which in turn sold to PNC Financial Services, Pittsburgh, PA.
Bellaire State Bank
(Three Offices: Bellaire Main Office, Central Lake Branch Office, and Shanty Creek Branch Office)
- Was sold to Republic Bancorp, Owosso, MI, which closed Shanty Creek Branch Office;
- Which in turn sold most of its Northern Michigan assets to City Bank and Trust Co., Jackson, MI, that also purchased two other local banks: the Charlevoix County State Bank and First State Bank of Charlevoix;
- Which in turn was sold to Citizens Banking Corporation, who eventually closed the Ellsworth and Eastport Branches of the old Charlevoix County State Bank and Central Lake Branch Office of the old Bellaire State Bank;
- Which in turn purchased Republic Bancorp and became Citizen-Republic Bancorp, and was then was sold to First Merit Corporation, Akron, OH.
State Bank of Elk Rapids
(One office in Elk Rapids)
- Was sold to the old Traverse City State Bank, Traverse City, MI;
- Which was acquired by Pacesetter Financial Corporation, Grand Rapids, MI;
- Which was sold to Old Kent Financial Corporation, Grand Rapids, MI;
- Which was sold to Fifth Third Bancorp, Cincinnati, OH.
Kalkaska State Bank
(Main office and Northland Plaza Branch Office in Kalkaska)
- Was sold to West Michigan Financial Corp, Cadillac, MI, who operated it as branches of the Cadillac State Bank;
- Which was sold to NBD Bancorp, Detroit, MI, which briefly re-chartered it as a state bank with the name of NBD Northwestern Bank. NBD Bancorp then bought the assets of the failed National Bank and Trust Company of Traverse City which included their branch office in Kalkaska. This bank then relocated its headquarters to Traverse City under the same name but under a national bank charter;
- Which was acquired by First Chicago Corp., Chicago, Illinois to become First Chicago NBD, IL;
- Which was acquired by Bank One Corporation, of Columbus, OH, which became Bank One Corporation, Chicago, IL;
- Which was acquired by JP Morgan Chase & Company, New York, NY, which still operates the Northland Plaza Branch Office. The other Kalkaska locations were closed.
Northwestern State Bank of East Jordan
(Main Office in East Jordan with branches in Atwood, Bellaire, Mancelona, Boyne Falls, Boyne City and Petoskey)
- Purchased the Mancelona Northside Branch Office of the old Antrim County State Bank from First of America Bank Corporation;
- Northwestern State Bank of East Jordan was then sold to First Michigan Bank Corporation, Zeeland, MI, which closed the Atwood Branch Office;
- First Michigan Bank Corporation was then sold to Huntington Bancshares, Inc., OH. Huntington Bancshares, Inc. also purchased Empire National Bank of Traverse City, MI. Huntington Bancshares, Inc., then sold the Mancelona Northside Office to North Country Financial Corporation, Manistique, MI. North Country Financial Corporation then sold this branch office to First Federal of Northern Michigan, Alpena, MI, who eventually closed this office.
Torch Lake - The History of Was-Wah-Go-ning by May Kay Duffie & Edward R. Duffie, 2009, Megissee Publications, Torch Lake , MI Historical Notes on Alden and Helena Township by Irene Hawley Montney, 1964 Voices on the Water by Glen Ruggles, 1998, Blue Heron Press, Commerce Twp., MI Bailout Tracker, Pro Publica, Inc. 2015