Over One Hundred Years of Banking in St. Elmo

Friday, March 28, 2014 - by Harmon Jolley
American National Bank's St. Elmo branch under construction in 1948, from Chattanooga Public Library photo database
American National Bank's St. Elmo branch under construction in 1948, from Chattanooga Public Library photo database

I recently read a news story on The Chattanoogan.com that brought back memories of growing up in St. Elmo.  It was reported on March 15 that a giant sinkhole poses a risk to the St. Elmo branch of Suntrust Bank (see http://www.chattanoogan.com/2014/3/15/271935/Lawsuit-Says-Sinkhole-Threatening-To.aspx).

The news item may have jogged some memories of how long that a bank has existed in St. Elmo.  Prior to having the Suntrust signage, the bank building housed a branch of the American National Bank.  Even earlier, the St. Elmo Bank and Trust Company was near the site.

The St. Elmo Bank and Trust Company was organized on March 18, 1913 by brothers Zeboim Carter Patten, Jr. and John A. Patten.  The original capital was $22,000, which, after adjusting for inflation, would equate to $521,735.56 today per a Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site calculator.

St. Elmo was a good location for a new bank in 1913.  The community had established itself as a suburb of Chattanooga, but was fairly self-contained in providing its needs.  The industrial area of South Chattanooga provided jobs.  Within sight of the St. Elmo Bank was the Chattanooga Medicine Company, founded in 1879 by Z.C. Patten, Sr. and some friends.   The Bee Dee Stock Medicine Company (see http://www.chattanoogan.com/2006/12/17/98458/What-Did-That-Building-Used-to-Be--.aspx) was across 38th Street to the south.  Throughout St. Elmo were small groceries and shops.

St. Elmo Bank and Trust was able to survive the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression of the 1930’s.  The October 12, 1938 Chattanooga Times reported that Robert L. Hall was elected president of the bank, succeeding Z.C. Patten, Jr. who was elected chairman of the board.  Mr. Hall had been vice-president and trust officer of the local Commercial National Bank headed by Mr. Patten.

The Times reported on October 31, 1948 that St. Elmo Bank and Trust, by then having $50,000 in capital, would be re-opening as a branch of the locally-based American National Bank.  Right away, American National made plans to build a new office in St. Elmo, “just a few steps from the location of the present St. Elmo branch” (May 25, 1949 Chattanooga Times).  The lot was to be raised and Thirty-Eighth Street widened.  

The St. Elmo branch bank has continued to operate in the years since, through consolidation and automation in the banking industry.

If you have memories of one of the St. Elmo banks, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  I’ll update the article with some of your comments.

Depression-era scrip of St. Elmo Bank and Trust, from "Chattanooga Money" (http://www.schafluetzel.org/Chattanooga$/) by Dennis Schafluetel and Tom Carson
Depression-era scrip of St. Elmo Bank and Trust, from "Chattanooga Money" (http://www.schafluetzel.org/Chattanooga$/) by Dennis Schafluetel and Tom Carson

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meeting September 6

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet on Tuesday, September 6, 2016, at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Highway.  The meeting will begin at 1:00 pm with refreshments followed by a business meeting and the program for the month. For this month's program, Sam Hall will speak on DeepZoom Chattanooga. ... (click for more)

Chester Martin Remembers Original Settlers Of Walker And Chattooga Counties, Ga.

My Martin forebears had arrived in south Walker County by 1836, waiting for removal of the Native Americans from the area. That finally happened, and Great Granddad, Enos Martin, witnessed the event. He was still a teenager at the time, and lived near the Broomtown Road – shown as the first "Brainerd's Road" to appear on any local map) . It was called that because it led directly ... (click for more)

Residential Project At 1st And Cherry To Finish Out Units On Hill Above Market Street

More residential units are planned downtown near the riverfront on a steep lot at First and Cherry streets. The River City Company is currently seeking requests for proposals from developers for the steep 95-foot-by-65-foot lot behind the First and Market condos. River City officials said, "We are excited about how this parcel will put a finishing touch on this well established ... (click for more)

TBI Adds Jereme Little To Top 10 Most Wanted; Was Set Free By Judge Stern And Then Higher Court Overruled Her

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has added to its ‘Top 10 Most Wanted’ list Jereme Dannuel Little, who was freed by order of Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern, whose decision was recently reversed. Little is wanted by the Chattanooga Police Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for especially aggravated kidnapping. The TBI said, "Little has a history of ... (click for more)

Proud To Be A Conservative Conservationist

I was born and raised in Chattanooga and was brought up to be a Tennessee conservative. That means that my family conserved our spending, our resources, and yes, even our environment.  I think we were inspired to do so because Tennessee is one of the most beautiful places in the entire United States. We have stunning mountains, wild rivers and quiet backcountry. And many of ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Georgia’s Weak Attacked

The United States Attorney’s Office and our nation’s Justice Department just thrust an unwelcomed spear into the heart of the state of Georgia. And while I am scared to death the same war party is now headed into Tennessee and other states, I wish the DOJ had stopped in Chattanooga for lunch and a quick visit at our Orange Grove Center before filing last Tuesday’s lawsuit against ... (click for more)