The Gerber State Bank, Argenta, Illinois, was founded by James W. Brown and Samuel Gerber as a partnership under the names of “Brown and Gerber Bankers”, in 1887.
The bankers opened for business in a wooden frame building just north of the railroad tracks along North Street. Eventually, that wooden structure burned to the ground. Before that fire, the bank had moved to a one story brick building that still stands on the south side of Elm Street along Argenta’s business district. In 1914, a new modern brick structure was erected on the corner of Elm and North Streets and opened for business in January 1915.
During April 1958, the bank presented to its patrons a completely remodeled building with an addition, including a new entrance East of the then diagonal corner doorway. The bank’s first drive-up facility was then opened at a rear window.
In June of 1983, the present, newly remodeled and expanded facility was displayed to the public with an open house presentation.
This bank building provides a number of private offices, an additional storage vault, three drive-up lanes, including one with an ATM, a more spacious directors’ room and a large bookkeeping area.
Today, the bank performs all the bookkeeping functions and record keeping duties in house. In 2001 a branch was completed at Oreana assisting in all banking needs.
One of the bank’s founders, Samuel Gerber, was elected the first President. Upon the 1892 death of the other founder, James W. Brown, Mr. Gerber took his sons, Peter E. Gerber and Nelson Gerber, in as partners. The bank’s name then changed to S. Gerber and Sons.
The bank was incorporated by the State of Illinois in 1911 as “The Gerber State Bank.” The original stockholders were: Samuel Gerber, President; Peter E. Gerber, Vice President; Samuel O. Hilbrant, Cashier; Harry Parr, Assistant Cashier; and George H. Parr.
Samuel Gerber died on April 7, 1912, and was succeeded as President by his son, Peter E. Gerber. Peter Gerber served as President until July 1925, when he sold his interest in the bank and moved from the area.
George H. Parr was then elected President in 1925 and served in that capacity until 1967. Mr. Parr served the bank for fifty-eight years in various capacities.
Lawrence G. Bennett, a great-grandson of Samuel Gerber, was elected President in 1967 and held the office until 1973. Gordon Bennett, Lawrence G. Bennett’s son, was President from 1973 to 1979. Edwin M. Wallace served as President from 1979 to 2004. Larry G. Bennett, Lawrence G. Bennett’s grandson, the current President, was elected in 2004.
It is unique that The Gerber State Bank has had only seven Presidents in its 130 years of existence. Pictures of the Presidents and their dates in office are presently displayed in the bank’s lobby.
The bank’s present Board of Directors are: Gregory D. Briggs Chairman, Larry G. Bennett, Thomas W.Hill, Cortney A. Smetanko, Richard W. Stoddard, and Jeffrey T. Sloan.
Others who have served as directors since the bank’s incorporation:
Willard E. Ater
Lewis N. Bennett
Samuel O. Hilbrant
Lawrence G. Bennett
William F. Hill
William E. Parr
Samuel W. McCarty
Loren M. Pattengill
Peter E. Gerber
Gary L. McConnell
William E. Olson
Owen E. Goken
George H. Parr
Orville C. Rumrey
Robert A. Disbrow
Jackson S. Drew
Dr. Richard H. Fritz
Richard E. Kaufman
Edwin M. Wallace
Thankfully, the only bank robbery experienced in 131 years occurred on Thursday, April 14, 1910. The bank’s headquarters were on the south side of Elm Street in the one story brick building. The burglars dynamited the bank door but failed to open the money vault. They stole 150 dollars and escaped west of town on horseback, never to be apprehended.