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Alden State Bank is an 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.
The history of Alden State Bank began in March 1906 when the Farmers and 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 Alden. When the bank opened for business in the spring of 1906, the daily business was efficiently managed by D.B. Oviatt, the cashier.
By the time of the great depression, Fred Aemisegger had become 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, which was now located by the boat launch on the East Shore of Torch Lake in Alden. 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 and 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, the Alden State Bank was formed and on February 21, 1947 it took over the Farmers and Merchants Bank. Its Directors were: Fred Aemisegger, Chairman and President, Violet Aemisegger, Assistant Cashier, Guy Dean, Cashier, Earl Pillman, S.C. 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.
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 and 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 experienced. (As a result of a trivia discussion about what ever happened to local independent banks such as the Antrim County State Bank of Mancelona, 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 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 led Alden State Bank through the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. Unlike many of its competitors during this time period, Alden State Bank did not have to raise additional capital to cover losses and was fortunate enough to have an experienced group of 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 Directors are: Doug Dean, Chairman, 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. Mike Crawford became a director in 2002.
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 and sold its Elk Rapids Branch Office to Northwestern Bank of Traverse City;
- Which in turn was sold to National City Corporation, Cleveland, OH;
- Which in turn sold to PNC Financial Services Group, 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. It then relocated 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.
* Voices on the Water by Glen Ruggles, 1998, Blue Heron Press, Commerce Twp., MI
* Torch Lake – The History of WAS-WAH-GO-NING by Mary Kay McDuffie & Edward R. McDuffie, 2009, Megissee County Publications, Torch Lake, MI