Happy 100th Birthday United Bank
By By Lindsey Sherrill Staff Reporter
"Among other good things in store for Atmore is a bank. Sufficient stock has already been subscribed to insure its organization. The large receipts of cotton and other volume of business make it imperative that we should have a bank. Thus Atmore grows."
The above quotation is from an article that appeared in the Atmore Spectrum on Sept. 18, 1903, four months before United Bank began operation in its original location on Main Street.
On Jan. 4, United Bank will celebrate its 100-year anniversary. Originally founded as Farmers &Merchants' Bank, the name was changed to the Bank of Atmore sometime between Oct. 3, 1903 and Jan. 4, 1904. It became United Bank in 1982.
United Bank opened for business Jan. 4, 1904 on Main Street in a building that stood in what is now an alley beside the Wisteria. The Spectrum reported that on Tues., Jan. 5, 1904 the stockholders and directors met to open for business, and M.M. Brooks, the cashier elect, was on duty to set up accounts and take deposits. The bank began with 20 stockholders, though legend holds that A. B. Tennant, the twentieth investor, lost his stake in a poker game the night before the first stockholder meeting, thus leaving the bank with 19. The original officers were President W. W. Lowery, Vice President J.D. Curtis, Cashier M.M. Brooks, and board of directors, J. E. McCoy, T.W. Crosby, Dr. A. P. Webb, D. Gillis and H.W. Currie.
"These are all well known business men of our town and county, and have the confidence of our people, and we are sure the bank has a bright future before it with such competent business men behind it," the Spectrum reported.
Atmore in 1904 was a prosperous, quickly growing community (Atmore was not incorporated as a city until 1907) based on the railroad, lumber and agriculture. The founders of the bank realized this and built the bank with an eye toward expansion. The institution was fitted with what was, at that time, modern furniture and equipment, including fire and burglarproof safes with combination and time locks and a safety deposit vault with private boxes. The Bank of Atmore opened with a capital stock of $25,000.
As the city of Atmore and the bank expanded, the bank moved next door to a larger building in what is now the Wisteria. It remained in that location until 1961, when the present structure on Nashville Ave. was completed on the location of the former Burton Hotel. Since that time United Bank has opened branch offices in Bay Minette, Flomaton, Foley, Frisco City, Jay, Lillian, Magnolia Springs, Monroeville, and Silverhill.
In August of 1995 the Nashville Ave. location was severely damaged by Hurricane Erin. The storm ripped the roof from the building and caused severe water damage to all three floors of the building. During the repairs the bank relocated to its warehouse on Pensacola Ave. and introduced the slogan, "When the going gets rough, United Bank keeps going."
For many Atmore citizens, United Bank played a large part of their memories of the town. One of these citizens is Nancy Bosenberg Karick.
"The bank has been a part of my life since the 1950s," Karick said. "I can remember that my uncle took me to the bank when it was still at its second location and started my first account with $64 I'd saved in a cigar box."
Karick's own family has impacted, and been impacted by, United Bank for many years. "My family's been tied up in this bank a long time," Karick said. "My aunt was assistant cashier and secretary to the board of directors in 1944. Her name was Abbie Lou Fischer."
Karick's uncle, Bill Dunaway, was another player in United Bank's history.
"My uncle was a member of the board of directors from 1940-1948, but he was given leave from attendance from 1943-1945 for duty in the European theatre during WWII," Karick said. "The bank never replaced him, just excused him from meetings for those years."
Even farther back in United Bank and Karick's family history is the story of accounts the bank set up for elementary students.
"In 1928 the bank opened a savings account with $1 for each sixth grader in the Atmore public schools as they studied banking," Karick said. "At that time elementary classes walked with their teachers to the bank to start accounts. My mother, Velma Carter Bosenberg, told the story of when she was in the sixth grade in the 1930s and started one of those accounts with the bank. She kept it for years and eventually used the money to buy her first refrigerator after she got married in 1942."
Karick's stories and many others are being compiled in a book on the history of the bank. Her late husband, Charles Karick, was working on the book until his death in February. Since then, Karick has continued researching along with Paul Keane to complete her husband's work, which is set to be finished in February or March.
Charles Karick's original title for the work, From Horse and Buggie To Mouse and Keyboard, may very well summarize the growth of United Bank. From one tiny office on Main Street to a three-story building and numerous branches throughout the area; from $25,000 in stock to powerful holdings; from handwritten receipts to online banking, United Bank has grown along with the Atmore community. As its first century comes to an end, United Bank, and Atmore, stand poised and ready to begin a new century of improvement together.
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