". . . words of satisfaction at [the bank's] past career can be uttered. By reason of the excellent management which it has enjoyed, the careful financial policy which it has stood for, and the respect and esteem of the community which it has never sacrificed, this institution has attained a reputation well merited by its past record."
- The Beginning
Classic Bank--originally chartered as First National Bank of Cameron--was founded in 1889. Only a few short years earlier, loosely organized private institutions had been providing financial services across Texas, springing up as the frontier expanded west and currency circulation increased. However, by the late 1880s, with one state-chartered bank already operating in Cameron, a group of enterprising local business people believed that the town's economy could support a competing institution. And so with $50,000 in capital, they opened First National Bank, becoming one of the first banks in Texas to receive a national charter. In hindsight, their foresight was remarkable.
The original bank building was built in 1891 for $15,000. It was located in downtown Cameron, on a corner facing the courthouse. Although not much is known about this original building, apparently it was easily accessible:
"One day Bessie Hefley [daughter of bank president John Hefley] rode her horse up the front steps and into the lobby of the bank, to the astonishment of all. She was very rebellious and old enough to know better. She was also known for smoking cigarettes in defiance of those around town who felt that inappropriate for a lady."1
1 Attributed to Henriem McIntosh.
- Moving Up
Then oil was discovered in Milam County, cotton hit record-high prices, and business boomed. The bank temporarily relocated, tore down its original building, and in 1921 built a new $100,000 building. Striking for being "modern in every particular as well as fireproof,"2 the bank even included a women's restroom, an addition "that had become quite commonplace since the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1918."3
But the real centerpiece of the new building was the bank's new 22,000-pound vault.
"The steel-and-cement walls are 22 inches thick and lined with half-inch sheets of manganese steel, guaranteed by the US government to be burglar proof. And it has a round door, which is very unusual. Getting it to the bank took some imagination. We had a crew of men who used 4 mules and a series of hydraulic jacks to move it from the railroad station and install it in the bank."4
2 The Cameron Enterprise, issued on January 17, 1921, the day the bank opened its new location.
3 Taken from a history of the bank.
4 Adapted from a history of the bank. Many years later at a banking convention in 1967, Lester Williams, then president of the bank, met the salesman who had sold the vault to the bank. Elderly by then, the salesman nonetheless remembered the vault because of its unusual round door. The vault is still in use at the bank's Cameron location.
- A Century of Improvements
What was modern in the 1920s became outdated or obsolete as the century progressed. The bank went through several additional renovations, additions, improvements, and other updates in order to keep up with product, service and technology advances. The bank also expanded beyond Cameron by acquiring the Rosebud branch of First City Bank in 1990, the Planters National Bank of Rosebud in 1993, the Lee County National Bank in Giddings in 1995, opening new branch locations in Rockdale in 2003 and in Bastrop in 2009, and also acquiring the Liberty Hill branch of Texas Savings Bank in 2012.
Growth, however, did not occur by chance. Since its founding, the bank has benefited from strong leadership. Bank presidents and their tenures as president include:
- John M. Hefley: 1889 - 1891 and 1892 - 1903
- R.H. Sellers: 1891 - 1892
- Thomas Franklin Hardy: 1903 - 1906
- J.N. Bradshaw (brother-in-law of founding president Hefley): 1906 - 1909
- Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Dossett: 1909 - 1912
- Albert Nelson (A.N.) Green: 1912 - 1929
- Samuel Whitfield (S.W.) Cheeves: 1929 - 1931
- Robert Hardy McIntosh: 1931 - 1933
- Henry Martin Hefley (nephew of founding president Hefley): 1933 - 1945
- Ernest Vogelsang: 1945, temporary position following Hefley's death
- Lester E. Williams: 1946 - 1975
- Richard Earl Williams (son of Lester Williams): 1975 -1986
- Ernest Moore: 1986 - 1998
- Richard E. Williams, Jr. (son of Richard Williams, Sr.): 1998 - present
- Into the Future
And the future? If the past is any indication, the future of Classic Bank is inherent in its name: a strong financial foundation, a dedication to serving customers, and a firm belief that independent banks create economic vitality in the communities we serve.
". . . words of satisfaction at [the bank's] past career can be uttered. By reason of the excellent management which it has enjoyed, the careful financial policy which it has stood for, and the respect and esteem of the community which it has never sacrificed, this institution has attained a reputation well merited by its past record.
If the experience of the past is a fair criterion upon which to base a prediction, we may well hope for a greater future for the bank. It is the hope of management. . .we may render a larger service to the community. . .and work day by day to maintain [the bank's] reputation and traditions, striving that the honored name may be handed down without stain to our successors."5
Classic Bank. A timeless tradition of banking.
The mission of Classic Bank is to build lifelong relationships by exceeding expectations.
5 Taken from Quarter-Centennial: The First National Bank of Cameron, a history published in 1914.
Click here to view Classic Bank's Quarterly Newsletter