Small town bank withstands tests of time

One of the most beautiful areas in the world, the Mendocino Coast, offers breathtaking vistas of ocean, cliffs and forests. In these forests are California Coastal Redwood trees that can grow to be the tallest in the world. One of the redwood’s secrets for longevity is its tough bark, which can withstand even severe forest fires.

This is the story of a bank in the redwoods with a similar trait of surviving severe challenges.

Lumber flume from forest to dock (Click for larger image in a new window)Scattered on the Mendocino coast are several picturesque towns. One, Fort Bragg, attracts many visitors. The name originates from a small military post that was located there from 1857 to 1864.

The post itself was named after an officer stationed at the San Francisco Presidio, Captain Braxton Bragg. He would later serve as a General for the Confederacy during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Fort Bragg’s economy turned to lumber as the hills were plentiful with trees and the streams provided easy transportation to ships bound for San Francisco.

In 1891, a group of local businessmen founded the Bank of Fort Bragg, a State chartered bank. Fort Bragg did not escape the destruction of the great San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, as many brick buildings were severely damaged and wood structures were shaken off their foundations. The aftermath of the earthquake, however, brought a boom as local lumber mills worked overtime to furnish construction material for the rebuilding of San Francisco.

In 1909, the Bank of Fort Bragg was converted to a Federal charter as the First National Bank of Fort Bragg, and received charter number 9626. There were restrictions at the time on national banks, on interest paid on certain deposits and mortgages. To skirt restrictions, First National Bank of Fort Bragg set up a sister organization, First Bank of Savings at Fort Bragg….

1929: OF Fort Bragg (Click for larger image in a new window)As with many commodity-based economies, the Fort Bragg area suffered during the post-World War I contraction. First National Bank and the First Bank of Savings closed on May 1, 1922. National Bank Examiner W.J. Schultz was a placed in charge of the national bank side.

Over the summer of 1922, Schultz was able to restructure the firm and raise new capital. Although the bank retained the same charter number, it wanted to signify its new start with a new name. Possibly in recognition of the start of the tourism industry, the firm reopened its doors on September 1, 1922, as the Coast National Bank of Fort Bragg. The bank’s motto was “A Home Bank for Home People.”

The bank prospered until it hit hard times during the Great Depression. Once again it used private capital to restructure. It wound down use of the name Coast National Bank of Fort Bragg into the autumn of 1933, changing to Coast National Bank in Fort Bragg in September. Unlike the 1922 restructuring, the bank returned charter number 9626 and gained a new charter number: 13787.

Like the local redwood trees whose tough bark allow them to survive multiple fires, the Coast National Bank survived multiple restructuring. The 1933 event proved successful, the bank survived the Depression, and prospered for many more decades.

Eventually, Coast National got the attention of another growing institution and was acquired by Crocker-Citizens National Bank on November 17, 1969. As parts of Crocker National Bank, Coast National merged with Wells Fargo in 1986.

1929: IN Fort Bragg (Click for larger image in a new window)So next time you find yourself on Coast Highway 1 north of San Francisco, hugging the Mendocino Coast and enjoying the timeless redwoods, tip your hat to durable Coast National Bank, one of many branches on the Wells Fargo family tree.

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Guided By History

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