First Independent Bank History
The Bank was reorganized in 1902, but January of 1903 was when it actually became incorporated, marking the official beginning of the present Bank, which was called First State Bank of Russell. The Bank was built of brick in 1904. In 1921, there was a disastrous fire on Main Street; the Bank only suffered water damage because of the brick structure as the flames spread throughout the wooden structures along the street.
In 1923, the First State Bank purchased the Farmers State Bank and moved into the new brick building because it was better equipped to handle the increase in business. It was named Farmers and Merchants State Bank, with Harry Tillmans of Minneota as President.
Like so many banks throughout the country, at the height (or depth) of the Big Depression, the Russell Bank closed their doors the fall of 1930 and remained closed until March 23, 1931. When it reopened in 1931, William Palmer was President.
On January 3, 1933, three masked gunmen robbed the Bank. One man was armed with an automatic weapon, one stood at the door with a machine gun, while the third remained in the car. No one was hurt in the robbery and the men were never captured.
Russell nearly lost its Bank again in 1934, when stockholders voted to move it to Marshall. Fortunately for the town, the Commissioner of Banks would not allow the move.
Over the next several years, the Bank changed hands several times and on February 1, 1947, the name was changed to Farmers State Bank.
Jim Ulvilden came to the Bank in 1953 as Ag representative and later bought the Bank. Upon Jim’s death, his wife, Irene sold the Bank to Tom Rustand. In 1982, Tom Rustand sold the Bank to the current owners with Duke Pogatchnik as President and his father, Lowell Pogatchnik as Chairman of the Board.
In 1983, the new owners made plans for an expansion and remodeling project, giving Russell the finest, most modern and up to date banking facility in Southwestern Minnesota at that time.
In December of 1994, Farmers State Bank of Russell changed its company name to First Independent Bank. Not long after the name change, the Bank opened a branch in Marshall in January of 1995 as an added way to serve our customers. Many customers employed in Marshall had little opportunity to use the Russell office. Placing an office in Marshall satisfied many of the customer's needs.
The Marshall connection proved valuable in First Independent Bank’s next endeavor, the purchase of the Wood Lake Bank and its branch Bank in Hanley Falls in August of 1996. Wood Lake would continue to operate under its own charter for the next 12 years, but shared the same record keeping system. In November 30, 2008, Wood Lake merged with First Independent Bank and gave up their charter. This proved to be a good step for both the Wood Lake staff and customers. The merger gave the customers of the Wood Lake office the advantage of using the Marshall facility to do their banking and offered the staff more flexibility. In the fall of 2009, the Wood Lake building was remodeled and an additional office added
In April 1999, the First Independent Bank purchased the former 21st Century Bank in Balaton. By purchasing the Balaton location, we not only increased our customer base, but we were able to offer our present customers yet another location to do their banking.
In 1999, there was much talk about the Y2K compliance issues. After much preparation, First Independent Bank breezed through the Big Y2K scare with no incidents.
On September 27, 2000, the First Independent Bank’s Russell Office was robbed for a second time in its history. The robber walked up to one of the teller windows, claimed to have a gun, and asked for her money. The robber then walked out of the Bank with the cash without incident. Again no one was hurt and eventually the robber was found and arrested.
On December 5, 2001, United Prairie Bank – Slayton entered into an agreement to sell the assets and liabilities of its Marshall Branch office to First Independent Bank. This move allowed the existing Marshall Branch office to move from their facility, which they were outgrowing, into a bigger facility.
In 2003, First Independent Bank celebrated their 100th Anniversary, serving Russell and the surrounding areas. To recognize 100 years of First Independent Bank’s success, and to show appreciation for their customers that got them there, they held a celebration that included the re-enactment of the 1933 bank robbery, a performance by the “Great Pretenders”, a picnic and much more. We hope to spend the next 100 years improving and providing our customers with even better quality and wider variety of services.
In the fall of 2004, the Board of Directors at First Independent Bank were approached about opening an in-store branch at the new Super Walmart store in Marshall. Though in unfamiliar territory, the Bank embraced the opportunity and opened the location on April 13, 2005. Opening the Walmart branch provides another convenient location for our customers and has brought great success to First Independent Bank.
In 2005, the Bank constructed a new bank building for the Balaton office. This building features a drive-up, a 24 hour ATM and additional offices.
Due to the growth of the Bank, the Russell Office updated their building with a new addition to house a new and updated operations center, a much needed storeroom, conference room and three additional offices.
In October of 2011, First Independent Bank was presented with the opportunity to purchase the State Bank of Lucan. On December 30, 2011, the merger was completed and Lucan added $40 million in assets and offered yet another location for our growing customer base.
In March of 2013, two more offices were added to First Independent Bank with the purchase of Beardsley Bancshares, Inc. The Ruthton office was incorporated in 1917 as First Farmers & Merchants Bank with a name change to Buffalo Ridge State Bank in 1977 before being acquired by Beardsley Bancshares, Inc. in 1984.
Our nine area Banks make up half of the family Bank partnership that Duke Pogatchnik operates with his brother, Bruce Pogatchnik. The northern Minnesota side of the business includes a chartered Bank in Finlayson with locations in nearby Willow River, Barnum, Cromwell, Deer River, Floodwood, Grand Rapids, Sandstone, Askov, Kerrick, Hinkley and Park Rapids.
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