Gold and silver rode the steadily lengthening railroad tracks as the Southern Pacific Railway steamed inland to Longview. The railroad brought new settlers, business and industry, creating a money market and the first bank with a booming population.
An enterprising Marshall resident, F.J. Harrison, became the city’s first banker. His private financial house, F.J. Harrison and Co., was organized in 1871 with the aid of two relatives, A.W. Morrison and J.C. Turner.
Advertising payment “dollar for dollar with New York, St. Louis and New Orleans,” Harrison gave liberal advances on cotton, hides and wool. He also paid interest at agreed rates on time deposits while “buying and selling exchange at all prominent points in the United States and Europe.”
He located the bank at 213 E. Tyler St. and constructed the first building there with rock quarried at “Capps Hill.” About the time Turner left the company to open a grocery business, Harrison employed Tom McCall and Joe Clemmons as assistant cashier and bookkeeper.
The First Baptist Church was organized in 1871, and Mr. and Mrs. Harrison became charter members.
A few years later when the rock building was struck by fire, Harrison relocated at 211 N. Fredonia St., in a building later sold to the Campbell family.
Harrison closed the bank with no loss to depositors about the time the Baptist pastor, Dr. A.E. Clemmons, opened another private financial house. Dr. Clemmons left the active management of the bank to his sons, Joe, who had about 15 years experience with Harrison, and Tom, who acted as cashier.
The bank located at 106 E. Tyler, about 100 feet from Center Street, was known as A.E. Clemmons and Sons. Some of the equipment used in the Harrison bank was purchased by Clemmons and transferred to Longview’s new financial exchange center.
The bank grew with the town and, in 1889, officials applied for a national charter. Joe Clemmons, who was elected the first president of the bank, received word in July that a charter had been issued to the First National Bank of Longview.
Stockholders in the venture included such prominent businessmen of that era as J.W. Bateman, W.R. Bass, J.W. Yates, T.M. Campbell, John R. Hoxie, Percy D. Harrison, R.G. Brown and J.J. Flewellen.
The bank president, his father Dr. Clemmons, and brother Tom, the first cashier, also supported the bank established with $50,000 capital. Yates was elected vice president and W.K. Eckman served as bookkeeper.
Longview was still the only town in Gregg County with a bank when Yates was named president in 1895. The nearest financial rivals were located at Jefferson, Marshall and Nacogdoches.
Leroy Trice, who succeeded R.M. Kelly as president of First National, organized the People’s State Bank in 1902. Directors of the new bank in 1910 included Kelly, A.A. Womack, Mrs. J.W. Yates, R.G. Brown Sr., J.K. Bivins, J.N. Campbell, R.G. Brown Jr., G.A. Bodenheim, Trice, W.D. Sessum, C.F. Miles and W.K. Eckman.
The two banks occupied the same building until informed by banking supervisors of the illegality of the arrangement. The First National then moved next door, but an archway was cut between the two buildings to give both access to the town’s only vault. The First National erected a new five-story building in 1912 at the corner of Fredonia and Tyler, where the bank is now located.
That same year the predecessor of the Longview National Bank was organized at the junction. A.A. Batson was president and Grover Finch, cashier, of the Guaranty State Bank purchased later by F.T. Rembert.
Longview’s first millionaire moved the guaranty fund institution downtown about 1923, reorganizing it as the Rembert National Bank. It was part of the owner’s other enterprises in Rembert Block, Fredonia Street, near the railroad tracks.
E.H. Bussey was president of the bank, but Rembert served as vice president and chairman of the board. His nephews, James M. Rea and Rembert Rea, were part of the bank staff.
When Rembert National outgrew these quarters during the oil boom, the bank relocated up the street in the Everett Building. The First National Bank erected the 10-story building it occupied in 1950 at the same time.
In 1940, the Rembert National Bank name was changed to Longview National Bank.
Longview was also the home office of the Citizen’s National Bank organized in the 1900s by H.H. Howell. Some of the bank’s early officials included J.C. Turner, L.J. Everett, S.H. Mobberly, J.R. Castleberry, Hollie M. Lawrence, J.K. Bivins and George T. Reynolds .
The Commercial Guaranty Bank was also in operation in Longview several years.