A Presidential Portrait: Remembering George Booth

In honor of our 150th anniversary in 2017 we are taking a look back at bank history and the people who have helped to shape our bank into the successful, secure institution that it is today. Read on to learn about one of our former presidents!

George Booth

George E. Booth

 

George E. Booth holds the distinction of being the first bank President who was not a member of the Will family, an accomplishment that was both an honor and a symbol of his abilities as a banker.

George had a lengthy career with the bank, working in a number of roles, both with the customer and behind the scenes in the operations area of the bank. This experience gave him a good grasp of how to balance the profitability of the bank with providing customers with a top notch experience.

He was born May 18, 1918 on the Yankee Street family farm south of Wilkesville that belonged to his parents David R. and Minnie Wilcox Booth. George earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Rio Grande College at the age of 24 and taught elementary school for four years before enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He attained a rank of Warrant Officer in Normandy, France.

George began his banking career in 1952 and had served as Vice President, Cashier and Director before being appointed President in 1984. He held that position through 1988 and continued as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors until his retirement in 1996. He also served as Secretary/Treasurer of Community BancShares, Inc.

Upon retiring in 1996, George joked that he was retiring by degrees as he had begun retiring almost ten years before.

The years of George’s term as President were exciting at the bank as these years saw Community Bancshares purchase First Bremen Bank and growth into Fairfield County.While the Bremen Bank continued to operate independently of Vinton County National Bank, there was much opportunity for cooperation and for Vinton County to assist Bremen as it grew. He worked closely with his longtime friend and colleague Bob Will to guide the bank through this period.

When George stepped down from the office of President, Bank Chairman and CEO Bob Jr. complimented George’s accomplishments, noting that George had been an important member of the bank’s staff since 1952. George was an important part of the bank’s growth from three million in assets in 1952 to 66 million in 1988.

During his lifetime George not only worked for the bank, he and his wife Dorothy Booth started the Booth Real Estate and Insurance Agency, Inc. He was also a member of the Orphan’s Friend Masonic Lodge in Wilkesville. George enjoyed the outdoors, hunting, and loved spending time with his family. He also was known to embrace technology and was well known for his presence on the social media site Facebook for several years prior to his death.

George and his beloved wife Dorothy were married for seventy years and had five children: David Booth, Janet Bolender, Janice Smith, Mary Ann Simmons and Ellen Lash. Their large family now includes grandchildren and great grandchildren.

George died at his McArthur residence on April 27, 2014. He was 95.

Read other posts about bank history and 150th celebrations here.

 

Celebrating 150 Years and Counting

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It isn’t every day that a bank celebrates a big milestone anniversary like the big 1-5-0 so we threw ourselves a big party earlier this month. If you attended the festivities, we thank you for being part of our celebration. We can’t tell you what it meant to have so many of our customers and friends come out to support us.

When we started planning our festivities, we knew we didn’t want it to be all about us. We’re a community bank so we wanted to do something for the community that gave us our start. Since we’re an all American company, we chose to partner with the folks who stage our July 4th celebration and to give their event a little boost.

The results were fantastic.

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Members of the Will Family are pictured outside the Bank during the 150th Anniversary Open House.  Photo Courtesy The Vinton County Courier

Working with the Vinton County High School Athletic Boosters to enhance and support their event was a great experience. They were open to letting us add some things to their schedule that we might not ordinarily have. They also were kind enough to name the bank and the Will family grand marshals of their parade.

It was a real thrill to have the Will family come home from places both near and far to ride in John Hutchinson’s horse drawn wagon while our employees passed out what else, but American flags! This parade is always fun because it includes all the student/youth athletes, classic cars, queens and clubs that are willing to walk, ride or march the route through downtown McArthur.

The next day we had an open house that brought together so many familiar faces – it felt like a family reunion! The ladies of the McArthur United Methodist Church served some of the most delicious homemade pie you’ll ever taste and the Adelphi Band (which has been around for over 130 years) was kind enough to provide a lively soundtrack for the day. The speeches were short and the smiles were big as we officially opened the Bank’s new museum and asked our guests to vote for their favorite photo contest entry (more to come on that next week).

Special thanks to our friends Vinton County Juvenile/Probate Judge Bob Grillo and Pastor Carl Radcliff for joining President Ron Collins, McArthur Branch Manager Jane Nickels and VCNB Board Chairman Tom Will in speaking to the open house attendees in a brief ceremony.

That night we sponsored a concert by Jason Michael Carroll, a country artist who has enjoyed some commercial success and who put on a first rate show. The crowd loves this guy and we think he loved Vinton County.

The next day we set up shop at the Vinton County High School where we hosted something a little different – we hosted a Civil War themed day for the family! Since the bank was born in the years following the war, we thought it would be fun to play some nineteenth century baseball and invite some special guests including President Lincoln, General George Armstrong Custer, Steve and Lisa Ball who provided beautiful music for the day, and a gentleman who taught us about the life of an Ohio soldier during the war.

The Ohio Village Diamonds womens’ team played a rousing round of softball that ended in a tie with our local team of alumni softball players. The Ohio Village Muffins mens’ team eeked out a win over our team of bankers and local school employees. In the nineteenth century, they played ball by different rules (think no mitts and you can’t run past a base) so there was a learning curve for our local players. But at the end of the day, they were happy, if not a little worn out from playing baseball in the hot sun in old fashioned uniforms.

The weather forecast was questionable but turned out to be perfect at all the right times throughout the weekend. We’re grateful for that. We’re also grateful that so many people came out to our events and had a good time. That’s what it’s all about. We think 150 years is pretty important but for this weekend, what was more important was knowing that our guests and all the folks who participated in the festivities had a great time.

In the grand scheme of things, the weekend was short but the memories will last a lifetime. We expect this anniversary to live on in our bank’s history for a long time to come and we were honored to take our place in history as the employees who got to be there for it.

See below for a few pictures from the festivities!

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Tom Will is a fifth generation banker whose ancestor Daniel Will founded the bank. Here’s the complete text of his speech from the open house:

In 1867, shortly after the Civil War had ended, two union officers Captains McDowell and James W. Delay opened the Vinton County Bank. Within in a few months my three great uncle Daniel Will opened his own bank. The next year the banks combined with Dan becoming the President of the bank. Uncle Dan was President of the Vinton County National bank until 1924. He died at his desk in the bank at the age of 92. I will tell you right now, I do not plan on working at the bank that long.

My dad, Bob Will stated that the main reason why Dan became a banker was that he first started in business with a general store. His store had a safe and it was a secure place to keep money.   So, Dan would keep some customers cash in his safe, and he made loans to customers to buy merchandise.   Safe keeping customer’s deposits and making loans is the core of community banking. 150 years later we are still performing the same service.

Dan did not marry or have any children, so he left the care of the bank to his two nephews. Aaron Will, my great grandfather and John L Will, Christyne’s grandfather. Since Dan, the bank has had eight other presidents. I have had the pleasure of knowing six of them.

150 years is a long time to remain in business for any company. According to Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, their scientists state that the average business will last about ten years. Our bank started before there were light bulbs, cars, telephones, and radios.

I compared the largest 25 banks currently chartered in Ohio and only 6 banks of those banks were older than VCNB. Of those six, only two were more than four years older than us. The oldest bank now chartered in Ohio is Chase bank in 1824. Chase was started in New York with the help Aaron Burr under the name of the Manhattan Company. Yes, that Aaron Burr who that the famous duel with Alexander Hamilton.

The second oldest bank is Key bank which also started in New York state in 1849.

The other four large Ohio banks that were started after 1863 in order were U.S. Bank (the former First Cincinnati), 1st Financial of Hamilton, Fifth Third, and Huntington.  

Currently we are the 24th largest bank in Ohio out of 191 banks. The number of banks in Ohio and nationally, continues to decrease as a result of more government regulation and automation.

I sometimes wonder what Uncle Dan would have thought about what has happened to his bank after 150 years. I hope he would be pleased, as the bank grown and remained strong and profitable. Some things have changed, like computers, cards and mobile banking. But others have not, people still want loans for homes and to start a business. They want a safe place to keep their money. And we still have a safe or vault.

They want to speak with a knowledgeable person with the bank if they have a financial problem.

I think we have done pretty well with adapting to change over the last 150 years.   But a lot more change still needs to occur.

Today, we are investing more capital into trying to provide our customers with better service. By the end of the year we hope to allow customers to apply for credit cards and auto loans at home via the internet. We have stream lined our home loan process by allowing electronic signatures for disclosures.

I am excited about our new Jackson County Banking center which will offer full branch services later on this year.

Uncle Dan started a good business 150 years ago and I look forward to seeing that it is ready for the next 150 years.

 

 

Presidential Portrait: Remembering Bob Will

Modern bank customers and employees speak fondly of a man who began life with journalistic aspirations but who instead became a community banker.

Robert Burson Will, Jr. was born December 31, 1929 to Robert Buskirk and Helen Burson Will. He was a McArthur native and 1947 graduate of McArthur High School. Bob graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Miami University of Oxford in 1951 where he was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. He served the United States Navy from 1952 through 1954 when he went to work for the bank, starting out as a Teller.

Bob WillRobert Jr., known better as Bob or Bobby, started as a bank employee in 1954 and became a Vice President in 1963. This quiet career beginning led to great things as he went on to serve as bank President and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Under his leadership, the bank grew from offices in McArthur and Wilkesville to thirteen banking centers in six Ohio counties.

Bob was named President on June 6, 1978 after J.G. Will stepped down to become Chairman of the Bank Board. Bob would later follow in J.G.’s footsteps to serve as President of the Bank Board as well as President and CEO of Community Bancshares, Inc.

He worked with J.G. to expand the bank into Wilkesville and was instrumental in the creation of Community Bancshares, Inc. This holding company positioned the bank to purchase other banks. Under his leadership, the bank expanded into Fairfield, Ross and Hocking counties, growing to thirteen offices at the time of his death.

Bob supported anything that might improve the banking experience for the customer. He was a driving force behind the creation of The Depot Drive-Thru, the bank’s embrace of the ATM and the new, exciting ways that computers could make banking better. He is said to never use a computer but was excited to introduce computers into the bank.

He was also known to have a knack for understanding how to work with available resources and finding ways to grow. Bob had a flair for the written word, typing memos and essays on the typewriter in his office and leaving behind a trove of writings that remain relevant to young bankers today. With a genuine love for marketing and a flair for the imaginative, Bob encouraged unique campaigns that kept the customers talking.

Like all who held this post before him, Bob worked for the betterment of Vinton County seeking ways to improve local schools, recreation and the economy. He was involved in everything from school facilities improvement to the creation of the Vinton County Airport.

Bob and his wife Ruth Dunlap Will had five children: Emily, Kathleen, Laura, Margaret and Thomas. Some of his children and grandchildren continue the family legacy today, including Tom, who today serves as CBI Chairman.

Bob was a member of the Ohio Forestry Association and served on the University of Rio Grande Board of Directors. He graduated from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. He was a member of Delta Lodge #207 F. & A.M., Scottish Rite Valley of Columbus, was a 33rd Degree Mason, a member of McArthur Chapter #102 Royal Arch Masons, Trowel Council #71 Royal and Select Masons and Jackson Commandery #53 Knights Templar. A lifelong member of Trinity Episcopal Church in McArthur, he enjoyed hours spent with his horses, hunting dogs and family picnics at his cabin.

Bob died November 28, 2007 at the age of 77.

 

VCNB Day To Feature Nineteenth Century Fun

Our bank was born less than two years after the Civil war ended. At the time, the country was still recovering from war and the town of McArthur was a booming place that needed a bank. As it turns out, two banks opened that same year. The Vinton County Bank opened in January 1867 and the bank of Will, Brown and Company opened shortly after. The following year, the two banks merged to form one, keeping the name of the first bank while adopting the leadership of the second.

It’s a story we have told a lot this year as Vinton County National Bank has celebrated its 150th anniversary throughout 2017.

In a few weeks, we’ll have our biggest celebration in our hometown over the 4th of July weekend. We have partnered with the Vinton County High School Athletic Boosters to help them with their annual 4th of July celebration. In doing so, we’re sponsoring a concert by Nashville recording artist Jason Michael Carroll, sponsoring a big hot rod and vintage car show and a host of other things. There will be an open house at the bank and we’ll be offering free wagon rides with John Hutchinson following the parade where we are the grand marshals! Thanks to the Boosters for allowing us this honor!

On Sunday we’re doing something extra special. The Boosters were kind enough to make this Vinton County National Bank Day at the Festival. While they’re having tournament games, vendors and food, we’ll be doing something a little different by embracing our post-Civil War roots. Here’s what we’ve got going on starting at 1 p.m.:

Ohio village muffins19th Century Ball Games – Have you ever thought about how baseball was originally played? The Ohio Village Muffins Men’s Baseball Team and the Ohio Village Diamonds Women’s Team will put on a good show as they play bankers and other community members in nineteenth century style games! The ladies play in skirts and the gentlemen play in long sleeve wool shirts! They didn’t have mitts or protective gear back then and they played by much different rules than we have today! An announcer explains the rules and etiquette and helps spectators understand what’s going on! The ladies play at 1 p.m. and the gentlemen at 3 p.m.

CusterReenactors and Music – Have you ever wanted to meet a President? Ohio’s Premier Abraham Lincoln impersonator will be joining us to talk with folks and pose for pictures. We also have Ohio native General George Armstrong Custer coming for the day and a reenactor who will set up camp, talk with folks about the life of a soldier, do some demonstrations and pose for pictures. Finally, Ohio musician Steve Ball will join us for the day. He and his wife play Civil War era music on period instruments. They do a beautiful job and will surely provide some good entertainment for us all.

Giveaways – The first 150 kids to arrive that day will receive a commemorative 150th piggy bank. One of those banks will contain $25 to help one lucky youngster jump start their savings! We’ll also have some giveaways for adults.

Travis West and OSU Extension will be there to offer old fashioned games for kids and the Vinton County High School Athletic Boosters will be selling ice cream sundaes in addition to all the other fun activities and food the Boosters are planning!

Bring some sunscreen, a lawn chair and a few bucks if you want to buy lunch or snacks. We’ll take care of the entertainment! Visitors will also have access to restrooms inside the high school as well as a shady spot under our big tent to relax and enjoy the day. Want to know about other things happening that weekend? Click here to learn more about what we’re doing and check out the full festival schedule below!

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A Presidential Portrait: Remembering J.G. Will

In honor of our 150th anniversary in 2017 we are taking a look back at bank history and the people who have helped to shape our bank into the successful, secure institution that it is today. Read on to learn about one of our former presidents!

Group with J.G at Board Table sixties era

J.G. Will is pictured above at far left during a 1957 Vinton County National Bank Board of Directors meeting. From left are John G. Will,  Joseph W. Saltz, Robert B. Will, Sr., Robert B. (Bob) Will, Jr., Mary Will Pilcher, Margaret Sprague and Alice R. Will.

John G. Will was a banker with the family business for over fifty years. Better known as J.G., he was born in McArthur in 1913 to John Lawrence and Alice Reid Will. A 1930 graduate of McArthur High School, he attended The Ohio State University and in World War II served in the Army for three years. Part of that time he spent overseas in the China-Burma-India Theater.

J.G. started with the bank on a part-time basis in 1930 and as a full time employee in September 1935. He became Assistant Cashier in April 1938 and Vice President and Cashier in May 1951. In 1965, J.G. was elected President of the bank, a position which he would retire from in 1978. During his tenure, J.G. oversaw a number of major events including the bank’s centennial celebration in 1967.

These were years of healthy expansion as he oversaw the opening the bank’s first branch in Wilkesville in 1974 and the construction of a facility called The Depot. This four-lane drive-thru with a railroad theme made quick banking accessible to bank customers. J.G. was included in the newspaper’s coverage of The Depot dedication and open house. Many local residents likely still have dollar bills he signed that day and passed out to guests at the open house.

He stepped down from the role of President in 1978 and continued his career as Chairman of the bank board for several years longer. He also went on to chair Community Bancshares, Inc.

He was known as a fair man, an introvert who was a private man. He brought much thought and consideration to every conversation and was loved by all who worked with and knew him. Many speak fondly of his sense of humor and ability to put problems into perspective.

J.G. was a member of the Ohio Bankers Association and a member of McArthur Episcopal Church. He was a lifelong resident of Vinton County. J.G. and his wife Francoise Thibault Will had one daughter, Christyne, who continued in her father’s banking footsteps. Christyne Will Calvin served the bank for 34 years until her own retirement in 2015.

J.G. died in April 1987 at the age of 73.

Learn more about our 150th year here and about Bank Presidents Daniel Will , Aaron Will ,  John L. Will and Robert B. Will. Find details on our 150th Anniversary Bash in McArthur here.

Open House Set For 150th Bash

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VCNB has been celebrating 150 years of community banking this year and we’ve saved our biggest anniversary bash for McArthur this July 4th weekend. We have partnered with the Vinton County Athletic Boosters to help with their 4th of July celebration and, as part of the celebration, we are also hosting an open house at our McArthur office on Saturday, July 1 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

This is very meaningful for us. You see, the bank began at this very location in 1867. Aside from a few months back in 1925 when we temporarily relocated during the construction of our existing building, our bank has always operated at this address.

This is our home.

And we are welcoming the community, visitors, customers, non-customers – anyone who wishes to attend – to join us for this important celebration. It doesn’t seem fair to call it an open house because we’re really hoping it’s more like a family reunion. So many people in our community have worked for us and countless others have banked with us. These folks are our friends and neighbors, they’re our families – they’re everything to us because they are our community and our customers.

We hope to see everyone come out to our open house and join in the fun. We will be opening our new Bank Museum and will have entertainment provided by the Adelphi Community Band. We will have ice cream and homemade pies that were baked by the United Methodist Church Women as well as some special giveaway items, speakers and more.

It is an honor to know that people trust us with their money and that they include us in special life events. We have customers who we have known since they were newborns. We’ve watched them grow up, bringing piggy banks filled with change to deposit in their Passbook Savings Accounts. We’ve helped those same kids finance their first car, we’ve helped them buy a home, watched them get married, have babies, save for retirement, upsize, downsize, put down roots and travel to places far away.

We love our community. We love our customers. We love our history and can’t wait to see what the future holds. Won’t you help us celebrate?

Want to learn more about the huge concert we’re sponsoring, the great car show and the truly unique way we’re celebrating on VCNB Day July 2? Read more here!

VCNB Announces Photo Contest

Vinton County National Bank is asking local history buffs to dig through their old photographs for their best images of Vinton County! A contest will be held to choose the best antique/vintage pictures and prizes will be awarded. This contest is being held in conjunction with the bank’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Pictures of local life from Vinton County’s past are welcomed including streetscapes, landscapes, architecture, people, industry, nature and all other aspects of local life during our bank’s history. Pictures should be at least 40 years old.

This competition is meant to give the owners of historic photos a way to bring their pictures out of the attic and into the public eye. All of the photos entered in the contest are subject to be included in a compilation presented on CD to local schools, historical society and the library for generations of future researchers to enjoy and learn from.

Pictures may be submitted digitally either on a disc or by emailing brandi.betts@vintoncountybank.com. Pictures submitted in person should not be matted or framed and can be submitted to Vinton County National Bank at 112 W. Main St., McArthur, OH 45651, ATTN: Brandi Betts. All submitted pictures will be carefully scanned and returned to the owners. Originals will not be kept. However, if the owner wishes to relinquish ownership we will help facilitate a donation to the historical society.

The very best pictures will be printed for use in a display in the bank’s McArthur office during our 150th celebration in July. Entries are due by June 2 and the contest winners will be announced during an Open House at the bank on July 1. There is no limit on the number pictures one person can submit however every picture must be accompanied by an entry form. Complete rules and entry forms can be picked up at the bank or found below. See below for complete rules, categories and prizes.

The bank is celebrating 150 years in business with events, specials and activities throughout 2017. The public is encouraged and invited to take part in the celebrations. For more information on the 150th, the bank’s history or the contest, visit http://www.vintoncountybank.com/150/.

 

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CBI Celebrates 150 Years of VCNB

Shareholders 2017 Group Shot (with Joe)

VCNB employees who have been with the company for 25 years or more were honored at the CBI annual Shareholders meeting Tuesday.  From left are Donna Kopis (31), Brenda Fee (36), Dan Donahue (29), Darlene Merkle (47), Cheryle Lange (30), Barb Clemons (28), Kim Ward (38), Sandy Bates (32), Joe Griffith (25), Julia Bolen (33), Mark Erslan (25), Cathy Rutter (26), Jane Nickels (37), Brenda Brooks (37), Chris Gill (25), and Tom Will (36). Not pictured are Ben Crow (32), Brenda Winegardner (31), Greg Westenhouser (30), Suellen Nice (29), Stacey Buckalew (27), Rita Teeters (32), Jaime Lines (29), Melanie Powell (31), Doris Courtright (33), Beth Patterson (27), and Bonnie Craiglow (27).

 

Lancaster, Ohio – Community Bancshares, Inc. (CBI) held its annual meeting Tuesday evening, celebrating 150 years of banking with nearly 200 guests in attendance. CBI is the holding company for Vinton County National Bank (VCNB), a community bank that opened in 1867.

Chairman Thomas D. Will, welcomed shareholders and their guests and reflected on the bank’s long, storied past as well as its promising future. He noted that VCNB is the seventh oldest bank chartered in Ohio and the 22nd largest bank in the state.

Will is a fifth generation banker whose ancestor Daniel Will founded the bank in McArthur, Ohio. He discussed some of the values and the people that have helped the bank evolve and grow over time to not only survive the decades but to thrive through the ages. “I sometimes wonder what Uncle Dan would have thought about the bank today but I hope he would be pleased that we have stayed strong and profitable,” Will said.

He then turned the gavel over to CBI Secretary/Treasurer Ben Crow who informed shareholders that total assets grew 1.7 percent in 2016 to $883.5 million. The book value of CBI stocks is $76.65 per share, an increase of 3.12 percent.

Vinton County National Bank President, Ronald Collins presented the state of the bank and introduced three major goals for the bank in 2017. Those goals are to embrace change, to take advantage of technology and to listen to the customer. “The bank of the future will not be decided in the board room, it will be decided by our customers,” Collins said.

Collins also recognized the bank’s second president, Aaron Will, for hiring the bank’s first female employee in 1925, years before most other banks were employing women. Belle Jenkins went on to become Vice President, to serve on the Board of Directors and to be employed by the bank for 55 years. He noted that Jenkins had paved the way for countless women at VCNB and said that among 221 employees at VCNB, 167 are women.

He noted that there were countless people over the decades who helped make the bank the strong institution that it is today and led a moment of silence for all those who came before and who could not attend that night.

He went on to debut a brief video about the bank’s history and to recognize employees who have 25 years or more of experience with the bank. Those employees are: Darlene Merckle, Kim Ward, Brenda Brooks, Brenda Barber Fee, Julia Bolen, Ben Crow, Sandy Bates, Brenda Winegardner, Cheryle Lange, Greg Westenhouser, Dan Donahue, Suellen Nice, Barb Clemons, Stacey Buckalew, Cathy Rutter, Joe Griffith, Chris Gill, Mark Erslan, Donna Kopis, Jane Nickels, Rita Teeters, Tom Will, Jaime Lines, Melanie Powell, Doris Courtright, Beth Ann Patterson and Bonnie Craiglow.

Vinton County National Bank is celebrating their 150 year anniversary throughout 2017 with special events, a new museum in their McArthur office and other activities. Learn more here or follow the bank on Facebook.

A Presidential Portrait: Remembering John L. Will

john l will.jpgIn honor of our 150th anniversary in 2017 we are taking  a look back at bank history and the people who have helped to shape our bank into the successful, secure institution that it is today. Read on to learn about one of our former presidents!

John Lawrence Will was just the third man to be named President of Vinton County National Bank and he took pride in continuing the bank’s progress as it was planned by his predecessors. It was during his thirteen years of leadership that the bank’s assets topped the record breaking three million dollar mark.

During his tenure as President of the bank, he was known to continue the policies designed by those who came before him, which had made the bank strong and poised for continuous growth. While his approach was considered conservative, the bank was known to provide outstanding service to the farmers, businesses and citizens of Vinton County. It was also under his leadership that the bank survived and even thrived through the end of the Great Depression, through World War II and through post war expansion.

John L. was born in McArthur on April 18, 1881 to Aaron Will, Sr. and Minnie Bothewell Will. He graduated from McArthur High School in 1898. He began working for the bank on March 21, 1900, starting out as a Bookkeeper. He was later named Cashier before becoming President upon the death of his cousin Aaron Will Jr. in 1938.

John L. was a member of the McArthur Masonic bodies, including Delta Lodge No. 207 F. & A.M. and McArthur Chapter, Royal Arch Masons. He was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church of McArthur and the Southeastern Ohio Bankers’ Association.

In addition to his banking employment, John L. operated a farm near Zaleski and was widely known to be both understanding and sympathetic to the problems of the farmer. He was an ardent hunter and fisherman, maintained a garden and grew flowers.

He was married to Alice Reid Will and the couple had sons Dr. David R. Will and John Gordon Will who would go on to be the bank’s fifth president.

John L. died on May 8, 1951 after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 70 years old. At the time of his death, local newspapers reported that he had been discussing with other directors his plans for enlarging and remodeling the bank building. His plans did come to fruition the following year when the building was expanded, the front entrance remodeled and the lobby renovated to create a new central foyer and business room to accommodate the needs of the customer.

Learn more about our 150th year here and about two other bank presidents here and here.

 

Honoring Our First Female Employee: Belle Jenkins

 

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Women who worked for the bank in 1967 are pictured above. In front, from left, are Belle Jenkins, Kathy Caudill, Rita Teeters, Leona Eberts and Ruth Molihan. In back are Rosemary Reynolds, Gerry Rodgers, Anna Mae Graves, Evelyn Swingle and Alice Ogle.

March 8 is International Women’s Day and we thought this would be a good time to talk about the first woman hired at Vinton County National Bank. Read on to learn about an inspiring woman who blazed a trail for generations of women to follow.

belle-jenkinsWhen Belle Jenkins began working at Vinton County National Bank, women had won the right to vote only five years before. It was uncommon to find a woman working in a bank and it was considered unlikely that a woman would rise through the ranks of a bank to establish a career and eventually hold the title of Vice President. Yet, Belle did just that. In fact she served the bank for 55 years, became Senior Vice President, was appointed to the bank’s Board of Directors in 1967 and commanded the respect of everyone around her.

Belle began working for the bank in 1925, long before most banks had recognized the value and importance of women in business. Belle did not apply for the job. Instead, Bank President Aaron Will actually sought out Belle, a McArthur area native and 1925 graduate of Campbell Commercial School in Cincinnati.

Many people in Vinton County remember Belle as the most distinguished woman in the bank. By all accounts, Belle was a true lady but she was demanding, a perfectionist who expected only the best from her coworkers and herself. In fact, many people who worked with Belle admit that they found her intimidating.

Kathy Caudill retired from the bank in 2014 after nearly 48 years of service. She worked with Belle from 1966 until Belle’s death in 1980. “Belle was a woman who held her own in what was a man’s world of banking. She paved the way for women to take on more than the secretarial or clerical roles of banking. She was always the lady, stern faced, beautifully coifed, impeccably dressed, and kept her business and personal lives separate. Those things were plenty to garner the respect of coworkers and bank customers. But we were still scared of her,” Kathy explained.

Bank retiree Christyne Calvin and daughter of former bank president John G. Will admitted that she and other young employees were daunted by her presence. “She was pretty imposing with her silver-white hair in its signature French twist and stern, professional manner. We were all afraid of her, except my Dad who could get away with teasingly calling her ‘Belly’ to her face,” Calvin recalled.

She did work to maintain a separation of personal and work and believed that a professional front should always be maintained at the bank. That’s why many coworkers did not realize the extent of the rich hobbies and interests she had outside work. Belle loved gardening and often brought flowers from the backyard garden of her McArthur home. She took ballroom dancing and traveled extensively, served many years as volunteer Savings Bond Chairman, was a member of the McArthur Church of Christ and McArthur Business and Professional Women’s Club. Belle also enjoyed amateur photography, putting this hobby to work recording her travel and other experiences.

In 1967, the Athens Messenger interviewed Belle for their Speaking of Women column. Here is a portion of their profile: She describes herself as a “look and shoot” camera fan and says she gets a lot of enjoyment from the color slides which she shoots on vacation trips as well as locally. Her camera also comes in handy to record the garden which she finds time to cultivate each season.

Coworkers did know that she drove to Columbus when the bank closed on Thursday afternoons to shop and to have her hair done. This was evident as she was one of the best dressed women in town with beautiful accessories and stylish hair. She valued professionalism and was known to send home young employees who pushed the envelope with their attire.

Kathy Caudill talked about that too. “Belle expected bank employees to present themselves in a professional manner. When anyone came to work dressed ‘inappropriately,’ he or she could expect to be sent home to change. It happened,” Kathy recalled. “And then pant suits became the fashion for women! It took a while but a memo was issued permitting us to wear them. And Belle looked fantastic in hers! Belle’s influence within the bank was greatly missed.”

Kathy also told a humorous story that illustrates the human side of Belle Jenkins. “I was in my first week of working at VCNB, in bookkeeping in the basement.Just as Belle came down the steps and around the corner, I dropped a large drawer of checks, sending them all over. Having had the fear instilled in me, I was sure my first week would also be my last. I was greatly relieved when she actually laughed and said “We all have those days!” and helped me pick them up. I learned early on that there was a human side there,” Kathy recalled.

Belle Slagle Jenkins was born in Jackson Township to C. Slagle and Margaret Ann Miller Slagel Allison. She was married to Elmer (Zeke) Jenkins until his death in 1950. The pair had attended the Vinton County Centennial Celebration that night, reveling with friends, before he passed away at home of an apparent heart attack.

She was found dead in her home on November 24, 1980. Belle had died in her sleep of an apparent heart attack at the age of 75. This bank rarely closes for unexpected reasons but both the McArthur and Wilkesville offices closed for her funeral.

Vinton County Courier columnist Gerry Frye noted Belle’s death in her popular column. “She has been a major part of the institution (the bank) since 1925 – an attractive lady who never lost her class and stayed forever young. I will miss her as a friend and advisor.”

While Belle has been gone for almost 37 years, her presence is still felt within the bank. She was truly a pioneer who paved the way for women in the VCNB Family and hundreds of women have enjoyed positions with the bank because of her.