website  watertownhistory.org

   ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

 

Merchant’s Bank

Merchant’s National Bank

Former site of Exchange Hotel

 

1855

01 04       A NEW BANK IN WATERTOWN (not same as Merchants National Bank)

Last Monday, Messrs Nehrig & Frentz, visited the city for the purpose of making arrangements for starting a new moneyed institution here, to be known as the “Merchants’ Bank.”  We learn that for the present, the bank will transact business in the rooms previously occupied by the "Bank of Watertown."  Mr. Nehrig is now president of "Dodge County Bank," located at Beaver Dam, and will remain at that village in charge of that institution.  Mr. Frentz will come here and assume the management of the new bank soon to be put in operation.  Both these gentlemen are known as shrewd and careful businessmen, and we have every reason to believe their course here will give general satisfaction . . .   WD

 

Merchants National Bank                 WHS_001_PC_084

 

1892      FOUNDING OF MERCHANTS NATIONAL BANK

In 1892 Joseph Terbrueggen was one of the incorporators the Merchants National Bank and was its first president, and at the time of his death was chairman of the board of directors of the bank.

 

Daniel H. Kusel was one of the founders of the Merchants National Bank, and was its first cashier, and at the time of his death was vice president of that bank. 

 

06 24       STONE FOR NEW BANK

That beautiful cut stone in the new bank building is from the celebrated quarry at Lemont, Ills, and was dressed and placed in position by Albert Krueger.  It is a neat piece of work and shows off to great advantsge, reflecting much credit to Mr. Krueger's skill.   WG

 

1898      MAX ROHR, SR. (1875 – 1952) JOINS BANK

Mr. Rohr was associated with the Merchants National bank since 1898.  In 1930 he became president, following the death of Charles E. Frey.  He held that office until his retirement on July 26, 1951.  He retained the position of chairman of the board and one of the vice presidencies.  He was reelected to both positions at the last annual meeting of the bank held Jan. 8.

 

Under his presidency the bank acquired a building east of the original location and the institution was greatly enlarged and improved.

 

On June 12, 1901 he married Miss Jennie Sproesser.  She survives, as do a son, Max Rohr, Jr.

 

Mr. Rohr was a member of the Fifty Year club of the Wisconsin Bankers association and was honored in Milwaukee with a membership some years ago.

 

Mr. Rohr was a warm, personal friend of a great many people in the community where he had long enjoyed the high regard, confidence and goodwill of his fellow townsmen.  His life was such that he had proven himself worthy of such respect.  As a banker and adviser he had few equals here.

 

     Friend of Davies

 

He was a close friend of Joseph E. Davies, Watertown-born former ambassador to Russia and when Mr. Davies and his daughter, Mrs. Burdette W. Fitch of Washington, D. C., visited Watertown last Nov. 18 they were guests at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Rohr.  The two men had begun their friendship during their school days and it had lasted throughout the years.  They had kept up a correspondence for many years and Mr. Rohr had at various times handled local financial business for Mr. Davies.

 

At the time of his November visit Mr. Davies announced plans for a high school scholarship at the University of Wisconsin and had chosen Mr. Rohr as one of the men who were to administer it.  The other two are Attorney William H. Woodard and John D. Clifford.  Roger Holtz, superintendent of schools, also is to work with the committee m the matter.

 

  Was Music Lover

 

Mr. Rohr was for many years a member of the old Elks quartette which ranked as one of the finest male singing groups ever organized here.  Other members were William Sproesser, Edward L. Schempf and Dr. O. E. Meyer.  The quartette sang at all Elks initiations and for many special ceremonies.  The voices of the four men who were warm personal friends blended beautifully.  Mr. Rohr had also belonged to the Watertown Male chorus which for many years was directed by William Sproesser.  Mr. Rohr always took a great interest in music and was at all times ready to promote and encourage good music in the community.

 

  Helped Develop Bank

 

Thoroughness characterized Mr. Rohr’s life.  He was thorough in everything he did and he played a large part in developing the Merchants National bank into one of the foremost financial institutions in this area.

 

He was always happiest when he was active and though he delegated more and more of his responsibilities to others in the bank, he enjoyed being there and having a part in its operation and meeting the patrons and friends and associates who dropped in.  No matter how busy he was he was always glad to spare a few moments for friends and one could get ready access to him at any time.  In the life of the community there have been few men as warm hearted as Mr. Rohr and he will be missed by his associates and by all who knew him.

 

Cross Reference:   Buried in Oak Hill cemetery  

 

1900c    100 East Main, WHS_005_127

 

1902

01 17          ADDING MACHINE INSTALLED

At a cost of $375 a mechanical device is placed in the Merchants' Bank that accomplishes wonders in the way of adding figures.  It registers, prints and adds figures from 1 cent to $9,999,999.99.  It does perfect work in adding being always accurate, and saves much mental work for the bank employees.  It is a wonderful little machine, and well worth the inspection of any one.   WG

 

1905

01 26          Our savings pass books are becoming very popular.  We issue these books for deposits as low as a dollar and up to $1000.  Interest begins on the first of the month following date of deposit, but when a deposit is made during the first five days of any month, interest begins on the first of that same month.  We credit and compound interest twice a year, on June first and December first, on all sums of one dollar and over that have been on deposit for one month or more immediately preceding.  If the depositor can not call on these dates, his interest will be attended to just the same as though he were present.  Start your account now.  Merchants Bank.

 

05 10          The Merchants Bank is about to install a system of burglar alarms which is by far the most modern and perfect of its kind that has as yet been invented.

 

The bank vault is to be lined completely with a double steel lining which covers every inch of the vault - floor, walls, ceilings, vestibule and doors. Inside of the vault is an electric cabinet connected containing the storage batteries, switches, timers, etc., that control the system automatically.

 

On the First Street side of the bank building will be placed a large electrical gong enclosed in a double walled steel housing. Also over the vault doors in the banking room there are to be two more large gongs covered over by heavy steel shields. Inside the vault are still others.

 

Should burglars so much as touch the combination on the vault door, attempt to drill through the vault door or the vault at any point it would instantly set the entire system of gongs to ringing. When they once begin to ring it is impossible to stop them except from the inside of the vault.  There are no wires whatever outside the vault that a burglar could get at. 

 

Another very important feature is an arrangement whereby it makes it impossible for bank employees to forget to lock the vault doors at night. At nine o'clock every evening the system [secured]. If no attention is paid to the warning, then at nine o'clock the whole system of alarms begin to ring and will continue to ring until the vault is locked. After nine o'clock it is as impossible for the bankers themselves to enter the vault as it is for the burglars to do so.

 

1908

1908, 100 E Main  PC_034

 

1909

01 22          Officers chosen for the year  WG

 

1910

11 18       PASSED THE MILLION DOLLAR MARK

The reports of the Bank of Watertown and Merchants' National Bank of Watertown show that in capital, surplus and deposits those two banks have now passed the million dollar mark, which speaks well for the business interests of Watertown.  The Wisconsin National Bank's deposits, capital and surplus are over $610,000, and judging from its last report, that old and popular banking institution is also on a solid financial basis.   WG

 

1911

09 14       IMPROVEMENTS

Several improvements are being made in the interior arrangement of the Merchants National Bank to accommodate its increasing business.  The vault has been greatly enlarged and the time lock safe is now located in the interior of the vault.  The latter is connected with the counting room by a new steel double combination door, weighing four tons.  A room in the rear of the vault, with a street entrance, is now at the service of the bank patrons who have boxes at the bank.  Into this room they may take their safety deposit boxes and look over their papers at their pleasure.  Several other changes are being made which will add to the convenience and safety of the banks’ business.   WG

 

1912c    Night view  PC_050

 

1915

---           INTERURBAN BRINGS IN THE NEWS

  

 

1929

$5 Bank Note

$10 Bank Note

 

1957

---                DIRECTORS  

 

06 26          ARTHUR A. ULLRICH, a teller at the Merchants National Bank, has retired.  He completed his long service with the bank with the close of business last Friday night.  His home is at 134 Corner Street.  Mr. Ullrich has been with the bank since July 2, 1906, and would be completing an even 51 years of service with the institution tomorrow.  Last year, on his 50th anniversary, bank officials and the staff tendered him a testimonial party at the home of the bank president, Col. J. W. Sproesser.  Mr. Ullrich joined the bank shortly after graduating from the Watertown High School and remained there throughout his banking career.    WDT

 

1958

01 17          J. W. SPROESSER

Col. J. W. Sproesser who has been serving as president of the Merchants National Bank last night was elected chairman of the board and is being replaced as president by Arthur W. Hilgendorf who has been a vice president.  Mr. Hilgendorf was elected to the presidency by the board of directors following the annual meeting of the bank’s stockholders.  Dr. L. H. Nowack and H.A. Beurhaus were elected vice presidents, C. A. Wallman was elected cashier and S. C. Northrop was elected assistant cashier.    WDT

 

1960

01 12       Officers chosen for the year   WDT

03 25          DRIVE-THROUGH WINDOW PLANNED

The directors of the Merchants National Bank of Watertown announced that they have purchased suitable premises to enlarge their banking facilities to better serve their customers.  Today's pattern of steadily rising costs and overcrowded lobbies make it imperative that a drive-in window will expedite transactions and encourage maximum use of the window during banking hours.  A building engineer has been retained to draft and prepare plans to improve these premises for drive-in banking services and additional space for other banking needs.

 

1961

03 17       PLANNED EXPANSION

City Attorney James A. Fitzpatrick who has been conferring with architects and representatives of the Merchants National Bank relative to plans for the bank's expansion by utilizing the property to the north of the banks' present building at Main and North First Streets, expects to make a report to members of the city council shortly regarding the expansion project.  Last year the bank purchased the Minning property which houses the Minning Liquor Co. business in North First Street.  This property includes the area which runs to the Elks Club building, including the three-car garage on the premises.  The Minning Liquor Co. is to move to a new building and is to vacate its present quarters by July 1 when the bank expects to begin the remodeling improvements and expansion program.  WDT

 

03 25          DRIVE THROUGH TO BE CONSTRUCTED

   Minning Liquor Store demolition

 

1961

Mining Liquor, demolition of, WHS_006_009c

 

1962

01 21       ARTHUR ULLRICH HONORED

Arthur A. Ullrich, 134 Corner Street, for many years a member of the Merchants National Bank staff, will be honored by Watertown Lodge on exalted rulers’ night which will be observed at the Elks Club on Feb. 14.  Mr. Ullrich has been a member of the Elks for 50 years, and during that time has held different offices in the lodge and has been active in the organization.   WDT

 

DRIVE THROUGH FOR BANK

  

 

1962c, 100 E Main, City assessor form, WHS_006_009a

1962c, 100 E Main, City assessor image, WHS_006_009b

 

1965

11 21       Changes in the staff of the Merchants National Bank were announced today, following a meeting of the board of directors Wednesday evening.  D. J. Priebusch, 304 South Montgomery Street, a member of the bank staff since 1958, has been named cashier, succeeding Robert Cutter whose recent resignation took effect on Nov. 1 when he moved to Cassville where he has accepted another banking position.  Also announced today was the fact that R. J. Hoge, 605 Labaree Street, has joined the bank staff and has been named vice president.  WDT

 

1967      DIAMOND JUBLIEE CELEBRATION

                 

 

c.1968   MAXWELL STREET DAY

  

 

1972

THE WHITE PIN

   Marlene Stangler.  The “Thank You” Bank.

 

1975

  

 

DRIVE THROUGH FOR BANK

               

 

 

Cross References:

MERCHANTS NATIONAL BANK BOARD OF DIRECTORS

      Uncertain date.  Watertown Historical Society Collection

 

Merchants Bank

1944, 100 E Main

Merchants Bank

Ferdinand Schmutzler, organizer, director

Merchants Bank

Omar Gaston, organizer and pres

Merchant's Bank

1975, 100 E Main, rear of bldg, drive-through, WHS_005_283

 

Cross References:

Louis Cordes was a director for 20 years.

John Schempf, bank founder and director.

William Sproesser assumed management in 1894

Omar Gaston, architectural engineer, former organizer and president of the Merchants National Bank.

               Death of Richard Hoge, 1983

 

 

 

Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin

Index