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

Chattanooga Books Available By John Wilson

John Wilson, former Hamilton County Historian, has written two volumes on the early families of Hamilton County and also books on Chattanooga and on Lookout Mountain, as well as editing books on Chattanooga's railroads and the Stokes and Hiener photo collections. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad history, has 69 chapters and covers ... (click for more)

Fair on January 21 at Soddy-Daisy High School Celebrates Area History

The Soddy, Daisy & Montlake Historical Association (SDMHA) will host a History Fair at the Soddy-Daisy High School on Saturday, January 21 from 9am to 4pm. The association encourages area residents and anyone who is interested in local history to attend this event and to participate in its efforts to preserve the history of its local communities. The History Fair will ... (click for more)

School Board Turns Thumbs Down To Proposed Funding Of Central Track

County school board members on Thursday night expressed a number of concerns about a proposed $500,000 new track under consideration for funding by the County Commission at Central High School. The vote was 9-0 to table a motion to accept the money (if offered). Karitsa Mosley-Jones said, "We've got students at schools on a high priority list and you're going to give me a track?" ... (click for more)

School Board Approves 4-Year Contract Extension With Independent Bus Drivers, Who Say They Can Handle 100 Routes; Extension Given On Custodial Contract

The county school board on Thursday night extended the contract by four years of school bus owner operators, who said they could deliver on 100 bus routes. The board delayed until a special meeting at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Central High School the issue of whether to accept the offer of 100 contract routes. That would be handled by many of the current 49 owner operators taking ... (click for more)

Bikers Need To Have Licenses And Insurance - And Response

I am okay with Haslam’s idea of raising the gas tax and lowering the food tax.  But, I want to see a tax of bicycles since they have their own lanes now and they also have to be maintained. How much revenue would that bring in?  I would think if we have enough bike riders to have the lanes in the first place, there must be enough to generate some money for road improvements. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Where Is Central’s Auditorium?

I am surely one of the biggest proponents of high school athletics there is, especially after half a decade of being an eye witness to the vast array of lessons that are learned every day by anyone associated with sports. That said, I have watched the Hamilton County Commission waffle on a $500,000 track at Central High School with a certain curiosity because the same high school ... (click for more)