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Bank of Sturgeon Bay

The First Century


One Hundred Years of Banking in Door County.

Bill Meindl
Bank of Sturgeon Bay
The First Century
One Hundred Years of Banking in Door County

Bill Meindl

Bank of Sturgeon Bay

Sturgeon Bay. Wisconsin
January 1989
A complete. footnoted version o f this history is available at area
county and school libraries and a rchives and at the State Historical
Society of Wisconsin In Madison.

Photo Credits:

Bank of Sturgeon Bay Collection

Frank R Bauer Collection
H.R Holand
Wilmer Sch roeder Archies
Herb Joh nson Collection
Carl Zahn
Kewaunee Cou nty Historical Socit'ly

INTRODUCTION .. ................................. .


I. DOOR COUN1YS FIRST BANK ............... 1


THE BANK OF STURGEON BAY .............. 7






VI. PROSPERI1Y. 1907-1929 .................... 67


T HE D EPRESSION ... .... .. ................. 90

VIII. REORGANIZATION .................. . ....... 124


HENRY FETZER AFFAIR ..................... 152


EXPANSION ... .. .... .......... .. ..... .. .... 184



EPILOGUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266

APPENDIXES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278
We are proud of our heritage at Bank of Sturgeon Bay, and
we are happy that the readers of these recorded past events
have an interest in it. This historiography was commissioned
to help establish an accurate record of those events. and
related Door County history. for our lOOth year cen tennial
celebration. It is our hope that this effort will add to the body of
knowledge of Door County's late 19th and 20th century years.
To all of those who helped complete the information con-
tained In these records. we extend our t hanks. To those who
helped create these chronicles. we extend our appreciation.
And, to those who will contribute to the con tinuing history of
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. we extend our confidence and best
While we celebrate our "century of service and lifetime of
trust," we recognize that no community bank's history can be
separated from that of the community it serves. We una-
shamedly refer to this relationship as a 100 year-long love
affair between Bank ofS turgeon Bay and Door County. We will
continue to strive to deserve that love. and we will continue to
work hard for economic growth in Door County in an ecolog-
ically sensitive manner.
Thanks to all for your support.

T.L. Herlache. President

Bank of Sturgeon Bay & Baylake Corp.
Chapter I
Door County's First Bank
Con flicting accounts about what was Door County's first
bank and whether it had any connection to today's Bank of
Sturgeon Bay have been p rinted over the years in newspapers.
books and other publications. The accounts. taken together.
inspire a confusing record of dates. names and associations
that muddle more than clarify the origins of this important
part of Sturgeon Bay and Door County history.
For example. well-known Door County historian Hjalmar
Holancl wrote in his 19 L7 History qf Door County that the
county's first banking institution was established in 1880 in
Sturgeon Bay by two former Kewaunee Coun ty residents, F.J.
Shi mmel and Joseph Kozishek. "As there was great need of a
banking institution the new firm prospered quickly" but
briefly. according to Holand. It folded within three months.
But only nine years after Holand's account was published.
Sturgeon Bay newspapers relayed a quite different story of the
area's early banking history. The occasion was the death of
pioneer Door County businessman Charles L. Nelson. In
prominent page-one obituary notices. both the Door County
News and Door County Advocate proclaimed that Nelson and
another local businessman. C.M. Smith. had founded the
coun ty's first bank In Sturgeon Bay In the early 1880s. This
bank. said the newspapers. became in time the Merchants
Exchange Bank. which collapsed during 1930s depression.
More recently. the Advocate. in its 1958 Sturgeon Bay
Diamond Jubilee edition. repeated the Holand account.
At least one other version of Door County's early banking
history has appeared in the Advocate. Sturgeon Bay's princi-
pal as well as only newspaper for most of this century. Quoting
"old timers." the newspaper reported in 1972 that it was not
F.J. Shimmel but F.J. Shimmers "father:· Wenzel. who started
the county's fi rst formal banking institution. It was called

Shimmers Private Banking Company. the newspaper said.
and later became the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
Eve n brief in-house historical accoun ts at the present-day
Bank of Sturgeon Bay offer conf1icting information. One
indicates the Bank of Sturgeon Bay descended from a bank
started by a "Mr. Shimmel " in the late 1870s. Another traces
the ba nk's origins to the early 1880s and repeats the Wenzel
Sh immel version.
So which version stands. if any? When did formal banking
originate in Door County? Who operated the firs t bank and
when? Is there any connection with today's Bank of Sturgeon
Shimmel & Kozishek
Available information indicates that Door County's firs t
formal bank was established in 1881 by Frank J. Shimmel of
Ahnapee (now Algoma) and Joseph Kozishek of Kewaunee. ll
was called the Banking House of Sh immel and Kozishek.
according to newspaper advertisements from the period. but
was identified simply as the "exchange bank" in news accounts
a t the ti me. Jc was located in Sturgeon Bay in a building at
what is now the intersection of North Third Avenue ancl
Michigan Street on a site a pproxima tely where the former
Mercha nts Exchange Bank building c urrently s ta nds. In J une
of 188 1. the same year the canal linking the waters of
Sturgeon Bay and Lake Michigan was completed. the bank
opened and was reported "in full running order."

Old Sturgeon Bay Bank. occupied by Bank Qf Sturgeon Bayjrom

1889· 1895. Site now occupied by Pa rsons & Rankin accounting
firm on the comer Qf 3rd and Michigan.

Sturgeon Bay's n ew bank provided what was advertised as
"general banking" services. transacting business in both
foreign and domestic currencies and paying interest on time
deposits. S himmel and Kozishek also were local agents for the
Hamburg Line of Steamships. which operated routes between
New York. Great Britain. France, and Germany. and repre-
sented the Mechanics Mutual Insurance Company of Milwau-
kee. "Policies written up on short notice:· the bank advertised.
Of the two Kewaunee County bus inessmen who founded the
new bank. more is readily known of F.J .. or Frank Shimmel
than of Joseph Kozis hek. Shimmel was born in 1847 in
Bohemia in an area formerly in Austria and now part of
Czechos lovakia. He came to the United States as a young boy
with his parents around the 1850s, arriving in Milwaukee.
The family is said to have moved shortly thereafter to Mani-
towoc Cou n ty. then resettled years later on a farm in the Town
of Carlton in Kewaunee County.
At about the age of sixteen the young Shimmel began
working at a general store operated by (V. ?l Mashek and is said
to have been responsible for purchasing bark, wooden ties.
and posts. Shimmel and a b rother later opened a clothing-
tailor shop in Kewaunee. In 18 78 Shimmel is said to have sold
his interest in the shop and moved to the Kewaunee County
community of Ahnapee. where he went into partnership with
Joseph J a ndra and opened a general store "dealing largely in
ties. posts. bark, cord wood and other products of the pioneer
country a nd doing extensive shipping to the southern lake
Shimmers association with the exchange bank began three
years later in 188 1 when. at the age of thirty-three. he left the
general s tore and moved to Sturgeon Bay. bringing with him
Joseph Kozishek. desciibed as a "young Bohemian bookkeeper
from Kewaunee." The two opened Door County's first formal
banking establishment in June of that same year in "Masse
and Welter's new building."
As for the young Kozishek. because of sensational devel-
opments later in the 1880s publicized in the local press. more
is readily known of h im after his association with the
exchange bank--at least of an unfortunate turn of events after
the associatlon--than during or before.
The new bank lasted less than a year. closing in April of
1882. "This will be an unwelcome piece of news for the

business men throughout the county. who have found the
bank a great convenience in doing business," said the
Advocate. Kozishek was "retiring," it was reported. and had
decided to return to Kewaunee. Shimmel, said to be in poor
health and suffering from diabetes, reportedly worked at a
brother Wenzel's clothing-jewelry s tore in Sturgeon Bay after
the bank closed and later became a Sturgeon Bay grocer.

The Banking House Demise

Just as accounts differ about the origins of Door County's
first bank. accounts differ about circumstances surrounding
the demise of the Banking House of Shimmel and Kozishek.
TWo versions of the exchange bank's downfall are available:
one from Holand in his History of Door County and the other
from newspaper reports of the 1880s. Although details vary
substantially, both versions are similar in that Kozishek is
said to have instigated the bank's closing. squandered money.
and ended up committing suicide.
Without citing sources. Holand claimed the following:
Although the Shimmel-Kozishek bank initially prospered,
"Mr. Kozishek was a man who could not bear prosperity with
grace." Holand reported in his 1917 history that the young
Bohemian banker drifted into a "demoralized existence" of
"self-indulgence and drunkenness." TWo months after the
bank opened. Kozishek visited Chicago and "fell in with a
clique of gamblers who quickly fleeced him of $800." "They
then turned him over to still more unsavory resorts where he
was relieved of about twelve hundred dollars more. In one
night he thus spent twenty-one hundred dollars."
Holand said Kozishek returned to Kewaunee and "continued
his spree with such abandon that finally in a moment oflucid
despondency he jumped off the pier in Kewaunee and drowned
himself." When Shimmel. in poor health. learned ofKozlshek's
death. "he felt in no mood to continue the business" and
closed the exchange bank within a month. But before doing so.
according to Holand. Shimmel repaid the bank's depositors in
full, "some twenty-five thousand dollars in all."
The Door County Advocate of May 17, 1883, also reported
that Kozishek had been swindled out of a large sum of money
in Chicago but at a different time and under different
circumstances. Quoting what apparently was a recent Issue of
the Chicago Inter Ocean. the Advocate said that Kozishek.

identified as a bookkeeper at the National Bank of Kewaunee.
"fell into the hands" of six men who "started out to introduce
the young man from Wisconsin to the sights and scenes of the
metropolis" one day.
Kozishek is said first to have dropped $800 in a dice game at
a State Street saloon. From the saloon. the gambling party
took carriages and "proceeded to make a round of all the
houses of s hady repute on the South Side. stopping in each
place and indulging in many drinks by the way." During the
course of the escapade. Kozishek is said to have been robbed of
$1.000 by the six men. bringing his total losses fo r t he day to
S 1.800. He was abandoned by the men at a West Side "den."
Five of the thieves. said the Advocate. were arrested for the
spree, but a s ixth remained at large. at least in itially. "The
indication seems to be that he is one of Chicago's best known
and most s killful confidence men ," the newpaper said of the
sLxth suspect.
In its account ofKozishek's misfortunes and unlike Holand.
the Advocate reported that the Chicago encounter occurred
after. in fact well after, the Shimmel-Kozishek bank had closed
and not before. Nonetheless. the newspaper indicated that the
Chicago affair was only the latest. and perhaps most dramatic.
chapter in a n unfortunate pattern of behavior that had begun
during Kozishek's association with the exchange bank. Said
the newspaper. "He [Kozishek] was always considered an
examplary young man. but he finally got to drinking and
keeping late hours, with questionable acquaintances. This
was the direct cause of the dissolution of co-partnership" with
Shimmel. The Advocate said Kozishek had about $6.000 after
the banking house folded. "all of which. it is reported. has been
squandered in idleness and dissipation."
While Holand said Kozishek drowned in January of 1881
after jump ing off a Kewaunee pier. both the Advocate and
Weekly Expositor. another Sturgeon Bay newspaper. reported
In November of 1883--some nineteen months after the ex-
change bank had folded --that Kozishek shot himself in the
head. apparently that same month. in St. Paul. Minnesota He
was said to be employed as a waiter in that city at the time. "He
had been despondent for some time." one of the local news -
papers concluded. "It Is said that Mr. Kozishek was much
affected by the death of his mother. an event which occurred
two years ago. and that her loss had much to do with his

subsequen t reckless career."

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay

One question remains about Door County's first bank: was
the Banking House of Shimmel and Kozishek a forerunner of
today's Bank of Sturgeon Bay? T he answer is no.
When the Shimmel-Kozishek bank closed. newspapers at
the time described the business partnership as "dissolved."
Thirty-four years later and upon the occasion of Frank
Shimmers death. the Door County Democrat in recounting
Shimmers career. said Shimmel and Kozishek had sold their
banking firm in the early 1880s to local businessmen George
Spear and C.M. Smith. who then continued the business
under a new name.Smith did open a bank in Sturgeon Bay in
August of 1882 (with Charles L. Nelson not George Spear).
about three months after the exchange bank's closing. but no
mention of any sale or purchase of the Shimmel-Kozishek
enterprise was reported by the local press either upon the
Shimmel-Kozishek bank's closing or upon the opening of the
Smith-Nelson banki ng firm. Holand in his Door County
history made no reference to a sale either and referred to the
Smith-Nelson bank as a "new" bank.
Even if the Banking House of Shimmel and Kozishek had
indeed been sold to Smith and Nelson. the Smith and Nelson
bank was a foreru nner of the Merchants Exchange Bank.
which closed in 1932. and not the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. The
BankofSlurgeonBaywas not organized until 1889and by a n
entirely different set of players.

Edward Decker, James Keogh, and
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay
By the time the Banking House of Shimmel and Kozishek
opened in 1881. settlement of Door County had been under
way for more than thirty years. Fishing and lumbering already
were s taples of the area's economy. and farming expanded as
forests were fell ed. Completion of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal
in 1881 underscored Sturgeon Bay's importa nce as a port
community and the county's principal m unicipality. Given
the activity. it was only a matter of time before Door County's
settlement and early industry. commerce. and agriculture
would be joined by formal banking.

Nelson, Smith and, Spear

For most of the 1880s the only bank in Door County and
Sturgeon Bay was what began as the Banking House of Nelson
and Smith. It opened in August of 1882. shortly after the

Dredging tile Sturgeon Bay slltp canal in llle early 1870s.

closing of the Banking House ofShimmel and Kozishek. under
the direction of Charles L. Nelson and C.M. Smith. two local
insurance agents. The new bank was initially located where
Shimmel and Kozishek had conducted their affairs: Masse
and Welter's new one-story. brick building at the intersection
of Cedar and Spruce Streets (now North Third Avenue a nd
Michigan Street) in downtown Sturgeon Bay. The building
was called "Masse's Block."
In the 191 7 History of Door County. Door County historian
Hjalrnar Holand said Smilh had approached Nelson about
establishing the new bank. "Mr. Nelson was inclined to treal
the proposition as a joke for neither of them had any money."
Holand said the two visited friend and local lumberman
George Spear "and spread the possibilities of the banking
business before his vision." Although reportedly reluctant to
become involved. Spear Is said to have loaned the men an
"astonishing liberal" amount of SI 0,000. and the new financ ial
institution was born.
Later in the 1880s Smith left the banking partnership and
was replaced by Spear. The bank changed its name to the
Banking House of Nelson and Spear and by the end of the
decade relocaled from Masse's Block to another site in
Sturgeon Bay.

Another Door County Bank

Sturgeon Bay remained a one-bank town until 1889. when
one of northeasl Wisconsl n's leading businessmen, and at one
time Kewaunee County's dominant political figure. opened a
new bank in the Door County community with an Irish-born
attorney. politician. educator. businessman. and soon-to-be
Sturgeon Bay mayor and Assembly representative. Their
names were Edward Decker and James Keogh.Jr., respectively,
and their announcement of the new bank. called the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay.appeared in the local press in February of 1889:
Busi ness conducted the same as an incorporated bank.
Drafts sold on all leading cities in this country and Europe.
Collections for merchants. manufacturers. bankers. etc.. a
specialty. Interest allowed on time deposits. Money loaned on
long and short time on acceptable secu rity. Bank on Cedar
Street. two doors south of Noll's block. Sturgeon Bay.
President of th is new Bank of S turgeon Bay was Decker. who
had come to Wisconsin in his youth "and by application and
industry amassed a fortun e." He was sixty-one years old at the

time and still very active in b usiness affa irs. Keogh. thirty·
eight. was the bank's cashier. and A.G. Wa rren was its
assistant cashier. The bank's fi rst financial stateme n t listed
$27.000 in capital. wi th Decker investi ng $1 8.500 and Keogh.
$8.500. Their cap ital investment rose briefly to $30.000 before
leveli ng off at $25.000 by mid-1890. with Decker's share
totali ng $17.500 and Keogh's, $7.500. The Door County
Ad vocate reported upon the bank's 1889 open ing that Decker.
"as is well known. possesses and represents an almost unJim·
ited amount of capital." Keogh was described as "too well
known to need a ny introduction at our hands. Su ffi ce it to say
that he has the confidence of nearly every man in the county.
a nd hi s word is recognized as good as his bond wherever he is

Edward Decker James Keogh. J r.

Ba nk qf Sturgeon Bay C.ojoun der Bank of Sturgeon Bay Cojoundcr
and President ( 1889-1898) and Cashier (1889· l 896)

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay opened on Monday. Janua ry 28.

1889. in Keogh's office building on Cedar Street {now Third
Avenue) on a s ite said to be in the vicinity of what today is the
S turgeon Bay City Hall. T he Sturgeon Bay I ndepen.den. t
reported upon the bank's opening that the new en terprise was
expected to move withi n a month to a new b rick building to be
cons tructed adjacent to Keogh 's office. This new building. said
the newspaper. would ha ve a vault "and other conveniences
requi red to fi t it for the banking busi ness."

That move never transpired. Seven weeks later the bank
relocated to Masse's Block. the former home of the Shimmel-
Kozis hek and Nelson-Smith banks. The Independent said the
"banking house" would occupy its new quarters on Saturday.
March 16. 'This removal makes it unnecessary for Mr. Keogh
to erect the new building for which he has been collecting
material. and that work will be deferred fo r the present." the
newspaper reported.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay met with immediate success. Five
months after open ing it reported assets of$58.099. includ ing
nearly $40.000 in loans and discounts. In addition to $27,000
in capital. liabilities included $17.571 due depositors on
demand and another $12.449 "due to others." Assets at the
bank jumped fifty-two percent to $88.486byJanuaryof1890.
a year a fter the opening of the new en terprise. Loans and
discounts by then were $60.251. while demand deposits
totaled $26.992. time deposits. $3.495. and "due to others."
As measured by deposits recorded by Holand in his History
of Door County. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay by mid-1890 was
already Door County's largest bank: its $45.066 in demand
and time deposits surpassed the Banking House of Nelson and
Spear by nearlyS 15.700.Assets bymid-1890 topped $100.000.
including more than $78.000 In loans a nd discounts.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay was one of nine banks estab-
lished. operated. and/or invested in by Edward Decker with
his sons and others that comprised the so-called "Decker
chain of banks." In addition to Sturgeon Bay. the chain
included banks in Chicago. lllinois. and Ahnapee (Algoma).
Brillion. Casco. Green Bay. Kewaunee. Luxemburg. and 1\vo
Rivers. Wisconsin. But banking was by no means Decker's
only interest. He also pursued a t various times lumber, la nd,
newspapers. and railroading. among other enterprises. and
was instrumental in the early organization and development
of Kewaunee County government. Decker was. said one
newspaper upon his death, ··one of the most enterprising and
energetic characters of northeastern Wisconsin."
Keogh established a noteworthy record in business and
govern ment as well but died at the age of forty-five from
injuries sustained in a fire. Decker, on the other hand, had a
business and political career s panning more than fifty years
and was active well into his seventies.

Edward Decker and James Keogh
James Keogh. Jr.. was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1850. His
family is said to have emigrated to Canada in 1852 and. three
years after that. to the United States, settling in the Town of
Forestville in southern Door County and engaging in "agri-
cultural pursuits." Keogh as a young man attended the State
Normal School at Oshkosh and taught school in the Door
County communities of Nasewaupee. Clay Banks, and Forest-
ville. according to profiles published at the ti me of his death.
In 1875, at the age of twenty-four. Keogh began his first term
as Door County register of deeds. a position he held contin-
uously for fourteen years. Between 1875 and 1896 he is
reported by local news papers to have also served as county
superin tendent of schools, alderman. board of education
president.judge. Sturgeon Bay city attorney. Assembly repre-
sen tative. and. from 189 1 to 1893. mayor of Sturgeon Bay. In
business he is said to have been president of the Sturgeon Bay
Dock Company. president of the W.O. Brown Manufacturing
Company, and a director of the Ahnapee and Western Railway.
At the time of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's opening. Keogh
advertised himself as a "real estate and loan agent" who
investigated titles. furnished abstracts, and negotiated farm
Keogh's record aside. by virtue of his position as Bank of
Sturgeon Bay president as well as its principal investor and
head of the "Decker chain of banks." Edward Decker must
take cen ter stage in any survey of the Door County bank's
founding. The son of a merchant-miller. Decker was born in
1827 in Casco. Maine; his father was a Jacksonian Democrat
said to exercise cons iderable Infl uence in local and state
politics. The young Decker left home at about the age of
fourteen. proceeding to Portland. Maine. and later Boston.
clerking for his uncle in a general store. According to an 1895
biography, Decker while in Boston "heard a good deal about
Iowa, enough to induce him to set out for that State: but while
In Milwaukee he was persuaded to locate With a large party in
Decker arrived in Milwaukee in about 1845 before moving
to Watertown a nd then Oshkosh. embarking in the lumber
business. He reportedly supplied logs for a sawmill in the Wolf
River area and sold lumber from the mill to area settlers. The
1895 biography said Dexter later bull ta hotel in Menasha and

in 1855 moved to Kewaunee County, "where he entered a large
amount of land with the intention of establishing a settle-
Decker did just that. choosing a site in central Kewaunee
County southwest of Algoma and naming it Casco after his
birthplace in Maine. By one account Decker learned of the
Kewaunee County site from a U.S. government land office
which had opened in Menasha near his Menasha hotel and
was attracted to the Casco area by its plentiful stands of
timber and natural springs. He cleared land in lhe Casco area,
opened a store. established a lumber mill, and increased his
land holdings until. according to the 1895 biography. he
owned 3.000 acres in the immediate Casco area and more
than 10.000 acres in Kewaunee and Door counties.

Decker in Political/Military Affairs

Shortly after Edward Decker moved to Casco, the future
Bank of Sturgeon Bay president took control of Kewaunee
County's fledgling government. establishing what one author
has labeled "the Decker regime" in local politics. The "regime,"
which lasted from about 1857 to 1869. began with the
organization of the county's government and ended. if one
newspaper profile is accurate. with charges of maladminis-
tration and fraud.
Kewaunee County was established in 1852. but lilUe. it
seems, was done to effect its governance until Decker became
deputy county clerk. moved from Casco to Kewaunee in about
1857. "and assumed charge of county affairs."
The cou nty officers being Inexperienced ... !Decker! was
requested by prominent business men In the county to
organize the affairs and establish the different offices.
Having set the machinery going.and having been deputized
by the treasurer and clerk. he set to work to put things in
running order ....
One early Kewaunee settler. Joseph Boutin. recalled for
Kewaunee County historian George W. Wing that he saw
Decker for the first time about the time Decker was begi nning
his Kewaunee County political career. "He !Decker! came
down f ram Casco to vote and wanted to run for justice of the
peace," Boutin recalled. "His trousers were patched and
ragged and he carried h is dinner in a red bandana hand-
In 1858 Decker fielded a Democratic ticket for county

offices. including himself as county clerk: the Republican
opponents were .. overwhelmingly defeated .. in the su bseq uen t
elections. With Decker's rise in county government. what has
been described as a one-stoiy frame shanty was erected on
Ellis Street in Kewaunee. the first ofseveral "county buildings"
from which Decker reportedly directed his political affairs.
assisted in time by his "chief lieutenant." Sheriff Wojta
Stransky. The Democrats under Decker·s able leadership and
with a "perfect" organization. said historian Wing. "controlled
the entire political situation."
Decker served as county clerk for ten years. from January
1859 to January 1869. He also was a state senator for two
years (1860-1861). Kewaunee postmaster. and a member of
Kewaunee harbor improvements committee.
"Rumblings of discontent" over the handling of certain
Kewaunee County affairs during Decker's control of county
government are said to have surfaced during the Civil War in
1864. As deputy provost marshal for the county, Decker that
year conducted an enrollment of men considered fit for
military service. Wrote Wing in his 1922 Early History of
Kewaunee County:
A great hue and cry was raised in the county that many
favorites were not enrolled at all and would thus escape the
forthcoming drafts .. .. Dissatisfaction became so manifest
with the enrollment in Kewaunee county t hat charges were
openly brought against Mr. Decker and his colleagues with
unfairness and these charges were flied with the District
Board at Green Bay.
Soldiers reportedly were dispatched in Kewaunee County to
discourage any armed resistance to the enrollment.
Accord ing to Wing. Decker on February 3. 1865. conducted a
public meeting at the Kewaunee schoolhouse attended by a
large number of local residents. He appeared before the crowd
a nd explained his methods for the militaiy enrollment.
Concluded Wing:
The meeting expressed itself satisfied with his explanations
and passed resolutions condemning Edwa rd Neff. John
Lane and two or three other unnamed individuals for their
secret and underhanded course in misrepresenting the
In an intriguing but unsubstantiated report. the Algoma
Record-Herald said in a 1977 profile ofDecker that opposition
to the Kewaunee County politician surfaced again after the

Civil War and led eventually to Decker being "forced out" of
office in elections of 1868 amidst concerns of misuse of county
funds. "Many charges of maladministration were made against
Decker.'' said the newspaper of the period. "The first work of
the new officials was to enter upon a Jong and careful search of
the books to uncover frauds. if any."
Quoting historian Wing. the Record-Herald indicated that
investigation of the county's financial records revealed the
The books had been carefuUy. neatly and systematically kept
(by Decker!. The records were complete ... it was probably
true that he profited by his official positions and acquired a
great wealth ....
Without explanation or elaboration the newspaper reported
that "an action" was brought against Decker after examina-
tion of the county's books.
Again quoting Wing. the Record-Herald said the transfer of
county government from Decker's control after the 1868
elections was met with great local anticipation.
The accession ofa new prince or potentate upon a European
throne would not have been watched with more solicitude
than was the transfer of the county government ... from his
hands to that of the new county officials by the inhabi tants
of the county.
A new "anti-Decker county ticket" comprising the county
clerk, sheriff. register of deeds. treasurer. and clerk of court
took control of Kewaunee County government in January of
1869. starting a "new era" in the county's political life.
For the rest of the century Decker seems to have concen-
trated on various business enterprises. apparently moving
from Kewaunee to Green Bay and back to Casco again. He
entered politicsagainona major scale in 1902, running on the
Democratic tl.cket for Ninth District congressman against
Republican incumbent Edward Minor of Sturgeon Bay. In an
election that also saw Republican Robert La Follette win
another term as Wiscons in's governor. Decker was outpolled
by Minor 15.958 to 11.479. According lo the Door County
Advocate's election coverage. Minor defeated Decker in
Marinette. Oconto, Brown. Outagamie. and Door counties.
losing only in the banker/ businessman's home county of
Kewaunee. Placing a distant third in the congressional race
with518 votes was Charles Lomas of the Prohibition ticket. In
Door County. local Democrats gathered at the Bank of Stur-

geon Bay to receive election returns.

Other Business Interests

Following his arrival in Kewaunee County in the 1850s.
Edward Decker established a network of commercial enter-
prise in Casco and other areas principally in northeast
Wisconsin. Historian George Wing said he was a partner in a
Kewaunee gristmill as well as a partner in the Kewaunee
lumber mill. store, and pier property of Kelly, Finley and
Company. later Kelly. Decker and Company. In publis hing he
was an owner or part-owner of the Kewaunee Enterprise.
Green Bay Advocate. and Ahnapee Record newspapers and
at one time is said to have planned publishing Nalional
Magazine from a building he constructed in Casco. He is also
said to have been involved in the operation of a fumace
business in the Brown County community of De Pere. One of
Decker's more well-known economic pursuits later in life and
why. it has been suggested. he established a bank in Sturgeon
Bay was formation of the Ahnapee and Western Railway.
which brought railroad service to Door County (addressed
later in this chapter).
What may h ave been Decker's first interest in banking was
the National Bank of Commerce of Green Bay. where by 1873
he was cashier and a stockholder. His association with the
banklaterended, and the institution is not considered part of
the chain of banks Decker established. What is considered
part of the chain was theBanl<ingHouseofDecker. Duvall and
Walender in Kewaunee. where Decker was a partner in the
firm by 1881. The bank. it seems.later became the State Bank
of Kewaunee. which traces its origins to 1876: Decker served
for a time as president of the state bank.
In 1881 Decker founded the Banking House of E. Decker.
later renamed the Bank ofAhnapee and, after that, the Bank of
Algoma: in 1889 he formed the Bank of Sturgeon Bay with
James Keogh: in 1891. the Bank ofTwo Rivers with son David:
and in 1901 . the Bank of Green Bay with sons David. Edward.
Jr.. and Nathan. Henry Fetzer of Sturgeon Bay. and L. Albert
Karel and George Duvall of Kewaunee. He was also an investor
In, if not also a founder of. the First State Bank of Brillion In
Calumet County and the Bank of Casco and Bank of Luxem-
burg in Kewaunee County. One of the last connections In
banking made by Decker was the Jackson Trust and Savings

Bank of Chicago. established in 1903 a nd heralded as his
"crowning achievement" in banking. Decker never apparently
was an officer there but is said to have Invested in the bank;
one of his sons became a vice-president of the institution and
a son-in-law became its cashier.
According to long-time and recently deceased Kewaunee
County banker Lee Metzner. switching from lumber-a prin·
cipal purs uit by Decker early in his career-to banking was
not unusual in Decker's day. "That was the n atural thing in
those days." Metzner said in a 1982 Interview. "When the
timber was gone. Ithe lumbermen I had money and owned a lot
of land. Banking was natural."
As recorded by an undergraduate college student. Metzner
In another interview ni ne years earlier recalled a number of
anecdotes about Decker. In one. a Kewaunee County land-
owner. Dan Burk. is said to have approached the founder of
Casco about purchasing a forty-acre tract of land. Decker
asked $225 for the property, but Burk "was Irish and poor"
a nd replied he could only afford $200. Decker is said to have
responded. "Then you don't want it. Good-bye." When Burk
returned two weeks later and offered to pay the $225. according
to Metzner's account. Decker replied that the price for the
acreage had risen to $250. "And Dan took it. before the price
went up again."
In another anecdote from Metzner recorded by the college
student. Decker one day overheard a passenger riding on th e
Ahnapee and Western Railway, of which Decker was president.
remarking that he could walk faster than the train was
traveling. Decker is said to have pulled the train's bell rope.
stopping the engine, and told the passenger "that he could get
out and walk." It was not made clear if the passenger did.

Why Sturgeon Bay?

As to precisely why Edward Decker extended his chain of
banks to S turgeon Bay, no explanation is found in newspaper
accounts from the period or in minutes of early Bank of
Sturgeon Bay Board of Directors and stockholders meetings.
Some reasonable possibilities, however. can be offered.
For one. Sturgeon Bay as the economic center of Door
Coun ty was a logical choice for a new bank for someone
establishing a chain of banks in communities primarily
within a forty-mile radius of Casco. The area that comprises

Door Coun ty was long a home for Native Americans and later
was a stopping-off point for French explorers, missionaries,
and fur traders. Settlement of the county by Yankees from New
England and New York. Scandinavians, Germans. Belgians.
and others began as early as the 1830s and accelerated in the
1850s: Door County was formed in 1851. In this new county
Sturgeon Bay established itself early as a lumber town "run,"
in the opinion of one contemporary historian. by sawmills and
lumber companies which congregated in the settlement.
Fishing communities and s mall ports formed elsewhere along
the Door County shoreline. including its northern islands.
while farming developed with increasing intensity in the
interior as timber was cleared.
By 1882 Sturgeon Bay was the county seat. an incorporated
village. and soon to be the county's first and only incorporated
city and had the highest population of any town or village in
Door Coun ty. Although seriously damaged in an 1880 fire, a
central business district had developed on and a round Cedar
Street (Thi rd Avenue). and the completion of the Sturgeon Bay
Ship Canal in 188 1 had added to the community's significance
as a port. To a large degree because of the canal. according to
one historical account. "the community of S turgeon Bay
experienced a rise in general prosperity during the 1880s ."
It was in 1882 that Edward Decker may have first expressed
an interest in banking in Sturgeon Bay. Shortly after the
demise of the Banking House of Shimmel and Kozishek that
year, the Door County Advocate noted, "It Is reported that
Messrs. Decker and Stebbins. of Casco and Ahnapee, intend to
establish an exchange bank in this village:· No further
mention of the prospect was made in subsequent issues of the
news paper. Seven years la ter the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was
organized, and for that development contemporary Door
County historian Stanley Greene. In an interview conducted
for this history. cited one reason: railroading. specifically the
Ahnapee and Western Railway, Door County's first and only
railroad and the one Door County enterprise for which Decker
is perhaps most widely known.
Decker had been formally interested in railroading as early
as 1864. during his tenure as Kewaunee County clerk, when
he was a corporator for the proposed Green Bay. Shawano and
St. Croix Falls Railroad. The railroad never materialized. Two
years later he became president of the Green Bay and Lake

Pep in Railway. which later became the Green Bay a nd Western
Railroad. The idea of the Green Bay line was to connect the
Lake Michigan port c ity of Green Bay on the east with the
Mississippi River. providing a transportation link be tween
wes tern grain fields. particula rly in Minnesota. and eastern
markets via Green Bay and the Great Lakes.

An Ahnapee & Western Railroad Company train going ouer the

railroad bridge.

Decker served as president of the railroad for only two years.

retiring. it is said. after his left arm was mangled in a horse
runaway accident and amputated. The year 1867 was also
when Decker was voted out of office in Kewa unee County
amidst the reported concerns of misuse of county funds there.
As fo r the Ah napee a nd Western. Decker was president as
well as principal promoter and financier of the Kewaunee and
Door County li ne.A son. David. was vice-president and general
manager. and another son. Edward. Jr.. was secretary and
treasurer. His torian Greene said the elde r Decke r established
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in 1889 p rincipally to finan ce the
new railroad. formed one year later. "Door County was finnly
maritime in its outlook. and everything you wa nted was
shipped in by boat. The maritime inte rests for many years
were able to keep the ra ilroads out." Green said. "The Bank of
Sturgeon Bay was orga nized to give Decker a foo thold in the

community. He was getting ready for his railroad drive."
Decker provided most of the funding for the Ahnapee and
Western's construction. but governments along the line were
also asked to contribute. According to Hjalmar Holand. Decker
in July of 1891 formally proposed that Door Coun ty provide
860.000 in bonds for the railroad's construction over a two-
year period from near Casco in Kewaunee County to Ahnapee
(Algoma) to Sturgeon Bay. Decker is said to have then
circulated petitions throughout the county asking the Door
County Board of Supervisors to Issue the bonds. A total of
2,080 resident county taxpayers of a total 2.871 reportedly
signed the petition. prompting the board to issue the bonds.
In addition to Door County's $60,000, the City of Ahnapee
issued $20.000 in bonds. the City of Sturgeon Bay, $16.000.
the Town of Ahnapee. $7,500. and the Town of Lincoln, $4.500.
for the railroad's construction. In return for their contribu-
tions. the various units of government received like amounts
of capital stock in the new railroad. most of which was later
acquired by Decker. Total amount of stock and bonds issued
for the enterprise has been placed at $671.500.
The first segment of the Ahnapee and Western was fourteen
miles long and was completed in 1892; it ran from Casco
Junction. a point southwest of Casco where the line inter-
sected with what is now the Green Bay and Western, to
Ahnapee. In 1894 the second segment of the Ii ne. eighteen and
ahalf miles long from Ahnapee to Sturgeon Bay. was finished.
Said one area railroad official at the time:
Mr. E. Decker. president of the road. deserved high com·
mendation for the very thorough and practical manner in
which he has handled the building of this road. The road bed
i s well ballasted and Its construction admirable.
Door County finally had a railroad. Holand said a grand
celebration marking the official opening of the railway was
held in August of 1894 after 3,000 special invitations had been
distributed. "The day was celebrated with speeches, feasting
and dancing," the historian noted.
The Ahnapee and Western Railway continued as an inde-
pendent short-line railroad until 1906, when Decker's busi-
ness for·tune collapsed. That year the railroad was sold and its
operation taken over by the Kewaunee. Green Bay and Western

From Incorporation To Panic

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay organized during a period of

economic expansion which saw the number of banks in
Wisconsin nearly double. from 132 to 257. between 1880 and
1890. Much of that banking activity took place in the northern
part of the state.
The railroads were extending into the northern sections.
lumbering was at its height along the state's four main
rivers. and much of the population increase was in the
northern counties ....
There was a close relations hip between the expansion of
Wisconsi n's economy and its banking resources. each con-
t ributing to the growth of the other.
The activity followed a nationwide depression from 1873 to
1879 and the Peshtigo Fire of 1871. a conflagration which
devastated much of northeast Wisconsin, including parts of
southern Door Coun ty.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay was initially what was called a
"private bank": a bank not incorporated under Wisconsin's
banki ng law and virtually free of what li mited banking
regulation existed in the state at the time. That "private"
status changed. however. in late 1891 . nearly three years after
Door County's newest financial institution opened, when it
incorporated as a "state bank."
A more important development for Sturgeon Bay's new
banking enterprise in the 1890s was a major reversal in the
nation's economy. signaled by the financial Panic of 1893. The
panic led the country into four years of serious economic
decline and the worst depression it had yet experienced.
Locally. the tum in the nation's economy sparked a major
drop in revenues at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Although Door
County businessmen made a public show of support for the
bank. time and demand depos its at one point dropped more
than $40,000 in six months. a cons iderable decline at the

time. To exacerbate the problem. a fire in 1895 gutted the
bulld lng in which the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was located.
forcing it to relocate.
Barely established as a financial institution. Sturgeon Bay"s
new bank in the 1890s faced one of the most difficult periods
in Its history. perhaps second only to its reorganization forty
years later during the Great Depression.

Private Bank
Partially because of s us picions about the worthiness of
paper money and because of some early disasters in banking.
Wisconsin officially prohibited banking from 1841 lo 1853.
The prohibition. however. did not prevent a certain amount of
illegal banking, including that practiced by the Wisconsin
Marine and Fire Insurance Company of Milwaukee. prede-
cessor to the Marine Bank. Banking in the state again became
legal in 1853 after the legislature approved a new banking law
subsequently endorsed by voters in a statewide referendum.
With the authorization. "state banks." which incorporated
under the new law. and "private banks." which did not
incorporate. formed. They would bejoined shortlyby"naUonal
banks," organized under the National Bank Act of 1863.
One of the scores of private banks to organize in Wisconsin
in the last half of the nineteenth century was the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. Because the Door County enterprise was not
incorporated under Wisconsin's banking law upon opening in
1889. a number ofregulations which applied to state banks at
the time did not apply to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Considered
largely minor in nature and scope. the provisions did include a
requirement that each state bank provide at least $25.000 in
capital. But only sixty percent of the capital had to be paid in
before a bank could begin business. and the remainder often
was never forthcoming.
As a private bank, however, the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was
not completely exempt from state regulation. As early as 1868,
like their state bank counterparts. Wisconsin's private banks
had been required to submit semiannual financial reports to
the state treasurer. The requirement. though. generally went
unobserved until a decade later. when the legislature author-
ized a one hundred-dollar fine for not complying.
There was still no u niformity of accounting procedures.
however. so that the information submitted was quite

meaningless. Finally. in 1889 an acl was passed requiring
private banks to report on the same basis as state banks and
authorizing a penalty ofS 1.000 for failure to comply.
According to economist Theodore Andersen in his 1954 A
Century of Banking in Wisconsin. neither private banks nor
state banks in Wisconsin were regulated by any effective
legislation until 1895. when a new banking law prompted in
part by the financial Pan ic of 1893 required banks to undergo
regular financial examinations by a newly created bank
examiner's office. Eight years later private banks were ban-
ished altogether.
In 1890. one year after the Bank of Sturgeon Bay opened.
assets of private banks in Wisconsin constituted less than
eleven percent of the s late's total bank assets. One-third of the
private banks had less than $5,000 capital and two-thirds of
them less than $15.000. The average capitalization was
S 11 .800. compared to $56.000 for state banks and $97.000 for
national banks. Concluded Andersen :
... there were a considerable number of private banks, Ibut I
they were very small and were especially sensitive lo changes
In business activity. For better or for worse. they did provide
banking facilities for the very small communities that could
not support a s tate bank with itslargerca pital requirements.

State Bank
In 189 l the Banking House of Nelson and Spear. at the time
Sturgeon Bay's oldest banking firm. reorganized and became
the Merchants Exchange Bank, with Charles L. Nelson as
president. That same year. Door County's newest bank. the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. incorporated. thereby changing its
status from that of a "private bank" to a "state bank." The
incorporation occurred on December l. 1891. Stockholders
for $25.000 in capital stock were co-founders Edward Decker
and James Keogh. Jr.. each of whom purchased fifty shares at
$250 per s hare. Decker and Keogh assumed the titles of
presiden t and cashier, respectively, of the newly incorporated
bank. while AJ. McDonald was chosen assistant cashier.
Precisely why the Bank of Sturgeon Bay incorporated and
became a state bank in 189 l is not known. But it is clear that
the incorporation took place during a thirteen-year period
when the number of state banks in Wiscons in increased
dramatically: from 29tol19. It was a time of economic growth
sandwiched between two nationwide depressions fueled by

the Panic of 1873. which led the countryintosixyearsofmass
unemployment. wage cuts. and plice declines. and the Panic of
1893. which in Wisconsin is said to have brought the state's
banking system "to the brink of collapse."
The growing popular! tyofstate banking in Wisconsin in the
interim between the Panics of 1873 and 1893 was due to a
number of reasons. One was a failure by national banks in the
state to expand in step with the growing economy. Another
was the ease with which a state bank could be established
under Wisconsin banking law. Thus. the assets ofWisconsin's
state banks almost doubled from 1870 to 1874. The depression
years of 1873 to 1879 halted the financial growth. but assets
increased dramatically again between 1880 and 1893: from
S 13 million to $50 million.
The assets of Wisconsin banks would not have increased ...
had it not been for the rapidly expanding economy. Con-
versely. the economy would have grown less swiftly if the
banks had not been able to furnish much of the new capital
that was required. Thus the banklng system responded well
to the demand for more capital and contributed much to the
rapid economic development of the state.

The Panic of 1893

Wiscons in's nineteenth century post-Civil War economic
growth was interrupted three times by national depressions.
The first, from 1873 to 1879. followed the collapse of the
well-known and influential banking firm of Jay Cooke and
Company. Although the depression occurred well before the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay was organized. it may at least partially
explain why formal banking did not begin in Door county until
1881 despite earlier settlement. population growth. and
business and industrial development. The second depression.
in 1884 and 1885. also occurred before the Sturgeon Bay
bank's formation.
The third depression. from 1893 to 1897, directly affected
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay and brought about sharp declines
in its assets and deposits. Between mid-1893 and mid-1896.
the bank's financial low point during the depression as
measured by semiannual financial statements. resources
(i ncluding such assets as loans and cash on hand) sank forty-
three percen t to $97.883. Deposits in the same period dropped
forty-five percent to $62.531.
What announced the nation's economic trouble was the

Panic of 1893. a financial crisis inspired by rising tariffs, an
unbalanced agricultural supply and demand system. uncer-
tainty about silver and paper currency, and a serious drop in
U.S. gold reserves. When major business firms began failing in
1893. the stock market collapsed with them in May of that
year; the panic was in full swing. Much of the impact of the
financ ial chaos was borne by the nation's railroads, financed
to a large degree with borrowed money. As railroads su ffered.
so too did the financial institutions that had been speculating
in their stock and making them large loans . Wrote Theodore
Andersen in A Century of Banking in Wisconsin:
Public confidence in lhe country's financial institutions
began to decline rapidly. and many failed . ...
As the money markets tightened. interest rates rose a nd
the prices of securities began to decline. The companies and
banks that had overexte nded themselves the most were the
first to feel lhe pressure.
The panic affected the banks large and small in big cities
and small towns. Because of high interest rates on interbank
deposits in the 1880s and early 1890s. s maller banks in small
towns and rural areas around the country had placed much of
their financ ial reserves with larger banks in the b igger cities
and metropolitan areas. The larger banks. in return for the
deposits. provided such services as check cashing and loans.
(Upon opening In 1889. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay listed the
First National Bank of Ch icago and the Kellogg National Bank
of Green Bay as its correspondent banks. Six years later.
during the depression. the bank's corresponden ts were the
First National and Kellogg plus the First National Bank of
Milwaukee. the Royal Trust Company of Chicago, and the
Bank ofAhnapee. the latter part of the Decker chain of banks.)
As the Panic of 1893 spread and businesses failed. deposits at
the larger city banks dropped rapidly.
A general liq uidation movement started. which enta iled
heavy withdrawals of deposits. The high rates of interest on
interbank deposits ... had influenced the country banks to
place almost all their reserves w1 th Lhei r city correspondcn ts.
from which they now had to withdraw them if they we re to
meet their liabilities. The city banks. however. faced with
local [customer] runs. had a difficult time meeting the
demands of the country banks.
In Wisconsin, twenty-seven banks closed permanently in
1893. and numerou s others closed temporartly during the

year. The closings began in May and peaked in July with the
failure of the Wiscons in Marine and Fire Insurance Company,
the state's largest bank. (The Milwaukee enterprise ma naged
to reopen six months later with S500.000 in new capital. )
Runs on banks. with large numbers of customers con-
verg ing on financial tnstitulions simultaneous ly to withdraw
their depos its for fear the institulions would collapse and
their money would not be returned. were reported around the
sta te. In the Sturgeon Bay area, runs occurred in s uch nearby
cities as Man itowoc and Two Rivers: in Two Rive rs. a customer
panic forced a sister Edward Decker family bank to close
temporarily wh ile its finan ces were reorganized. ln Sturgeon
Bay itself. timely action by local bus inessmen a nd th e city's
two banks, the Bank of Sturgeon Bay and the Merchants
Exc hange Bank. may have averted any bank closings.

The Panic in Sturgeon Bay

Particularly as it affected local banking, the financial panic
that pcrmanenUyclosed twe nty-seve n banks in Wisconsin hit
S turgeon Bay and Door County by June of 1893. Prior to that
poi nt. the city's newspapers reported optimis tically on the
local economic scene despite news accounts they publis hed of
bank a nd business closings nationwide. a gold drain on the
U.S. T reasury. a major drop in the value of s ilver , and large
withdrawals from U.S. banks for depos its overseas. As late as
May 20. the Door County Democrat reported in its local news
column that "business men generally report that business is
improving. and on the whole Iis) better than ever before."
If' I.he timing and nature of local news paper reports are any
indication. confidence in Door County's two ba nks was put to
test shorUy after the closing June 1 or the Plankinton Bank. a
large Milwa ukee bank. Both the Democrat and Door County
Advocat.e reported the Plankinton Bank closing in their June
3 editions. stating that the institution's depositors were
expected to be reimbursed in full. (They we re not.) The
Democrat said the closing was unrela ted to the country's
fin a ncial condition and was promp ted by "bad banking
methods." particularly bad loans to the Fra nk A. Lap pen
Furniture Company in Milwa ukee.
A week later. Sturgeon Bay's news pa pers clearly indicated
major concern in Door County about the finan cial stab iii ty of
both the Bank of Sturgeon Bay and Merchants Exchange

Bank. A committee of leading local businessmen had gone to
each of the banking firms and examined their financial
records. the newspapers said. "Everything was found satis-
factoty." said the Democrat. "Nol a shadow of doubt or
apprehension need to be felt" by depositors. added the Advo-
cate. The businessmen issued the following slatemenl:
Whereas. a certain degree of uneas iness and mistrust has
arisen throughout the country, relative to the financial and
solvent con di ti on of banks. generally. we the bus iness men of
the City of Sturgeon Bay. have ca used an examination to be
made as to the financial and solvent conditions of the loC'al
banks of our City. in order to protect our Interests as
depositors. therein. and. at the same time. to allay a ny
uneasiness on the pan of other depositors.
And after such examination. we hereby certify that we find
our local banks and their stockholde rs as solid as a roC'I<.
with assets. over liabilities. of at least two to one.
In order not to have business transactions interfered with
and to avoid a ny financial disturbances in our locality. we
hereby assure our local banks of ou r confidence in their.
(and eac h of their). solvent condition and he reby pledge ou r
and each of ourselves not to withdraw our deposits only as
fast as our business may demand and tocontinuc to deposit.
as heretofore. therein.
The s tatement was signed by forty-four individuals and
Bot h Sturgeon Bay newspapers hearti ly endorsed the
bus inessmen's actions and called for public calm and support.
The Advocate said that had the bus inessmen "waited until a
run took place." the economic consequences for the com-
munity would have been "almost incaculablelsic]." The news-
paper continued:
The fact that the bank officials arc able to show up a t least
two dollars of collateral securities to one dollar of liabilities
without touching their capital stock ought to convince the
most exacting that his or her money lsjustassare in banklsl
as anywhere under the sun.
The Democrat said:
. . . we are glad to see that in times li ke these all our leading
business men stand as one. a nd are ready to extend the hand
of fellowship to all, and for the good orthe entire people or the
county . .. . E Pluribus Unum
The Advocate advised "evety man and woman .. to "make it his
and her busi ness to allay any and all feeling of u ncertainty in
the minds of their friends and their acquaintances" so that

"everything will come out right in the end. Confidence is a
virlue that s hould be cultivated just about this time." The
newspaper also carried reports of how a customer run on a
Manitowoc bank may have been started by an individual who
joked to a bank customer lhat the bank was "busted" and how
a run on an Appleton bank was said to have been started by a
schoolteacher who told her students she intended to withdraw
her money from the bank before it failed. The students told
their parents. and a pan ic is said to have ensued.
At the same time as Sturgeon Bay businessmen issued their
proclamation in support of the city's banks. work on the
Ahnapee and Western Railway's line from Casco Junction in
Kewaunee County to Sturgeon Bay was temporarily sus-
pended. Work already had been completed on the first leg of
the Edward Decker railroad from Casco Junction to Ahnapee
(Algoma) a year earlier. so the suspens ion affected that s tretch
of construction between Ahnapee and Sturgeon Bay. The
second segment was completed in 1894.
In an interview w1th the Advocate in June of 1893 during
the nation's financial panic that year. David Decker. one of
Edward Decker's sons, a promoter of the Ahnapee railroad.
and next president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. said that no
funds "from the capital" of the Decker family's northeast
Wisconsin banks had been w1thdrawn to support the Ahnapee
line. Decker noted that funds for the railway had come from
his father "out of his own private means" and from certain
local units of governmen t along the railroad's Casco Junction-
to-Sturgeon Bay route. Those funds had "thus far sufficed to
pay every dollar of debt or liability" Incur red by the railroad,
the younger Decker said.

Continuing Decline
Local newspaper accounts indicated that as quickly as the
fear of customer runs on banks peaked in Sturgeon Bay in
1893. a financial calm returned to the city. On June 17. only
one week after the bus inessmen's proclamation. the Democrat
reported that "everything Is apparently quiet here in banking
circles. Everybody seems confident that the excitement is
abou t at an end." A week later the Advocate said that ba nking
ma tters in the city were returning to normal. Although the
local banks were making "few if any" loans. "a feeling of
confidence and security appears to prevail in bus iness circles."

Finally. inJuly the Advocate proclaimed. "Our banks are to be
congratulated upon having so successfully passed the crisis.
Everyth ing is now moving along on a n even keel once agai n."
But had the crisis in Sturgeon Bay been so successfully
passed by July? Bank financial statements ind icate otherwise.
FromJulyof 1893 toJanua ryof1894.onlyasix-month period.
assets (including loans. real estate. uncollected earnings.
money due from other banks and bankers. and cash on hand )
a t the Bank of Sturgeo n Bay dropped twenty-seven percent:
from $171.967 to $125.719. Depos its in the s ame period
dropped thirty-s ix percent: from $1 13.585 to $72.662. The
bank's financial resources as measured by semiannual state-
ments continued to decline over the next two and a half years
to a low of $97.883 in July of 1896. Deposits bol.lomed out at
$55.418 in July of 1895. Without question. the bank had sunk
into a major. th ree-year-long financial tailspin. \vith the drop
in revenues particularly steep in the first few months of the
By compariso n. the Merchants Exchange Ba nk may have
weat hered the 1890s panic and depression in somewhat
better fashion than the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. although
working from a lower fin a ncial base. As recorded by Hj almar
Hola nd in his History oJ Door County. depos its at the Me r-
chants bank dropped twenty-three percent to $35.626 between
mid-1893 and January of 1894. Figures are m issing for the
next s emiannual report ing period. but deposits by November
of 1895 only declined by an additional $1.066. From that
poinl. accord ing to Holand's s tatistics. deposits once again
began to increase.
All in all. deposi tsatWisconsin's state banks dropped byS 10
million between 1893 and 1895. Never before had Wiscons in
banking been so severely affected by an industrial depress ion.
Never before h ad any bank in the s tate since banking was
again legalized in 1853 failed during one of the nation's
period ic financial panics. Concluded Theodore Andersen,
'The economic dislocations of the period were among the
most severe and most prolonged ever suffered by the state...

Chapter IV
Around the Turn of the Century:
Fire, Growth, and Building New
Since shortly after its formation in 1889. the Bank of
SLurgeon Bay had been located in a brick builcling on Cedar
Street (now Third Avenue). Named Masse's Block, the onc-
story structure con tained shops. stores. a restaurant. and
office space. Adjacent to it was a two-story building used at
least for a ti me as the Cen tral Hotel. Si nce the Masse building
had firs t been home for the Banking House of S himmel and
Kozis hek and later the Banking House of Nelson and Smith.
both of which organized before the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. the
structure was considered the first building in Door County
used for a bank.
According to one local newspaper account. Masse's Block
was built in 188 L. one year after what has been described as
the "most significant fi re in Stu rgeon Bay h istory" roared
through the central business district. The fire reportedly
destroyed a dozen mainly wooded buildings in the Cedar
Street area south of Cottage (now Louisiana) Street. Masonry
buildings. including the new Masse facility. later replaced the
wooden structures. form ing what the Door County Advocate's
1976 Bicentennial/Sturgeon Bay Centennial Issue called the
"beginning of Sturgeon Bay's modern business district."
The 1880 Sturgeon Bay fire occurred close to a decade
before the Bank of Sturgeon Bay opened. But just as fire led to
construction of what would become the bank's first principal
location. fire later fo rced the bank to move. Ultimately. at the
turn of the cen tury, the banking enterprise founded by
Edward Decker and James Keogh. Jr.. relocated to a modem.
two-story limestone building. the first building built by the
bank fo r its offices and its headquarters for the next half-

The Masse's Block Fire
In 1895 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was still operating in the
shadow of a four-year-long national depression set off by the
Panic of 1893. In July of 1895 assets at the bank totaled
S 108.701, down nearly $73.000 from just two and half years
It was during this period of financial decline that fire struck
the bank- on the night of Wednesday. August 7. 1895. The
blaze. according to local newspapers. started at about 10:30
p .m. In Mann's grocerystore and restaurant, part of the string
of b usi nesses located in Masse's Block. Contained vertically by
what was described as an iron roof that extended the length of
the s tructure. the fire spread horizon tally to other shops and
offices in the building, including the Bank of S turgeon Bay.
and to the adjacent Central Hotel. No injuries or deaths were
When firemen arrived. dense smoke is said to have obscured
the fire. making Its location d ifficult to pinpo int. "By the lime a
stream [of water I was brought to bear on it the whole structure
seemed to have become ignited.'' reported the Door County
Advocate. Although "thousands of barrels" of water were
poured on the fire. the Masse builcltng·s metal roof made the
blaze difficult fo r firemen lo reach and "precluded the possi-
bili ty of getting a stream where it would do the most good."
"Nearly the whole city turned out to witness the destruction,''
said the Door County Democrat.
The fire lasted some six hours and extens ively damaged
Masse's Block. At the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. bank personnel
were said to have saved most of the firm 's office fix tures,
"which were carried out though all more or less damaged. The
vault was not permitted to become very hot as a stream of
water was kept playing on it from lime to time:· An initial
damage estimate for the bank was placed at $ 100: it was
reported to be Insured for $500. Damage estimates for other
occupants ofMasse's Block were: $80 for a barber shop. $400
for a saddler and harness maker. $500 for a musical instru-
ments company. and $3.000 for Mann's grocery store and
restaurant. The estimate for the Central Hotel was $3,500 and.
for Charles A Masse's losses on both the Masse and hotel
buildings, $4.000. bringing the total estimated loss to
s 11.580.
The Advocate reported three days after the fire tha t the

Bank of Sturgeon Bay office. now the Miller Clothing House
building ( 1895-1900).

Bank of Sturgeon Bay had temporarily relocated to the nearby

"Sailer building." It added. " It is possible and very probable
that a new bank building will be erected on the comer at an
early day."
That was not the case. By the end of August the bank moved
to M.E. Lawrence's Block. also located on Cedar Street. in space
formerly used as a post office. The bank was said to have
secured a five-year lease for the location. purchased a new
vault. and obtained new office furniture. "The new outfit will
be metropolitan in style and first class in all particulars:· said
the Democrat This would be the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's home
for the next five years.
Changes in Leadership
In the years both shortly before and after the fi re of 1895.
several significant personnel moves were made at the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. The first or these was the appointment in 1892
of Henry Fetzer. described that decade as "one of the popular
and prominent young men of the city... as ass is tan t cashier. He
replaced AJ. McDonald. the bank's assistant cashier when it
incorporated as a state bank in 1891. who resigned from the
post. according to bank records. Fetzer. a native of the Door
County communityofForestvilleand twenty-one at the time of
his appointment. would later become the bank's cashier. a
majority stockholder. president for nearly twenty-nine years,
and finally chairman of the Board of Directors.

A year and a half after Fetzer's a ppointment the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay added another Decker to its roll of officers;
attorney David. one of Edward's four sons, assumed the new
position of vice-president. In that same year of 1893 David
became a minor s tockholder in the bank. purchasing one of its
one hundred shares ofcapital stock. Fifty shares were still held
by J ames Keogh.Jr.. cashier. and forty -nine by Edward Decker,
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay was not David Decker's only
involvement in northeas t Wiscons in banking. At various
times he was also an officer. director. and/or s tockholder at
the Bank of'I\vo Rivers. Bank of Green Bay. Bank of Luxem-
burg. Bank of Casco. Bank of Algoma. and the First State Bank
of Brillion. In addition. he was Kewaunee County dis trict
attorney in 1889 and 1890: general manager. vice-president.
and a n "active promoter" of theAhnapee and Western Railway:
a partner in the Green Bay Insurance Agency: and was said to
have been a co-owner with his father of lhe Kewaunee
Enterprise. Algoma Record. and Green Bay Advocate news·
Another major leadersh Ip change. this time tragic in nature.
occurred in January of 1896. two and a half years after David
Decker joined the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. when co-founder
James Keogh. Jr.. died of injuries sustained in a fire al his
res ide nce. He was forty-five at the time of his death. According
to the Door County Democrat, the Immediate cause of dea th
was "inl1ama lion of thr base of the brain. a sequel of his
burns." Local newspaper accounts stated that Keogh·s condi·
tion had initially improved after the fire: the Democrat even
reported he had been "practically out of danger." But the
victim's condition worsened. and a doctor from Marinette
arrived to admi n ister aid a ftertravelingacross a frozen Green
Bay with a team of horses. Keogh died two weeks after the fire.
As evident In the newspaper accounts of his death. Keogh
had a ttained a good deal of civic s tanding. The Democrat
called him ··one of the most highly respected citizens and
leading business men of Door Cou nty." The Door County
Advocate, in an emotional Victorian swirl, headlined its article
on his passing "Death the Victor' James Keogh Passes Over
the Dark River" and quoted the verse "Death rides on every
passi ng breeze. He lurks In every fl ower." The newspaper said
that Keogh's death "removes from our midst one of the most

energetic a nd public-spiiited citizens of whic h the town
boasted." The Advocate also reported that the deceased had
separate life and accident insu rance policies of$5.000. $2,000,
and S 1.000. with a $5.000 policy in accident insurance a late
addition. "He was persuaded to place that amount about a year
ago. and it was a fortunate thing that he acted on this advice."
After Keogh's death. Herny Fetzer was promoted to cashier.

David B. Decker
Bank of S tu rgeon Bay President ( 1898 -1906)

One other noteworthy personnel change occurred in the

1890s at Door County's prtncipal bank. In March of 1898
Edward Decker. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's firs t and un til
then only president. left the post and was replaced by his
thirty-four-year-old son David. No documentation explaining
the change could be located for this bank history, although it
should be noted that Edward was seventy years old at the time.
David also became majoiity stockholder in the bank, pur-
chasing ninety-eight s hares of cap ital stock: the bank's othe r
two shares were owned by Henry Fetzer and Nathan Decke r.
another of Edward 's sons. Although by this time Edward
Decker appeared to be no longer actively involved in the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay. the institution s lill remained in his family's

Economic Growth
By the late 1890s the Ameiican economy began rebounding

from its depression earlier in the decade. Big business fueled
by corporate consolidations and monopoly got bigger. Rapid
industrial development, a product of the nation's Industrial
Revolution. continued. Farms became increasingly mechan-
ized and more productive. Supplies of both capital and
consumer goods grew. Management of money became more
sophisticated. and the stock market established itself the
main mechanism fo r exchanging securities and mobilizing
the vast fund s large-scale integrated businesses demanded: ·
T he nation's population continued its dramatic increase.
particularly in the cities, supplying a much-needed labor force
for the economic expansion. By the turn of the cen tury
America's economy had veered into a "sharp upturn."
By one account. Sturgeon Bay's modern economy began
emerging in the 1890s as more divers ified activities replaced
the city's earlier dependence on p rincipally lumbering. Arou nd
the tum of the century companies such as Rieboldt and
Wolter. and Leathern and Smith, both of which eventually
merged and became the Bay Shipbuilding Corporation. en-
gaged in commercial boat construction and/ or had dry-dock
facil ities forboat storage and repair. (One of the co-founders of
Rieboldt and Wolter. Joseph Wolter. was a vice-president of the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay from 1908 to 1929.) Also around the
tum of the century a half-dozen limestone quarries were said
to have been operating in the Sturgeon Bay area, making
limestone available in blocks as a building material and,
perhaps as a more significant part of their operations. in
crushed form for s horeline protection and road construction.
Another local enterprise was flour milling. According to a
1983 Summary Report of an architectural/ historical survey of
Sturgeon Bay. fl our mills were once located along the city's
industrial waterfront where sawmill and lumber operations
earlier had sprung up. To manufactu re the flour. Door County
produced a quarter of a million bushels of wheat a nnually
from 1880 to 1900: the county's acreage in wheat prior to 1900
was said to have surpassed that of any other crop. Other crops
grown locally included peas. oats. potatoes. rye. barley. hay,
and corn. Still In its infancy locally. dairy farming became
increasingly popular but appears not to have played any major
agricultural role in Door County until after the turn of the
One agricultural enterprise ju st beginning to develop into

what would become a major part of the local economy was fruit
growing: apples, plums, peaches. pears. strawberries. chenies.
and other fruits. although cherries would emerge In time as
the most popular and economically significant. Fruit trees
were said to have been planted in Door County as early as the
1860s. but in the 1890s the pace of fruit-growing activity
intensified with the planting of several small orchards in and
around Sturgeon Bay and elsewhere. Fruit-cann ing opera -
tions would follow.
As Sturgeon Bay's so-called modem economy began emerg-
ing in the 1890s,anotherenterpriseofnotewas tourism. What
has been termed Door County's first successful resort, the
Idlewild Inn (or simply "Idlewild"), consisting of a hotel
overlooking the waters of Sturgeon Bay. was located west of
the city: its date of origin has been put at 1879. In time.
though. and particularly after World War II, most of the
county's tourism business would develop outside the imme-
diate Sturgeon Bay vicinity. principally north of thecityto the
tip of the Door Peninsula.
Other components of Sturgeon Bay's economy included
commercial fishing and port activi ty. the latter spurred by the
official opening of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. linking the
waters of Sturgeon Bay and Lake Michigan. The canal short-
ened by some one hundred miles the water route from
Chicago/ Milwaukee to Green Bay and annually handled
thousands of freight and passenger sailboats and steamships.
many of which made Sturgeon Bay a regular port of call.
Such was Sturgeon Bay's economy around the turn of the
century as defined in broad outline. A revived national
and expanding opportunities in commerce. agriculture. and
industry to form what appears in retrospect as a period of
major economic transformation and growth for the commun-
ity which had begun a half-century earlier as p rincipally a
lumber town. That economic growth mirrored population
growth: by 1910 Sturgeon Bay boasted 4,262 residents. a
nearly one hundred percent increase from the 1890 figure of
2.195 and a nearly twenty-fold increase from an 1862 popula-
tion es timate of 222.
The economic upswing could be seen in developments at
Door Coun ty's two banks. InJanuaryof 1900 the Door County
Advocate reported that deposits at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay

and the Merchants Exchange Bank had increased in 1899 by
approximately $7 1.000.
This is certainly a very healthy increase. and an unfalling
s ign that prosperl ty has struck this county as well as nearly
all other sections of the land. It also means that our city and
county are thriving as they have never before thrived In all
their history. even when lumber was enthroned as king.
The newspaper said that aggregate deposits at the two banks
totaled $244. 790.
How significa nUy the finan cial atmosphere had c hanged.
Only six and a half years earlie r. during the Panic of 1893, the
Advocate as well as the Door County Democrat had reported
on a most unusual examination made of Sturgeon Bay's two
banks by a committee of leading local businessmen because.
in the business men's words. of the "uneasiness and mistrust
... relative to the financial and solvent condition of banks"
nationwide. But the Advocate could now say of the two banks'
state of affairs. as reflected in their rise in deposi ts:
This is an exhibit of which not only the bank people have
just cause to feel pround [sic]. but lhe citizens of both cit.y
and county as we ll. as it. shows that we are not only holding
our own. but gradually increasing in material wealth and
And whal is better still. the coming ye.:1.r prom ises to be
even more prosperous than lhe one just closed.
At the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. assets had dropped to $97.883
by micl-1896. They increased to Sl 13.693 by the e nd of 1897.
$135.240 in 1898. $182,682 in 1899. and $224.811 by mid-
1900. Resources continued to rise, to $427.412 near the end of
1903. before dropping by $81.000 in a th ree-year downward
spiral that signaled the collapse of the Edward Decke r family's
network of businesses in northeast Wisconsin.

A New Bank
It was during the period of local and national economic
expansion and growth beginning in the late 1890s that the
Bank ofSturgeon Bay made a major office switch. On Saturday.
December 29. 1900. the bank moved to a new. two-story, grey
limestone office building at the comer of North Cedar and St.
John streets (now North Third Avenue and Kentucky Street).
The bank officially opened for business at the new location on
the following Monday. New Year's Eve, an occasion for which
Mrs. Edward Decker arranged an "impromptu reception" for

the bank's patrons. "Refreshments were served and visitors
showed around the building." This would be the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's headquarters for the next fifty-four years.
Officially this was the bank's fifth location. It had opened in
1889 in James Keogh.Jr.'s law office building on Cedar Street
before moving about a block nonh to Masse's Block. also on
Cedar. less than two months later.After the 1895 fire the bank
temporarily relocated to the nearby "Sailer building:· but in
less than a month moved to M.E. Lawrence's Block. also on
Cedar. Despite all of those moves. the bank's new location at
201 North Cedar Street Oater renumbered 211 when Cedar
Street was renamed Third Avenue in the 1940s) represented
some firsts: it was the first building in which the bank was
located that the bank itself had constructed and the first
building it occupied in which it would be the principal, long-
term tenant. In shor t. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay now was not
only a financial institution in name but a financial institution
in appearance as well.
Major construction on the new facility was completed in late
1900. In August of that year the Door County Democrat
S trangers in the city are much struck with the architec-

Bank oJ Sturgeon Bay building on the comer of 3rd and Kentucky.

Constructe d in 1900. expanded to Scofield Building in 1955.
occupied by the bank until 1981. Clock tower was removed in 1939.

tural beauty of che new bank building and express no little
surprise to learn that all the stone used in the handsome
structure is a home product. That there will In future be
many more build! ngs constructed here of the same material
is a forgone lstcl conclusion.
Door County"s new bank was designed by Sturgeon Bay
architect Fred D. Crandall (1859-1936). Its style is classified
today as Rlchardsonian Romanesque. a type of architecture
prominent in Wisconsin from 1880 to 1900 and meant to
recall the architecture of pre-Gothic. medieval Europe as
interpreted by the American a rchitect Henry Richardson
( 1838-1886). Features of the Richardsonian Romanesque
style evident in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay building were:
round -arched windows and entranceways (such as those
mixed with rectangular windows on the first floor); rough-cut
monochromatic stone on the exterior giving a sense of
heaviness. s trength. and durability; deep-set windows; and a
parapet or low wall above the second story windows along the
roof. Itall was crowned bya three-and-a-half-story. rectangular.
comer dock tower with arched openings below and battle-
ments above the tower's clock. If the new Bank of Sturgeon Bay
resembled an American business version of a medieval castle.
it was not by mistake.
In 1903 a two-story grey limestone building also designed by
Fred Crandall was constructed immediately north of the new
bank: the Scofield Block. Five decades later this would become
the next home of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
(In 1983 the then almost eighty-three-year-old Bank of
Sturgeon Bay building. the adjacent Scofield Block. and forty-
four other commercial. civic. and former residential buildings
in a three-block area ofdowntown Sturgeon Bay were added to
the National Register of Historic Places. the federal govern-
ment's listing of architecturally and historically signi fican t
properties. The forty-five buildings [the bank and Scofield
properties were considered one building] were grouped to
form the Third Avenue/Downtown Historic District. an area
which developed more than a century ago as Sturgeon Bay's
commercial crossroads. The structures represent such arch-
itectural styles as High Victorian Italianate. Queen Anne. and
Neoclassical; features of the buildings include cream- and
red-colored brick. grey limestone. and ornate cornices of
pressed metal and brick. Consultants hired by the city who
proposed the historic district said the Bank of Sturgeon

Bay/ Scofield property was the "largest and most handsomely
detailed building of local limestone within the District.")
One item of parllcular interest locally at the new Bank of
Sturgeon Bay was its clock tower. The Democrat reported In
September of 1900 that local businessmen had been asked
(presumably by the bank) to pay for part of the clock while the
bank financed the remainder and the cost of Its installation.
The newspaper said the clock. "equipped with a striker,"
would cost about $700 and its installation approximately
$200. When local businessmen were approached about donat-
ing funds for the clock. the Democrat observed. "there was
some opposition met with on the part of some who thought
the proper place for such a clock would be on the new city hall
that the city is going to build at some time or other." However.
the n ewspaper seemed to support the bank's request.
The new bank bu lld Ing would be a first class place for such a
clock. It could be seen the length of Cedar street and on
surrounding sides for a considerable distance .. .. A clock in
the tower of the ha ndsome new stone bank building would
add greatly to its attractiveness.
The newspaper said it appeared that a petition would be
circulated asking the city council to make a donation toward
the clock. The Door County Advocate later reported that a
"Judge Hamilton" was collecting contributions for the new
clock: "interested parties," itsaJd. had delegated the collection
authori ty to him.
The local press faithfully followed the progress in construc-
tion on the new Bank ofSturgeon Bay. By March of 1900 stone
for the new bank building had arrived at the construction site.
In April the Democrat reported that dirt removed In excavating
the bank's basement would be used in "levelingup"theareaof
the Ahnapee and Western Railway Depot in Sturgeon Bay.
Ground was broken for the new bank in April: by May workers
had nearly completed its foundation, and stonecutters were
dressing stone for the bank's exterior. (One of the stonecutters
working on the bank. Ferdinand Cosme. was later injured
when struck in the eye by a stone chip. "The injury is a painful
one." said the Democrat.) The bank's new steel safe. said to
weigh 4.800 pounds. arrived in October. It was "of ordinary
size, but equipped with all modern improvements." By Novem-
ber carpenters were finishing the bank's interior. new fixtures
and furniture had arrived. and the building's clock tower had
been completed. "even to the flag staff." The Democrat said the

next step in construction was installation of the clock." It
also noted that the J .S. Hay Hardware Company had installed
a new hot water heater and the heater was in working order.
By mid-Decembe r the bank's clock was installed. Said the
Within a few days the new city clock on the new bank
building will be in working order. Lhework of putting the big
timepiece together having been com menced Wednesday.
The dials are now in place and trim up the appearance of the
handsome stone s tructure in g reat style. It is now only a
question of a few days before Sturgeon Bay will have a town
clock conspicuously placed on a building that is a credit to
the city. The clock is of the Seth. Thomas manufacture. It will
strike the hours and half hours. a nd in clear weather ought
to be heard for scwral miles. This clock is the gift of Sturgeon
Bay's business men and is looked upon with pride by our
people. The clock Is regulated by electricity. the time being
set s tandard a l regular intervals.
T he Democrat also reported that. with the installation of the
new timepiece. the ringing of the "city bell" three limes daily
had been discontinued. The news paper said the bell would be
rung only at the city's 9 p.m. curfew "as customary."

The interior of Bank of Sturgeon Bay (1902). Left to right: John

Stewart.. H.0. Bernhardt. HennJ Fetzer. Abe Minor.

Work continued inside the new Bank of Sturgeon Bay

build ing. and shortly before Christmas two Milwaukee area

men completed the interior tiling.
And a beautiful as well as substantial piece of work it is loo.
The liling covers the floor ln the vesl!bule and bank lobby.
Manager David Decker has a convenient priv-dte office
adjoining the vestibule. Provision has been made for a fire-
place in this private office.
A week after that report the Democrat noted that lights in the
bank"s clock had been changed from white to red "by way of
Good reviews of the bank building continued after its New
Year's Eve opening. Said the Democrat:
Those who have not as yet inspected the new building can
Ira ve littl e idea qf the exquisite neatness and elegance to
be_found within its doors. This building has been looked
upon by the people since its commencement as a sort of
public improvement and we are justly proud qf it.
The newspaper reported in January of 1901 that office rooms
on the second lloor of the building "are the finest in the city:
being well lighted. convenient and nicely finis hed." Dr. HA.
Norden used two of the rooms. while attorney Richard P. Cody
would shortly occupy four more. "These are the only rooms of
the several that have been leased thus far." As for the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's former location in M.E. Lawrence's Block. it
was converted to a pool and billiard hall.

Improvements and Services

Three years after its relocation. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
was already making noteworthy physical improvements to its
new building. They included the addition of s teel shelving.
steel chests, a safety deposit vault, and document and insur-
ance files. The 1904 improvements reportedly cost about
S 1.500 and were made by Roger A Simonson and Company of
Chicago. described as a bank equipment firm. The new vault
contained space for fifty-two safety deposit boxes of different
sizes (the large r ones measured 5'h-by-5 1h·by-16 inches)
"where people can deposit valuable papers ... [to l be kept
absolutely safe from fire." New steel vault shelving featured
"ball bearing rollers" and was used to store "large bank books."
In an apparent reference to Edward Decker's railroad, the
Ahnapee and Western Railway. but without elaboration. the
Door County Democrat reported in April of 1904 that the new
steel chests would be used in part "for the railroad books." The
new document and insurance files, it added. would facilitate

the work of the "large" insu rance business of "Decker &
Felzer" operated from the bank.
On the occasion of the 1904 improvements. Lhe Democrat
once again extolled the virtues of the new bank building in
Sturgeon Bay's central business dislrlct.
Of lhe bank building itself. nothing need be said. for it has
been well advertised throughout the state by the people who
have visited Sturgeon Bay. One glance at the handsome
Slone structure is sufficient to convince the most skeptical
that it is absolutely fi re proof.
Under the able management of Hen ry Fetzer. the cashier of
the bank. and his trust wo rthy corp of workers. the business
is in a flourishing condition a nd increasing yearly.
In addition lo its basic banking fu nction. the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay provided other services at its new location either
as a fun ction of the bank or through affiliated businesses:
real esta te sales. an insurance agency. a nd a property abstract
service. All three were carryovers from the bank's earlier years.
Ins urance sold at the bank included fire, tornado, life. a nd
accident. Advertisements for the insura nce service ran in local
newspapers around the tum of the century with a ''Bank of
Sturgeon Bay" heading, under whic h appeared a second
heading. "Decker & Fetzer." (One I 902 newspaper account
stated that the property abstract bus iness was "under the
supervision of the bank and the insurance business !was]
under the s upervision of Decker & Fe tzer." The bank adver-
tised that it operated the largest insurance agency In the
LilUe information a bout the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's real
estate business is readily a vailable, although newspaper
accounts and bank advertisements mentioned the service as
early as the 1890s. By 1914 a firm called the Door County Land
Company. with J.M. Schauer as manager. was located on the
bank's second floor and advertised as "The Reliable Real
Estate Dealers." Research into the company's background is
needed to determine whe the r it was affiliated with the bank.
As for the property abstract service. the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay claimed fo r a time that it owned the only complete abstract
of ti lie in Door County. According to one Sturgeon Bay/Door
County directory. the abstrac t service incorpora ted in 19 11 as
the Door County Abstract Company. President was Henry
Fetzer (by then also president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay).
treasurer was Abel B. Minor (the bank's cashier). and secretary

and manager was H.0. Bernhardt. The company. officially
classified as "affiliated" with the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. was
localed at least for a lime in the bank's new North Cedar Street
building . By 1937. if not earlier, the Door County Abstract
Company provided not only an abstract service but sold
insu rance as well.
Yet one more non -banking service provided by the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay in Its early years deserves mention. Appro-
priately. fo r an institution co-fou nded by a railroad promoter.
the bank sold tickets for passenger railroad trains. Rail lines
whose tickets were sold included the Chicago and North
Western. the Green Bay and Western. and. of course. Edward
Decker's own Ahnapee and Western.

Branching Out To Bailing Out:
The Decker Fortune Collapses
The Ba nk of S turgeon Bay's early years were marked by a
relatively rapid series of events seen a century later as
significant in helping to define its early growth. the obstacles
and s etbacks it encountered. and its changes in leadership.
'l\vo years after Its founding by two prominent businessmen/
politicians it incorpora ted as a s tate bank. 1\vo years later it
struggled through a financial panic. And two years after that.
fire dest royed its cent ral Sturgeon Bay location. In 1896 one
co-found er died: in 1898 the other resigned as president. In
1900 the bank moved to a major new office building.
This pa ttern of eventful activity continued in the first
decade of the twentieth century. In 1901 the bank increased
its capital ization and fo r the first time b rough t a significant
number of new investors into its operation. A year later it
opened a branch office a mile from its main location when
branch banking by ::;tate banks was in its infancy in Wis-
con s in. Finally. in 1904 the b ank began a three-year financial
slide that led to a change in owners hip marking both its end as
an Edwa rd Decker family bank and the dramatic end of
Edwa rd Decker's bus iness career.

Promoting the Bank

Desp ite the ups and downs of the national economy. the
unexpected death of a co-found er. and the other crises a nd
setbacks of its early years. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay managed
both to s urvive and grow. It attracted more customers.
generated more revenue. and expa nded its in flu ence on the
local economy as it q uickly became Door County's largest
banking firm. One of the bank's early tools used to enhance its
place in lhe local market place was advertising. particularly in
Sturgeon Bay's news papers. From its 1889 open ing and

contin u ing in to the 1890s. advertisements declaring the
benefits of doing business wilh Door Coun ty's newest bank
appeared in the Door County Advocate. Door County Demo-
crat. Sturgeon Bay I ndependent, and Sturgeon Bay Repub -
licwi. The advertising effor t intensified early in the twentieth
century with the opening of the bank's new, two-story office
building. But not only newspapers were utilized by the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay: othermed iaernployed in its early years included
postcards. pocket calendars. a liases. and almanacs.
In the 1890s. its firs t full decade of operation. modesty of
size and scope marked the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's typical
advertisement in Sturgeon Bay's weekly newspapers. The
usual advertisement measured one column wide and two or
three inches long. stated such fundamental information as
the bank's name. location. and officers. and provided four or
five s hort sentences su mmarizing its services. Sometimes the
bank added other bi ts of information. such as a list of
corresponden t banks or a notice that it sold passenger train
tickets. The same advertisement typically ran continu ously in
each of the local news papers month after month. changing
perhaps only once or t\\rice a year.
With the unveiling of its new office location in late 1900, the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay noticeably expanded its newspaper
advertis ing, lau nching in effect what pcd1a ps was its firs t
modern advertisi ng campaign. The first of Its new newspaper
advertisements. measuring up to four limes larger than
previous ads, appeared in Ma rch of 190 l. three months after
the bank had relocated to 201 North Cedar Street. In large type
and with the use of a border design and various letler styles.
the bunk annou nced in the Door County Advocate:
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE. In the arrangement of our
banking office we have made liberal provision for the
comfort & convenience of our pat rons. We invi te your
in~pect i on. BANK OF STURGEON BAY.

In the Door County Democrat the bank advertised in another

larger-than -usual display the rental of safety deposi t boxes for
$1.50 to $5 per year.
The advertising rush was on. Within three weeks of the new
notices the bank discontinued its ''COMFORT AND CON-
VENIENCE" and safety deposit box promotions in the local
newspapers and substituted different advertisements. In the
Advocate it proclaimed:

Several J\cl van tages. A loan secur ed by a real est at c mor tgage
has srvrral advantages. Here are some of them: lst--Avoids
freq uent rt>newals. 2d--Calls for no interest in advance. 3d--
Borrowers not obligt>cl lo retu rn favor 10 individual signers.
In the Democrat the bank headlined a new advertisement
"The Old Cou ntry:· s tating that anyone wis h ing to send
money lo "the 'Old Country'" could do s o "so easily a nd
cheaply" through the Bank of Stu rgeon Bay. which issued
d rafts "payable in all countries:· (In another development that
also reflected Sturgeon Bay and Door County's European ties.
the bank for a time early in its history issued savings
passbooks with savings account regulations printed in both
English and German.I
With adve rtisements sometimes changing weekly. the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay in subsequen t months of 190 l proclaimed.
"We wan t e ver)' customer to feel easy a nd at home"; advised.
"Never send money by rnail"--use ban k drafts instead; and
promoted "time certificates." savings depos it s. the bank's
insurance agency. its abst ract office. safety deposi l boxes. and
real estate loans. In one 1901 advertisemen t wh ich may have
indicated the growing use of telephones. the bank asked.
"Hadn't you better call and see what we have for you?" That
same year the Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay unveiled a new symbol it
would use for many years in its printed advertisements: a n
illustration Oater photographs) of its new and impressive
Richardsonian Romanesque office building. The 1901 illus-
tration s howed a la rge Ame rican nag waving gen Uy atop the
bank's three-and-a-half story clock lower. b elow which was a
busy street-comer scene of pedestrians and carriages.
Among other p ublications utilized fo r advertising by the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay in its early years were Door Cou n ty
atlases prin ted in 1899and 19 14. ln l 9 10and 19 11 itissued
color illustrated p ostcards with such advice as "After You Are
Married. Be Sure To Have A Ba nk Account." "IfThat Ra iny Day
Ever Comes Have A Bank Account.'' and "Start A Bank
Account Then She Wi ll Be Your Valentine." Another postcard
from the pe riod called lhe Bank of Sturgeon Bay 'The Bank of
Personal Service." In an almanac dating from ca. 1918 a n
advertisement for the bank was entitled "Progressive Con-
The k eyston e of a banks success Is correct conservatism.

This bank is managed with intelligent conservatis m· ·not
the kind which pinches the pennies. bul the kind that
prolt>ctsand conserves !ls resources by care ful investme nts.
wh ich have first been exhaustively investigated.
Tha l such Cl policy is a wise one is seen in the splendid
patronage that we have been given. as indicated by our
growth in deposits.
We expect lO continue to grow steadily as in the past. and
we cordially invite your business if you believe with us. that a
bank should be "progressively conservative".
We will welcome a personal interview with you.

ALWAYS do more
than your duty ............
A..r<: yw uv.n\: ""' )f'IU 1o1Nul..1 P1f>Y• lm1t i uoch fot
p;i.:i.·in tt H'nl , ' " ' ''· 1n"11 •.nn·. tnu·•. Vlhil lhiO, t!1c- i'
Yo•,1 win 111111 Ouol ' ' 0!'11\k or ~ 1uriu•1111 l lr.y !lnviug~
BCC'll\l nl r~•l1 1•VC'll ,VUU o l tht.lllt' !ltr11in11 "II Vf•UI flOdc:~' ·
lxx>k. 1\1.-k .. v•n •r luconlt> rl<i 1no f e Y11u w ill f\C'Vn
t('1',.,-t '""'""''"'u:.nii: ,.,,,. t:urlj:t>t " ., ...,. .. ,



• 1 z 3 <4 g
0 7 8 • 10 11 l :l
13 14 IS 16 17 J8 W
20 21 ::?2' 23 24 25 Z6
:.'7 28 29 30 31

o..••"111 a> - ........_...,,._ .._

Cardboard pocket calendar.from 1929.

The bank also issued cardboard pocket calendars. One from

1929 showed a colorful drawing of knigh ts s torming a casUe
a nd advis ed. "Always Do More Than Your Duty" and "Spend
Your Income Systematically."
Art· you saving as you should··provicling funds for puying
rent. C'Oal. insu runce. taxes. vacation. etc.? You will fi nd that
a Bunk of S turgeon Baysavingsaccount relieves you of those
stra ins on your pocketbook. Ma ke you r income do more.
By 1926 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay formally ackn owledged
the effects of its ongoing advertising efforts. In a written
assessment \.vith an unmistakable "win one for the Gipper"
spirit. the banking firm said in its annual report for that year:
. .. W(' are carrying o n a splcnd id advertising progra rn me. and

its n :sults are being felt righ1 along. lbul) we also need your
cont lnued good words to p rospects and fri ends to n1C1ke the
m usl o f our opportunities.
We· are never satisfied. Tlw man who is fails. We w u nt lo
make 1927 even a bigger and better year tha n was 1926.

With your continued co-opera tion. we can do it. Alrigh t ! All
together! Let's do ll!

Banking in Sawyer
In addition to the opening of its new office building.another
reason behi nd the increase in localadvertisingby the Bank of
S turgeon Bay after the turn of the century may have been
increased competition. In March of 1902 a third bank joined
the two existing ban king firms in Sturgeon Bay and Door
County when the Ban k of Sawyer opened on S turgeon Bay's
west side. known informally as Sawyer.
Origi nal office rs of Door County's new financial enterprise
were Dr. Albert J. Kreitzer. a Sawyer physician and unsuc-
cessful Republican candidate for the Wisconsin Senate who
served as the bank's president: John C. Rank. vice-president:
and Thomas Gillespie. who apparently was also a furniture
dealer. cashier. It advertised. "Establis hed by Sawyer People
With Sa wyer Capital. An institution closely lndentified with
the people a nd business interests of the thriving west s ide." At
least fo r a ti me in its early years the bank adve rtised tha t all of
its officers a nd directors were Sawyer residents.
As indicated in local newspaper reports, the Bank of Sawye r
may have e ncountered some fi na ncial difficulty in its early
going. The banking firm was open for only eleven months
when the local press announced that its board of directors had
decided to ··reorganize" the bank. in part by injecting new
capital. Kreitzer remained its president. bu t Bernard Lyon
replaced Rank as vice-preside nt and Herbert L. Peterson
replaced Gillespie as cashier. New stockholders reported were
Lyon. Joseph Harris.JS. Nelson. Miss C.D. (or l.i.D.) Noble. Gus t
Farland . a nd Henry Fetzer. cas hie r for the Ba nk of Sturgeon
Bay: a new board of directors was also announced. Both the
Door County Democra t and Door County A dvocate said in
nearly identical articles publis hed on the same day tha t "a
large addition was made to the capital stock" and "the bank is
now in better s hape than ever." The Democrat added, "The
new names added to the list of s tockholders increases public
confidence in the institution." How much new capital was
injected into the Bank of Sawye r or the circums tances leading
to its ma nagement and financial changes we re not s pecified
by eithf!r newspaper.
The Bank of S turgeon Bay was not far behind the Bank of
Sawyer in establishing its own west side Sturgeon Bay

presence. In November of 1902. only eight months after the
Bank of Sawyer's opening, Bank of Sturgeon Bay stockholders
authorized the establishment ofa Sawyer Branch-the first of
what would become seven branch operations for the bank. The
Advocate announced the west side expansion four days after
the stockholders· au thorizaUon: "the necessary arrangements
have been about completed,'' the newspaper said. The branc h
would be located in a form er barbershop in the Falk and
Buchan Building (Falk and Buchan were Sturgeon Bay
wholesale and retail dealers in flour. feed. grain. seeds. and
other agricul tural commodities.) "This is another unfailing
sign that Sawyer is steadily forging ahead as a business
point." said the Advocate.
The first branch office of the Ban k of Sturgeon Bay opened
on Monday. December 1. 1902: B.J. Keith was its manager. The
bank soon began noting both its east and west side locations
in newspaper advertisements.

The Falk a nd Buchan Building. Location qfBank QfSturgeon Bay's
.first branch ojfice (Sawyer).
The Sawyer Branch remained in the Falk and Buchan
Building for the next five and a half years. In 1908 the office
relocated to the newly built John C. Rank Building. also called
the Rank Block. a two-s tory, brick and stone veneer building at
the inte rsection of what was then Union a nd State streets
(now South Madison Avenue and East Oak Street). Presently
the home for the D.C. Pisha Insurance Agency. this building
would be the west side office of the Bank of S turgeon Bay for
the next fifty years.

The sequence of known events for the 1908 branch reloca-
tion begins in August of 1907 when John Rank. by then
former vice-president of the Bank of Sawyer. met with the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors. Rank offered to
proVide the bank a new west side office for $400 rent per year.
The board authorized the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's preside nt to
make "the best arrangements possible" with Rank.
Two days after Rank's meeting with the Boa rd of Directors
the Advocate announced that the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
Sawyer Branch would relocate to the "John C. Rank Block"
when the building was completed. The bank advertised that
the c hange was necessary because of the branch office's "large
and increasing bus iness." Groundbreaking for the Rank
Building look place in September: estimated cost for the new
facility was reported at 86.500. Its architect was Fred D.
Crandall of Sturgeon Bay. who also had designed the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's 1900 headquarters building. By January of
1908 construction on the b ank branch was nearing comple-
tion. and new fixtures had arrived.

The John C. Rank Building. Sawyer Branch re localed to this location in

1908. and operated_from t.hisfactllty_for the next.fifty years.
The Sawyer office moved to its new quarters at what would
later become 108 Sou th Madison Avenue on Sunday. March 1.
1908. It opened for business in the Rank Building's ground
floor, across the s treet and a half block from the Bank of
Sawyer. on the following day. By 1914 the branch boasted
1,033 customer deposit accounts. including 546 savings

accounts, 318 certificate of deposit accounts. and 169 check-
ing accounts. The accounts were worth $1 7 l .028.
(Neither the former Bank of Sawyer's principal west side
building, a two-story structure built in 1904-1905 and until
recently Warner's Grocery. 49 South Madison Avenue. nor the
Rank Building were included in the downtown Sturgeon Bay
historic distlict added to the National Register of Historic
Places in 1983. However, architectural/ historical consultants
hired by the city have surveyed both structures. Although the
first floor of the brick and limestone Bank of Sawyer building
has been awkwardly modernized. the consultants noted that
its second-story facade exhibited architectural features simi-
lar to these found in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's former main
office at North Third Avenue and Kentucky Street. As for the
Rank Building. the consultants praised its intact historic
architectural character (except for modern signage}. con-
cluding. "It remains the best example of the classical bank
genre of its period within the west side (Sawyer ) commercial
district and within the entire city." The consultants indicated
in 1983 that the Rank Building was potentially eligible for the
National Register qf Historic Places.)
Both the Bank of Sawyer and Sturgeon Bay's west side office
were located in what once had been the unincorporated
community of Sawyer. officially part of the Town of Sturgeon
Bay. Originally called Bay View. Sawyer was initially platted in
the 1870s by Joseph Harris. Sr.. Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal
promoter. newspaper publisher. politician. and secretary to
Cong. Philetus Sawyer of Oshkosh. Despite its Bay View name.
the community flanking the west side of the waters of
Sturgeon Bay s oon became known as Sawyer after its post
office was named in honor of the northeast Wisconsin con-
gressman whom Harris assisted. Although Sawyer became
part of Sturgeon Bay in 1891. eight years after Sturgeon Bay
formally became a city. and was reclassified as the city's fourth
ward. the west side area continued to be known informally as
Sawyer by local residents for many years. (The Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. for one. did not change its branch operation's
name from Sawyer Branch to West Side Branch until 1946.)

New Investors
Since its 1889 origins the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had been a
financi al institution operated largely by one family. that of the

prominent northeast Wisconsin politician and entrepreneu r
Edward Decker. Decker had co-foun ded the bank as part of his
chain of banks in principally northeast Wisconsi n and was its
first president. In 1898 he relinquished the presidency to his
son David, who became the bank"s majority stockholder with
ninety-eight of one hundred shares of capital s tock. Oavid"s
wife Ora later held six of the bank shares.
The fam ily nature of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. however.
began changing in 1901. when the bank inc reased its capital
stock from $25.000 and I 00 shares to $30.000 and 300
shares. Although David Decker still remained principal stock-
holder w! th 225 s hares. the change in capitalization brought
at least seven new investors in to the bank"s financial pic ture.
They were:
l. Richard P. Cody. a Sturgeon Bay a ttorney a nd the second
vice-president of the Bank of S turgeon Bay in the bank's
h istory. serving in that capaci ty from 1901 to 1908 (the vice-
presidcn t's pos it.Ion appare nlly had been left vacant following
David Decker·s promotion to the bank's presidency in 1898)
2. Herbert C. Scofield. a former lumberman. retail hardware
dealer. future president of the local Commercial Club. and
mayor of the City of Sturgeon Bay
3. John 0. Leathern. who teamed with Thomas H. Smith in
Stu rgeon Bay tugboat a nd barge operations. lumbering.
shingle-making. boat construction. a machine s hop business,
and bulk coal and stone enterprises
4. Edward Reynolds. initially connected with his father in
the Reynolds Lumber Company. later president of the Reynolds
Preserving Company. growers and canners of peas. cherries.
and other farm products
5. William R. Hay. who became president of the Sturgeon
Bay Boat Manufacturing Company
6. M.V. Cochems, a dealer in dry goods. cloth ing. groceries.
boots. and shoes
7. Dr. J.S. Tweddle. a Stu rgeon Bay surgeon
The above seven investors held a modest thi rty-five s hares.
or $3.500. of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's capital stock. In
add ition to that stock ownership and David Decker's 225
shares. cashier Hemy Fetzer held ten shares. Bank records clo
not indicate who held the remaining thirty shares of the total
300 available.
By 1906 the Bank of S turgeon Bay had eleven stockholders.

David Decker held 225 shares: Ora Decker. 20: and Fetzer. 15:
while 5 each were held by Cody, Scofield , Leathem. Reynolds.
Hay. Cochems, and the Tweddle estate. The eleven th stock-
holder was Roger Eatough of Baileys Harbor. manager of the
Door Coun ty Telephone Company. who also held five shares.
Members of the bank's Board of Directors were David Decker.
vice-president Cody. cash ier Fetzer. boat builder Hay. and
hardware dealer Scofield.

The Decker Collapse

With the advent of a new cen tury. prospects in general for
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay seemed bright. The nation's
economy was relatively robust. Sturgeon Bay was in the midst
of what one analysis of the city has labeled the first of three
signilkan t periods of population growth and economic actlvi ty
between 1880 and 1980. And the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had
rebounded from earlier adversity. namely the Panic of 1893
and the Masse's Block fire of 1895. building a major new office
headquarters in the heart of Sturgeon Bay and. shorUy after
that. opening its firs t Door County branch offi ce. Although
unsuccessful in a 1902 bid for Congress. Edward Decke r. the
bank's principal founder. may h ave been at the peak of his
professional and business career. with a pers onal fortune
valued at approximately $750.000. according to one uns ub-
stantiated estimate. Son David was not only president. princi-
pal s tockholder. and a director of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
bu t by 1905 was also president of the Bank of Green Bay and
Bank of Luxemburg. vice-presiden t of the Bank of Two Rivers,
and a di rector and stockholder in seven of the Decker family's
eight Wiscons in banks. Perhaps David Decker's most signifi-
cant banking position early in the new century, though. was as
a vice-president of one of the last additions to the Edward
Decker chain of banks: the Jackson Trust and Savi ngs Bank
of Chicago.
Desp ite those achievemen ts, cracks in the images of the
Deckers as a s uccessful a nd prominent northeast Wisconsin
family of entrepreneurs and in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay as a
successful Door County bank began to appear by 1904. In that
year assets at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay dropped from
$427.412 to 8387,034. They increased by $469 the next year
before sinking to $354.226 in 1906--a drop of seventeen
percent in three years: in November of 1906 the bank's

financial resources as recorded by the State ofWiscons in were
at a level comparable to its resources for 1902. Bank of
Sturgeon Bay records s how that ils assets dropped even
further. to $346.700. in Janua1y of l 907. By comparison.
resources at Door Cou nty 's other banks. the Merchants
Exchange Bank and the Bank of Sawyer. increased from
$ 18 1,946 to $243.655 a nd $49,418 lo $ 107.707. respectively.
from the end of 1902 to the end of 1906.
The Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay was not alone among Decker
banks in its fina ncial drop. At various times from 1903 lo
1906 declines in assets of nine to nineteen percent. as
measured in annual financial s tatements. occurred at all of
the Decker banks in Wis consin but the Bank of Luxemburg.
The largest dollar drop was $105.71 l. recorded in 1905 at the
State Bank of Kewaunee. the Deckers' largest Wiscons in bank.
T he grea t.est percentage decline of nineteen percent occurred
at the Bank of Algoma in 1905 and 1906. Table 1 shows a list
in rough chronological order of the drops in assets at the
Decker's Wisconsin banks from 1903 to 1906.
Bank of1\vo mvers $237.444 (1903) $217.082 (1905) ·S 20.362 · 9%
Bank of Sturgeon Bay 427.4 12 (1903) 354.226 (1906) 73.186 · 17%
State Bank of Kewaunee 684 .222 ( 1904) 578.5 11 (1905) 105.71 1 · 15%
Uank of Green Bay 142.902 (19041 123.816119051 19.086 · 13%
Bank of Algoma 398.604 (1904) :324.296 (19061 74.308 -19%
Bank of Casco 79.966 (1905) 71.037 (1906) 8.929 -11%
First Stale Bank of Brillion 73.553 ( 1905) 63.486 (1906) 10.067 -14%

SOURCE: Annual Report qf the Commissioner of Banking.

1903. 1904. 1905. 1906 (Madis on: Democrat Printing Com-
At the Bank of Luxemburg. resources aclually increased
during the period: from $23.572 in 1903 to $44,992 In 1904.
$47.806 in 1905. and $56.870 in 1906. Despite the declines in
their Wisconsin banks. by far the worst dollar drop occurred at
the Deckers· largest a nd single Illinois bank. the Jackson
Trust and Savings Bank; resources there plummeted from
$1.365.258 in 1906 to $317.562 in 1907. when the bank was
Trouble flared with other Decker business holdings as well.
In April of 1906 the Door County Democrat reported that.

according to the Kewaunee Enterprise, control of Edward
Decker's railroad. the Ahnapee and Western Railway. had
passed to the Kewaunee. Green Bay and Western Railroad
(controlled. in tum. by the Green Bay and Western Railroad).
The Democrat said negotiations for sale of the Ahnapee line
were pending, add ing that "rumors" of such a sale had been
circulating for th e past two years. "The indications are that
some change will be made, and that soon," said the news paper.
David Decker, general manager and vice-president of the
Ahnapee and Western. denied any sale was pending.
Four months later the younger Decker, identified by the
Democrat as the Ahnapee line's largest stockholder, acknow-
ledged that negotiations for sale of the Ahnapee a nd Western
were indeed under way. In an article headlined "Railroad to
Merge... the Door County Advocate said an official announce-
ment of the "absorption" of the Ahnapee and Western by the
Kewaunee-Green Bay railroad was expected "in a few days."
"The rolling stock of the Peninsula road is being overha uled at
Green Bay and the coaches and locomotives are being given
new numbers." the newspaper reported. Negotiations for sale
aside. the Ahnapee and Western continued to advertise in local
newspapers, listing Edward Decker as president and David
Decker as general manager. (One local newspaper article had
previously listed Henry Fetzer. cashier of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. as the railroad's assistant manager). The sale of the
Ahnapee and Western was finally cons ummated in September
of 1906. and its management was assumed by the Kewaunee.
Green Bay and Western. although the Ahnapee line continued
to operate under its own name. No reason for the railroad's
change in owners hip was furni shed by Stu rgeon Bay's
newspapers at the time. The Milwaukee Journal noted in
February of 1907 that Edward Decker of Casco and David
Decker of S turgeon Bay had "sold the Ahnapee and Western
railroad some few months ago, thus retiring from the com-
mercial li fe of Algoma and vicinity. with which they have been
identified for thirty years."
The Deckers also withdrew from the Green Bay Advocate.
another of their nonbanking enterprises. for which Edward
Decker was said to have been president and principal stock-
holder. The newspaper ceased publication in December of
1906 and "merged.'' it reported. with the Green Ba y Gazette.
The Advocate. with both daily and semiweekly editions at the

time, blamed in part a lack of advertising s upport for its
demise. In reporting on the Green Bay newspape r development
the Door County Democrat said the Deckers had lost "a large
sum of money·· in the Advocate's ope ration.
Although c ircums tances leading to the Decke r business
ba ilouts may have been building for some time. changes in the
family's bus iness operations were most visib le in 1906 a nd
early 1907. In addition to their withdrawals from the Ahnapee
and Western Railway and the Green Bay Advocate. the
Deckers sold or liquidated their inte rests in each of their
Wis consin a nd Illinois banks until o nly the Bank of Casco.
s ituated in the community fou nded and named by Edward
Decker. remained. And even at the Bank of Casco, Edward's
sons David a nd Nathan withdrew as stockholders. and Edward
reduced his capital investment by two-thirds.
The firs t ba nks from whic h the Deckers withdrew in their
bank aba ndonments o f 1906 a nd early 1907 were said to be
those at: Kewaunee, where Edward Decker had been pres ident
and a d irector and held $21.000 of$40,000 cap ital stock as of
1899 and where Edward Decke r. Jr.. also had been a director:
'l\vo Rivers . \Vhere Edward had bee n preside n t and David
Decker. vice-president. with the two holding $12.500 of the
bank's $25.000capita J stock a s of 1899: and Chicago. which in
early 1905 the Democrat had labeled Edward's "latestaehieve-
me nt" and where not only David had been a vice-president but
the husband of Edwa rd's daughter Libbie, Willi a m M. Lawton.
had been cashier.
In early October of 1906 the Bank of Green Bay was added lo
the list of the Deckers' abandoned banks. In addition to David
as presiden t. Edward .Jr.. had been vice-presiden t of t he bank:
as of 190 I David, Edwa rd. Ed ward. Jr.. and Nathan Decke r
held $20.500 of the bank's $25.000 ca pital stock. The Bank of
S turgeon Bay followed the Ban k of Green Oay two m onths
later. By J an uary of 1907 the Deckers sold their fina nc ial
interests in their Luxemburg bank (where. in addition to
Da vid being preside nt. both David a nd Edwa rd had been
d irectors a nd held $2.700of the bank's $5,000 capital stock as
o f 1906) and their Algoma ba nk (where Edwa rd had been
pres ident and Edwa rd and David, directors . holding a n
aggregate total of S2 I .500 of the bank's 825.000 capital s tock
a s of 19 06 ). lnJanuaryof 190 7 the AlgomaRecordannounced
that Davie! Decker had been elected president of the First State

Ban k or Brillion: h is fathe r had earlier served in the post
David and Edward al the timt> were directors of the Brillion
bank and held S 17.500 of its $25.000 capital s tock as of 1906.
T\vo mont hs after lite announcemen t of David·s selection as
presidc111 the bank was liquidated.
Of the 11ine Decker banks. six were sold and two liquidated
by April of 1907. Only the Bank of Casco remained at. least
nomin ally under any Decker co11trol : as late as 19 10. a year
before his death. ~dward Decke r was still president a nd a
director of the bank a11d held S500 of its $10.000 capital stock.

At the Bank of Sturgeon Bay

Tht> Decker pullout from the Bank of Sturgeon Bayoffkially
began on Saturday. December 22. 1906. afler the Deckers had
already withdrawn from fou r banks and the Ahnapee a nd
Western Railway. It a lso was exactly one wee k after the Green
Hay Advocate had ceased publication. On December 22 David
Decker. l1 1e bank'spri11cipal stockholder. turned in all bu tone
of his s hares of capital stock: the stock was subseque ntly
resold to other investors. Five days later. on December 27.
Decker res igned as pres iden t and a di rector of the ban k. That
same day l he Door County Advoca le reported that the Deckers
"have disposed of the ir inte rest" in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
The Door Co unty Democrat reported on the c hange two days
later. stali ng that "the affairs of the bank will conti nue
without interrup tion a nd practically under lhe same man-
On Sal urclay night. Dece mber 29. the bank's stockholders
convened in a special meeting at the Bank or Sturgeon Bay's
new b uilding on North Cedar Street. Ten stockholders were
reported present. rcprcsenting245 of the bank's300 shares of
capital stock. The stockholders received David Decker's resig-
nation and by resolution U1a nked Edward and David for "their
counsel in financial matlers and untiring efforts in the
upbuilding of this bank [which! have been of inestima ble
value." It was now official: the Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay's affilia-
tion with f:dward Decker's once-g rand cha in of banks was
Sturgeon Bay's newspapers handled the Deckenvithdrawal
from the Bank of Sturgeon Bay very delicately. making no
mention at the time of the apparent financial difficulties
besetting lhe Decker family. Said the Democrat in explaining

the \\"ilhdrawa.l:
Tht· Messrs. Det·kn haw built up a l>ig ins titution of the
Bank 111' Sturgeon Bay. a nd their willtdrawa l from l'i11ancial
ci rdt's lit:' rt' b ri 11gs fort h 111a11y e~q.H·essions o f regre t. 1:3u t the
old g1·11tkma11. Edward Deckt> r of Casco. desires In his
mh·;11u·1·d agt> rdit'f from busirwss can·s. David Dt'cker has
found i1 necessary w spend wi 11tt:'rs i11 t lie sou t 11. and l!a\ing
dispos ed of his railroad i11le1-cs t lwre. had 11ollti11g but the
bankt11g l.Jusiness to hold him l1t'1T: henee the sale of the
Dec kn cont rolli11g l!Hr1Ts t i11 t lie i11sli t ution.
The Door County Acl1'<wate said lht' Decker withdrawal was
prompted bv " the olcl age of Hon. t:. Dec-ker. a nd the illness of
Mrs. David Decker. 11eccssitatlng the living in a wa rmer
climate during the co ld m o nths a t least." Add ed the
Ke 1caw1ee Enterprise in February of 1907. shortly afte r the
Deckers had sold their interest in the Bank or Algo ma:
Mr. [Edwarctl Decker has l.Jeen the pri ncipal figmP in the
co111111ncia l li fe oft h e peni 11sula for more than a qua rter of a
rt'Ill u1y. but with the :-;;tit• of his bank holdings here and the
rtTt'llt d isµ osal of the /\hnapee & Western railway. of which
he was \irt uall\' the owner. he rt't ires from the activP
com111e1Tial hisC;)ry of Algoma and \'icinity.
Despite his resignalion a s president in December. David
Decker apparently continued to use fac ilities at the Bank or
S turgeo n Bay for sonw months a fterward. In February of 1907
the bank's Boa rd of'Dirt>ct ors told soon-to-be-pres ident Henry
Fetzer to obta in a key to the ba nk s till held by Decker. The
board said Decker was to be g in·n a "reasonable length or
time" to remove his belongings fro m rooms on the second floor
of the bank build ing l hat were lo be converted for office use.
Decker later told Fetzer he wished lo continue using the rooms
un til June. as he planned to mo,·e to The Cove. a resort \vi th
cottages located nea r Sturgeon Bay. No furthe r reference lO
the kry matter was made in subseque nt meeting minutes or
the Bank of S turgeon Bay's Board of Directors.
One other"Decker" reference was ma de in the b;u1k's board
minutes a fter Decker's December 1906 withdrnwa.l. In January
of 1907 the board apprO\·ed a S5.000 loan to the "Decker Land
Company... No explanation fo r the loan was c ited.

Some Possible Explanations

Whereas the Decker family's removal from the northeast
Wi scons in business scene in 1906 a nd early 1907 can be
documented in pan. particularly for the Decker chain of

banks. reasons explaining the removal are more difficult to
substan tiate. Edward Decker maywell have sough t retirement
fro m business affairs because of his age. as local newspapers
indicated at the time: he was seventy-nine as of the winter of
1906-1907. It also is conceivable that David Decker's wife may
have been ill and sought a wanner climate. as the Door County
Advocate stated. Other facto rs beyond age and illness, how-
ever. may have played roles. perhaps key roles. in the Deckers'
abandonment of such enterprises as eight of the nine Decker
banks. the Ahnapee and Western Railway. and the Green Bay
Advocate. Certainly David Decker's withdrawal from the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay on seemingly short notice and the fact that
two of the Decker banks were liquidated in early 1907 suggest
that at least some of their divestmen ts were a nything but
volun tary.
Although the total assets ofWisconsin's banks continued to
grow while the financ ial resources at the Decker banks were
dropp ing. more stringent banking regulations passed by the
legislature in 1903 may explain in part the Decker b anks '
performance from 1904 to 1907. The regulations in part:
l. Banned private banks in Wisconsin
2. Provided for a state Banking Department headed by a
commi ssioner of banking empowered to exami ne a t least once
annually the condition of all banks in the state except national
3. Allowed the banki ng commissioner to possess all of a
bank's assets and records if a bank fa iled to meet deposi tors'
requests for withdrawals and to hold those assets and records
until a court-appointed receiver was chosen to handle the
bank's affairs
4. Required each bank covered by the regula tions to main-
tain at all times a cash reserve equal to at least fifteen percent
of its total deposits
5. Limited a loan to any individual. partnership.or corpora-
tion to th irty percen t of a bank's capital and su rplus except
that two-thirdsofa ban k's board of directors could authorize a
loan equal to the bank's total cap ital and surplus if adequate
security were provided
6. Prohibited banks from making loans to their officials.
directors. or employees without the approval of the bank's
board of directors "unless the loan was secured by adequate
collateral or a responsible indorser"

7. Limited loans secured by mortgages or any other form of
real estate to fifty percent of a bank's capital a nd surplus
unless the bank's direc tors authorized increased real estate
8. Prohibited the classification of overdrafts of more than
ninety days· stand ing as assets
9. Req uired each bank to increase its surplus account to
twenty percent of its capital stock
10. Required that before any dividends could be paid to
s tockholders. paymen t for all of a bank's capital s tock issued
must have been received by the bank
Further analysis of the Decker banks' operations and
financial conditions is needed to assess precisely how those
banks performed in ligh t of the new banking regu lations a nd
what effects those regulalions may have had.
Circumstances unique to particular enterprises also may
have co n tributed to the Deckers' 1906-1907 business with-
drawals: for example, the declining advertising support cited
by the GreenBayAdvocatein itsdcmise. Far rnoredramatic is
the case of Edward Decker. Jr.. and the Bank of Algoma. In
April of l 905 Decker. who by 1902 had been appointed cashier
of the Algoma bank, was reported missi ng from a s teamship
enroute from Ludington. Michigan. to Manitowoc (Decker had
traveled to Ludington. apparently from Manitowoc. beginning
the day before). The Door County Democrat reported the last
time a nyone had seen Decker on the boat was when he
complained of a headache a nd relired to his stateroom about
twenty miles out of Ludington.As the boat neared Manitowoc
a steward entered Decker's room but reportedly fou nd only his
hat. "cuffs... and grip. Said the Democrat:
It is presumed that he went to the boat's rail lo obtain fresh
air. and becoming fa int. fell overboard a nd was drowned.
Mr. Decker's disappearance is shrnuded in mystery. and a
number of different theories have been advanced . among
the m being tha t he met with foul play. committed s uicide. or
a ccidentally fell from the steam('r a nd was drowned. the
la 1ter being the general opinion.
Long-time Kewaunee County banker Lee Metzner. forme r
chairman of lhe board of directors at lhe Valley Bank of Casco.
said in l 982 there was no mystery about why Decker disap-
peared: he had "vouchered" S l 00.000 from the Bank of
Algoma. ·we didn't hear loo much about him:· said Metzner.
"All I heard was that he had disappeared. and [the matte r of

the $100.000] was hus hed up. you know. Nothin· was said
about it. .. Metzner said Decker became a show business agent
in New York City and. following that. a Christian Science
"practic ioner" in California. Accordi ng to Lois Pflug hoeft. a
contributing writer for the Algoma Record-Herald. Decker's
body was never found. and he supposedly was recognized at
some point after the boat incident in the State ofWas hington.
'Tm not su re. It's all hearsay. you know," Pflughoeft said in

The Jackson Trust and Savings Bank

Age. illness. the state's banking environment. and c ircum-
s tances unique to particular Decker enterprises may have
contributed to the Deckers' business removals of 1906 and
1907. But in interviews in 1972 and 1982 reti red Kewaunee
County banker Lee Me tzner. now deceased. placed the cause
for the Deckers' actions squarely with the collapse of their
largest bank. the Jackson Trust and Sa vings Bank of Chicago,
a nd the financial Panic of 1907. The collapse left Edward
Decker. if not David Decker as well. "broke," said Metzner.
Jackson Trust was organized on October 12. 1903. with a
capitalization of$250.000 and by 1904 was located in the new
Railway Exchange Building at Jackson and Michigan boule-
vards in Chicago. In threeand a half years the bank went from
robust growth to collapse. In 1904 I ts assets totaled nearly
$685,000. including more than $450.000 in loans a nd dis-
counts and approximately $118.000 in other stocks and
bonds. Resources soared in 1905 to more than Sl.5 million.
including $1 million in loans and discounts and more than
$ 220,000 in other stocks and bonds. before dropping to less
than $1.4 million in 1906 and $317.562 in 1907. when the
bank was liquidated (on April 1).
If a 1904 business directory listing for Jackson Trust is any
indication. the bank may not have initially been a Decker
institution. President was William H. Eagan. described at the
time a s a "well known and popular young banker." vice-
presidents were Raymond W. Stevens and Louis M. Stumer.
cashier was Charles T. Champion. and directors were Oswald
J. Arnold. Charles 0 . Austin. Champion. Benjamin F. DeM u th.
Eagan. John C. Fetzer. Philetus W. Gates. Daniel Good, RE.
lsmond. Stevens. and Stumer. The bank's address was re-
corded as 53 Jackson Boulevard. However. another 1904

directory lis ting. repeated in 1905 and in part in 1906.
recorded the bank's address as 15- 17-19 Jackson Boulevard
in the Railway Exchange Building and included a d ifferent set
of officers: Eagan as pres ident but David Decker and DeMuth
as vice-presidents and William M. Lawton, Edward Decker's
son-in-law. as cashier. Directors of the bank included: Aus tin.
by one account "one of the best known bankers in the
country": DeMuth. said to be a prominent Chicago merchant:
Ismond. president of Lhe Chicago Real Estate Board: Joy
Morton. whose brother was Secretary of the Navy Paul Morton:
Daniel H. Burnham. the prominent American architect who
helped to plan the Columbian Exposition of Chicago in 1893
and who designed major build ings (including the Railway
Exchange Building) in New York. Pittsburgh, Washington.
and Chicago. among other cities; William C. Thom e. a manager
of the Montgomery Ward Compa ny: and W.R. Morrison, listed
at the time as treasurer of the Standard Office Company.
Although the Deckers ' precise fin ancial involvement in
Jackson Trust is unclear. National Magazine in 1905 termed
the bank the "crowning achievement" of Edward Decker's
banking career. "Like all men of purpose and achievement. he
had an ambition, and that was to have a bank in Ch icago ... an
ambition that is now accomplis hed." the magazine said. Of
David Decker. the magazine reported that h e "has long since
won his spurs in the management of his father's extensive and
varied interests." The publication printed four photographs of
Jackson Trust showing an exterior view of its 15-17-19
Jackson Boulevard location (with the wording "General
Banking." "Savings." and "Safety Deposit Vaul ts" painted on
its ground-fioorwindows). the president and board of directors
room. the cashier's quarters. and the tellers' section. National
Magazine's interest in Edward Decker and Jackson Trust
may not have been entirelyguided by editorial merit; according
to a review of Decker's life publis hed in 1971 in the Algoma
Record-Herald. Decker at one time was the magazi ne's prin-
cipal owner. The review also said that the Kewaunee County
entrepreneur had once been interested in relocating National
Magazine's publish ing headquarters from Boston to Casco.
According to long-time banker Metzner, the collapse of the
J ackson bank was connected with the financial Panic of 1907.
In Metzner's scenario. Edward Decker had been pers uaded to
invest in J ackson Trust byWilliam Lawton. by 1904 the bank's

cashier. Lawton had ma rried Decker's daugh ter Libbie in
1902 in Casco. the Kewaunee County com munity founded by
the elder Decker. and the couple had resided in Chicago, said
a n obituary p ublished at the ti me of Mrs. Lawton's death in
1964. (A Joseph G. Lawton of the Brown County community of
De Pere had been on the board of directors of the Green Bay
and Lake Pepin Railway when Edward Decker was its p resident
in the 1860s. and an E.L. Lawton had been president of the
National Bank of Commerce of Green Bay when Decker was
cashier there in the 1870s.) Metzne r said tha t J ackson Trust
had forwa rded large amounts of money to a Chicago street
railway company; it is not certain if the money was forwa rded
as a loan(s). s tock purchase. or some other transaction . When
the railway encountered serious financ ial problems and
Jackson Trust was unable to recover its money. a c ustomer
run ensued at the bank. which Metzner said had served as a
corresponden t bank for the "small country banks" the Deckers
controlled in Wisconsin. Said a 1973 review of Edward
Decker's career. pa raphrasing Metz ner:
.. . IEdward I Decker sold everything he had Including all of
his bank stock from his Wisconsin banks to obtain money to
keep the J ackson Trust going. He even called on his son
David ... for financ ial assistance ... !But) aJI efforts to keep
the bank going were to no avail; the bank closed and the
Deckers went. broke.
Metzner's accoun t of how and why the Decker fortune
collapsed is unsubstantiated. A 1933 obituary published in
the Door County Advocate upon the death of David Decker did
note that the Decker family had sold its banking interests
three decades earlier "due to financial reverses." The news-
paper did not ela borate. As for the Deckers' Ch icago connec-
t ion. the Jackson Trust a n d Savings Bank was only one of
dozens of Chicago banks al the lime of the Decker collapse and
is not mentioned in s tandard reference works on Ch icago and
Illinois banking history available at the Ch icago Historical
Society. One oulli ne history of Chicago street railways from
1964 did s tate that the Chicago Union Traction Company. one
of numerous street railways which had operated in the city at
various times s ince 1858, expe rienced "financial difficulties"
arou nd 1907 and. according to a nother transit history. was
reorganized as pa.rt of the Chicago Railways Company in
January of 1908. However. neither reference included the
names of a ny banks in connection Wi th the traction company's

financial problems.
The liquidation of the Jackson Trust and Savings Bank
occurred during another of the nation's financial panics. the
Panic of l 907. Flashpoints of the panic year included the
collapse of the New York Stock Excha nge in March and the
collapse. by one accounting. of ·eight banks and a tnist
company in New York seven months later. The panic prompted
special Congressional study which led to formation of the
Federal Reserve System in 19 13.
Accordi ng to the 1938 TheGrowthofChicagoBanks. banks
nationwide in years prior to the Panic of 1907 ··under the
stimulus of business expansion, were using their resources
much more intensively than had been customary during the
nineteenth century." As a result the capital and surplus of
national banks fell from a minimum thirty-six percent of
aggregate deposit and note liabilities during the ten-year
period prior to 1896 to sixteen percent by 1906. The ··dimin-
ish ing margin of safety·· was even lower for state banks and
trust companies, where by 1906 only 8.4 percent and 3.5
percent. respectively. of deposit and note liability totals were
held in capital and surplus. Banks around the country which
were in an "exceedingly strong position·· at the tum of the
century. according to the 1926 Financing an Empire: History
of Banking in Illinois. had reduced their reserves to a
"perilous ex tent" by 1907. Investing large amounts of their
resources in speculative or nonliquid secur ities. Concluded
The Growth ef Chicago Banks:
... il is ap parent that the American banking sysLem was
using its resources to the hilt ... Nowhere in the system was
there any willingness to forego immediate profits in order to
build up the reserves that ultimate safety required. and every
dollar of bank funds was expected to eu rn its share ofcurrent
dividencb. No matter how rapidly the aggregate cash reserves
might g row. stock-exchange loans would always absorb the
funds tha t were not immediately required by ind ustry a nd

The Deckers after 1907

Edward Decker apparently Jived out his remaining days at
his Casco residence. situated alongside the tracks of the
railroad he built. As one story goes, the old man as president of
the Ahnapee and Western line would signal passing trains
from the home's front porch to stop and wait for him to board.

The Decker residence. said to have been la ter destroyed by fire.
was a large "New England style home" known locally as "The
White House," a ccord ing to the Algoma Record-H erald. It
contained a large library. memorabilia. and documents col-
lected by Decker and later donated to Kewaunee County.
Edward Decker died a t home on July 9. 1911. at the age of
eighty-fou r; death repo rtedly followed an unspecified two-year
illness. For his fune ral a s pecial two-coach tra in carried
friends. associates. and members of the Masonic fraternity, to
which Decker had belo nged. from Sturgeon Bay to Algoma lo
Casco. A large number of "prominent people from many parts
of the state" attended the fune ral. T he fu neral trai n conveyed
Decker 's body from Casco to Kewaunee, where the deceased
was buried in Riverview Cemetery: pallbearers were "six
Algoma frie nds ." Decker was buried alongs ide his fo rmer
wives: Dolly ( 1834-1 861 J. whom he married in Malne: Susan
Affeubra nger (1838- 1868 ), whom he married in Kewa unee:
J oanna C urtin (1842- 1880), said to be a niece of former
Pennsylva niagovernor a nd vice-presidentialaspira n tAndrew
G. Cu rtin: a nd Libbie Walker (1842- 1901). widow of Maj .
Charles Walker of Man itowoc.
According to Lee Metzner. Decker. whos e fortune was once
worth h undreds of thousands of dollars, died poor. Metzner
said in 1972 tha t s h ortly before Decker's death t he pro m inent
Green Bay surgeon and businessman Dr. J ohn R. Minahan.
who at one time had practiced med ici ne in Casco. delivered a
check for some $2.000 to Decker at Casco to as sist in paying
fune ra l a nd other expe nses. Metzner also spoke of what he
said was a nother incident concerning Decker while the Bank
of Stu rgeo n Bay cofouncler lay bedridden his last year. Jesse
Decker came to Casco at one point to encourage his brother
"to make peace with h is Maker." stated Metzner. As the story
con tinues. Edward replied to Jesse. "I got along on my own u p
to now. and I'll do it the rest of the way too! Get out!" Observed
Metzner. " He IEdward I didn't want his brothe r to pray for him
or anything else."
David Decker. wh o had succeeded Ed ward as president of
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay and later resigned, died in 1933 in
Illinois: by one account he died in his apartment in Chicago. by
another he died at North S ho re Hos pital in suburban Win-
netka. David 's exact whereabouts a nd activi ties after his
resignation as Bank of Sturgeon Bay president are not

established. As previously noted. bank Board of Directors
minutes indicated in 1907 that he wished to move to The Cove
resort near Sturgeon Bay. One obituary published four years
later upon Edward's death listed David's residence as Mil-
waukee. The Door County Advocate said in 1933 that the
younger Decker had retired from active business interests
about fifteen years earlier and had been residing in Chicago.
At the time of his death David was sixty-nine.
For whatever historical worth it may or may not have. at
least one piece of David Decker correspondence has survived
from Decker's days with the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. In
December of 1896 he wrote on bank stationery the following
letter to a customer in Colby (Clark County):
Dear Sir.
We have concluded that you expect to remain on the
property where you are and never pay anything. If that is
your intention I beg to inform you that you are mistaken. We
have waited and waited until we are thoroughly tired. but we
are not so completely worn out that we propose to go to sleep
and let you sleep also in the way you have been doing with us.
Now if you don·t get around and do something before Jany.
first we shall sell the land. You should not expect us to wait
forever on you.
Yours truly.
David Decker

Chapter VI

Prosperity, 1907- 1929

With its end as part of the Edward Decker chain of banks.

the Bank of Sturgeon Bay embarked on a new course of major
growth before a backdrop of a national economy expanding
rapidly once again. During and after the events of late 1906.
operations continued uninterrupted, as nearly two dozen
mainly Door County area businessmen rallied to take financial
control of the Door County bank. Among those investors. by
far the most significant was Forestville native Henry Fetzer.
who had been assistant cashier. then cashier, of the banking
firm since the 1890s. In 1907 he became the bank's principal
stockholder and would be I ls first long-time president. holding
the ti tie for nearly three decades. longer than anyone else In
Bank of Sturgeon Bay history to date.
Fetzer presided over the Bank of Sturgeon Bay as i t emerged

H enry Fetzer
Bank qf Scurgeon Bay President (1907-1936)

from its background as a fairly small financial enterprise into
a bank that ranked among the top ten percent in assets of
Wisconsin's state banks. When Fetzer assumed the presidency
in mid-1907. assets stood at less than $400,000. From that
year the bank's financial resources began a steady climb and
in 1916 first surpassed Sl million as measured in year-end
financial rep mis. In 1918 $1.5 million was scaled. In 1919. $2
million. Despite a smaJI decline in the early 1920s. probably
associated with the recession of 1921and1922, resources in
1925 surpassed $2.5 million and, in 1927, $3 million. The
bank's business was increasing so rapidly. officers reported at
one point "'that at times it is almost impossible to give patrons
the prompt service that they are entitled to." Growth and
change at the bank could also be measured in other ways:
various physical improvements at both its main office and
Smvyer Branch. the addition of some new custome r service
departments. increases in capitalization. and, in 1918 toward
the end of World War I. its agreement to enter the Federal
Reserve System.
Growth certainly was not confined to the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. as assets grew at both the Merchants Exchange Bank and
the Bank of Sawyer (later renamed the Door County State
Bank). At the same time, banking competition in Door County
intensified when three new financial institutions opened for
business between 1909 and 1923: the State Bank of Forest-
ville, the State Bank of Maplewood. and the Sturgeon Bay
Building and Loan Association. Like Door County's existing
banks. the new financial outlets reaped the benefits of an
economy growing both at home and nationwide.

A New Look
Before David Decker's resignation as president of the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay was even formally received by stockholders at
a special meeting in late 1906, a new group of at least sixteen
investors had organized to assume stock control of the bank.
The sixteen included eight former stockholders. a relative
(apparenUy the wife) of a ninth, and seven others. most of
whom were Sturgeon Bay and Door County businessmen. By
January 3. 1907, another two businessmen joined the owner-
ship group. and by the end of the year stockholders in the bank
numbered twenty-one. They included earlier stockholders
Henry Fetzer (who became the bank's new majority stock

investor \vith $12.000 of $30.000 in capital stock). vice-
presidenl and attorney Richard P. Cody ($2.500). canne r
Edward Reynolds ($ 1.500 ), hardwa re dealer He rbert C. Scofield
($1.500). boat builder William R. Hay ($500), dry goods dealer
M.V. Coch ems ($500 ). and telephone company manager Roger
Eatough ($500 ). Early in 1907 theJ.S. Tweddle estate also was
a stockholder but by year's end no longer appeared on the
bank's s tock ownership list.
New s tockholders . each holding S 1.000 worth of shares.
l. Joseph Wolter. an early Sturgeon Bay boat builder who
would serve as mayor of the city a nd a vice-president of the
Bank of S turgeon Bay before his death in 1929
2. August Rieboldt. who teamed with Wolter in the 1890s in
the establishmen t of the Riebold t and Wolter boat builders in
Sturgeon Bay
3. William S. Reynolds. like Edwa rd Reynolds. a proprietor
of the Reynolds Preserving Compa ny, Sturgeon Bay growers
and canners of peas. later cherries. a nd other farm products
4. H.F. Scofield. like Herbert C. Scofield. a proprietor of the
Scofield (Hardware) Company in Sturgeon Bay
5. Henry F. Hagemeis ter of Green Bay, president of the
Hagemeis Brewing Company a nd the Kellogg National
Bank of Green Bay
6. F.J.B. Duchateau. a wholesale liquor dealer in Green Bay
7. L. Albert Karel. a Kewaunee attorney. politician. banker.
and businessman whose career accomplishments would in·
elude s ta le legislator. president of the Wisconsi n Banke rs
Association. and pres ident of the State Bank of Kewaunee and
Bank of Luxemburg
8. John C. Karel. treasure r of the United American Fi re
Insurance Company of Milwaukee
New s tockholders with $500 each in capital s tock were:
1. Hattie M. Reynolds of Sturgeon Bay
2. Hele n L. (Mrs. John) Leathern of the Leathern and Smith
Lumber Company of Sturgeon Bay
3. Abel B. Minor. new cashier of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
and fo rmerly its assis tant cashier
4. F.B. Barnes of Oshkosh, an agent for the North Britis h
and Mercantile Insurance Company
5. Leona 0. GoetUeman of Milwaukee
6. George A Mowry of Minneapolis

With its new owners. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay took
Immediate steps to organize its affairs and promote public
confidence in light of the sudden Decker \.Vithdrawal of
December 1906. In January alone its Board of Directors.
which typically did not meet for weeks and even months at a
time in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's early decades of operation.
convened five times. Shortly after New Year's Day the bank
published a financial su mmary in the Door County Advocate
listing $292.221 in deposits, $258.398 in loans. $33.116 cash
on hand. $27.750 cash in other banks. and $15.417 surplus. It
also listed its officers and directors; conspicuously absent was
any listing for president. "This bank is built on rock-like
stabiii ty:· the bank advertised. and possessed ample resources.
a record of success and dependability, and officers and
di rectors "well-known fo r their own personal business success
and probity ... worthy of your confidence." The bank called
Itself "the bank whose officers are competent and whose
directors direct."
In an advertisement entitled ''BASIS OF CONFIDENCE:· the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay said in a February 1908 issue of the
Door County Democrat that its new owners were "some of the
best business men in this part of the state:·
They are men whose sagacity and business acumen have
earned their private fortunes and whose experience is now
available in the conduct of the business of this bank.
NO RED TAPE ls necessary to do business at this bank nor
gain access to Its officers at any lime for consultation on
business matters. Those who imagine that there is some
formu la lo be used on entering the bank. or that there is
some secret and intrlcale business system to be learned. err
to their own disadvantage. You can open an account here
with a small amount of money. and it is as easy to begin
business with this bank as with a store. Come with good
intent and though your business at first maybe small we will
help you grow.
In July of 1907 the transition in ownership and direction of
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was completed when Henry Fetzer
formally became its third president. Richard Cody remained
vice-president. and Abel Minor. a Fish Creek native first hired
as assistant cashier in 1905. succeeded Fetzer as cashier.
John H. Stewart. a former schoolteacher. became assistant
cashier and was said to have gone on and handled bookkeep-
ing for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay as well as auditing for the
Ahnapee and Western Railway. Directors by the end of 1907

were president Fetzer. vice-president Cody. and stockholders
Hay, Eatough, Wolter. Edward Reynolds, and Herbert C.
Another change at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay took place in
March of 1908 when Richard Cody died; he had been vice-
president and one of the first tenants in the second-story
offices of the bank's new building at North Cedar and St. John
streets. Chosen to succeed Cody was boat builder Joseph
Wolter. (The Cody name would become a center of attention
years later. in 1948. when the attorney's widow. Sadie Cody.
was murdered in what was considered Sturgeon Bay's first-
ever homicide. A man for whom Mrs. Cody had refused a loan
struck the woman and then burned her, apparently alive, in a
basement furnace. The incident received national attention.
One of the people who assisted investigators in the case was
Mrs. Cody's attorney. William E. Wagener. then president of
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.)
For the remainder of the period to 1930 Henry Fetzer
remained president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Minor
resigned as cashier in 19 19 to become vice-president of rival
Merchants Exchange Bank and was replaced by Richard C.
Koehn. a former schoolteacher. grocer. and initially part-time
employee with the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. In 1920 Stewart was
promoted as a second vice-president. serving in the vice-
president's position with Wolter. John C. Weitermann. who
reportedly had started work with the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
close to a decade earlier and had been a clerk, bookkeeper. and
teller. replaced Stewart as assistant cashier. Also for the I 920
financial year B.J. Keith. continuing as manager of the bank's
Sawyer Branch, was named a second assistant cashier. After
Wolter died in 1929. Stewart remained the bank's lone

Safety and Security

Despi te changes in personnel over the years, one constant at
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. indeed at all modern-day banks, has
been the need for security and the physical protection of
deposits and documents from both natural calamity and theft.
Aside from the 1895 Masse's Block fire, the only other known
threat of note to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's physical safety
and security in its first half-century of operation occurred in
1907. although the incident reported that year by the local

press may have represented more a drunken misadventure
than any serious attempt to endanger the bank or its con tents.
As might be expected. money. papers. documents. and
records had been stored by lhe Bank of Sturgeon Bay in safes
a nd vaults at its various locations from its earliest days. In
1889. for example. the Sturgeon Bay Independent reported
that a vault would be included among the bank's "con-
veniences" when it relocated to new quarters later that year. In
the 1895 Masse's Block fire lhe Door County Advocate noted
that firefighters had occasionally focused a stream of water on
the bank's vault for protection from heat and flames. A new
steel safe said to weigh 4.800 pounds was part of the bank's
new 1900 office building.with steel chests and a safety deposit
box vault among improvements added later.
Improvements in money and document protection and
security as measured by both physical changes and insurance
coverage continued in the first decades of the twentieth
century. In 1905 an unspecified "Burglar Protective System"
costing $730 was installed in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
vaults. By 1912 the bank had secured $28.000 in burglary
insurance for its main office and $5.000 for its Sawyer Branch
in addition to $9.000 and 8500. respectively. in fire insurance
policies for the two facilities. By 1915 burglary insurance for
the main office increased to $38,000. while fire insurance for
both bank locations increased to $13.000. In 1926 the bank
approved purchasing a "Burgla1yProofChest'' and "new vault
equipment" and offered to pay a share in any reward "for
capture of bandits robbing any of the local banks."
Then there was the "McClintock Bandit Barrier Protective
System." The system, unveiled at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in
a May 1931 public open house, consisted of "ingeniously
constructed partitions of bullet-proof steel and bullet-resistant
glass. and a complicated a rrangement of electric wires. push-
buttons. warning devices and alarms." The bank advertised:
Being designed to defeat any kind of bandit attack. this
system has the very des! rable effect of preventing allacks--
for bandi lsarc not inclined to raid a bank unless they have a
good cha nce of succeeding.
You'll be astonished lo see how thoroughly a bank can be
protected without interfering in any way with the quick.
convenient transaction of business. An examination of the
Bandit Barrier Proteclive System will give you an inspiring
and reassuring idea of the progress that is being made in the
war against crime.

Whether any of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's security meas-
ures would have worked in 1907 if Joseph Sachbauer. an
Austrian worker in an a rea stone quany. had carried out
threats against the bank is unknO\vn. In an article headlined
"Would Dynamite Bank." the Door County Democrat reported
in June of that year that Sachbauer. "who had been drinking...
had met a friend. Frank Lykins. near a Sturgeon Bay saloon
and "unfolded to him a plot to blow up the Bank of S turgeon
Bay and get away wilh the loot." Sachbauer reportedly told
Lykins he had two rifles. a shotgun, small arms. "and the
dynamite and fuses ready." When Lykins refused to participate
in the scheme. Sachbauer was said to have reached into one of
his hip pockets as if carrying a gun and told Lykins to empty
his pockets of money. Lykins "took to his heels" and notified a
police officer.
Police later apprehended Sachbauer. Said the Democrat
"Lykins knowing the desperate character of the man when
under the influence of liquor swore out a warrant for Sach-
bauer and he was examined on Thursday morning before
Justice Harris and put under a bond of $100 to keep the
peace." The Democrat reported that Sachbauer claimed in
court "he was so intoxicated that he remembered nothing" of
his alleged scheme. No further mention of the inciden t was
made in the Democrat report.

The Local Economy

In the Sturgeon Bay and Door County of 1907 it was not
unusual that Joseph Sachbauer's occupation should happen
to be quarrier; stone quarrying is often identified by standard
historical accoun ts ofDoorCounty as part of the county's late
nineteenth a nd twentieth century economies. Limestone was
available in the area in "unlimited supply:· according to
Wright ·s Sturgeon Bay & Door County Directory of 1916. and
was quarried. often crushed. and used among other purposes
fo r road construction a nd pier and breakwater projects.
Qua rrying aside, one of the fastest growing segments of
Door County's twentieth century economy lo 1930 was fruit
growing and canning. including apples but particularly cher-
ries grown mainly in the shallower soils of the counly's
norther two-thirds.According to one account. DoorCountyby
1911 had more than 2.000 acres of cheny orchards and
"several hundred" acres of apples as well as a consortium of

fruit growers. the Door County Fruit Growers Exchange. Fruit
growing. said a publication from the period. represented the
county's brightest prospect for future economic growth.
Another publication. Wright's Directory of 1916. concluded
that Sturgeon Bay was .. the centre of what is now the most
widely known cherry country in the United States: and Door
County cherries are the standard of quality throughout the
country... The directory said thousands of cases of cherries
were shipped from Sturgeon Bay annually: s hipments were
sent to such markets as Chicago. Milwaukee. and Minneapo-
lis-St. Paul. Another directory. published in 1927. said fresh
cherries from Door County were marketed in Wisconsin,
Illinois. Minnesota. Missouri. North Dakota. and South Da·
kota. while the county's canned cherries were marketed in
those states plus Nebraska. Kansas. Iowa. Arkansas. Okla-
homa. Texas. and California.
Dairy farming also increased in local importance as the area
completed its agricultural transition from principally wheat
growing to (in addition to fruit growing) dairy farming. By
1910 "wheat had practically disappeared," and dairying
became firmly intrenched," noted a 1930 analysis of the
county's agriculture. Dairy farm ing became particularly pop-
ular in southern Door County. where soils were deeper (for
growing such crops as hay and corn to feed cattle) and the
topography more level. A Door County State Bank-sponsored
publication from the period said that 2.310 farms in the
county as of 1910 supported more than 14.000 dairy cows. or
an average of six per farm ... Dairying is no longer an experi -
ment with the farmers in Door County." the publication
concluded. Dai ry farming brought with it the establishment of
cheese factories. creameries. and dairies throughout the
Pea growing and canning also became significant enter-
prises: Hjalmar Holand in his 1917 History of Door County
said Door County was producing nearly fifty percent of
Wisconsin's pea crop by 1916. Two pea-canning operations
opened in Sturgeon Bay: the DoorCountyCanningCompany.
which la ter became a milk condensing plant. and the Reynolds
Preserving Company, which later switched to canning cher-
ries. Despite the growth in peas. insects and soil infertility
were said to have made pea growing a nd canning relatively
short-lived pursu its.

Door County's early twentieth century economy saw the
rapid growth of tourism. Aided by accessible shorelines and
the moderating climatic effects of Lake Michigan on one side
and Green Bay on the other. plus the unmistakable appeal of
such natural and man-inspired beauty as limestone bluffs.
forests. and cherry and apple orchards. Door County by 191 7
featu red some forty resorts, according to historian Holand.
and accommodated more than 2,000 touris ts and summer
residents daily in the vacation months of July and August.
Sturgeon Bay and Door County promoted themselves as "The
Californ la of the North .. : the Sturgeon Bay Land and Develop-
ment Association advertised cottage. resort. and s horeline
properties for sale. The county could brag of "scenic beauty. a
natural charm and a delightful summer climate such as is
perhaps found nowhere else in central United States." It also
could boast-- in 1931 --of its first traffic light. erected on
Highway 57 north of Sturgeon Bay. presumably to make travel
easier a nd safer for tourists and local drivers alike. In addition
to automobile, tourists came to Door County in this early
twentieth century period by boat. passenger train. and bus.
Other elements of the local economy included such enter-
prises as commercial fishing (Washington Island alone was
said to have been home port for more than thirty fishing tugs).
the wood and wood products indus try. and boat building.
which was centered In Sturgeon Bay and would experience
major growth during World War II.
A sense of Sturgeon Bay's economy before the 1930s
depression. as well as its cultural. recreational. educational,
municipal. and religious assets, can be drawn from Wright's
Directory of 1916. According to the directory. located in and
around the city were: two can ning factories: three boa t
builders/ shipyards/ dry-dock facilities: a fruit package and
box factory; stone quarries; a furni ture and woodworking
factory: two planing mills; three banks, with total assets of
nearly $2 million; a high school; a public library, with 4.000
volumes: ten churches: the Waldo, Union. and Goodrich hotels:
and the Cheeseman. Idlewild Inn, The Pines, Cabot Lodge, The
Cove. Mac Villa. and Shoreside resorts. among others.
The Sturgeon Bay area also featured: city-operated lighting.
water, and heating facilities; three newspapers-the Advocate.
Democrat. and News: six trains daily during the summer.
providing (with connections) nine-hour passenger service to

Chicago: passenger boat transportation by two lines. with
service lo and from Chicago. Milwaukee. points along the
Green Bay s horeline. and other locales: daily auto bus service:
the 1.064-acre Government Bluff U.S. military reserve located
west of the city (and now part of Potawatomi State Park):
supposedly the world's largest cherry orchard. 800 acres in
size. located just north of the city: and the 3,500-acre Peni nsula
State Park. featuring a golf cou rse. situated north of the city
near Fish Creek.
Among various "incorporated companies" listed by the
directory were the Door County Publishing Company. the
Halstead-Maples Hardware Company. the Hart Transportation
Company. the Leathern and Smith Towing and Wrecki ng
Company. the People's Store. the Reynolds Preserving Com-
pany. the N.S. Washburn Lumber Company. the Scofield
(Hardware) Company. the HA Stiles Drug Company, and the
United Fruit Growers Company.
With a healthy dose of ciVic boosterism. Wright's Directory
said of Sturgeon Bay:
Sturgeon Bay is easy to get into and easy to gel away from.
combining all the conveniences of a c ity wit.h all the
pleasures of a summer resort .. .. As a summer resort.
Sturgeon Bay stands forth as one of the best in the
northwt>st .... For the auto enthusiast Sturgeon Bay is in a
class by itself. Radia ting in all directions from lhe city. there
arc over two hundred miles of macadam [crushed stone [
roads. the finest in the country. dotted at short intervals
with hotels and summer resorts of national fa me; and the
scenery Is a conslant. revelation and delight to the uni nil! ·
a tecl .... The hole! accommodations together with the
abundant means of summer entertainment on land and
water. Iare I rapidly ma.king S turgeon Bay one of the foremost
convention cities as well as the foremost summer reson In
the state.
The d irectory said fishing in the Sturgeon Bay area was
"unexcelled." with an abundance of black bass. perch. and
pickerel. "Here you cannot only acquire a good fish story for
your friend s but you can take back with you. the fish to back it
up," it concluded.
Although certain segments of Door County's economy such
as fruit gro\\'ing and tourism experienced major growth after
1900. the resident population as a whole over a thirty-year
period did not. Door County's population rose from 17,583 in
1900 to 18.71 1 in 19 10 and to slightly more than 19.000 in

1920 before dropping to 18.182 in 1930 and the beginning of
the Great Depression. In S turgeon Bay the resident population
growth slowed but still increased after nearly doubling be-
tween 1890 and 1910: the city's popula tion rose from 4.262 in
1910 to more than 4.500 in 1920 and nearly 5.000 residents in

Competition, Expansion, and Improvements

Far greater in scope than the growth in Sturgeon Bay's
popula tion was the financial g rowth of the city's banking
establishments. Between 1910 and 1930. assets at the city"s
three banks more than quintupled: from $1 million to nearly
$5.6 million. In addition, competition for the local banking
dollar increased. as a fourth financial firm. the Sturgeon Bay
Building and Loan Association. opened in 1923. Elsewhere.
two additional banks organized in Door Coun ty. the county's
first banking firms located outside of theCityofSturgeon Bay.
The first of the new financial en terprises was the State Bank
of Forestville. Located in the southern Door County agricul-
tural community of Forestvile, the bank was established in
1909 a nd listed ten stockholders from Forestville and nearby
Brussels and Kolberg in its first full year of operation.
Capitalization was $10.000. President was H.J. Teske, vice-
president was J. Donovan. and cashier was W.H. Bastar.
Open ingsevenyears later. also in the southern Door County
dairy farming region. was the State Bank of Maplewood.
President was Joseph Ullsperger. vice-president was Anton
Schlise. and assistant cashier was Fabian Reince. Directors of
the bank. which capitalized at $15,000, were Ullsperger.
Schlise. John Feller. Ferdinand Babier. J ohn C. Murphy, C.F.
Bordecker. and Louis Newville.
Said lo be the "guiding force" behind the organization in
1923 of Door County·s other new financial establishment, the
Sturgeon Bay Building and Loan Association (now the North
Shore Savings and Loan Association). was local resident Phil
Overbeck. Encouraged by reports of how businessmen in
other parts of Wisconsin were forming building and loan
associations to encourage and finance home and building
construction. Overbeck met with attorney Grover Stapleton.
Dr. F.C. Huff. and others to support organization of a similar
financial insti tution In Sturgeon Bay. said the Door County
Advocate in a 1973 review of what is now North Shore.

According to another newspaper account. the building and
loan opened in a second-Ooor office on present North Third
Avenue between Kentucky and Louis iana streets; its first
officers reportedly were W.J. Woerfel. president; William Co-
chems. vice-president: Thomas Sanderson, treasurer: and
Overbeck. secretary. The new organization had twenty-six
s tockholders. including "well known civic leaders," reported
lhe Advocate.
In add ition to new banks and a building and loan associa-
tion, Door County's predepression financial environment
featured physical expansion at the county's existing banking
firms. In 1906 the county's oldest bank. the Merchants
Exchange Bank. moved lo a new. two-s tory brick and stone
building at the intersection of North Cedar and Spruce streets
(North Third Avenue and Michigan Street). The building.
described as "an excellent example of a typical turn-of-the-
century bank building-solid and conservative," today is
listed in the National Register qf Historic Places as part of
Sturgeon Bay's Third Avenue/ Downtown Historic District
Meanwhile. the Bank of Sawyer changed both names and
locations. Jn 1914 the west side Sturgeon Bay firm became the
Door County State Bank. relocated to the city's east side. and
by 1916was headquarterd ina two-story masonrybuildingon
North Cedar Street a block south of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's main office. (The move prompted the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay to advertise that it was "now the ONLY BANK AT SAWYER
and we want every person living at Sawyer and vicinity to do
their Banking Business with us.") According to an illustration
in Hjalmar Holand's History qf Door County. the facade of the
Door County State Bank building on North Cedar Street
featured an ornate. temple-like. neoclassical design with
immitation columns and an arched entranceway. among
other features. The facade was later removed. the interior
remodeled. and the building converted to a bakery. It now is
believed to house The Athlete's Foot shoe store. 117 North
Third Avenue.
At the Bank of Sturgeon Bay, no large-scale physical expan-
sion appears to have occurred at either the bank's new
headquarters building or its Rank Building Sawyer Branch
between the openings of the two locations and 1930. But the
bank did engage in a number of building and equipment
improvement projects at both locations. In 1915. in what may

have been its firs t major investment in a mechanical calcu-
lati ng device. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors
authorized purchase of a Burroughs bookkeeping machine
for $690. At the same time, the board directed Pres ident Henry
Fetzer to investigate expa nding lobby space and adding a
teller's window at its headquarters building: the board later
approved a contract for adding new fixtures and enla rging
lobby and work space. 'When this contract is completed." said
Fetzer in early 1916. "we will h ave one of the fines t appointed
banking rooms in this part of the state." The project called for
interior work In ma rble a nd ''fumed" oak, mosaic tile in the
lobby, "battle s hip linoleum" in certain work spaces. and "a
public writing room where stationery will be s upplied gratis."
Concluded Fetzer. "The entire a rrangement was worked out
with the purpose of making it most convenient for our
cus tomers and it will also enable our working force to get out
the work in the quickest possible time."
Other improveme nts (in addition to safety a nd security
Imp rovements previously noted) followed. In 191 7 the Board
of Directors approved purchase ofa "posting machine" for the
Sawyer Branc h because business at the branch was said to be
"growing so steadily." Two years later the board at least
contemplated. if not actually approved. a $7,000 remodeling
p roject for the Sawyer Branch. In 1922 directors authorized
the purchase of new furniture and fix tures, appare ntly for the
bank's headqua rters building. for $2,798. In early l 925 bank
stockholders learned that an additional teller's window and
work space for a pproximately three additional desks would be
added at the North Cedar Street location because of rapid
inc reases in the ba nk's business. In 1928 the Board of
Di rectors authorized purchase of another Burroughs book-
keeping machine. this one for S l.600.
At one p oi n t during the 1920s the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
eve n contempla ted replacing its two-story east s ide office
building, barely two decades old at the time. with a new facility.
Instead. bank officials later opted for remodeling a nd rear-
ranging space within the existing downtown building. Cus-
tome r hours fo r the bank at the time wre 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday through Saturday. except for June 1 through Oc tober
1. when Saturday hou rs were 9 a.m. to noon.

A Numerical Overview
More significant than the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's physicaJ
improvements were its financial gains. Assets increased from
$391,036 in 1907 to S1.066. 149 nine yea rs later. the first time
the bank's financial resources surpassed S 1 million. By 1920
resources totaled $2. 161.84 7: by 1925, $2.620.945: and by
1929. $3.617.848. Bel ween 1922 and 1929, for those years for
which figures could be located. net can1ings for the bank
ranged from S 13.323 to $34,654: gross earnings increased
from S 150.681 in 1924 to S224.366 in 1929. while expenses
and d isbursements rose from S 137.358 to S 196.963 for the
same six-year period.
A glimpse of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's operating nature
for the period can be derived from its 1927 budget. For that
year the bank anticipated S 152.350 in expenses and dis-
bursements. the largest being $67 .200 for inte rest on savings.
$31,200 for salaries, and $16,800 for in terest on certificates of
deposit. Anticipated outlays for the year also included s uch
items as $6.200 for tax payments: $3.000 for advertising:
$1.450 for heat. light. and water: Sl .000 for travel and
automobile expenses: $700 for janitor's fees: $400 for dona-
tions and charities; and $300 for telephone and telegraph
c harges. The bank anticipated a net profit for the year of
830.800: it realized $34.654.
With the Bank of S turgeon Bay's financial growth came
increases in its capital stock. In 1914 the bank's Board of
Directors s upported an increase in capitalizalion from the
thirteen -year-old level of S30.000 to a new level of $40.000:
a pparently. however. the increase was never formally carried
out. In 1916 the bank's capitalization did increase-to
$50.000. I l increased again. to S l 00.000. in 1919 and to
$200.000 in 1930. Tht· increases contributed lo changes in
the mak<'·up of the bank's stock ownership. By 1918 three
i ndi vid uals emerged as its principal stock investors: Preslden t
Henry Fetzer. with 155 shares (or Sl5.500l. Kewaunee
attorney/businessman L. Albert Karel with 60 shares (or
$6.000). and Vice-President Joseph Wolter with 58.5 shares
(or S5.850l of a totaJ 500 shares and 30 stockholders. A year
later. after capitalization rose to$ J00.000 and the number of
stockholders jumped to 64. Fetzer increased his holdings to
$23.500. Karel to $9,000. and Wolter to $6,000, while relatively
new investor and fi rsl Bank of Sawyer President Dr. Albert J.

Kreitzer held $4.000 of the bank's capital stock. Throughout
the 1920s Fetzer remained the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's major
s tock owner.
Officers' salari es also inc reased during the period. Before
1905 Fetzer made $1.200 annually as cashier: that year h is
salary was incrcased to S 1.500. By 1926 Fetzer was making
S6.000 annually as presidenl. /\ breakdown of the bank's
highest paid employees for 1927 showed the following annual
salaries: Henry Fetzer. president. $6.480; Richard C. Koehn.
cashier. $3.240: B.J. Keith. assis tant cashier and Sawyer
Branch manager. $3.000: John C. Weiter ma nn. assistant
cashier, $3.000: and John H. Stewart. vice-presiden t. $2,760.
No listing was included that year fo r the bank's o ther vice-
president. the Sturgeon Bay boat builder Joseph Wol ter.
whose position with the firm may have been strictly nominal
and unsalaried.
At least part of the nature of Stu rgeon Bay and Door
County's preclepression economy was reflected in I.he Bank of
St urgeon Bay's loan portfolio from the period. What stand oul
as in effect the bank's first major commercial loans of record.
considerably larger than others recorded by the bank at the
lime. appeared in 1903 minu tes of the bank's Board of
Directors. That year the board authorized a line of credit of up
to $35,000 for the I<eynolds Prese rving Company a nd up to
$30.000 for the Door Coun ty Canning Company. both Stur-
geon Bay pea-canning operations. Years later during World
War I the board approved a $20.000 line of credit for the
Universal Sh ipbuilding Company (formerly Rieboldt and
Wolter) of St urgeon Bay to allow il to complete three wooden
boats with the Emergency Fleet Corporation of Phi ladelphia
providing Joseph Wolter remained a superintendC'nl of both
Universal and Emergency Fleel until construction on the
boats was completed. That same year the board approved a
S2 l.OOO loan to the Door County Seed Company.
In 1919 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay authorized loans of
$25.000 each to Door County Seed and the Fruit Growers
Canning Company. A year later i l approved a $50.000 loan to
the Cooperative Orchard Company. Other noticeably large
loans or lines of credit a pproved during the period included:
$15.000 for the Sturgeon Bay Fru it Package Company in
1921; S50.000 fo r Fruit Growers Canning. $25.000 for the
F'ruit Growers Union. and $36.000 for the Reynolds Preserving

Company in 1922: S 15.000 for the Kewau nee Grain Company
a nd Sl0.000 for the Hagemeister Food Products Company. a
Green Bay i('C' neam and brverage makrr. in l 923: a nd $9.500
for the S turgeon Bay Dry Dock Compa ny in 1924. In anothrr
nnanC'iaJ matter related lo the locaJ economy. the bank as of
1915 reportedly owned $25.000 in bonds of Edward Decker's
old railroa d. the- Ahnapee and Weste rn Railway. by then
operated by the- KewauneC'. Green Bay and Western Railroad.
At about the same time. the bank agreed to act as a depository
for the subscription or s tork for a proposed railroad through
Door County north of Stu rgeon Bay. a major local i~ue of
interest at the time. The railroad. however. was never built.
As for the bank's depositor make-up. by 1914 it consisted of
more than 3.000 customer depos it accounts: 2.074 at the
main bank and l .033 at the Sawyer Branch. Savings accounts
numbered 1.540 and totaled $128.024. while certi ficate of
deposit accounts numbered 903 and totaled S350.354. The
bank also had 664 check ing accounts worth Sl69.880. Dif-
ferences in the depos it character of the headqua rters and
branch fac ilities for 1914 are noted in Table 2.
Deposi t Account Main Bank Sawyer
Savings $ 99.27 $ 53. 75
Certil'icates of Deposit 41 1.32 345.07
Checking 278.65 189.04
SOURCE: Minute Book. Bank of Sturgeon Bay Board of
Directors and Stockholders Meetings . October. 1914.
Also in 19 14 Ole Erickso n of Sister Bay became a s tockholder
a nd was credited by prC'sident Fetzer with helping to secure
new accounts for the ban k in that area of n orthern Door
County. 1\ year later Dr. Albert J. Kreitzer. the first president of
the Bank of Sawyer. became a s tockholder and also was
credited by Fetzer with building business for the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. Said Fetzer. '"I feel that his influe nce in our
Sawyer Branch territory has drawn a large number of new
customers to our inslitution:· Customer deposit accou nts at
the bank increased from 3. l 07 to 3.466 from 1914 to 1915.
Henry Fetzer contin ued to have reason generally to be

pleased with the financial progress of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay for most of the next fourteen years. as business volume
grew. assets rose sharply. net earnings seemed solid. physical
improvements were made. and even some new departments--
such as an "Agricultural Advisory Department" in 1917 and a
bond department in 1926--were added. The bank p resident's
enthusiasm bubbled over in his annual report for the year
1926, in which he noted that a $318,648 increase in deposits
for the previous twelve months had been "a barometer of the
rising prosperity of this community and the excellent financial
condition of a large majority of our citizens and community
businesses." Fetzer concluded that the increase "reveals the
unusual measure of confidence which this bank enjoys in this
community. an asset of priceless value and of greater impor-
tance to our future welfare than any of the resources listed on
our splendid statement."
Letters from the state Banking Department to the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay indicated that much of the bank's financial
success by the latter part of the 1920s if not sooner was
directly dependent upon the growing fruit industry of Door
County. Jn 1927 the department warned the bank. "A scrutiny
of the large lines [of credit] indicates large concentrations of
loans of a capital nature and we cannot but feel that any
set-back in the fruit industry in your community will have a
very disasterous [sic] effect upon your institution." The
department underscored the bank's fruit-industry connection
again the next year. writing that "a good many of the lines of
your bank are directly dependent on the success and the
development of the orchards." By one account. Henry Fetzer
and fellow Bank of Sturgeon Bay officer Joseph Wolter and
boat builder August Rieboldt even owned their own eighty-
acre Sturgeon Bay orchard; it was said to be named the Big
Creek Orchard Company. According to contemporary Door
County historian Stanley Greene. Fetzer's participation in
fruit growing was not unusual. as many prominent Door
Cou n ty busi nessmen at the time promoted and invested in
the local fruit industry.

Banking Growth and Recession

The financial growth experienced by the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay after its late 1906-early 1907 change in ownership was
paralleled. if not exactly duplicated. by Door County's other

banks.As Table 3 shows.all five of the county's banks recorded
large increases in assets for most of the period from 1910 to
1930 as measured in five-year increments.
1910 1915 1920 1925 1930

Bank of Sturgeon Bay $467.596 $827.447 $2,161.847 $2.620.945 $3.548.45 1

Mc:rchants ,
Exchange Rank 358.232 423. 199 787.542 852.534 1.274. 154
llu nk or Sawyrr 176.128 275.536 632.455 764. I 53 762.680
IDoor County
State Bank!
State Bank of
Forestville 51 .17 l 240.653 446.87 4 547.223 971.042
State Bank of
Maplewood 219.522 317.689 530.406

SOURCE: Annual Report qf the Commissionerqf Banking.

1910, 1920. 1925 (Madison: Democrat Printing Company):
Annual Report qf the Commissioner of Banking. 1915 (Mad-
ison: Cantwell Printing Com pany): Annual Report of the
Condition oJ State Banks. 1930 (Fort Atkinson: W.D. Hoar d
and Sons Company).
According to a newspaper summary of the history of the
Sturgeon Bay Building and Loan Association. assets there
increased from $6.786 in ils openingyearof 1923 to $26 1.363
in 1929. According to that sam e accoun t. apparenUy based at
least in part on figures advertised by the building and loan. the
Sturgeon Bay firm in those same seven year s financed or
refinanced the construction. remodeling. and purchase of
sixty-six homes and buildings.
Door County's banking growth as registered by both assets
and the number of financial institutions occurred at a time
between 1895 and 1929 when. despite the nation·s financial
Panic of 1907 and a recession in 1921 and 1922. t he value of
Wisconsin's i ndustrial and agricul t ural output increased
more than five-fold. According to A Century of Banking in
Wisconsin. published by the State Historical Society of
Wisconsin in 1954. the increase prompted "extensive new
demands for credit." Partially because of those demands. Door
County by 1920 had one bank for every 3.800 residents. By

1927 the United States averaged one bank for every 4.400
people. while Wisconsin averaged one bank for every 2.400
people. Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Henry Fetzer labeled
the local banking envi ronment as one marked by "strong
Economist Theodore Andersen. author of A Century of
Banking. concluded that despite the increased demands for
credit. Wi sconsin within the first three decades of the twen-
tieth century was "over-banked." From 1900 to 192 1 the
number of state banks in Wisconsin increased nearly 600
percent. from 143 to 827. including 56 which organized in
191 l alone. while the state's population increased by only
thirty percent. In 1921. the peak year in the number of state
banks in Wisconsin prior to World War II. nearly half of the
s ta te banks had less than $300 .000 in assets. and more than
sixty percent had less than $25.000 in capital stock. The Bank
of Sturgeon Bay rated well above the average state bank.
ranking in fac t among Wisconsin's largest state banks: as of
1921 it was among the eighty state banks (or top ten percent)
with total resources of more than $1 million and among the
seventy-s ix (or top nine percent) with a capitalizalion of
$100.000 or more. Ano ther s tatistic applied to the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay: like more than two-thi rds of the state's banks
at the time. it was located in a community of less than 10.000
oopopula ti on.
The numbe r of state banks in predepression Wisconsin
declined after 1921. a year when the nation's farm prices sank
a nd the country entered a two-year recession. In Wisconsin
Lhe rate of bank failures from 1921 to 1929 was more than six
times that of 1903 to 1921. The immediate cause of the
failures we re the problems in agriculture and falling fann
prices afte r World War I. According to Andersen, many Wis-
consin banks "had made heavy loans on farm real estate and
were thus to a large extent dependent on agricultural pros-
perity." When Wisconsin entered the 1920s recession and land
values in the s tate declined from $975 million in 191 6 to $795
million in 1926. "the security of the small country banks was
endangered." This period also saw a "fairly heavy turnover" in
the owners hip of farms. accoun ting for a s igni fi cant inc rease
in mortgage debts that was financed "to a considerable
extent" by banks in the state.
More research is needed to determine what effects the

agricultural recession had on Door County. All five coun ty
banks registered drops in assets at different times from 1919
to 1921. The first decline occurred in 1919 at the smallest of
the banks. the State Bank of Maplewood: financial resources
dropped that year from nearly $ 187.000 to $177,000 before
increasing in subsequent months. A year later the Door
County State Bank recorded a decline of nearly 850.000 in
assets. to $632.000, before resources increased again. The
county's other three banks all experienced reverses in 1921:
resources dropped by more than $134.000 at the Bank of
Sturgeon Oay. by $33.000 at the Merchants Exchange Bank.
and by $6.000 at the State Bank of Forestville. The 1920s was
also a peri od when Door County's population as a whole
dropped from 19.073 to 18.182. a development which may
have been related to the agricultural recession. Regardless of
any drops in assets or population, all five Door Cou nty banks
recovered from their short-lived declines and after 192 1
registered gai ns for most of the remaining decade.

The Federal Reserve and Correspondent Banks

One major effort at banking stabili zation prior to the 1930s
depression was the Federal Reserve System. which the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay agreed to join in 1918. Intended as a banking
reform meas ure prompted by the fin ancial dislocations of the
Pan ic of 1907. the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 created a new
national bank system designed to reinforce private financial
institutions and bring a greater degree of security. efficiency,
and regulation to the nation's banks. The act created twelve
banking regions around the country. each with its own federal
bank authorized. among other functions. to hold the excess
reserves of member banks and to exten d member ban ks credit
when needed. The legislation also crealed a Federal Reserve
Board to supervise the system and a new currency. the Federal
Reserve Note. as a medium ofexchange among member banks.
Initially placed in District 9 (Minneapolis) of the Federal
Reserve System, Door County and twenty-four other princi-
pally northern Wisconsin counties. including the nearby
counties of Brown. Calumet. Kewaunee. Manitowoc. Outa-
gamie. and Sheboygan. were transferred to District 7 (Chicago)
in 1916. The change followed petitions from Wisconsin banks
which argued that financial institutions in those counties
had closer economic and banking ties to Chicago than

Minneapolis. Although only o ne state bank in Wisconsin
belonged to the federal system as of May 191 5. Wisconsin
banks "availed themselvesextens ivelyofits facilltles"with the
advent of World War I: membership in the sys tem grew. The
Bank of Sturgeon Bay entered the Federal Reserve afte r
a uthorization by its Board of Directors in March of 1918: t he
board approved the purchase of thirty-six shares of stock for
$3,600 in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
The Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay advertised three principal rea -
sons for j o ining the n a tionwide reserve system:
1. 'We Increase Our Service to the Government." The bank
noted tha t while it ha d previously participated in the nation's
financing effort for World War I through the s ale of Liberty
Bonds "a nd all other war activities:· it conside red its mem -
bership in the Federal Reserve a patrioticduty duringa time of
c risis.
It Is the closenst [s icl co-operation of t he people. ba nks and
Gove rnment that the greatest. quickest and eas iest progress
will be made in Winning the War.
Every dollar you deposit in this bank-a member of the
Federal Reserve System-adds g reater stabili ty and s trength
to the fi na ncial system of our Country.
2. 'We Increase Our Strength." The bank sa id that the
Federal Reserve Syste m had nearly $75 million in capital and
"well up to"$2 billion in resources .
By becom ing a member of this monstrous organ izatio n-
the largest and strongest fina ncial Institution on earth- we
greatly increase our own streng th. As a state bank we lose
none of our privileges. but gain a ll the advant ages of a
National bank. The bank's records a nd affairs are under the
supervis ion of both s tate and [federal[ governmenl. which is
double assura nce of soundness a nd security.
The bank said it had capital.surplus. and und ivided profits of
$73.1 17 a nd was a "strong progressive bank" marked by
"sound judgment. experience and integrity" of leadership.
3. ·we Increase Our Service to the Community." The bank
said that its affiliation wi th the Federal Reserve would also
allow it to loan money "more libe rally." As a reserve member, il
indicated , it could obtain loans from the Federa l Reserve Bank
in Chicago "and get MONEY for our customers."
When our customers need fund s a nd show tha t they are
en titled to t hem. we a re always able to make them tht loans.
No matter how willing some banks may be to do this. unless
they have the money. they arc unable to ass ist their cus-

tomers. The Federal Reserve Sys tem makes it possible for its
members tO get cash to help customers at all times.
Wartime has put more and heavier demands on each
person--he is expected Lo raise more from the ground--do
more in Lhc same numbe r of hours--it takes s tronger
financial bad<lng. a nd we are prepared to g ive il lo the people
of this community.
To some ex Lent the Federal Reserve System was an extension
of and improvement upon correspondent banking. which
existed in Wisco ns in as early as the 1840s. According to
Theodore Andersen in A Century of Banking. the small
"country ba nks" serving rural a reas ofWiscons i n were subject
to great seasonal fluctuation s in their finances because of
their dependence on agricultural income. In the winter these
institutions we re normally very liquid. and cash was available.
But in the summer these same ba nks usually loaned heavily to
customers and could not collect on the loans until crops. and
good crops a t that. were harvested. Thus. the "country banks"
a nd the larger banks in larger cities established corresponden t
relationships. Among other mutual benefits. the smaller
banks would deposit money in interest-bea ring accounts at
the larger banks when able in re turn for receiving loans from
the larger banks when needed. Said Andersen:
In the sprl ng a nd summer l he cash balances carried by the
cou ntry banks were so small that thev had to borrow cash
from tl1e ir <'ily corresponde nts on a hand-to· mouth basis.
Only the prompt and reliable financial s upport furnis hed by
the ci ty corres pondents made operations o n such a narrow
margin possible. This assistance naturally led Lo a very close
relationship between the two types of banks . . ..
Andersen said the financial panics of 1893 and 1907
"illustrated dramatically t he weaknesses of the correspondent
relationship." During these cri ses many of the country banks
had been unable to either recall their deposits or obtain credit
from the ir city correspondents. themselves s trapped by
customer runs. an inabili ty lo liquidate investments, and/ or
other finan cial pressures.
It became dear that a safer place was needed for the reserves
of country banks a nd also some new means of expanding the
supply or currency when a nnanC'lal crisis produced heavy
withdrawals or deposits.
As noted in an earlier chapter. the first correspondent banks
for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay were the First National Bank of
Chicago and the Kellogg National Bank in nearby Green Bay.

By 1895 the First National Bank of Milwaukee. the Royal Trust
Company of Chicago. a nd the Ba nk of Ahnapee (Algoma).
another Edward Decker bank, became correspondents. By
1915, three years before it agreed to enter the Fede ral Reserve
System. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had nearly S63.000 in cash
deposits in seven other banks: the National Bank of Republic
in Chicago. Kellogg National. First Na tional of Milwaukee. the
National City Bank of New York. the Second Ward Savings
Bank of Milwaukee, Firs t National of Chicago. and lhe First
National Bank of Joliet.
Correspondent banking by th e Bank of Sturgeon Bay
continued after its entry into the Federal Reserve. As of 1984
the bank's principal correspondent was the M & I Marshall
and Ils ley Bank of Milwaukee, which provided checking.
computer. investment. loan, and other services for the Door
County bank.

Chapter VII
An Economic and Banking Crisis:
The Depression
Despite such events as lhe financial Pan ic of 1893 and the
collapse of lhe Decker fortune in 1906-1907. the most serious
c risis encountered by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in its first
century of operation was the Great Depression. At the depres-
s ion's outset. officers. directors. stockholders. and customers
may have never seriously questioned the financial viability of
Door Cou nty's largest ban k. In fact. total assets aclually rose
from $3.5 million in 1930. the firs t full calendar year of the
depression. to a record $3.8 million in 1931. an increase
probably due in part to the bank's consolidation with the State
Bank of Maplewood thal year.
However. by 1932 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was in serious
financ ial trouble and forced to close for reorganization. The
closing followed the failu res of Sturgeon Bay's two other banks
as well as the Maplewood consolidation. The Door County
State Bank was the first of the local banks to fail. in 1931: like
so many financial institutions at the time. it blamed deposit
withdrawals and an inability to liquidate loans for its closing.
That was followed a year later by the closing of the Merchants
Excha nge Bank. caugh t in a similar fi nancial squeeze. Both
banks said they planned lo reorganize. a nd both underwen t
special exam inations by the state Banking Departmen t But
both banks never reopened. Their closings set the stage for a
full-scale banking crisis in Sturgeon Bay and Door County
that quickly entangled the Bank of Sturgeon Bay and briefly
left the county seat of 5.000 residenls without any operating
bank for the first time in fifty years.

Banking Reform in Wisconsin

The Great Depression enveloped Wisconsin"s banking
system as it did financial institutions across the country

despite the formation of the Federal Reserve System and a
series of major banking reform measures instituted by the
Wisconsin Legislature beginning shortly before the tum of the
century. The first of these major reform measures. passed in
1895 following the Panic of 1893. created the position of state
bank examiner. Appointed by the state treasurer with the
governor's approval. the examiner was authorized in part to
supervise a nd inspect at least annually the financial condi -
tions of all private. state. and savings banks in Wisconsin. If a
bank d id not submit financial reports on time. it could be
fined one hundred dollars for each day of delinquency. If a
bank was found to be financially unsound. the bank examiner
could order corrective action. And if correclive action was not
taken. creditors could request the state attorney general to
appoint a receiver and have a court of law intervene in
managing the bank's affairs.
The 1895 legislation was followed by other measures meant
to strengthen Wisconsin's hand in banking regulation. ln
1901 the bank examiner was empowered "to close and take
possession of any bank which appeared to be in an unsound
condition." In 1902 voters authorized amending the state
constitution to allow the legislature to change state banking
laws without ratification by the electorate. The move was
made after voters in 1898 had rejected various amendments to
Wisconsin's banking laws. In 1903 a new banking law banned
private banks. expanded the bank examiner's offi ce to a state
Banking Department. created the new position of commis-
sioner of banking. and created or tightened regulations
governing cash reserves. loans. overdrafts. surplus accounts,
and paid-in capital stock. among other provisions. Capitali-
zation requirements further tightened.
In 1909 the legislature empowered the commissioner of
banking not only to take possession of a bank found to be
financially unsound or operated in an "unauthorized manner"
but to supervise its liquidation without court intervention.
This permitted the commissioner and the bank's creditors
to avoid the time-consuming process of going lo t he courts
for the a ppointment of a receiver. The commissioner could
return the bank to the stockholders if it proved possible to
reorganize its affai rs along sound lines and If certain
conditions imposed by the commissioner were met.
Also in 1909 the legislature approved controls regulating trust

companies in Wisconsin. The regulations prohibited the
companies from engaging in full -scale commercial banking
but did in parl allow them to hold property. execute wills,
manage estates. make certain kindsofloansand investments.
receive time deposits. and issue certificates of depos it.
Additional changes in regulations governing financial
institutions in Wisconsin were approved between 1909 and
1929. In part they permitted state banks to receive U.S. postal
savings deposits. allowed state banks to open trust depart-
ments. and increased bank capitalization requirements.
ln addition to government banking controls. some banks in
Wisconsin established and promoted certain forms of self-
regulation. One was bankers· credit bureaus. designed to
"consolidate information on bank loans in given areas and
then notify the bankers of any borrowers who were in debt to
more than one bank." Door County banks approved the
establishment of their own credit bureau in 1928. Another
form of self-regulation was the clearinghouse association. an
organization of banks in a given geographical area that
processed checks and in some cases provided financial
examinations of member banks. among other services. By
1928 if not sooner such a clearinghouse existed in Door
county: the Door County Bankers Association. Although the
history of the association is not apparenl. it was still in
existence as of 1931. The demise of all but one Door County-
headquartered bank by the end of the 1930s may have marked
the association· send. Also regarding a clearinghouse associa-
tion. minutes of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors
meetings from 1935 made note of a proposed "Regional
Clearinghouse Associaton No. 16" for Door and nearby

An Economic Crisis
The depression that would shake the foundation of the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. indeed of the entire country and
western capitalism. began with the U.S. stock market crash of
October 1929. Stock prices had been climbing throughout
much of the 1920s. soaring on the New York Stock Exchange
by forty percen t alone in 1927 and another thirty-five percent
in 1928, advancing at rates far greater than the actual growth
of the nation's economy. Most of the stock was owned by
businesses and a wealthy few. but a growing number of

average citizens also invested in the market: by 1929 some 1.5
million Americans owned s tock.
Much of the stock market price cli mb of the latter 1920s was
fu eled by buying stock not for ils dividend return bu t with lhe
intent of reselling it at a higher price: speculation .
. . . the essence of the stock market boom of the late
twenties was speculative. Stock prices did not reflect real
values. They did not reflect the worth of the industrial plant
of a company. or the value of its products. or even the s ize of
the dividends it paid on Its stock. They reflected instead the
hunches and guesses of speculators as to what tomorrow's
demand might be for stock from people who. in tum. were
speculating. A man owned a share of General Electric stock
because he was confident that very soon another man would
pay him more money for it than he had paid. And that other
man bought it for the same reason. And from 1926 to 1929.
aside from occasional ··wobbles·· in the prices ofstocks. their
value rose in a dizzy spiral of speculative buying. Everybody
was su re to get rich.
The "Great Bull Market" charged onward. Stock prices
continued climbing week after week with little pause until by
September 1929 they stood 400 percent above their level of
only five years earlier. In September and early October the
market began fluctuating. first mildly and then with more
in tensity. Then. on October 24 ("Black Thursday··). confidence
died and prices plummeted.
Suddenly it seemed that nobody had any more confidence in
rising s tock prices. Everyone wanted to sell at once. Prices
fell drastically. That day nearly 13 million shares of stock
were traded- at lower and lower prices ... The floor of the
New York Stock Exchange became a scene of wild scram bl! ng.
desperate shouting as brokers frantically rushed to unload
their stocks before prices fell even further.
The "mad scene of franti c sellers. elusive buyers. and ex-
hausted clerks struggling to record the wreckage" continued
for nearly a week, peaking on the following Tuesday. October
29. when a record 16.5 million shares of stock were sold.
However. stock prices continued to decline for a much longer
period of time and did not bottom out until June 8. 1932.
The collapse of Wall Street brought with it an immediate
decline in the nation's economic activity. Although many
initially felt the decline was only temporary and the market
crash itself would have a "salutary effect"' in returning stock
pr1ces to more reasonable levels, the economy conti nued
s lumping month after month. unable to recover from what

developed into a crisis some analysts said had been building
for a decade. Many corporate and individual investors in the
stock market lost large sums of money or were forced out of
business by Wall Street's bust. Wi th the declining stock prices,
industries slashed expenses. cut production, and fired thou-
sands of employees. Banks. themselves stock market Investors
and worried in part about their ability to recover their own
losses and the losses through borrowing to other investors.
began calIi ng some loans and refusing new or extended credit.
Consumers. many of them saddled wl th low incomes that had
not reflected the industrial prosperity of the 1920s. faced lost
investments.a loss of credit. an increasing inability to finance
debt, and/or outright unemployment. As a result. consumer
s pending went into a pronounced decline. further aggravating
the employment picture and industrical production. Busi-
nesses began to fail with frequ ency. and factories closed.
Indeed. the s tock market collapse had set in motion a perilous
chain reaction throughout the American economy.
The Great Depression peaked in 1932-1933 but lingered
throughout the 1930s and. according to some analyses. even
into the early 1940s despite various governmen t recovery
programs. Its end came only with the economic stimulus of
World War II and a sharp increase in the production of goods.
in advance of the U.S. e n try into the war, accompan ied by
massive government spending, more jobs. and a larger money
supply. The depression's effects were felt well beyond U.S.
borders. as the total value of world trade fell by more than half
by 1932. Li ke the United States. some countries exacerbated
the crisis by raising tariffs to decrease imports. The increases
prompted other countries to respond accordingly. ins piring
new rounds of protectionism. The severe econom ic disloca-
tions in some countries also led to the rise of political
extremism and militaristic nationalism that would later set
off World War II.
The depression's reach certainly encompassed Wisconsin
as well. Accord ing to Robert C. Nesb! t in Wisconsin: A History,
the value added by Wisconsin manufacturing fell from about
$960 million In 1929 toS375 million in 1933. The number of
industrial jobs dropped from 370.000 in 1929 to 232.000 in
1932, while wage payments fell nearly sixty percent. Fann
prices dropped further. generally "far more" than the prices
farmers paid for machinery, parts. and petroleum products.

Gross farm income decreased as well. from $350 million to
$199 million between 1930 and 1932. At the same time.
employment in the state declined thirty-three percent. and
1.500 businesses closed.
More work is needed to determine the exact economic
effects of the depression on Door County. Presumably. though.
dairy farmers here suffered from plummeting farm commodity
prices as did dairy farmers statewide. Fruit growers too saw
significant price drops. according to a 1983 summary of
Sturgeon Bay and Door County history. and the cherry
business was "nearly ruined:· It survived-including the
county's fruit-processing operations-but. by the 1983 ac-
count. "never regained its pre-depression importance." The
depression also "seriously affected" Door County's stone
quarrying business and forced some boat owners to abandon
their vessels at at least one Sturgeon Bay shipyard. apparently
unable to pay for the boats' construction. repairs, or operation:
some of the vessels were subsequently dismantled and used to
expand or repair docks.
According to an editorial published in the Door County
Advocate during Sturgeon Bay's banking crisis of late 1932.
Door County's principal industries had been "hit hard" by the
depression. The newspaper called on the county's citizenry to
"keep an even keel" and maintain faith in the ability of the
local economy to "stage a comeback ... when conditions
improve." The local commercial fishing industry. said the
Advocate. had not suffered from the depression "to the extent
that many other industrie!s]" had.
It is an industry that is not closed down and employs many
men and distributes large sums of money. It is an industry
that needs protection to keep the waters supplied with fish.
The newspaper said that the depression had affected Door
County's tourist business. but the business was an asset few
counties in Wisconsin could claim and would play a major role
in restoring the local economy"when normal times return." It
With its dairy. cherry and agricultural resources to figu re
on in the future. Door county can and will come back. and it
will come back just that much quicker by taking an optimis-
tic view of present conditions !rather] than to assume a
pessimistic attitude.
Another editorial about Door County's economy appeared

three months later in the Door County News. Enti tled "Don't
Become Discouraged.·· the piece had this to say about the local
s tate of economic affairs:
Although the re has been little evidence, in Door county
especially. that. business conclillons are on the upward
trend. our people are urged to keep a sti ff upper lip and not
become discouraged. Theassuranre is given by observers in
other sections of the country that business is picking up and
in many industrial centers men are being put w work on a
full -time basis. It is a foregone conclusion that the '"break··
cannot be far off and sooner or later It will reach Door county.
We recognize the difficulty that is experienced by people in
facing the a lmost hopeless tas k of carrying on in the face of
what seems like certain defeat. but there is nothing lo be
gained by giving up now. Let's redouble our energy and make
a determined effort to see the thing through.
The foundations of this country are too sound to pennit
its utter collapse and we can assist in the ultimate recovery
from this present condition by DOING our work rather than
by .. folding up·· and leaving it to others.
Don't become discouraged!
There is no reason to believe lhal during the depression
Door County su ffered any less than many other counties in
Wisconsin. The devastating pattern of falling farm prices.
declining industrial production. higher unemployment. failed
farms and businesses. lowered personal incomes. a nd signif-
icantly less consumer spending is likely to have been as
evident here as it was in Marshfield. Sheboygan Falls. or Lone
Rock. In one particular area of the locaJ economy. the depres-
sion crisis certainly was as deep and severe as in many other
locales: banking.
The Door County State Bank
Door County's five commercial banks managed to survive
1930. the first full calendar year of the depression. officially
intact. Total foolings or assets dropped at four of the five
institutions. but resources for all of the county's banks
decreased by only S 143,353 in total. At the end of the year.
Door Coun ty's bank assets stood at $7. l million.
Despite the minor drop in footings overall, at leas t one of the
county's five banks. the Door County State Bank. was in
serious financial trouble and by mid-1931 close to collapse. In
June of that year the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of
Directors discussed the "Door Counly State Bank s ituation"
and indicated a willingness to "take over such of their assets

as meet with our approval" if requested and if the officers and
shareholders of the Door County State Bank could form a
holding company "to take over the balance of the assets and
the building." Three weeks later in July a "Mr. Larsen."
apparenUy Irvin C. Larsen. manager of the Door County State
Bank. appeared before the board: board members subse-
quently "went over the statement submitted by the Door
County State Bank." Minutes of the meeting did not elaborate.
Word of the "Door County State Bank si tuatlon .. spread. and
by September deposit withdrawals and an inability to make
sufficient collections on loans had reached crisis proportions.
On Saturday afternoon. September 19. 1931. the Door County
State Bank's Board of Directors met and unanimously ap-
proved the following resolution:
Due to the fact that deposits have decreased $332.000 in
the past two years. and that our leash I reserve has dropped
to about 1 per cent of the deposits. and it is seemingly
impossible under the present conditions to reduce loans fast
enough to keep pace with withdrawals; be it
Resolved. that the affairs and assets of th is bank be placed
under the control of the Commissioner of Banking. and that
a notice be pasted on the front door of the bank that
"This Bank is In the hand of the Commissioner of
Banking. by order of the Board of Directors." and that the
Banking Commissioner be immediately notified of such
The resolution was signed by Leathern D. Smith. president of
the bank. and Larsen. secretary pro tern.
On Monday morning. September 21, the bank that began in
1902 as the Bank of Sawyer did not reopen for business, and
the state Banking Department took control of its financial
affairs for what was said to be either liquidation or reorgan-
ization. Door County State Bank Vice-Presidenl Thomas A
Sanderson issued the following public statement:
The board of directors determined upon this action
Saturday ISeptember 19 J afternoon. after concl ud Ing that it
was the advisable action to afford the greatest protection to
depositors. and the least inconvenience to borrowers.
The immediate action was necessitated by a constant and
continued withdrawal ofdeposits. faster than It was possible
lo reduce loans, in view of the present local economic
The bank's affairs. at least temporarily. wiU be in the
hands of the state banking department. pending an effort
that has been. and Is sun under way. to effect a reorganiza-

lion that will permit t he bank 10 continue LO fun ction and
serve the community's needs.
According to the Door County News. the closing of the Door
County State Bank created "verylillleexcitement" locally, and
business in Sturgeon Bay and Door County "seemed to
proceed as usual." The newspa per said the Door County
Bankers Association. which another Sturgeon Bay newspaper.
the Door County Advocate. indicated had met over the
weekend. immediately posted announcements stating that all
banks in the county would require thirty-. sixty-. or ninety-
days notice of their customers to withdraw savings deposits.
(The length of notice required apparently depended on how
much money a customer intended to withdraw.) "Other banks
in the county have experienced no difficulty.'' said the News.
"and it is stated that their patrons have expressed confidence
in their strength and ability to overcome the situation in good
The closing of the Door County State Bank occurred just
four months after a sensational series of events had briefly
threatened to paralyze financial institutions in nearby Green
Bay. When the crisis there ended. the president of the
McCartney National Bank was dead from suicide. two banks
had permanently closed, and all of the city's fina ncial insti-
tutions were reported to have encountered customer panics
and rapid withdrawals of deposits. As in Sturgeon Bay. a
requirement urged by local bankers demanding advance
notice by bank customers for withdrawal of savings deposits
helped to prevent further immediate damage.
At the time of its closing. the Door County State Bank.
fourth in size among the coun ty's five banks. had total assets
of $595.650. down more than $200.000 from about $813.000
in 1927 (resources at the bank had d ipped in 1928 before
increasing again in 1929). Of the bank's assets. loans and
discounts constituted seventy-six pe rcent. or $454.329. Of its
liabilities. deposits totaled $441.365. borrowing from other
banks was $96.235. and capitalization stood at $50.000. Its
officers and directors upon closing were: Smith. president:
Sanderson. vice-president: Larsen. manager: John Boler.
cashier: and board members Smith. Sanderson. Boler. C.D.
Brower. Jr.. Horace E. Stedman. Gust Forland. and John A
The News reported it was not known to what extent "if any"

losses would be to the Door County State Bank's depositors. A
representative of the s tate Banking Department who arrived
in Sturgeon Bay told the newspaper. "We are now going over
the assets of the bank and within a week or ten days we will
know what procedure will be followed.''
Although the News s tated the bank closing generated "very
litUe excitement" locally. an estimated 600 people jammed the
Door County Courthouse a week later for a meeting of the
closed institution's depositors and other creditors. The an-
nounced purpose of the meeting was to consider a reorgan-
ization plan "so that the greatest possible protection can be
given the depositors" and to have the bank's depositors and
other creditors appoln t from among that group a committee of
five people "to assist In the perfection of the reorganization
If the customers of the Door County State Bank who
appeared at the special meeting said or questioned anything
about the bank's clos ing and its effect on their deposits, the
statements or questions were not reported by either the News
or the Advocate in their summaries of the meeting. County
Agricultural Agent Benjamin F. Rusy gave an introductory talk
and presided over Lhe meeting. A young Sturgeon Bay native
fresh from law school a t the University of Wisconsin. Clifford
H. Herlache. was named the meeting's secretary. Stanley N.
Schafer. a n official with the state Banking Department.
explained at some length the procedures under the state law
by which theDoor CountyStateBank could reorganize.And a
special investigatory committee was chosen to review the
bank's assets and cons ider the advisability of reorganization:
chosen for the commi ttee were Rusy. Herman D. Hoganson of
Ephraim. local Assemblyman Moulton 8. Goff.Jule Gerondale.
and H.L. Schmid t of Nasewaupee. Appointed by the Banking
Department prior to the meeting as special deputy commis-
sioner of banking to oversee the Door County S tate Bank's
finan cial review was the bank's manager. Irvin Larsen.
According to the Advocate. Schafer told the large courthouse
audience that with the nation's securities market and prices
"generally at a very low level.'' liquidation at that time of the
Door County State Bank "would be very disadvantageous.''
Said the newspaper In paraphrasing the Banking Department
official's remarks:
Not as m uch could be realized from the assets lbyliquidation l

as could be realized bya reorganized bank that would have a
longer period in which to seek markets for its securities and
collect its loans. Many O\\l;ng the bank a t present might be
thrown in lo ba nkrnptcy, whereas in a year or two these same
person would be in a better position to pay, and foreclosures
would be nccei>sary in many cases. Liquidation now. ll was
pointed out. would thus undoubtedly effect a severe ha rds hip
on residents In many parts of the county and indirecUy
affect almost the e ntire population.
T he News. summar izing statements from state banki ng
officials said to have been made to the newspaper after the
s pecial meeting of depositors and other creditors. reported
that the outlook for reorganiza tion of the bank "looked
favorable." (As the future of the Door County State Bank was
being discussed. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay tried to assure
local residents that ils finances were in order and their money
In safe hands. In prominently d isplayed local newspaper
advertisements. the bank noted that its assets totaled $3.6
million. depos its were $3.3 million. and surplus reached
$50.000. Names of the bank's officers and directors were
printed in the advertisements in large letters alongside its
financial summary.)
Despite the op ti mism forward ed by the local press. the Door
County State Bank never reopened: it was liquidated. and
those assets that could be recovered were converted to cash for
payment to depos itors and/orother creditors.Ayear and a half
after closing. a repo1ied $76.690 had been received and
applied to bills payable. "which leaves $19,564 to be paid after
which collections on the .. . other assets can be applied to
depositors accounts. amounting to approximately $430.000,"
said the Advocate in early 1933: by the end of 1933. collections
for the bank totaled S 139.507. The liquidation process of the
Door County State Bank tookeightyears to complete: for most
of that time il was supervised by altorney Herlache. who by
1932 had become the Banking Department's special deputy
commissioner in charge of the closed bank. Informalion on
how much money was eventually recovered for the bank's
former depositors or what was the extent of losses they
incurred was unavailable for this Bank of Sturgeo n Bay
In a 1933 report, the state Banking Commission. created
that year to oversee the state Banking Department. noted that
banks in the state "not in a condition warranting efforts to

save them have been liquidated." Banks deemed insolvent
were "placed in the hands of the commission. either through
the voluntary action of their directors or through an order of
the commission." In explaining the procedure followed under
such circumstances, the commission said 1l usually desig-
nated a special deputy "to take charge of the assets and to
convert them Into cash as rapidly as possible." The special
deputy. then. was required to make reports to the circuit court
of the county in which the defunct bank was located. "Prac-
tically all" of the actual liquidation work, the commission
added. was done by the special deputy under the commission's

Maplewood and Merchants Exchange

At the same time the Door County State Bank closed and the
Banking Department m oved in to supervise its finances.
major change was under way at another Door Coun ty bank:
the State Bank of Maplewood. On Tuesday. September 29.
1931. the same day as the special meeting for depositors and
other creditors of the Door Coun ty S tate Bank at the Door
County Courthouse. t he Board of Directors of the State Bank
of Maplewood voted to consolidate the bank with the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. The Sturgeon Bay bank 's directors endorsed
the move three days later. while the stockholders of both
institutions okayed the consolidation on November 10.
In its lead page-one story for November 12. the Door County
News announced the development in an article headlined
"Bank of S tu rgeon Bay Takes Over Business of State Bank
Maplewood:· The News said the Maplewood bank would be
discontinued a nd its accounts transferred lo the Bank of
Stu rgeon Bay. "marking a nother step in the trend toward
fewer and better banks in this part of Wisconsi n." The Door
County Advocate reported the changes in its November 13
edition. Both banks issued statements on the occasion of their
consolidation . Said Pres ident Henry Fetzer fo r the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay:
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay takes real pleasure in welcom -
1ng as its customers the fo rmer depositors of the Slate Bank
of Maplewood. We are glad to be in a posit ion to extend our
service to a communi ty which has been used to good
banking service. but whe re the trend of the times has made
i t impossible for a small local bank to continue to operate

The State Bank qf Maplewood was acquired by Bank qf Sturgeon
Bay in 1931.

A bank. like any other business institution. must have a

reasonable volume of business in order to operate profitably
and efficiently. Not only area bank·s stockholdersent itJed to
a fair profit on their investment. but unless the bank is able
to earn a profit it cannot give Its customers the full
protection anc.1 thc high quali ty of service which they have a
right to expect.
During the past year or two conditions have been such
that many small banks. th rough no fau lt of their own. have
seen their business slowly contract. That has been the case
in Maplewood: so the State Bank of Maplewood. In justice
both to its stockholders and lo its depositors. has decided to
end its career and transfer its business to a strong. prog res-
sive. and responsible bank which is in a position to handle
this business to the better advantage ofeveryone concerned.
President J ohn Dettman. Cas hie r Fabian Reince. a nd Asst.
Cashier George Feller issued the following statement for the
State Bank of Maplewood:
We believe that by taking this action we are fulfilling a
responsibility that every good bank should feel toward its
customers and its community: the responsibility of seeing
that they are given access lo the best banking faclli ties
available. We feel real satisfac tion in a rranging to obtain for
our custome rs. through the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. serv1ce of
a calib re that our smaller bank could not hope to equal.
By the end of 193 1 the consolidation of the State Bank of
Maplewood and the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was officially posted

by the Banking Department. In reporting later in the 1930s on
efforts to stabilize banking in Wisconsin. state banking
authorities noted that one of their solutions "in numerous
instances" was to have banks "consolidated or taken over by
stronger banks" or to issue caUs for additional capital. "Jn all
these steps." said the state. "the banking department has
usually been the originator and has assumed much of the
burden in actually carrying out the proposals fo r improving
the local s tate banking situation ...
Wi th the merger of the State Bank of Maplewood and the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. the Maplewood headquarters of the
State Bank of Maplewood. Door County's smallest bank In its
brief fifteen-year history. closed. The bank's total footings at
the end of 1930. its last full year of operation, were $530.406.
down more than $42,000 from 1929. Consolidation with the
Maplewood bank may have been one principal reason why
total footings at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay actually increased
in 1931 while falling at Door County's other two rema ining
banks; total assets at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay hit a record
$3.8 million In 1931 (as registered in year-end financial
reports), up nearly $226.000 from the previous year.
The rise in assets for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. however.
was short-lived. as Door County's banking troubles intensified
in 1932 and developed into nothing less than a full-fledged
crisis. The crisis arrived with the nearly back-to-back closings
of the Merchants Exchange Bank and the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. Door County's oldest and largest banks. The state
Banking Department stepped in to supervise the affairs of
both banks. but only one reopened. For a brief period in the fall
of 1932 Sturgeon Bay had no operating banks. and a financial
panic gripped the city as it did so manycitiesacross the nation
at various times during the Great Depression.
The first of Sturgeon Bay's two remaining banks to close
was Merchants Exchange. the city's oldest fi nancial institu-
tion. founded In 1882 as the Banking House of Nelson a nd
Smith. On Wednesday morning, September 21. 1932. one year
to the day after the closing of the Door County State Bank.
Merchants Exchange did not reopen for business. The closing
was a nnounced at the time as a ten-business-day "holiday"
declared by Sturgeon Bay Mayor James G. Martin for the
Merchants bank. During the "holiday." a procedure also being
used by then for troubled banks elsewhere in the state. the

state Banking Department would review the bank's finan cial
condition with its officers and directors. as well as a special
committee of depositors a nd other creditors. for an official
decis ion as to whether the bank should liquidate or reorganize.
Former Bani< of Sturgeon Bay Cashier Abel B. Minor. by
then president of the Merchant- Exchange Bank. said the
Merch ants clos ing was caused by "a steady withdrawal of
deposits·· prompted by "the very un usual con di lions that have
preva iled during the pas t two yea rs." In a four-paragraph
statement, Minor said to "call in" the Banking Department to
examine the bank "and recommend a sound plan of reorgani-
zation " was preferable to liquidation "under the prevailing
conditions." Such a liquidation, he said, would cause "irre-
pairable loss" a nd "the ruination of many hundreds of
innocent people." Minor's entire statement read as follows:
Because of the very unusual conditions that have prevailed
d uri ng the past two years. there has been a steady withdrawal
of deposits. a nd the directors of this ba nk. having in mind
the ir respons ibility to all of the depositors. called upon the
state banking departme nt to give this bank a special
exa m ination and recom mend a sound plan of reorganiza-
tion .
We have ta ken advanta ge of this Emergency holiday to
temporarily close the Merchants Exc hange bank for ten
days. We a ppeal to the sound judgment of the men and
women of Door coun ty to bear with us while we take this
me thod. which has bee n s uccessful in other localit ies. to
s trengthen our position a nd safegua rd all depos itors. Com·
pelling us to liquidate our assets under the prevailing
conditions will entail an irrepaira ble loss. Forcing o ur
debtors to pay t he ir obligalions to lh is bank wlll result in the
m lnation of ma ny hundreds of innocent people. It is in a
desire to face the s ituation squarely that we take advantage
of this holiday lo prepare a plan of procedure that will protect
a nd treat all depositors alike. Ra ther than drag alo ng
t hrough uncertain ty and ultimate loss to the depositors we
decided to call in the s ta te department and follow their
We beg our depositors a continua nce of tha t same co·
operation and confide nce they have always extended to this
bank. We repeat. we are prompted to this proced ure as the
best and mos t honest way to serve the patrons of this bank.
With t he help of the state department a nd a committee
representing the depositors. we hope to work out a plan tha t
will protect the depositors and permit us to proceed without
the terrible and costly sacrifice t hat is necessary if we a re
compelled to force the collection of o ur assets.

We hope lo be ready within lhrecor four days Lo place all of
the facts before our deposi tors and s ubmit a plan that will
get the ir complete approval.
Both of Stu rgeon Bay's wee kly newspapers initially por-
trayed the dosing of the Merchants Exchange Bank in the
most optimislic of terms given the circumstances. Headlined
the Door County News. "Me rchants Exchange Temporarily
Closed fo r Reorganization." Said the Door County Advocate
the next day. "Mayor Declares Ten-Day Holiday ... Merchant
Bank to Reorganize." Both newspapers stated that state
banking regulators working with offi cers and directors of the
closed bank "will" formulate a reorganization plan that "will''
allow the bank to reopen upon completion of the mayor's
declared "holiday." "These are trying times for individuaJsand
business houses from a financial s tandpoint ... editorialized
the Advocate a week after the Merchants bank closing.
It is a time when community spi rit should assert itself.
Co-opera tion is needed in eve1y llne of business and between
individuals. Eve n a word of encouragement goes a long way
to help tide over the d isappointments a nd grief thal must be
The Merchants Exchange Bank d id not reopen Monday
morni ng. October 3. as the local newspapers announced h ad
been originally inte nded . Instead. Mayor Marti n extended the
"holiday" for anothe r ten business days. said one newspaper.
"upon presentation of facts by officiaJs of the Merchants
Exchange Bank of their plans for a reorganization of the
institution which req uire additional time." The local press
indicated lhat lhe bank's reopening was reset for 9 a .m ..
Friday, October 14.
A reorganization of the Merchants Exchange Bank's finan -
ciaJ affairs never materialized. On Thursday. October 6. the
notice of Mayor Martin's ten-day extension was withdrawn
and a new notice posted in a window of the closed bank. It
stated: "This Bank ls now in the hands of the State Banking
Department. Clifford Herlache. Special Deputy."
Five days later the bank's depositors and other creditors
assembled for a special meeting a t the Sturgeon Bay High
School auditorium. Depending on which local newspaper at
the ti me is consulted. some 500 or 1,000 people a ttended the
afternoon session. Door County Dis t. Atty. Grover M. Stapleton
served as chairman of the mee ting and Walter Woerfel, its
secretary. Abel Minor explained the Merchants Exchange

l3ank's financial siluation and answered questions. Frank N.
Graass of Sturgeon Bay was also a speaker. A commit tee offi ve
pt>ople was named to represent thr depositors before the state
l3anking Departmen t.. Local news papers disagreed about who
was selected to t he committee; the News said W.O. Peterson of
S turgeon Bay. Harry Schuyler of Fish Creek. Geor~e Senft of
Sturgeon Bay.John Carlson of Sister Bay. and Henry Propsorn
of Sturgeon Bay were selected. while the Advocare subsli luted
John Simmet and Clarence Bradd fo r Senft and Carlson. A
special audit oft he bank reportedly was suggested bu l voted
According to lhc Advocate, president Minor told the large
aud itorium crowd that the Merchants Exchange Bank had
been forced to dose because money was withdrawn from the
bank faster than collections could be made. The withdrawals.
he said. began a year earlier when the Door County State Bank
dosed. Although Merchants' reserves initially were sufficient
to meet the withdrawals, Minor said. bank failings elsewhere
shook local confidence in his ins titution. and withdrawals
persisted. prompting the closing.
The Advocate reported that Minor stated other ban ks had
been approached since the Merchants Exchange Bank d osi ng
about "taking over the business. as well as considering a
reorganization plan. all of which failed to materialize... One
l>ank which expressed interest in Minor's business was the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. On September 29. eight clays after the
Merchants Exc ha nge closing. lhe Bank of Stuq;~t'o n Bay's
l3oard of Directors agreed to propose lo Merchants that the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay assume the bank's assets providing the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay could ins ist on a forty-eight-month
period to pay the closed bank's depositors at the rates of 5%
lhc first year. 5% the second year. 40% the third year. and 50%
the fourth yea1-. The board also agreed that. if the Merchants
E:xchange Bank's assels were taken over. all second mortgages
would be "thrown out" and any certi ficates of deposit issued
by the Bank of Stu rgeon Bay to Merchants Exchange deposi-
tors would not bear more than th ree-percent interest. The
board elected directo rs William E. Wagener. William A.
MacEacharn. and Ralph Jenquin as a committee to examine
the Merchants Exchange Bank's loans. Nothing more of the
offer was made in minutes of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
Board of Directors meetings.

Minor expressed some bitterness in his remarks at the
Sturgeon Bay High School meeting. "If those who withdrew
their money from the bank had been as loyal to the institution
as those who s tuck to the last:· he said. "the bank would have
been able to continue business." Without attribution. the
News reported "it was stated" at the meeting that the
Merchants Exchange Bank could reopen if "sufficient collec-
tions could be made within the next n inety days:·
The reopening never occurred. The state Banking Depart-
ment later listed the bank's official closing date as October 6.
1932. the same day notice was posted at the bank that its
affairs were in the department's hands. At the time of the
official closing. total footings for the Merchants Exchange
Bank stood at s lightly more then$ I million. down from a peak
of close to S l.3 million in 1930. Loans and discounts con-
stituted seventy-three percent. or $742,981. of resources.
wh Ile investments (such as stocks and bonds) were $226.541.
The remaining resources consisted of additional real estate
and miscellaneous items. Of the bank's liabilities. deposits
totaled $771.696. borrowing from other banks was $154.225,
capital stock was $50.000. surplus and undivided profits were
825.000. and other liabilities. $20.773.
As in the case of the Door County S tate Bank. Sturgeon Bay
attorney Clifford H. Herlache was appointed special deputy
commissioner by the Banking Department to supervise what
turned out to be the Merchants Exchange Bank's liquidation.
By the end of 1933, collections for the closed bank totaled
$171.430 and had come through such sources as liquidation
of assets. assessments on stock. and bond recovery; as of
August 1 ofthatyear, Merchants Exchange as well as the Door
County State Bank were among 148 banks in Wisconsin being
liquidated by the state. According to a summary of Sturgeon
Bay·s banking history published in the Door County Advocate
in 1976, liq uJdaUon of the Merchants Exchange Bank was not
completed until 1944, twelve years after its closing. Like the
Door County State Bank. information on losses the bank's
depositors ultimately incurred was unavailable for this his-
In addition to Minor. officers and directors of the Merchants
bank at the end of 1931. its last complete year of operation,
were: C.M. Stephenson, vice-president: L.G. Slattery. cashier:
and directors Minor. Stephenson. O.E. Bingham. I. Brandeis.

J.W. Rogers, and J .M. Schauer.

The Free Press

Despite the local bank closings and the losses u ndoubtedly
incurred by cus tomers and investors t h rough the bank
liqu idations. Sturgeon Bay newspa pers were sympathetic a l
the time in their analysis of the local financial turmoil. The
Advocate. fo r example. ind icated shortly after the Merchan ts
Exchange Bank closing that Door County's financial cris is
had been largely beyond anyone's abili ty to prevent or con trol
because of the depression·s overwhelm ing economic impact
both locally and across lhe coun try. No one person or group
could be rightfully blamed for the turn of events in "fi nancial
circles.'' the news paper said. adding that "unjust criticis m
hurts. especially fo r those who have done their utmost to carry
on in an honest and fa ithful way."
In most cases every honest effort and sacrifice Ia re ] made to
s te m the tide of de pression. but condi tions over which no
one has control. occasionally press ... down u pon business
and individua ls and force .. . them to financial ruin. It is at
such times th<il a word of encouragement should be spoken
In place of er! I iclsm and d iscourageme nt.
Harry Dankoler. for one. was in no mood for any words of
encouragement. In January of 1933. after all of Sturgeon Bay's
banks had closed. two permanently. the Door County resident
wrote. ed ited. and fo rmally issued 5.000 copies of an 8 1h -by- l l -
inch newsletter called the F r ee Press demanding more
in formation about the bank closings, the liq uidation proce-
dures u nder way. and the expected losses to depositors. "The
depos itors have rights and they are en titled to know," said
Dankoler in the newsletter.
"Isn't there a nyone in Door county who wiU do something
about these bank matters?"" was heard often among the
depositors as the weeks and mon ths went by and no
Informatio n was fo r thcomi ng. T he depositors would all li ke
to be able to forge t a bout the m iserable a fla ir, but theycan·t,
for they need money for food and fuel ...
The depositors have a tremendous amoun t of money tied
up in th e banks. and they want to know the reason. and are
entitled to know. bu t all the laws seem to be to keep them
from knowing a t the least expense. wh ile we a re all warned
that we mu st weigh our word a nd watch our steps. or we
shall be sued or land in the calaboose. Probably a lot of
depositors would welcome a place where they could get free
meals and keep warm . and the coun ty jail Is that place.

I fully realize whal it means to gel action on a public or
semi public matter. Business men fear the loss ofa C'ustomer.
others the displeasure of a friend. a nd others fear for their
jobs. Some fear suits for libel or a term in prison. Every one
\.Vill encourage you lo go ahead. but very little ass is tance is
forth coming. You'll be called an agilator and a c rank, and
even worse.
In view of all lhat. it is a great satisfaction lo be in a
position. as I am. where I can't lose a customer. do not fear
the displeasure of a friend. for s uch a one is no friend
anyway.and have no job to lose. In fac t. I can look a ny man in
the eye and tell him to go where the devil holds supreme
dominion. and I informed the ac tive members of the I Free
Press's financial support] com mi li e that if they wo uld raise
the necessary money I would is::;ue a small paper so that the
depos itors could a l least obtain a lltlle information on this
mos t important ma tter.
Funded by thirty-fivedepositors(each of whom donated one
dollar) of Sturgeon Bay's two banks in liquidation. the Free
Press focused on the Door County State and Merchants
Exchange bank closings. Within the typeset. s ingle-spaced.
three column. four-page publication, Dankolcr said that a
group of individuals had traveled to Mad ison in the s pring of
1932 following the collapse of the Door County State Bank to
obtain information from the state Banking Department for a
"complain t" asking the a ppropriate legal authorities to pro-
ceed "against the officials of the Door County State bank in
such manner as is required by law." However. Dankoler said
individuals who signed the complaint, the precise na ture of
which he did not reveal. "became frightened" and withdrew
their signatures. He did not elaborate. (Contemporary Door
County historian Stanley Greene said in a 1987 interview that
he was one those people who traveled to Mad ison to get
information from the s tate Banking Department. Greene said
state banking regulators knew there were problems with the
Door County State Bank, but. In terms of prosecuting the
bank or its officials. little if anythi ng could be done given the
relevant state laws at that time.)
The Free Press also claimed that in the months prior to the
Door County State Bank closing. the bank "no doubt" had
"very little" cash on hand because of its "generous loanings."
"If Joseph Draves. of Sawyer, had asked for his $9,245. or
Herman L. Schmidt. of Sawyer. for his $8.130, not to mention
many others with one. two, three a nd more thousand dollars·
each," the newsletter claimed. "i t would have required

strenuous efforts to pay any one of them."
The January 1933 Free Press listed the Door Coun ty State
Bank's stockholders. presumably those of record when it
closed. The list included: bank director Horace E. Stedman.
with $13.133 of the bank's $50,000 capital stock: President
Leathern D. Smith. $ 12.767: Vice-President Thomas A. Sand-
e rson. $6.800: F. Hotz. $2.000: and eighteen others holding the
bank's remaining S 15.300 in capital s tock.
Dankoler said that "a lot of talk" also had been circulating
about the Merchants Exchange Bank closing. and that among
the bank's depositors "it seemed to be the general opinion"
that an independent audit of the bank should be made.
Others. said Dankoler. had suggested a John Doe court
proceeding or engaging an attorney with no local social or
business affiliations to gather more information about the
Merchants collapse and determine if there had been "any
juggling with the books'" or Jaws broken. Independent exam-
inations of both the Merchants and Door County State banks
could well disclose that "there were no irregularities." said
Dankoler. "The depositors would then have to be content with
the knowledge that the responsible heads of the banks were
simply 10. 20. 30 or more per cent bankers. !according! to the
amounts the banks eventually pay [out on depos its I.'"
The Free Press claimed that total deposits at the Merchants
Exchange Bank by officers of the bank upon its closing were
$ 15.89. rt also published a list of the bank's stockholders. also
presumably those of record when the institution closed. rt
included: President Abel B. Minor. with $4,500 of the bank's
$50.000 capita! stock: Vice-President C. M. Stephenson. $4.500:
F. August Braun. $3.000: C.C. Davis. $3.000: H. Remillard.
$2.500: L.M. Washburn. $2,000: and forty-one others holding
the remaining $30.500. One of the forty-one, according to the
list, was Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Henry Fetzer. who
was recorded as holding $500 worth of Merchants' capital
The Free Press published the results of what it said was an
in terview with Merchants Exchange Bank President Minor.
The newsletter said when Minor was asked about "the small
a mount of money he had in the bank:· he responded, "l never
had much money in the bank, because I was using my money
outside the bank." The newsletter said Minor stood 'just
where and as he did at the High School Auditorium meeting

on Oct. 11 lase and "emphatically.. asserted "that he has
nothing to conceal. and that his every act has been honest and
above board."
Minor said in the Free Press interview. in the newsletter's
words. that those "who lost the least do the most kicking." The
bank president also reportedly asserted that many people who
lost money in Merchants would have incuned losses anyway
had they invested the money in bonds. as Minor said the
Merchants bank h ad to do "in order to obtain the money to pay
them 4 per cent interest." Commented the newsletter:
To which he was reminded that the depositors did not
want bonds: that they had put their money into the bank. at
the going rate of interest. for safety and did not wa nt to take a
chance on buying bonds or anything else; that they had
confidence in the bank and bankers, and supposed their
money was where they could get it at any time.
Although at least partially critical of Minor. the Free Press
concluded the published interview with the observation that
"one could not but be impressed by Mr. Minor's earnestness,
frank statements. and willingness to answer all questions and
have every act of his thoroughly scrutinized."
Dankoler also published brief responses of local attorney
Clifford Herlache. appointed special deputy commissioner of
banking for both the Door County State and Merchants
Exchange banks. to five questions:
l. Do your duties requi re the reporting of any irregulari-
ties you may find in the ban ks? Answer: Yes. to the
Department of Banking.
2. Are you permitled to answer any questions put to you
concerning any matter connected with the banks? Answe r:
Nol permilted.
3. May a depositor examine the banks· books to learn of
the withdrawal of money by their officials previous to the
close of the banks? Answer: No.
4. Have you any idea as yet as to approximately the
amount of money either bank can eventually pay out on
deposits? And when? Answer: No.
5. Will you give any Information as to who paid lheS4,IOO
on s tock liability of $50.000 of the Door County State
Bank? Answer: Yes.
The newsletter did nol elaborate on the circu mslances
prompting the fifth quesUon.
The Free Press criticized the position of s pecial depu ty
banking commissioner as admin istered by the state and
u tilized in the liquidalion of Wisconsin's closed banks. The

newslelter said no one was in a better position to provide
info rmation "about the doings in the banks. before they
closed" than each closed bank's special deputy. but the deputy
was prevented from doing so publicly by ruling of the state
Banking Commission. Although the deputy's salary was paid
for by depos itors of a closed bank. "they cannot learn what
they would like to know." De positors could pay for a n inde-
pendent audit. accord ing to the Free Press,
(one has already been made by the s tate. but kept unde r
C'Over} or engage an a ttorney a l some $25 a day LO look ovrr
the banks' books. and if h e finds a nything\vrong. bring that
infonna tion to Lhe district a ttorney. The district attorney is
ind irectly paid his salary by the depositors. and. so far as
Door coun ty is concerned. has done nothing. Then what
An expert opinion from Atty. M.E. Davis. of Green Bay.
advises that in case the district attorney refuses to act. the
matter can be broug ht before the governor. and if the
governor is satisfied that an investigation should be made.
he can e1ppoint a s pecial prosecutor.
And the depositor pays. and pays. and pays, and pays.
The news letter did n ot elaborate on the audit it said was "kept
unde r cover."
T he Free Press said the "platfo1·m" of those depositors of the
closed banks who supported the newsletter consisted of: full
public disclosure of t he liquidation and "previous operation"
of the two failed banks: an assessmen t of "individual respon-
sibil ity. if any. for present condition of the banks": "action·· on
collecting payments due on capital stock from stockholders of
the closed banks; a revision of banking laws, "particula rly the
Morntorium statute": placement in trust of an amount of
money "equal to the stockholders' liability": and regulation of
bankers' salaries and the channelization of the "excess profits"
of banks to a special trust fund. When the profits we re "too
large." the newsletter said. they "should p ro rate to depos itors."
Throughout the Free Press. Dankoler sprinkled bits of
questions and com mentary on banking and Door Cou nty's
banking developments. muc h of it aimed directly at ba nkers.
A well-posted man of Chicago. in scrutinizing the bank
s ta tements of our three banks several years ago. remarked
lhat he doubted if a ny community in the state had as much
money per capita In savings as the people of Door county.
Where is it all now?
You can fool all of the people some of the time. a nd some of

1 12
the people all of the time. and the rest of the time the bankers
wi ll fool them.
Have the banke rs of the country gone down with their
banks? Or have they endeavored to get away in the life boats
before the women and children?
There never can be safe banking until bankers learn that
theirs Is a conservative profession.
It Is unjust to criticize all bankers ... We take off ou r hat to
all bankers who passed safely through the last few trying
years of the depression. They were real bankers.And some l 0
per cent of the closed banks went down through no fault of
the officers.
There is plenty of money in the country. but what we are all
short of is collaleral--that's what's the matter.
If our lawmake rs fail to pass laws making deposits
reasonably secure. It Is safe to predict that banking, in Door
cou nty at least. will have a hard lime of it.
Dankoler also published lists of some liquidation expenses
at the Door County State and Merchants Exchange banks as
well as a partial lis t of deposits at the Merchants bank
apparently of record when it closed. The deposits list included
nearly $40,000 from the City of S turgeon Bay. close to $28.000
from the County of Door. another $21.000 from a Sol. Levi tan.
an umber of smaller deposits from s uch enterprises. agencies.
and institutions as a Lutheran church In Ephraim. the Door
County Baseball League. the Door County Chamber of Com-
merce. the Ellison Bay Lutheran Church. the Fish Creek
Ladies' Aid. the Fraternal Order of Eagles. and the Woman's
Christia n Temperance Union. The list also included depos its
by ten schools in Door County ranging from $199 to $5.343.
In the closing a rticle of the Free Press. Dankoler said
another issue of the newsletter could be printed if sufficient
money were raised. as "we have enough matter on hand (as
interesting as anything here publis hed) to fill several issues.
and impe nding developments will no doubt furnish a great
deal more." He concluded:
Several persons have asked: 'What good will It do to gel
o u t The Free Press?" And the answer is: "Just as m uch good
as any paper. and perhaps a great deal more, for It will give
Information on a s ubject that about every person in Door
county is intensely Interested in. a nd it may help ... more
quickly liquidate the banks."
Whether the concerns. complaints. and observations of the
Free Press represented. as Dankoler indicated throughout his

newsletter. a ground swell of public opinion and anger about
the two permanent Sturgeon Bay bank failures or merely the
thoughts of a few disgruntled depos itors of the closed banks is
not certain. In the least. however. the newsletter may welJ have
demonstrated the sense of frustration. helplessness. ignor-
ance. and outrage about bank closings. lost deposits and
investments. bankers. and bank management (or misman-
agement) that some a nd perhaps many residents of Door
County felt during the financial turmoil and economic insta-
bility of the 1930s.

Audits and the Otis Complaint

Discontent about Door County's failed banks did not end
with publication of Harry Dankoler's January 1933 Free
Press. Jn February of that year notice was published that the
state Banking Department had approved requests for special
a udi ts of the Merchants Exchange and Door Cou nty State
banks made by 51 of Door County's reported 1.200 depositors
and 45 of Merchants Exchange's reported 2,000 depositors.
The purpose of the audits, said the Door County Advocate.
would be to investigate the financial affairs ofeach bank "and
the general conducting of the business up to the time of
Since the closing of each bank there has been dissatis-
faction a mong some of the depositors as to what they believe
were not good business methods In the conduction of
banking affairs before the banks closed. The only way to
determine this fact Is through an audi l. [which ! finally was
requested through the banking department. While the audit
can bring to light the detail bus iness affairs of the banks. it
cannot accomplish any greater re turns for the depositors.
The Advocate reported that a court order authorizing the
audits was under consideration by Circuit J udge Henry
As soon as Judge Graass is in formed of the approximate
cost of the audit petitioned for and is satisfied tha t the
depositors are willing to have the cost charged up against
the assets of the banks. the state department will send men
here to go into every detail of the banks busi ness. dati ng
back seve ral years prior to closing to see if any irregularities
occurred that would warrant criminal prosecution.
Two months later Door County State Bank s tockholder
Benjamin F. Otis formally issued a stxty-six-page "complaint"
alleging mismanagement. fraud. deceit. and violation ofbank-

ing law on a major scale at the former Bank of Sawyer from
1923 to 1931. The April 10. 1933, documen t also included a
published letter from Leathern D. Smith. president of the Door
County Stale Bank at the time of its 1931 collapse. in which
Smith said that the state Banking Department had once
threatened to close the bank unless new capital were raised
and certain old loans cons idered uncollectable were charged
off its books as assets. What. if anything, happened as a result
of Otis' complaint is not apparent; neither is it clear ifaJohn
Doe court investigation he requested was ever held or if a
similar "complaint" was filed concerning operations at the
Merchants Exchange Bank.
According to the complai nt. Otis and assistants of his began
an examination of the Door County State Bank's books and
records on March 16, 1933, on authority of a court order
signed by Circuit Judge Graass. Otis said the purpose of the
examination. completed a month later. was to seek evidence
"to warrant beginning John Doe proceedings against the
officers of tha t delinquen t institution." Otis concluded that
his investigation led him to believe that "the bank was
insolvent at several periods of its existence. and that the
officers knew it was insolvent many months before it closed."
The officers have frequently ignored the warni ngs of the
CommisslonerofBanking. a nd more often than not violated
the State banking laws and their own By-laws in their
proceedings. advertising as assets Joans that s hould have
been charged off ... and continuing to receive deposits when
the leash] reserve was below the legal limit of 12% several
times in 1930 for a period of 13 and 25 days each. and for six
pertods in 1931 of from 23 to 43 days.
The majority of the officers were more concerned about
their own borrowings. a nd voting funds to each other. than
for the welfare of the stockholders and the depositors.
I attended several of the Iannual) Stockholders' meetings
and accepled as reliable the reports of officers and com mit·
tees as presented, but the condition of the bank at closing
proves that the figures were misleading and false; the
estimates and promises of future earnings on s tock . . . !had
been ] merely a fantastic guess ...
Had I. as a s tockholder. a ny inkling of the methods of
banking being carried on by the officers of the Door County
S tate Bank for the past te n years. I would have ordered a halt
at once. and I can see now that had it not been for the
continual warnings of the State Banking department
(though the Examiners overlooked or condoned many vio-
la lions of the law) the bank would have been on the rocks in a

very short time. Bu tin spite of aJJ their letters. the result was
inevitable. as the officers disregarded the laws and had no
regard for the welfare of those who had intrustecl their
mo ney with them.
Otis charged that from 1923 to 193 1. the years for which
records were available for his examination: dozens ofboard of
directors and stockholders meetings had been held on dates
other than those prescribed by the bank's by-laws. thus
making the meetings and the business conducted at the
meetings illegaJ; numerous other required board meeti ngs
had not been held at all. including periods of seven months
and five and a half months when the institution's directors
did not convene: documents. records. reports. letters. written
statemen ts. and minutes had not been properly kept. signed
by officers. and reported upon at meetings: two active, salaried
officers of the bank had voted the bank's stock as proxy or
trustee in apparent violation of state banking law. and in one
instance another officer had voted as proxy when he did not
even own any of the bank's stock: directors h acl voted them-
selves and their business interests lines of credit that violated
banking law and had approved ques tionable business loans:
and officers and directors had misled the bank's other
stockholders about the ins titution's true financial condition.
Otis s aid that important documents were missing from the
bank's books and files when he and h is assistants examined
the closed institution's reco rds earlier in 1933. He concluded:
The technical violations of the law in the Door County
State bank were not of a "mi nor" nature, but of a continual
and serious kind. ignoring all of the governing laws of that
in.s ti tulion. a nd making practically all of litsl transactions
illegal--illegal meetings of s tockholders: illegal voting of
stock: illegal meetings of the Board of Directors: illegaJ
committees: disappearance of the reports of officers and
letters of the Banking department that s hould have been a
part of the minutes of the meelings--in fact. an utter
dis regard of aJI proper procedure in conducting a bank.
According lo Otis' complai nt, board of direclors meetings
were held in a "hit and miss manner," often not monthly as
required by lhe bank's by-laws and often on dates other than
those legally prescribed (for at least part of the time the first
Monday of each month). During the period. 105 regular board
meetings should have been held. Otis said. but only 79 were
actually conducted. includ ing those sessions without any
quorum. various special board meetings, and two Discount

Committee meeti ngs. Forty-six meetings were held on "wrong"
dates. and there were 42 da tes on which meetings s hould have
been held but were n ot; only 17 meetings were held on
"correct"' dates. Said Otis. "Not a meeting in 1929 was held
according to la w. Nor was there one held on the right day in
1930.and only 1 meeting ... was held on the righ t day in 1931."
Otis also claimed that no board meetings al all were held
bet ween September 26. 1930. and April 22. 193 l. and J u ne 3
and November 22. 1929. as well as during "several" three-
month periods. One board meeting in 1930 for the month of
May was held on a Sunday. May 18. which also happened to be
the annual "Cherry Blossom Day.. in Sturgeon Bay. Otis said.
As for committees. he claimed that no required Examining
Committee reports were found and no Examining Committee
was appointed at all in 1930 and 1931. no record of a Loan
Committee meeting ha vi11g ever been held to review the bank's
loans and loan policies could be found. and records did not
show that the bank's Discou nt Committee ever met from 1927
to l 929 and was even appo! n ted in 1930 and 193 l.
Oti s' review of the Door County State Bank records and files
showed that the bank d id conduct annual stockholders
mee tings from 1923 to 193 1 as required. but a t least three of
the sessions were held on dates other than those prescribed by
its by-laws. Illegal voting of stock by officers of the bank was
alleged to have occurred al three of the meetings: ( l) in 1929
Vice-President Thomas A. Sanderson, with one and a half
shares. voted 200 shares of the bank's stock as trustee for
President Leathern D. Smith. director and former President
Horace E. Stedman. Cashier John Boler. and himself: (2) in
1930 cashier Boler voted the bank's s tock as proxy: and (3) in
193 l both Boler and Manager Irvin C. Larsen voted as proxy.
Otis said that Larsen was not only an active. salaried officer of
the bank in 193 1. and therefore not allowed by law to vote as
proxy. but did not even ownanyofthebank'sstoc kat the time.
On a t least one occasion. according to the Otis complaint,
top officials of the Door County State Bank voted themselves
and some of their business interests s ubstantial lines of credit
that violated Wisconsin's banking regulations. On February
14. 1924. the board of directors approved $279.600 in lines of
credit. at least $167.800 of which Otis indicated was for
officers, directors. stockholders. and employees of the bank
and their interests. The $167.800 included: $ 70.000 in three

lines fo r then vice-president S mith and his L.D. S mith Dock
Company and L.D. Smith S lone Company: $3 1.500 for Vice-
Prcsiden t H.W. Ullsperger and one of his business concerns.
the Lake S hore Motors Company (which a letter from the state
Ban king Depa rtment included in the complaint was .. defunct"
by 1927): $21.000 for presicle nl Stedma n: and S 19.400 for H.L.
Peterson. iden tified as a s tockbroker (at least as of 1923) a nd
past president.
Olis charged in part tha t lhe lines of cred it violated state
banking law because resolutions ma intaining the fin a nc ia l
responsibility of those parlies who endorsed some of the lines
and the ..sufficiency.. of collateral pledged as security for the
others had not been approved by the bank's board of directors.
In a n aside. he also said tha t. because of the la rge volume of
credit approved fo r bank offi c ials a t the February 14 meeti ng.
he could imagine the ba nk's officers ha ving rema rked al the
meeti ng's ou tset. 'Well. boys. let's clean up today.. and at its
conclus ion, "No t so bad. e h?"
T he O tis complaint cited a nother board meeting. from 1923.
when board mem bers approved $24.100 in "extra" lines of
cred i l to ten offi cers. directors. a nd stockholders: the c itation.
howeve r. was a mere lis ting of the lines approved. a nd no
ba n ki ng law viola tion or im propriety was expressly alleged.
Bu l the Door County Sta te Ba n k s tockholder did report
elsewhere in his complaint that the Banking Department had
notified the Sturgeon Bay ba nk in 1930 thata S1 5.000 loan to
Lea the rn Smith, by then the ins titution's president. wa s
"w ithou t any security w ha tsoever," a violatio n ofbanki ng law:
Smith was advised by t he state to comply with the law or retire
the line. Otis alleged that "Mr. Smith needed the money In a
hurry. and simply took it." Another loan, said Otis. this one to
manager Larsen in 1930 a nd totaling $4.000. had "some
myster ious features." The loan note was endorsed by offi cers
Smith. Sanderson. and S tedman. according to Otis . b ut
Larsen allegedly claimed "he never saw the money." "If Mr.
Larsen [sicl never received the money wh at became of it?" Otis
asked. Otis also question ed what he indicated were either
sus pic ious or im properly a dminis tered loans a nd mortgages
between the bank and va rious othe r individuals and local
comme rcial enterprises. In cluding the Waupee Orc ha rd
Compa ny a nd the Farmers Company. and s aid some of the
tra nsactions required fu rther investigation.

The Door County State Bank's bond transactions also came
under criticism by Otis in his stockholder's complaint. The
bank had nearly $88.000 worth of bonds when it closed. he
said. including Argentina, Australia. Berlin City Electric,
Chile. Cuba. City of Sidney (Australia). City of Tucuman
(Argentina). Electric of Pana ma. Elec tric of Salvadore. Warner
Brothers Pictures. a nd Insull Utility. "Australia and Berlin City
Electric are likely to repudiate their bonds, according to the
papers." s aid Otis. "The City of Tucumen lsicl in December,
1932. was said to be paying interest. but is not now q uoted.
Electric of Panama and Electric of Salvadore are said to be N.G.
(I no good] ." He added:
The vaults of closed ban ks are slacked with defaulted
obligatio ns of governments across the seas and South
America as well. The average banker is no bond expert. He is
not the all-wise and cau tious man pictured in the public
imagination. He fell easily. with expecta tions of big interest.
for the bond salesman talk. and fa iled to reali7..e that the re
were seve raJ kinds ofbonds --good and bad. He took aJl kinds.
Some bo nd salesmen, with no thoug h t except to get [thei r[
commission. worked the s mall town banks and sold bonds
that no first-class banker would buy. And thus we find
banking wreckage all over the landscape. and here the
wailing of depos itors who have lost. in many cases. perhaps a
la rge sha re of their life's savings.
Otis noted that Lea thern Smith had written an article for the
February 10, 1933. Door Counly Advocate (also for the
February 16. 1933. Door County News) entitled "Distribution:
Reflation or Revolution" in which Smith stated in pa rl that
uns ound fore ign and other bonds had been "unloaded" on
small banks nationwide "for seconda ry resen 'e purposes by
la rge banks securi ty affilia tes." Bu t Otis questioned whether
the Door County State Bank had been victimized by such
practices or whether Smith was trying to blame others for the
ba nk's mis managed financial affairs. He concluded:
Any one who would buy Wa rner Bros. Pictures bonds ha s
no business in a bank. He s hould be pu t to work in a s to ne
quarry. J ust befo re the "Talkies" came in Wa rner Bros.
Pictures. or whatever the name was a t that time. were broke.
but they made a hit in the new line. But that kind of
business. at best. is most hazardous . a nd reorganizations
and failures are so common in the pic ture producing line
that any one wi th any sense would fight s hy of s uch
investmen ts.
The Otis complaint also contained a variety of othe r com-

rncntary. statistics. questions. information. and allegations.
including lists of Door County State Bank mortgages. loans
and loans charged off. savings and checking deposits and
withdrawals before the bank's collapse. salaries, and reserve
pe rcentages and cash on ha nd in the days before the ins titu-
1ion·s 1931 closi ng. Meeting minute s ummaries incl uded in
the complaint showed that the board of directors had sanc-
tioned borrowings from othe r mainly Wiscons in banks of at
least Sl 75.000 in 1923. Sl 75.000 in 1926. Sl50.000 in 1927,
$ 160.000 in 1928. $50.000 in 1929. $100.000 in 1930. and
$125.000 in 193 I. The loan authorizations involved the
McCartney National Bank of Gree n Bay. the First Na tional
Bank of Oshkosh. the National Exchange Bank of Milwaukee.
the First Wiscons in National Bank of Milwaukee. and the
Continental and Commercial National Bank of Chicago. In
a nother section. enti tled "Door County Egg Co .." Otis said that
a truck driver for the egg firm had made a deposit of $508 less
S 100 drawn out at the Door County S tate Bank on Saturday
morning, September 19, 1931. The driver later reported that
the receiving teller had taken the deposit to a man at a desk.
and after a "low conversation" the teller returned and stamped
the date on the deposit slip September 18. The manager said
he thought nothing of the misstamped slip unti the bank
fa iled to open for business the following Monday: by then its
a fla irs were in the hand of t he state Banking Department.

Problems by 1927
The Otis compla int closed with a rticles it identified as
coming from the Free Press: some from the January 1933
issue and others undated but not from that issue. indicating
that the priva tely financed newslette r had published at least
one additional issue. Included was a long lette r from Leathern
Smith explaining h is actionsas an offi cer and last preside nt of
the Door County State Bank. The S mith letter and other
information in the Otis complai nt showed tha t the bank had
experienced serious financial proble ms evident in 1927.
prompting a th reat by sta te regulators to close the institution.
According to the complaint. the state Banking Department
concluded In a letter to the Door County State BankonJune8,
1927. that a finan cial examination of the bank had revealed a
condition "so far from satisfactory as to raise a question of
drastic action by this Department." The department said that

"the quick assets ofyour bank are less than halfof the demand
liabilities and [the situation] has placed your bank in a
position of being unable to meet much more than the normal
strain." The bank's cash reserve was below the legal limit at
examination time (a condition the department called .. rather
chronic"), overdrafts were "habitual and among them is your
President." six lines of credit violated maximum loan limits.
liquidation of real estate held by the bank from mortgage and
loan transactions posed "a very serious problem." and regu-
lators after a "strict analysis" found the bank's undivided
profits account not to be ··an accurate gauge of your earning
ability:· the department said. "From the recapitulation of the
bank's condition." it concluded, "it is a pparent that there is an
impairment of capital of' about 150%."
In its June 8 letter the Banking Department noted that the
Door County State Bank's Board of Directors had just levied a
150 percent assessment on the bank's stock to raise an
additional $75.000 in capital. Said the department:
The payment of such an assessment will probably place your
bank In a condi tion where itcansafelyoperateandaccumu-
latc some earnings. but even such an assessment will be
insufficient to ma terlally better your con di lion unless every
director gives extraordinary attention and is diligent in his
duties to the bank.
Smith in his Free Press letter. dated February 7, 1933, said
that "three years ago" the Banking Department had threat-
ened to close the Door County State Bank unless "new money"
was put into the bank by stockholders and certain old loans
c harged off the bank's books. As a result, Smith said, stock-
holders of the bank were levied the 150 percent stock assess-
ment. and he and Thomas Sanderson agreed to serve as
presiden t and vice-p resident. respectively. Although Smith
Indicated the changes had been made about 1930, minute
summaries of the bank's board ofdirectors meetings included
in Otis' complaint showed that the assessment was approved
by the board on May 20. 1927 (three weeks before the Banking
Department letter officially threatening "drastic action"), and
Smith and Sanderson's selections as president and vice-
president were endorsed by directors eight months later, on
January 30, 1928.
The minute summaries also showed that Horace E. Sted-
man's "resignation" as president of the bank.opening the way
for Smith. had been under consideration by the board by

December of 1927, when it established a "Management
Committee" to supervise the bank at least temporarily and
discussed the possibility of ordering a special audit of the
bank's finan ces. "Noth ing was late r recorded about this audit.
if made." Otis said in his complaint. (In one Free Press a rticle.
Editor Harry Dankoler said that an acquaintance of his had
asked Sanderson in 1926 about the financial condition of the
Door County State Bank. being that "the talk a bout town" was
that the bank "was not any too strong." The acquaintance said
he was advised that the bank had made some bad loans. but
that dividend paymen ts to stockholders had been suspended.
"the g reatest economy was being practiced," and "everything
was now sane. safe. and sound.")
Smith wrote that his time spent away from Sturgeon Bay,
had prevented him from being an active director in the bank's
affairs. but he had agreed to become the bank's president
with so many of our friends and employeesdeposilors in the
bank and the bank having been a very good fri end lo our
companies during the development of our bus iness. thus
bringing considerable money and employment into Sturgeon
Bay we felt that every effort should be made to continue the
Although a "strenuous effort" had been made to collect the
special stock assessment. he said. payments on the special levy
ran $30.000 short. and the bank was forced to borrow that
amount from two banks. Smith said he eventually paid in to
the bank about $15,000 in assessments on his own stock and
another $15.000 for other stockholders' assessments. con-
cluding ... , feel that by the payment in for the depositors'
benefit of $30.000 in cash I have more than discharged my
moral responsibility toward the depositors. while my original
legal liability was only $6.000.00 ...
The draining of my cash resources in payments lo lhe
bank has made me unable lo support my other businesses
as I should. The depression was unforeseeable and I am not
crying over losses that grew out of it which everybody is
suffering. I feel that I have lreated my liability toward the
bank much more liberally than any other obligations that I
Smith said that he had '"foolishly thought" that as a
businessman who had '"brought considerable business into
Sturgeon Bay... he would be able to attract renewed support for

the Door County State Bank as its president. Increased
deposits, however, never materialized. The uncertainty created
by the bank's '"reorganization·· and the depression t hat
followed. he claimed. '"resulted in faster withdrawals from our
bank than from the others... Sm ith also said that the bank had
made '"very few" new loans after its "reorganization" because
'"we neverwereinposition to make them." (The Otis complaint,
however. indicated that the bank had apparently approved
s ome 8.500 numbered loan notes between the time of the
s pec ial stock assessment a nd the bank's closing. The com-
plaint did not state the loans' dollar value.)
Smith asserted that although he did not favor the kind of
'"agitation" stirred by publication of a newsletter like the Free
Press. which "can accomplis h nothing and probably only
increase bitterness." he did feel a need to respond to an
inquiry '"from our good fri end'" Benjamin Otis publis hed in
the newsletter's first issue. In that edition, Otis had questioned
whether "the same energy is exerted in collecting the liability
of the big stockholders [of the Door County State Bank I as on
the s mall one." Smith indicated that that kind of suspicion
and mistrust was unwarranted. concluding:
If in addition to our financial losses in Door County we are
lo lose also good will and the forced insolvency of men who
have attempted to stand by the institutions. then I do not see
much in the immediate futu re for Sturgeon Bay.
According to an undated Free Press chart included in Otis'
complaint. Leathern Smith owed $5,000 and the L.D. Smith
Dock Company owed $15.114 In loans and overdrafts when
the Door County State Bank closed. Former President Horace
Stedman. Horace and Grace Stedman, and the Waupee Or-
chard Company. "alleged to be owned wholly or in part by the
Stedman interests." owed $37.068 in various loans. contracts,
and mortgages. and other officers and directors of the bank
owed $26. 148 in loans and mortgages, the chart indicated.
The chart also listed checking and savings account deposits
by the bank's officers and di rectors totaling $5.303 at the time
of the bank's closing.

Chapter VIII
On Friday morning. November 4, 1932. a number of Door
County women's clubs met at Sturgeon Bay's Hope Congre-
gational Church to observe "Door County Day." A business
meeting was held, officers were elected for a new county
federation of women's clubs, and a potluck dinner was served.
Later. the estimated 150 women in attendance began an
afternoon session with a sing-along. described in one account
of the meeting as a "rousing" affair. One of the featured
musical selections was the popular song "Pack Up Your
Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag (and Smile. Smile. Smile)."
The women's clubs musical selection certainly was appro-
pria te. On the same morning they convened at the Hope
Congregational Church. a few blocks away the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. Sturgeon Bay's only remaining bank, failed to
reopen for business- short of cash. its deposits evaporating,
and unable to make sufficient collections on loans and other
assets. The closing and the closing of the city's other banks in
the early 1930s mirrored an overall decline in the local
economy and what appears to have been a serious decline at
that. "Confidence Must Be Maintained," editorialized the Door
County News at a low point early in the decade. "Keep Faith in
Door County." added the Door County Advocate.
Among Door County's five banks as of 1930. that faith may
have been best placed in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Unlike the
other county banks at the time, the institution headed by
Henry Fetzer and later. John Minahan survived the Great
Depression intact. Unlike the State Bank of Maplewood. it was
not closed to consolidate with another bank. Unlike the State
Bank of Forestville. it did not reopen as a satellite office for a
bank headquartered outside Door County. And unlike the
Door County State a nd Merchants Exchange banks. it was not
fo rced into liquidation and permanent closing. But the Bank

of Stu rgeon Bay's survival did not come with out considerable
s tmggle. including authorizations by its Board of Directors to
borrow more than $1 .5 million from other banks and agencies
in a twen ty-one-mon th period before the bank's 1932 shut-
down and a state-supervised reorganization that limited
deposit withdrawals.
In the fall of 1932 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay collapsed and
closed its doors. But it managed to reopen within a week. only
lo close again four mon ths later whe n both Wisconsin and the
federal governmen t ordered separate banking mora toriums to
stop the state and nationwide drain on banking deposits and
currency reserves. The Bank of Sturgeon Bay s urvived the
moratorium episodes as well and. in fact. was among the first
state banks in Wiscons in allowed to reopen at the morator-
iums' conclusions.
Total assets at the Stu rgeon Bay bank remained well below
their predepression level for the remainder of the 1930s.
hitting a low point of less than $1.8 million in 1934. However.
for all practical purposes. the bank's unprecedented financi al
crisis may well have been surmoun ted two years earlier when
its customers agreed to a deposit-waiver plan and the bank
success[ully reorganiz.ed. The reorganization helped to stem a
rapid Withdrawal of deposits, raised new capital. and began
the process of restoring public confidence in the firm founded
more than four decades earlier by a local a ttorney and a
ra ilroad entrepreneur.

Before the Collapse

An analysis of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors
meeting minutes shows that a number of in teresting devel-
opmcn ts concerning the Door County bank took place in years
immedia tely before its I 932 closing and reorganization. One
was a series of wa rning letters from the s ta te Banking
Department mainly in the late 1920s foreshadowing some of
the bank's problems d uring the Great Depression. Another
was an offer reportedly made for the bank to join a new
Wiscons in banking chain, the Wisconsin Banks hares Cor-
poration of Milwaukee.
The Bankshares offer was outlined in a handwritten entry
signed in 1936 by Hemy Fetzer in the Board of Directors
minutes. Fetzer. by then chairman of the board. said that
Bankshares through one of its officials had offered to purchase

all of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's capital stock for approxi-
mately S l million. with the final price to be determined after a
financial examination of the bank by the Milwaukee-based
corporation. No other terms of the sale were listed. Although
Fetzer did not date the offer. the wording of his minute book
entry suggested the proposal was made about 1930 after the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay had increased its capitalization to
$200,000 early that year. Wrote Fetzer. "Just about that time
there was so much criticism throughout the state against the
Bank Shares Corporation that I lacked the nerve in presenting
the proposition to our Board of Directors."
Formed in 1929. the Wisconsin Bankshares Corporation
featured Wisconsin's largest bank. the First Wisconsin Na-
tional Bank of Milwaukee, as its principal member and by
mid-December of that year included twenty-six banks mainly
In Milwaukee but also in Oshkosh, Fond du Lac. Madison.
Berlin, Menomonie.and Eau Claire; assets of the twenty-six at
the time totaled S270 million. The corporation continued to
expand and in 1930 increased its membership to thirty-eight
banks. The growth occurred despite criticism that the cor-
poration had been formed to evade Wisconsin's prohibition
since 1909 against branch banking and was a harmful
monopolization of financial services in the state that would
impair banking competition and exploit smaller banks-
criticism to which Pelzer may have been referring in his 1936
As Fetzer noted. the offer outlined by him to join the
Wisconsin Bankshares Corporation was never formally pre-
sented to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's directors or its stock-
holders for that matter. However, the bank did tum to the
corporation's central member, the First Wiscons in National
Bank of Milwaukee. for emergency financial assistance as the
1930s depression worsened and Sturgeon Bay's financial
institutions faced collapse.
As for the series of warning letters from the Banking
Department, one letter was written as early as 1913. infonn ing
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay that Its cash reserve had fallen
below fifteen percent of its total deposits. a minimum
requirement of state law at the time. In wording which may
s uggest the Door County bank was not the department's only
target for state banking law compliance. the state banking
commissioner wrote:

In view of the stringency of the money market. which is now
rapidly extending all over the country. and which according
toaJI indications will last a year or two and gain in intensity. I
deem it proper to give a warning to banks to get themselves
into shape to face the stringency and its results.
The commissioner warned that if the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
did not increase its cash reserve to meet minimum require-
ments. the state attorney general would be notified.According
to the state's Banking Act of 1903. if the bank failed to comply
wi thin thirty days, the attorney general could commence
proceedings for its liquidation.
(The commission er's warning on cash reserves came two
years after Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Henry Fetzer
issued his own warni ng about bank operations. In a letter to
Board of Directors members. Fetzer noted that banking law
required the board to meet at least once every three months.
Unless absence was due to sickness. travel. or unavoidable
circumstances, Fetzer said, any director absent for two con-
secutive meetings would be removed from the board. T he
president's letter of 1911 followed at least one instance. in
1910, when the Board of Directors did not meet for four
consecutive months, "there being no quorum present.")
Perhaps the Banking Deparment's most serious concern
about the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's flnancial management and
operation in years prior to the 1930s depression occurred in
the late 1920s. lt is unclear if warning letters sent to the bank
between 1927 and 1930 by the department were unique in
nature to the Door County bank or perhaps similar to
communications sent to other financial institutions elsewhere
in the s tate at the time. But taken at face value. the letters
portrayed a bank overextended in loans that at least fora time
were being carelessly administered by its officers and Board of
The first in this series of warning letters, dated April 27.
1927. cautioned that loans of more than $600.000, or thirty-
seven percent. of the bank's $1.7 million in total loans were
considered "slow," requiring a comparatively long time to
liquidate (such as loans on nonseasonal working capital).
Included in the "slow paper" were "several" lines of credit
authorized for Board of Directors members "and their inter-
ests." In addi tion. the Banking Department noted that some of
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's loan recipients appeared "unable
to care for their obligations" and their loans would be more

appropriately classified as "exceedingly slow." Adequate
financial information about loan recipien ts was not being
kept on file. officers and directors of the bank were "not fully
acquainted with the character of the risks" involved in certain
loans. and mortgage loans were not being supported by proper
a ppraisals of property. the department indicated. It also said
that. in three instances. lines of credit violated state banking
law: the lines totaled $44.994. $53,005. and $55.677 for three
separate agriculturally related operations. including at least
two orchard-fruit enterprises. Said the department:
A scrutiny of the large lines lof cred it l indicates large
concentrations of loans of a capital nature and we cannot
but feel that any serious set-back in the fruil indus try in
yourcommunitywill have a verydisasterouslsicl effect upon
your institution ...
While your slatement of condition indicates liquidity to
the extent of 43%. we cannot but feel Lhat the s ituation as
regards your Loans and Discou nts. concentrations orcapital
lines. slow and doubtful paper. [andl excess overdrafts
indicatelsl a condition which is not satisfactory a nd which
may develop into a condition of considerable menace.
To help remedy the problems. the Banking Department
advised the Bank of Sturgeon Bay to institute immediately a
prog ram obtaining adequate credit information for the bank's
loan files. The department said the bank by policy should
insist "that those who are in a favo red position. s uch as are
d irectors.... ma intain their [credit] obligations not only at a
minimum but in current condition." It recommended that
Board of Directors members "make it their business to see
that these cond itions are remed ied which can only be done
with more active participation in the affairs of the bank and
more adequate knowledge of the problems confronting your
Two days later president Fetzer replied to the state regu-
la tors. reques ting aclclitional information and clarification
and indicating t hat some of t he Banking Department's
information about the Bank of Sturgeon Bay did not coincide
with the bank's own information. Said Fetzer:
Our Board of Directors meets regularly each mon th. They
check over all loans that have been made or renewed during
the month a nd if there arc any questions they a re a lways
brought up at the meeting and recorded in the Minute Book.
l honestly believe that they a re familiar wl th every loan that
we have in the bank. At least I have tried to gel them to be

directors in reality ra lher than in name only.
Fetzer said the excess lines of credit developed at a time
when a bank could loan up to fifty percent of its capi tal and
surplus to an individual. par tnership,orcompanywith proper
security for the loan and approval by a bank's board of
directors. The three excess bo1Towers had been notified that
their lines of credit m ust be reduced to comply with present
law. Fetzer said, and "efforts are now being m ade to bring this
rurther clarifica tion or at least part of what the state
Banking Department classified as ''slow" loans was made
three days after Fetzer's response in another letter from the
departmen t to the Bank of Stu rgeon Bay. ·we mus t regard the
notes of customers. which have been renewed repeatedly
without reduction, even though they are of you r regular
customers, as being either slow or of a capital nature. either of
which is objectionable from a banking s tandpoint." the
depa rtment said. The department indicated that the bank was
hold ing certain real es tate longer than allowed by law without
requesting a nd receiving permission from t he department for
exte ns ions. It also noted that state examiners who had
recently reviewed the Bank of S turgeon Bay's financial condi-
tion reported that the bank's d irectors "appeared not to be well
acquainted with the Joans" of the bank. And once Fetzer left a
d irectors meeting at which the examiners were present. the
department said, "it became even more noticeable." (Jn addi-
tion to Fetzer. members of the bank's seven-member Board of
Directors at the time were: Vice-President J oseph Wolter;
forme r Ba nk of Sawyer President Dr. Albert J . Kreitzer:
Sturgeon Bay attorney and future Bank of Sturgeon Bay
Presiden t William E. Wagener: Roger Eatough. identified two
decades earlier as manager of the Door County Telephone
Company: Ralph Jenquin. who for a time chai red the Door
County Board of Supervisors: and William Jess.)
In a second letter of res ponse. Fetzer wrote in May of 1927
that the bank was taking action on several of the Banking
Depa rtment's concerns and had hired an appraiser "to make a
new valuation on every tract lof land] upon which the bank
carries a mortgage, also on every tract owned by the bank." The
latter move appare ntly was made to meet the department's
concern that the bank's mortgage loans were not being
supported by sufficient property appraisals.

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay was cautioned by the state again
in 1928. The Banking Department commended Fetzer and the
bank's other officers for "improvement over the condition
reported a t the previous examination" but still regarded
nearly $520,000. or twenty-nine percent. of the bank·s $1.8
million in total loans as "slow." "doubtful," or "admitted as
losses" ($446,698. $51.851. and $21.300, respectively). The
department forwarded a n "urgent request" that the bank
make reductions in twenty- five loans "which represent the
large concentrations and extremely heavy lines." "Inasmuch
as a good many of the lines of your bank aredirecOydependent
on the success and the development of the orchards. if this is a
good year [for the orchards]. substantial reductions [in credi t]
s hould be required of them" the department concluded.
In his response a week later, Fetzer queslioned the state
totals for doubtful loans and losses, claim ing in part that only
$9.918. not $21.300. of the bank's loans were considered
"admitted as losses." includ ing $7.655 for one food products
The same pattern of a Banking Department warning about
certain Bank of Sturgeon Bay transactions and affairs. appar-
ently after a routine. on-site financial examination of the
bank. and a response by president Fetzer.questioning some of
the department's conclusions and/or noting some of the
bank·s corrective actions, repeated itself again in 1929. In July
of that year, three months before the stock market crash that
ushered in the Great Depression. the state regulators noted
"some improvement" in the bank's loan affairs. although they
s till considered the amount of slow and doubtful paper
excessively high. The department called "special attention" to
the unsecured lines of cred it for two of the bank·s d irectors. It
advised that banking law required all loans of more than
$ 1.000 lo officers and d irectors to be fully secured with
adequate collateral pledged for payment of the loans in event of
In their July 1929 letter. state banking examiners: noted
that the Bank ofSturgcon Bay's ratio of deposits to capital was
thirty-four to one and therefore recommended an increase in
the bank's capitalization to at least $200.000 and an increase
In its surplus to $40,000 (six months later Bank or Sturgeon
Bay stockholders authorized an increase in the bank'scapital
stock from $100,000. with 1.000 shares at $100 par value

each. to $200,000. with 10.000 shares at $20 par value each):
said that the twenty-three percent of the bank's loans and
discounts "reported as slow ... should have your prompt and
constant attention." adding that "while improvement is noted
in the condition of your note case. the amount of s low and
doubtful paper still runs high": and recommended charging
off "admitted losses" by December 31 of that year.
The examiners also echoed a concern they expressed two
years earlier: the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's credit files were
"very inadequate." The Banking Department said it required
banks to have on file current financial statements of all
borrowers of $1,000 or more "whose lines are not otherwise
adequately secured." Ofless importance, the department said
that on the day of a recent examination of the bank. checking
overdrafts totaled Sl.832. "Inform your depositors that their
checks will not be honored unless they have a sufficient
amount on deposit to cover the same," the state said.
In his response a week Fetzer questioned some of the
exam ination figures and disagreed that the bank's credit files
were inadequate. He provided paragraph summaries and
updates of twenty-eight Ii nes of credit of more than S l.000
each "not otherwise secured where we do not have a financial
statement on file." Fetzer also said that the bank had $5 1.000
in assets. consisting of certain deposits. stock. notes. and real
estate. "not on books."
"No improvement" in the condition oftheBankofSturgeon
Bay's credit files was reported by the state Banking Depart-
ment a year later in mid-1930. 'With such a large amount of
loans made on character." it said. "it is particularly necessary
that your credit files be complete and current." The depart-
ment rated the bank's financial condition "satisfactory" but
cautioned that of nearly $668.000 in total real estate mort-
gages. $224.833 in principal and $99.989 in interest payments
were overdue. When loans passed maturity without payment.
the state advised. loan extension agreements for periods not
exceeding one year should be officially executed. The depart-
ment also cautioned the bank about relatively low net earn-
ings: in comparing the Bank of Sturgeon Bay with other banks
in Wisconsin of similar s ize. It found that the bank's gross
earn Ings were comparable but net earnings were only approx-
imately half that of the other banks. The Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's gross earnings for 1929 were $224,366, and its n et

earnings totaled $27,403. Gross earnings remained almost
the same in 1930. but the bank cut its expenses and dis-
bursements by nearly S 17.000. As a result. net earnings that
year increased to $43.880.

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay closed in 1932 for what turned
ou t to be its reorganization ata time between January of 1930
and March of 1933 when more than half ofWiscons in's banks
s uspended payments on deposits a nd the assets of the state's
banking system plummeted by fifty percent. It was also a time.
from 1930 through 1933. whe n the number of ba nks in the
state (excluding mutual savings banks) declined from 933 to
445. Numerous bank failures. the sharp decline in assets. and
the suspension of payments on deposits helped to define a
banking crisis unprecedented In Wisconsin history.
What has been termed the collapse ofWisconsin"s banking
system during the 1930s depression was frustrating and
puzzling to many brokers in the s tate.
Everything that had been done s inee Ithe Panic o il 1893 to
s trengthen the (banking! system seemed futile. The s tate
banking laws had been strengthened and controls had been
g reatly increased. the creation and growth of the Federal System had substantially improved t he monetary
system . ... la state I bankers· association and clearinghouse
associations had raised the s tandards of bank ma nage-
ment--seemingly every aspect of bank instability had been
dealt with--yet most of the banks were unable to withstand
the strain to which they were being subjected.
Many financial institutions responded to the 1929 stock
market crash and subsequent decline in economic activity
with c redit contraction. Banks began calling some loans and
refusing new or extended credit. trying to increase their cash
These policies of course decreased the volume of bank
deposits. which in tum furth er depressed prices. As prices
moved down. the bankers· desi re for liquidity increased and
they tightened their credit furth er. Thus the attempts of the
individual banker to strengthen his position ultimately had
the opposite effect. As the continued reduction of bank
credit pushed down prices. debtors found it increasingly
difficult to repay their bank loans. and the banks In turn
were forced to call In more and more of them. By intens lfytng
their policy of credit contraction. the bankers also aggravated
thei r difficulties in achieving liquidity.

... I But I damaging as the effect of credit constriction was.
the Individual banker hardly dared to increase his loans in
the hope of helping to check the deOation that was destroying
the value of his assets. For such an expansion ofloans would
tend to reduce his reserves and increase the danger of
Bankers were under great stress as they tried to survive a
collapsing economy and banking system, and not only had to
manage their own affairs, but also assess the conditions of
nearby banks "and adjust their own policies accordingly."
The failure of one bank often meant a run on all the banks in
the a rea. and there were few dis tricts that did not have a least
one weak bank. If to avoid a local bank failure and panic a
stronger bank absorbed a bank about to fail. the stronger
bank might be contribu ling to its own ultimate failure. If a
merger was considered impractical. banks usually did all
they could to borrow cash wherever possible. If a run then
occurred and was successfully mel. the depositors generally
returned their withdrawals fairly promptly and the bank
could repay the cash it had borrowed.
In Sturgeon Bay, the collapse of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay In
the fall of 1932 was preceded by a flurry of loan activity In
which its Board of Directors au thor1zed applications for more
than $1.5 million in loans from federal sources and banks in
Milwaukee and Chicago. The nrst of these loan requests. for
$100.000 from the Pederal Reserve Bank of Chicago. was
authorized in February of 1931. In November. two months
after the Door County State Bank closed and four days before
Bank of Sturgeon Bay and State Bank of Maplewood stock·
holders approved the consolidation of their respective bus-
inesses, the Board of Directors again authorized borrowing
$100.000 from the Federal Reserve Bank plus $47.000 from
the First Wisconsin National Bank of Milwaukee and $35.000
from the First National Bank of Chicago. (The latter two
actions were renewals of loans made by the State Bank of
Maplewood before its Bank of Sturgeon Bay consolidation.)
Credit requests by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay intensified in
1932. In April the board approved application for a $200.000
loan from the Federal Reserve Bank and another $50,000 loan
from First Wisconsin. Three months later the bank's directors
approved borrowing a maximum $200.000 from First Wiscon-
sin and applying for a $200.000 loan from the Reconstruction
Finance Corporation. a new federal loan agency. Then. in
October. two weeks after the Merchants Exchange Bank

closing. the directors approved additional loan requests of a
maximum $400.000 from First Wisconsin and $200,000 from
the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
In total. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors
authorized loan requests of S 1.532.000 in a twenty-one-
month period between February of 1931 and October of 1932.
Along the way, salaries for all officers and employees making
more than S 100 per month were cu t ten percent and for those
making less than $100 per month. five percent. In addition.
paid vacations were reduced from two weeks to one. "Any
employees wishing to take an additional week could do so
without pay." the board ruled in mid-1932.
The salary cuts. the reduction in paid vacations. and, more
i rnportan tly. the infus ion of borrowed capital were not enough.
By the fall of 1932. and particularly after the Merchan ts
Exchange Bank closing, rapid withdrawals in deposits over-
whelmed the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Local newspapers at the
time did not describe any scenes of panicked customers
converging on the bank at once towithdrawtheir holdings. as
happened in many communities during the depression. But
in a ninety-day period from October l through December 31.
1932, deposits at the Sturgeon Bay bank plunged by more
than $ I million. and total footings sank from $3.3 million to
$2.2 million.
The bank's crisis emerged publicly by early November
during the institution's 1932 fou rth-quarter tall spin. On
Wednesday. November 2. the Board of Directors voted In
special session to request declaration of a bank "holiday" and
therefore close the Bank of Sturgeon Bay if such action met
the state Banking Department's approval--a procedure s imi -
lar to that used s ix weeks earlier by the Merchants Exchange
Bank. The bank apparently remained open the next day while
arrangemen ts for the closing were completed.
On Friday morning, November 4. 1932, the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay did not reopen for bus iness. as Mayor James G. Martin
issued a formal announcement declaring a ten-business-day
"holiday" for the bank. As happened in th e Merchants Ex-
change Bank closing. the "holiday" period would in part allow
state banking officials time to conduct a special review of the
bank's finances and. in this case. plan for its reorganization.
That same Friday. Bank of Sturgeon Bay officials distributed
letters to depositors announcing a depositors meeting on the

following Monday at 3 p.m. in the Sturgeon Bay High School
auditorium "for the purpose of discussing the affairs of the
bank." State banking officials would be present at the meeting.
the bank announced.
Monday. November 7. brought not only the special meeting
of depositors but a special meeting of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's Board of Directors as well. At the directors meeting the
l . Promoted Asst. Cashier John C. Weitermann to cashier. a
position formerly held by Richard C. Koehn. who had taken
seriously ill a year or so earlier. (Koehn died in 1932 about two
weeks after the Bank of Sturgeon Bay closed and eight days
after Weitermann·s promotion.)
2. Authorized the bank's top officers "to sign any papers or
agreements necessary to carryout the plan for car rying on the
bank" with state Banking Department approval.
3. Approved a special assessment on the bank's capital
s tock of one hundred percent of its face value (or $20 per
s ha re) to raise $200,000 In new cap!tal. The special levy was to
be paid within two months, and any stock on which the
assessment was not paid would be sold.
4. Agreed that depositors could withdraw sixty percent of
their deposits at specified intervals over a four-year period.
Any installments n ot paid on time by the bank "or its
successor" would bear a three-percent annual interest rate.
Capital to cover the remaining forty percent ofdeposits would
be generated through a s pecial segregated trust account. and
depositors would be repaid proportionately as, and If. money
was raised.
5. Agreed. probably at the direction of the Banking Depart-
ment. that the bank's directors s ubmit written resignations to
the department. (The directors were reinstated within a
Bank of Sturgeon Bay depositors heard first-hand about the
bank's closing and reorganization proposals Monday after-
noon in the special Sturgeon Bay High School meeting. An
estimated 1.500 people crowded into the school's auditorium.
S turgeon Bay's two weekly newspapers either did not report at
all or to any significant deg ree on questions or comments from
the throng ofdepositors and other interested individuals. But
this much about the special meeting is known: Door County
Dist. Atty. Grover M. Stapleton presided and speakers included

Leo T. Crowley. chairman of the Banking Review Board (an
advisory group to the state Banking Department): George
Poundstone. d irector of the Banking Department's Stabiliza-
tion Divis ion: Charles J . Kuhnmuench. member of the Bank-
ing Review Board and head of the Milwaukee Clearinghouse
Association: prominent Kewaunee attorney L. Albert Karel:
new Bank of Sturgeon Bay director and prominent Green Bay
s urgeon Dr. John R. Minahan; and Rev. Anthony J. Koeferl,
pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in S turgeon Bay.
At the special meeting. officials explained the deposit-waiver
proposal as a means to help reorganize and reope n the bank
and to stem what one newspaper labeled the "constant
withdrawals" offunds that had precipitated the bank's closing.
Under the proposed plan. depositors could wi thdraw sixty
percent of their deposits in eleven installments spread over a
four-year period. The first two installments would be paid in
six-month Intervals. the remainder every four months. The
withdrawal schedule for the sixty percent of deposits was
proposed as follows:
6 months after date 5%
32 II II
48 II fl II
SOURCE: Board of Directors Minutes. Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. Nove mber 7. 1932: "Bank of Sturgeon Bay Has Again
Resumed Operations:· Door County News. November 10.
No dividends on bank stock would be paid duri ng the length of
the depos it-waiver plan.
Officials explained that payments on the remaining forty
percent of deposi ts would be determined through a special

trusl administered by a committee representing both deposi-
tors and the bank. The trust would be secured by certain Bank
of Sturgeon Bay assets, presumably including those which the
bank could not readily convert to cash or immediately recover
without significant loss (such as certain stock and bonds). As
those assets were liquidated when possible. money would be
distributed proportionately to the bank's depositors of record
whe n the institution closed. When a similar method of
repayment had been proposed a year earlier for the Door
County State Bank upon that bank's closing. the Door County
Advocate had reported that anywhere from twenty-five to
seventy-five percent of special trustee assets could often be
liquidated in time "in a procedure of this kind." If such were
the case fo r the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. depositors in time could
expect to recover seventy to ninety cents for every dollar of
deposi l when the institution closed. Named as trustees for the
special Bank of Sturgeon Bay depositors trust were President
Henry Fetzer. representing the bank. and Herbert C. Scofield
and Dr. H.F. Eames, representing depositors. Said the Door
Counly News:
This committee works without remuneration. As rapidly as
the accounts covered by this 40 per cent are liquidated the
funds will be prorated to U1e individual depositor. subject to
the approval of the the banking department.
Following the special meeting of Monday. November 7.
teams of local businessmen and Bank of Sturgeon Bay
depositors formed to secure signatures of other bank deposi-
lors to documents approving the reorganization plan dis-
cussed that afternoon. As the result of new state legislation, a
reorganization plan for a state bank in Wisconsin approved by
the holders of eighty percent of the bank's deposits and
unsecured claims could be made binding on all other deposi-
tors and unsecured claimants. Washington Island. located in
Lake Mi chigan at the northern tip of Door County. posed a
particular problem for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in securing
reorganization approval. as no depositors from that relatively
isolated region of the county reportedly were able to attend the
Monday meeting. Earl M. LaPlant. president of the Door
County News, with assistance from bank director William
J ess agreed to "present the plan for reorganization and the
depositor's agreement to all depositors in that community."
According to the News. the work of LaPlant and Jess resulted

in all Bank of Sturgeon Bay depositors (it did not specify how
many) from Washington Island s igning the deposit-waiver
plan by Monday evening.
Canvassing of depositors continued Tuesday and Wednes-
day while the Bank of Stu rgeon Bay remained officially closed.
By Wednesday night. according to the Advocate. approval of
the bank's reorganization plan by depositors holding more
than eighty percent of the bank's deposits was secured. (In the
Door County State Bank closing a year earl ier. reorgan ization
approval by holders of ninety pe rcent of the bank's deposits
reportedly had been required. What percentage may have been
in effect for the Merchants Exchange Bank was not immedi-
ately specfied.)
On Thursday morning. November I 0. four business days
before the ten-business-day bank "holiday" was due to expire.
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay reopened "for the transaction of
business in the regular manner." Said the News in a "Bulletin"
in its November 10 edition:
Without a question. the effects of volunteer workers Iwere]
responsible for the splendid showing made in securing the
cooperation ofdepositors in placing the bank in a position to
serve the community. it was stated by officials of the bank
and officers of the state banking department. It is expected
that the work of securing final signatures to depositor's
agreements will be completed for practically the total amount
of deposits by this evening.
The bank later said that eighty-five percen t of its depositors
had approved the deferred-deposit payment plan within two
days. In large quarter-page advertisements in Sturgeon Bay's
newspapers entitled "A Word of Appreciation." the bank
thanked its depositors for their "far-sighted. public-spirited
As a result of this co-operation all customers of these
banks I the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's main bank and Sawyer
Branch] will have safeguarded against losing any of their
mo ney. Local conditions have Ii kewise been grcaUy stabilized
and confidence in the future strengthened. Banks and the
community have been placed on a sound. practical basis for
canylng on lhelr business.
Again we say "Thank You" to our depositors and to the
friends and workers who assisted In explaining the plan and
helped to secure such whole-hearted assent to IL We pledge
our continued devotion to the principle of sound banking
and to the best interests of the community and territory
which we are privileged to serve.

At least one Sturgeon Bay retail establishment. the Prange-
Washbum Company, formerly the L.M. Washburn Company
and now the Sturgeon Bay location of the Wiscons in-based
H.C. Prange Company department store chain, accepted de-
posit certificates issued by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay to the
bank's customers in lieu of cash as part of the bank's
reorganization effort. "Bank of Sturgeon Bay Certificate
Holders!", Prange-Washburn exclai med in large newspaper
advertisements. "Prange-Washburn Co. Will Accept in Payment
for Merchandise or on Account First Series Depositor's
Certificates ...
Just bring them into t he store any time. Pay your account
with them ! f you wish too ... buy new things that you need for
your home or family and if the a mount of your purchases
does not equal the amount of your certificate we will give you
your change in the form ofa due b!ll. payable in merchandise
from this big store on demand.
The company concluded:
No Red Tape-No Questions
Use Your Certificates Just Like Cash
Pay Accounts With Them
Buy New Things for Your Family
Do Your Christmas Shopping With Your Depositor's
Nearly two months after the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
reorganization the Kellogg-Citizens National Bank of Green
Bay approved a reported $36,996 loan to the City of Sturgeon
Bay enabling the city to maintain operations until tax collec-
tions were received. The Advocate said the Kellogg loan had
been sought by the Sturgeon BayCityCouncil because certain
funds were "tied up" in banks that had closed. One of the
participants in the negotiations with Kellogg-Citizens was
Sturgeon Bay City Atty. Clifford Herlache.
One unanswered question in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
reorganization is what was the entire role that prominent
stockholders in the bank. such as Dr. John R. Minahan. or
other individuals or businesses may have played in keeping
the institution afloat. In 1931. for example. Minahan publicly
pledged all of his money and property to p revent the closing of
three Green Bay banks in which he was "heavily interested"
and which were threatened by the financial panic in that city
that year. Minahan pledged to loan "every dollar of my fortune"
to the three banks if needed and said he would deposit

forthwith $30,000 in cash at one of the banks. He also pledged
to "throw" his Orpheum Theatre. now the City Centre Theatre.
and Minahan Building. a six-story office building. "and as
much again in bonds and mortgages in the breach to save
these three banks." Wi th respect to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay,
Minahan did purchase $50,000 in income debentures from
the bank in 1936. But whether the Green Bay financier. who
by 1934 was the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's new majority
stockholder, or other individuals or businesses assisted the
Door County Bank beyond the debentures sale and purchase
of bank stock is not known without further research.
It is also worth noting that like Sturgeon Bay's other banks
In existence at the outset of the depression. the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's collapse occurred in a three-month period of
September through November. a time of the year also during
which the State Bank of Maplewood consolidation was ar-
ranged. Such a pattern may suggest that the bank closings
and consolidation were related at least in part to the success or
lack of success of fall harvests and such local agricultural
pursuits as dairy farming and fruit growing.
As of August 1. 1933, "stabilization and readjustment
agreements" were in force at 144 state banks in Wisconsin,
with about twenty-five more at the time "in the process of
being stabilized." The Ban king Department said that
under these agreements old and new deposits are segregated
and all assets a t the time they are concluded are liquidated
for the benefit of the old depositors. This enables the
community to retain a bank which is often very greatly
needed. safeguards the new deposits. and gives the old
depositors the maximum possible return. The banking
department has lent active assistance to the conclusion of
such agreements. and in all cases where they have been
e ntered into It. has exa mined all of the bank's assets. to
determine the percentage of waiver necessary to give all old
depositors an equal s hare In the old assets. After th is Is done.
the department keeps the stabilized banks under closest
supervision throughout the life of lhe agreement and en-
forces the statutory double liabili cy on stockholders who do
not voluntarily pay the one hundred per cent assessment on
their stock which the law requires whenever a bank goes
u nde r a stabilization plan.

Press Response
The first local newspaper account of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's closing appeared a week after the bank's shutdown in

t he Door County News. which headlined the story on its front
page under another. page-wide headline announci ng Frankl! n
Roosevelt ·s victory over Herber t Hoover in the 1932 presiden-
tial election. In explaining the closing. the newspaper. wh ich
itself would cease operating--but pennanenUy-- in 1939. said
that s ince the closing of the Door County State Bank In 1931.
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had been subjected to constant
\vi thdrawals of funds by depos itors.
This movement was furthe r agita ted when the Merchants
Exchange Bank closed its doors last Sept. 21 and it appeared
to the boa.rd of directors of the [Bank of Sturgeon Bay I that
no amount of assumace (sic! would quiet the panicky feeling
which seemed to ex tend to all parts of the county. Had the
matter been permitted to con tinue for any great length of
time. it was pointed out by President Henry Fetzer. it would
have been impossible to protect the assets of the Institution
and financial disaster would have resulted.
Perspective on the local bank closings a nd Roosevelt's
election in particular. and the 1930s depression in general.
was offered by the News in an editorial headlined "Confidence
Mus t Be Maintained.·· The ed itorial spoke of patriotism. cris is
and unrest. faith. reason. commitment. and cooperation.
This country has just experienced one of the most heated
campaigns in its history. a campaign in which bitter feelings
were engendered. With the election over. it behooves every
citizen to settle down to a calm consideration of malters
whic h will overcome our difficulties and we should also
cooperate with the leaders of our country in their efforts to
end the depression.
Regardless of whether or not your favorite candidate was
s uccessful at the as a n individual have a part to
perform in the attempt whic h must not be longer put off to
bring the United States out of the condition of uncertainty
and despair in which it was plunged following the stock
market crash in 1929. Practically three years have elapsed
since the first sign of the crash was felt. and the period has
marked one of the greatest panics In the history of the e ntire
world. All nations have s uffered as a result of i t.
Right here in Door County we a re facing a situation
without parallel in the history of the county. A year ago this
fall one of the three banks then doing business in Sturgeon
Bay closed its doors. Las t Friday. as a means of protection to
Its deposilors.a ten-day vacation was requested by the Bank
of S turgeon Bay. The action of this well known fin ancial
i ns ti tu ti on came about six weeks following the closing of the
Merchants Exchange Bay lstcl on Sept. 21. There has never
been any question as to the soundness and stability of the

Bank of Sturgeon Bay. It has been recognized throughout
the middle west as one of the mos t conservative and carefully
managed banks in this section of the country.
But people are panicky. In many instances it seems that all
reason has been a bandoned, and it appears that the only one
way to accomplis h a sound bus iness revival is for everyone to
first of all recognize the need for maintaining confidence
and then to set about tryi ng to accom plish this end by
example and precept.
Doorcounty·s future isassured--likewise the future of the
slate ofWisconsln and also the nation. There is no cause for
alarm provided we as individual Ci lizens retain our balance
and endeavor lo instill con fid ence in our business and
political leaders. The equilibrium of our financial and
business structure can only be maintained by confidence.
Any attempt to shatte rconfidence lsicl is but a move to
retard progress and development and to keep the e ntire
country in a state of unrest.
We urge upon everyone the necessity for sound. clear
thinking. coupled with a desire and a willingness to cooper-
ate in bringing stability out of chaos a nd unrest.
In a companion editorial en tlUed "A Lesson from the
Depression.'' the News chastised American society for a
certain greed a nd arrogance the newspaper indicated had
played key roles in fostering the depression.
lt has required this great leveling influence to bring
many of us to ou r senses.and cause us toliveourllves in the
normal way which has been the means of carrying our great
country onwa rd and upward during the past 150 years.
True Democracy can only come by such influences. and it
is apparent to every student of the presen t situation that we
must take a lesson from our experience and "keep our feet on
the ground."
Although the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had closed on a Friday
morning, thesamedayoftheweek the DoorCountyAduocate
published a t the time. the Advocate did not report on the
bank's collapse until the following week, after the institution
had closed and reopened and the newspaper could report on
its initial. successfuJ reorganization efforts. The newspaper
said lhe closing was prompted by a "large amount" of deposit
withdrawals over the preceding year. particularly since the
closing of the Merchants Exchange Bank. In an editorial
en titled "Keep Faith in Door Cou nty.'' the newspaper con-
That Door county has been hard hit by the depression.
hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in three embar-

assed banks. and its principal industries hit hard, no one
will deny. However, with all of these difficulties spreading
throughout the county. there is no reason of assuming an
attitude of"what's the use,'' and ofgiving up the ship. Now is
the time for Door county people to show the outside world
the kind of citizens that we are, and keep an even keel so that
when conditions improve we all will be ready to stage a
comeback that will make Door county a better and more
prosperous county in the futu re than it has been in the past.

The Moratoriums
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay was open for only four months
after its November 1932 closing when it was forced to close
again, this time by virtue of both state and federal banking
mora tori urns. The first of the moratori urns, declared by Acting
Gov. ThomasJ. O'Malley, directed banks in Wisconsin to close
for a two-week period beginning Friday. March 3. 1933. The
action followed similar moves by other states to halt customer
runs that, according to one analysis. were "virtually elimi-
nating" the nation's banking system. The moratorium order
in Wisconsin meant that the state Banking Department could
begin conducting special examinations of each state bank.
supervise the banks' stabilization, and permit. at least
theoretically, only those financial institutions considered to
have "sound assets. competent personnel, and prospects for
profits" to reopen.
This necessitated a check of all banks as thorough as that
previously made only of banks which had concluded stabil-
ization agreements with their depositors. Pending such all-
embracing examinations, many banks were permitted to
reopen on a restricted basis.
Two days after the Wisconsin moratorium took effect.
President Roosevelt proclaimed a four-day moratorium for
banks nationwide beginning Monday. March 6. Quoting from
Roosevelt's proclamation. the Door County News the
national moratorium had been prompted by "heavy and
unwarranted withdrawals of gold and currency from our
banking institutions for the purpose of hoarding" and by
"continuous and increasingly extensive speculative activity
abroad in foreign exchange [which] has resulted in severe
drains on the nation's stock of gold." The withdrawals and
speculation abroad had created a "national emergency,"
according to the proclamation. It concluded, as printed in the

Now. therefore. I. Franklin 0 . Roosevelt. pres ide nt of the
United Sta tes ofAmerica. in view ofsuch national emergency
and by virtue of the authority vested In me by said act a nd in
order to preve nt the export.. hoa rding. or earmarking of gold
or silver coin or bullion or currency. do hereby proclaim.
order. direc t a nd declare that from Monday. the sixth day of
March. to Thursday. the ninth day of March. 1933. both
dates inclusive. there shall be maintained and observed by
all banking institutions a nd all branc hes thereof located in
the United States of Amer ica. including t he terri tor ies a nd
insular possessions. a bank holiday. and that during said
period all banking transactions s hall be suspended.
The News said Roosevelt's decla ration placed an Immediate
embargo on all exports of gold and currency and provided for
the issuance of scrip "to keep bus iness functioning while the
banks are closed." The newspaper also reported that the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay was unsure when It might res ume its regular
business operations. "President Henry Fetzer of the bank said
they were paying government checks and complying with
other regulations provided for in the presidential proclama-
tion" and the state moratorium order. the News s ta ted. but the
Door County bank otherwise remained closed.
In summarizing the local banking and financial atmosphere.
the Door County Advocate reported that excep t for "the
hoarder" and t hose who happened to have sufficient cash on
hand when the moratoriums were declared, "nearly everyone
is pretty well out of money." "Mos t business is being done on
credit." the news paper observed. It also reported that Door
County residen ts. as residents elsewhere. were listening closely
to radios for news bulletins from Washington on any new
developments in the nation's banklng and currency crisis.
One week into the state banking moratorium. the Advocate
published on page one in large type a telegram sent to the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay from lhe Federal Reserve Bank of
Chicago. Said to be similar to telegrams sent to other banks by
the Federal Reserve System. the telegram requesled a list of
the names and addresses of all customers who had been
withdrawing gold or gold certificates from the bank and did
not redeposi t the withdrawals on or before March 13.
Two lists s hould be furni s hed. one showing the with-
drnwaJs of gold or gold certificates before February firs t and
the othe r s ince that date. These lis ts are to be sent to The
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago as soon as possible after
March 13. Publicity may be given to this request.

The Advocate said it was unclear whether the reserve bank's
request was meant to identify gold "hoarders" or "to get a
check on the amount of hoarded gold." T he local newspapers
did not report at the time if the Bank ofSturgeon Bay compiled
such a list or how extensive the list may have been.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay resumed full operations.with the
exception of the deposit-waiver plan previously initiated still
in effect. on Tuesday, March 14. twelve days into the state
banking moratorium. after FederaJ Reserve banks across the
country had reopened and after receiving permission from the
state Banking Department that morning. The department
sent the following telegram:
Bank of Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay. Wis.
This department releases you from all recent restrictions
with regard to operations and places your bank in the same
position to perform such functions as you we re allowed to
perform previous to the Governor·s proclamation excepting
that you are not allowed to payoutanydeposils for hoarding
AC. Kingston. Commissioner of Banking.
The News reported that since the state banking moratorium
had been declared and President Roosevelt subsequently had
appealed for Americans to return gold and currency to
circulation. "many" local residents had brought gold and
currency to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay requesting that the
money be deposited upon the bank's reopening. The news-
paper added:
Daily papers during the week stated that banks that were
held suspended from operations carried a note ofconfidence
in the action of the president in assuming control of the
[nation's banking! sltualion. a nd from many cilies came
reports of huge amounts of gold being b ro ugh lout of h Id Ing
to again be placed at the disposal of the government.
Banks now in operation are permitted to secure loans
through the federal reserve banks by put ling up such liquid
assets as they have and il is understood that ... every
assistance will be rendered by the lreasury department In
keeping the banks on solid footing.
Observers who have made a careful study of lhe s ituation
make the assertion that as a result of the conl'iclence which
s eems now uppermost in the minds of the people. business
will soon resume a normal trend.
TheAdvocatereported thal the effect on DoorCountyofthe
reopening of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was "magnetic."

Business that had been practically marking time opened
with a bang, as people made deposits and wrote checks to
pay their bills. The office of the local utilities. for example.
had a line of patrons waiting to settle their accounts so as to
avoid the penalty.
The Advocate said that biUs "oflarge amounts" were reported
in circulation locally. The DoorTheater. it stated. reported $20
bills were common and that the theater had even received one
$50 bill from a customer purchasing a ticket. "Most out-
standing of all, however." the newspaper added. had been the
return of what it called hoarded gold and gold certificates
since the federal government had requested lists of the names
of people .. known to have made large withdrawals during the
depression." The amount of gold and gold certificates being
returned to banks was ..surprising," according to the Advo-
cate. It said the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had been receiving
about $1,000 daily in gold coins and "several times that much"
in gold certificates. In addition. the newspaper reported.
"quite a number" of new savings accounts had been opened at
the bank since the bank resumed operations.
In its review of the banking moratoriums. the Advocate
indicated that the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's reopening "was
ahead of many other state banks" because the bank had
previously been examined by banking regulators and had
already developed a financial stabilization plan as a result of
its earlier closing. In contrast. the newspaper said, a "large
number" of Wisconsin banks initially could only "partially
open" as the state banking moratorium expired. pending
completion of examinations of their finances "as required by
the government." It also noted:
As an added protection against further bank closings. the
federal government .. . has issued an order that no depositor
will be allowed to withdraw his money forhoardingpurposes.
Persons withdrawing large sums can be questioned as to the
purpose of the withdrawal and can even be made to sign an
affidavit to that effect.
A week and a half after reopening. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
advertised its resumption of business in large quarter-page
displays in the city's two newspapers. The advertisements
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay
Is Open for Business
Normal Banking Operations have been permitted us both by the

State Banking Department. because we are a State Bank. and by lhe
Secretary of the Treasury th rough the Federal Reserve Bank. because
we are a member of the Federal Reserve System.
For this bank, the "Bank Holiday" is over--we resume business In
all departments on a normal basis. thus placing at the service of our
customers and the entire business territory. our full and complete
banking facilities.
We take this opportunity to express our high regard for lhe good
s portsmanship shown by all thepeopleofthiscommunityduring lhe
period of the national and s ta te banking holidays. The common sense
attitude. the good humor. and patience. as well a s the spirit of co-
operation displayed by all bank patrons. gave splendid evidence of
faith in this institution and which we count today as one ofour most
valued assets.
Bank of Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay. Wisconsin
Branch at Sawyer
Two weeks later the bank headlined another advertisement
in the local press "END OF DETOUR!"
Since our Nation got off the ma in highway three years ago.
the road has been rough for business in general. but the e nd
of the detour has been reached. The chuckholes a re behind--
the highway to prog ress lies ahead. The nation's banking
mach inery has been cleaned. oiled. and put in shape.
Everything. and everyone. is ready to go forward . SO LET'S
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay was among a reported six ty-elgh t
state banks in Wisconsin said to have been allowed to resume
operation within two weeks of the l 933 state banking mora-
torium. Of the remaining banks. some were temporarily
allowed to pay out limited a mounts of their deposi ts pending
completion of examinations by the Banking Departmen t. The
department followed the policy of segregating the q uestlonable
assets of examined banks. including defaulted and depreciated
bonds. second mortgages. and doubtful loans. from those
assets considered good. The segregated items were then
liquidated whenever poss ible. and dividends were declared for
depositors accordingly.
According to the state's annual banking report fo r 1933.
Wisconsin's banking moratorium and the individual exami-
nations of each bank res ulted In the elimination of 30 banks
through consolidation or absorption by other banks. the
placement in liquidation of a n additional 49 banks. a nd the
development of stabilization plans for 88 others by the end of
that year. In addition to the consolidations. absorptions.

liquidations. and stabilization plans. the moratorium gave
state banking regulators the opportunity to conduct a "general
cleanup" of financial institutions by which "the most unde-
s irable of the banks' assets and personnel were eliminated."
"Bank officers found to be negligent or incompetent were

Elsewhere in Door County

and Depression Reforms
Although a fair amount of information is known about four
Door County ban ks in operation at the outset of the 1930s
depression and their responses to the financial strains of the
economic crisis that decade. developments at Door County's
other two depression-era finan cial institutions are not as well
One of those institutions. the Sturgeon Bay Building and
Loan Association. survived the 1930s and is now a branch of
the North Shore Savings and Loan Association, headquartered
in the Milwaukee s uburb of Brookfield. The building and loan
closed during the 1933 banking moratoriums but reportedly
was allowed to reopen the same day as the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. Upon reopening. the firm is said to have received "a
couple of hundred dollars worth" ofgold coins from clients for
payments on loan installments.
The other institution. the State Bank of Forestville. re-
mained intact until l 939; for that year it appeared in a slate
Banking Depa rtment list of financial institutions in Wiscon-
sin u ndergoing liquidation. On May 1. 1939. the old bank
location reopened as a paying and receiving station (new bank
"branches" were banned in Wisconsin at the time) of the
Community State Bank. whose main office was located in the
nearby Kewaunee County community of Algoma.According to
a spokesperson for today's Community State Bank, the Com-
munity S tate Bank "bough t out" the State Bank of Forestville
in April of 1939 and converted it to the paying and receiving
station: the station was allowed to provide limited banking
services such as cashing checks and accepting smaller depos-
its. The facility continues to operate today in a newer Forest-
ville location a nd is known as the Community State Bank's
Forestville Branch.
For 1938. its last complete year of operation, the State Bank
of Forestville reported total assets of nearly $350,000. down

sixty-four percent from its total footings of eight years earlier.
Assets in 1938 included $ 197.389 in stocks and bonds.
$79.579 in cash on hand and money due from other banks.
and $68.547 in loans. d iscounts. and overdrafts. Liabilities
included $290,034 in deposits. $30,000 in capital and surplus.
and $20,000 in income debentures.
Established in 1909. the State Bank of Forestville also
closed during the 1933 banking moratoriums and reportedly
was permitted to reopen a day after the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
and the Sturgeon Bay Building and Loan Association were
allowed to reopen but on a restricted basis. The Door County
Advocate reported at the time that the restriction meant the
Forestville bank could only pay out a maximum twenty-five
percent of its deposits until an examination of its finances
could be completed by banking regulators. Sturgeon Bay
newspapers did not report at the time whether the bank was
required to undergo a stabilization plan or. like the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. had been forced to close prior to the morator-
Aided in part by extens ive new state and federal legis lation
designed to reform the banking system. the prognos is by 1934
for Wisconsin's banking environment improved. The reform
measures at the federal level. both before and after 1934.
1. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation. a new federal
loan agency established toward the end of President Hoover's
administration. As noted earlier. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
made loan requests totaling $400.000 to the corporation prior
to the bank's collapse in late 1932.
2. Deposit insurance. as administered by the new Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The insurance was
designed in part to protect depositors from incurring losses
on their deposits up to a certain point if a bank s hould fail. All
national and state banks in the Federal Reserve System were
required to join the FDIC: non system banks could join as well.
provided certain requirements were met.
3. The Banking Act of 1933. This legislation placed limits
on certain investments that banks could make. prohibited
interest payments on demand deposits. allowed the Federal
Reserve Board to establis h maximum interest rates on time
deposits. increased capitalization requirements for banks in
small communities. and allowed for regulation of "speculative

credit" extended by banks. among other provisions.
4. The Banking Act of 1935. This legislation In part cen-
tralized credit controls in the F'ederaJ Reserve System.
Reform measures at the state level included:
l. Allowances for bank s tations. In 1909 the Wisconsin
Legislature had banned bra nch banking by state banks except
for those handful of banks. including the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay.with branches already established. However. in 193 1 the
legislature changed the law to allow solvent state banks to
establish facilities with limi ted bank ing powers. called paying
and receiving stations. in certain areas. Banks could also
reopen and operate closed banks which they had absorbed. (In
194 7 the legis lature would change course and ban add itional
banking stations.)
2. Various measures enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature
in 1931-1932. The measures: established an Interim Com-
mittee on Banking to study the Slate's banking system and
recommend improvements: required ba nk boa rds of directors
to meet at least man thly rather than quarterly: requ ired banks
to establish loan committees from their boards of directors to
review loans and loan policies: e nlarged the state Banking
Review Board. established to review decisions of the state
banking commissioner. and gave it additional powers; and
increased bank capi talization and surplus requirements.
among other provisions.
3. Reorganization of the state Banking Department. The
reorganization. in 1933. resulted in replacement of the state
banking commissioner with a three-person Banking Com-
mission appointed by the governor. Working with the Banking
Review Board. the commiss ion was empowered in part to
establish rules govemi ng the acceptance of deposits by banks.
computation of interest on depos its .depositors' wl thdrawals,
maximum interest rates on savings deposits. and service
charges on loans.
4. Banking measures enacted by the state legislature in
1933-34. Among other provisions. the legislation authorized
banks to issue and sell their capi taJ notes and debentures only
with Banking Department approval.
5. Additional banking meas ures enacted by the state legis-
lature in 1935. These provisions in part: required a bank to
increase its capitalization accordingly if deposits exceeded a
certain dollar amoun t in relationship to its paid-in captiaJ

stock and surplus: allowed banks to include certain govern-
ment-related bonds wilh cash reserves in compu ting their
ratio of reserves to deposits. provided the bonds did not
constitute more than one-third of a bank's required reserve:
prohibited banks from accepting their own stocks. captial
notes. or debentures as collateral for loans: authorized the
FDIC to act as receiver for the Banking Commission for
insured banks which closed: aJlowed the Banking Commission
to restrict the withdrawal of deposits in any bank, savings
bank. or trust company in times of "financial stress" if the
Banking Review Board concurred; and further limited a loan
to any individual or business to twenty percent of a bank's
capital and surplus. with some exceptions.
The various banking reforms prompted by the depression
included "numerous" new restrictions on bank loan policies.
Whereas formerly banks could extend unsecured credit
without requiring even a financial statement. they were now
subject to numerous formulas for collateral requirements.
diversification of loans. and secondary requirements. A
request for a loan mus t meet these various tests or be
The purpose of the new s tandards was to encourage banks to
institute more careful loan policies. One of the effects of the
restrictions was "to greatly reduce. if not eliminate·· loans
made to individuals primarily on the basis of their character.
called character loans. ··which had once been numerous in

Chapter IX
Recovery, John Minahan, and
the Henry Fetzer Affair
If one decade in Bank of Sturgeon Bay history could be
c hosen as lhc banking firm's most even tful if not most
troublesome as well. certai nly a lead ing candida te for the
honor would be the 1930s. A local economy in decline at least
early in the decade. Bank failures elsewhere in Sturgeo n Bay.
Emergency loan requests by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay to
forestall its own collapse. Reorgani za tion. State and fede ral
banking morator iums. And more.
In many ways the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's 1932 reorganiza-
tion was only the beginni ng of the Institution's efforts to set
its operations stra ight. In the months and years immediately
following the bank's 1932-1933 reopenings. its officers. Board
of Directors. and/or stockholde rs a uthorized the ins titution
to a pply for scrl p from lhe State of Wisconsin. wal vc part of the
bank's deposit-waiver program sanclioned as pa rt of its
reorganization effort. revise its s tock-assessment pla n (an-
other element of the reorganization ). reduce the bank's
cap italization. sell debe ntures. trans fer principal s upervision
of the bank's reorganization-ins pired segregated trus t to the
s tate's Banking Department. and form a Loan Committee to
review the bank's some ti mes troublesome loans and loan
Questions from this pe riod remain. Did the Bank of Stur-
geon Bay or its offi cials in 1933 or a ny lime thereafter during
the decade formally organize a separa te mortgage company as
recommended by the Federal Reserve? Did the bank join any
regional clearinghouse association as proposed in 1935?
Perha ps most importantly. did depositors of record at the
bank when il reorganized get any of their money returned
through the segregated trust. or did they lose forty cents of
every dollar on deposil when the ins ti tution closed?

Dr. John R. Minahan
Bank Qf Sturgeon Bay President ( 1936· 1941 J

The 1930s also brought to S turgeon Bay's lone remaining

bank a new president. the fourth in its history: Dr. J ohn R.
Minahan. With the change. forme r President Henry Fetzer
became chairman of the board. Minahan assumed the pres-
idency in 1936 as the bank was slowly emerging from its
depression collapse. with total footings that year surpassing
$2 million. The new majority stockholder also became pres-
idenc as the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was receiving another
series of written communications from principally the state
Bank ing Commission criticizing certain bank operations: the
a mount of overdue loans. a lack of sufficient aggressiveness in
liquidating those loans. delinquent real estate mortgages.
certa in loans to directors a nd offi cers. bank saJaries. a poor
bond port folio. lack of regular Loan Committee meetings as
required by law. and an overly liberal policy toward granti ng
smaller credit extensions.
The state·s criticisms p receded an altogether messy and
u nprecedented period in Bank of Sturgeon Bay history in the
1930s highlighted by allegations of bank fraud. an internal
auditors· investigation of financial irregularities. a major
lawsuit. and the firing in effec t of Fetzer and two other
employees of the bank. A fourt h and fifth employee also were
discharged. possibly in connection with the allegations and
investigation. The housecleaning brought with it internal
operational reforms and marked an abrupt end to the recorded

series of written criticisms from the Banking Commission. By
the end of the 1930s. with its house apparently in order. the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay was poised for a new decade of major

After the Moratoriums

After the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's reopening in late 1932
with its reorganization plan in place. the bank foun d itself in
line to receive a formal certificate citing it as a "stabilized
institution." The certificate was to be authorized by Wiscon-
sin's Banking Commission, formed in 1933 to supervise the
s tate's Banking Department. However. by January of 1934--
more than a year after the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's initial
reopening--the certificate still had not been issued. What
caused the delay was the $200.000 special stock as sessment
levies as part of the bank's reorganization plan.
When the stock levy had been approved in November of
1932. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors had
specified that it be collected within two months. Any s tock on
which the assessment was not paid. board members con-
cluded. would be sold. However. minutes ofdirectors' meetings
a fter the ban k's reorganization show that collection on the
assessment was far more difficult than had been anticipated.
In November of 1933, for example. fully a year a fter the
reorganization. the Board of Directors authorized the bank's
officers to "take whatever steps were necessary" to collect all
outstanding stock assessments. If an assessment was not
forthcomi ng. the officers were d irected either to "secure" the
stock from the stockholder or sell it In January of 1934 the
three-member Banking Commission said that the only reason
the bank's stabilization certificate had not been issued was
"the delinquent stock assessment item." The commission
directed the bank to collect the levy. One week later bank
President Henry Fetzer reported he had written to all of the
institution's delinquen t stockholders solicit ing paymen t
within thirty days.
In April of 1934 director William E. Wagener was among a
group of Bank of Sturgeon Bay officials to meet with the
Banking Commission in Madison. The commiss ion. Wagener
reported later to the Board of Directors. suggested that the
bank "use every endeavor" to collect at least $100,000 of the
stock assessmen t. When that was accomplished, he said. the

commiss ion would permit slashing lhe bank's capi Lal stock In
half. to $100.000. and what amounted to canceling the other
$ l 00,000 of the special assessment.
Collections on the assessment continued in upcoming
months. By November of 1934 $98.630 had been received:
directors of the bank agreed to divide payment on the
remaining $1.370 among themselves. bringing the total paid-
in assessment to $100,000. Two years late and fifty percen t
under target. the special stock assessment had finally been
In December of 1934. per agreement with the Banking
Commission. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's stockholders auth-
orized a reduction in the bank's capital stock from $200.000
(10,000 shares at $20 par value each) to $100.000 (5.000
shares at $20 par value each). To raise additi onal money and
reinstate the bank's fonnercapi tal structure. the stockholders
agreed to sell Sl00.000 in capital debentures to the Recon-
struction Finance Corporation. the new federal loan agency
created in 1932. The move in effect endorsed a S 100.000 loan
request from the bank to the fed eral agency. For reasons not
evident. h owever. the debentures sale apparently never
But in January of 1936 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's stock-
holders supported another debentures sale-- this ti me $50.000
in income debentures to the Institution's principal stock-
holder. J ohn R Minahan. The stockholders were told that the
sale was necessary "to bring the capital s tructure of the bank
up to the required amount." The debentures carried a three-
percent annual interest rate and were purchased by Minahan
on the same day as the stockholders ' endorsement. The Door
County Aduocate announced that the sale boosted the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay's cap! tal to $150.000.
Another major development at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
after Its 1932-1933 closings was the cancellation of the bank's
deposit-waiver plan, a key element of its depression stabiliza-
tion efforts. In April of 1934 William Wagener reported that the
Banking Commission "seemed to be very well satisfied with
the progress that bank had made" and had approved canceling
the previously imposed restrictions on withdrawing sixty
percent of deposits. The Board of Directors endorsed the
cancellation that same month. The move meant that deposi-
tors of record at the bank when i t closed for reorganization

could withdraw the full s ixty percent of lheir deposits at any
time rather than in installments over a four-year period.
Whether the depositors ever received any paymen ls on their
remaining forty percent of deposits is not establis hed. By
January of 1936. more than three years after the ban k's 1932
reopening. no dividend from the special segregated trust
established to generate revenue for the forty percent appar-
ently had yet been paid. Henry F'ctzer told the bank's stock-
holders at their annual meeting that year that he thought a
dividend from the trust would be declared "in a very short
At the request if not the direction of Wisconsin's Banking
Department. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay later transferred to its
segregated trust all of the bank's assets prior to its reorgani-
zation charged off its books as well as all of the bank's
collections and eami ngs since then: the transfer was made on
June 8 . 1936. according to a Bank of Stu rgeon Bay s ta tement.
That same year. about the same time as the assets transfer. the
Banking Department "requested" that the bank divo rce the
segregated trust "from the Bank itself' and allow the state to
appoint its own liquidator to supervise the special account in

Cl!Iford Her/ache (early 40s photo)

conjunction with the account's trustees. Bank of Sturgeon

Bay records noted that the department stated the same
procedure "generally" was being followed with other banks

throughout the state in s imilar positions. Appointed by the
state as s pecial deputy commissioner of banking for liquida-
tion of the segregated trust was Clifford H. Herlache. who
earlier had also been appointed special deputy commissioner
of banking for the liquidations of the Door County State and
Merchants Exchange banks.
The special stock assessment reduction. the reduction in
capitali zation. the debentu res sale. the cancellation of the
depos it-waiver plan. and the s"gregated trus t transactions
\Vere not the only noteworthy financial and organizational
moves made by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in the shadow of its
1932-1933 closings. In April of 1933. shortly after the state
banki ng moratorium expired. the bank's Board of Directors
authorized an application for scrip from the state Banking
Department. The amount of scrip to be applied for was not
specified in the board's meeting minutes at the time. Three
weeks prior to the directors' decis ion. the State of Wiscons in
had begun issuing scrip--paper certificates used as money in
lieu of cash--to state banks not receiving scrip through the
Milwaukee Clearinghouse Association. which planned to issue
its own certificates fo r its member banks and their corre-
sponden ts. Each of the banks could borrow from the state an
amoun t of scrip equivaJent to five percent of its deposits in
exchange for giving the Banking Department a first lien on
assets. The in tent in part was to provide those banks allowed
to reopen after declaration of the s tate banking moratorium
but short on cash a temporary. alternative medium of ex-
change until sufficient cash depos its could be collected. In a
summary of its operalions for 1933. the Banking Department
said that "considerable quan lilies" ofscrip had been issued by
the state but to "relatively few banks."
Other decisions made by the Board of Directors after the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay's reopenings included a resolution in
November of 1933. reflecting the bank's depression-recovery
program. not to make donations "for the present ... to Church
or Welfare Associations of any kind." AJso in November the
board endorsed a recommendation from the Federal Reserve
to form a mortgage company. The company was to be capital-
ized at $50.000 and was to have the same stockholders as
those of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. The board instructed one of
its members. attorney William Wagener. to compile the neces-
sary articles of incorporation and forward them to the FederaJ

Reserve Bank in Chicago. It also authorized Wagener and
President Henry Fetzer to devise a name for the company and
work out other "details .. of its organ ization. Available bank
records do not clarify whether the mortgage company was
actually formed. (As bank auditors later would verify. Fetzer
had been operating his own mortgage business at the bank for
some three decades.)
Another post -reopening decision by the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's directors. In February of 1933 and pursuant to new state
banking legislation. was to form a Loan Committee to review
the bank's loans and report to the Board of Directors. That was
followed in 1935 by a board decision to have the bank join a
proposed regional clearinghouse association. designated
"Regional Clearinghouse Association No. 16.'' for Door County
and unspecified nearby counties.
The Bank of Stu rgeon Bay did not pay any dividends on its
capital stock from the time of its depression collapse until.
available records Indicate. 1938. ln 1933 the state Banking
Department advised the bank. in what appears to have been a
form letter sent to other Wisconsin banks. to defer dividends
and concentrate on the "conservation of earnings and re-
serves." Two years later at an annual stockholders meeting
president Fetzer said he thought the bank "undoubtedly"
would pay a s tock dividend in 1936. Apparently it did not. A
year later Fetzer reported that l 936 had been "perhaps the
best year that the bank ever had from an earning standpoint."
But new bank President John Minahan told stockholders at
their 1937 annual meeting that dividends had not been paid
"up to the present time .. because the bank was working to
retire debentures sold following its reorganization and was
attempting to develop a "substantial" surplus account. Min-
ahan also said that the bank would not make c haritable
donations "until we had taken care of our own depositors and
stockholders.. first.
Finally. in 1938 the state's Banking Department. after an
analysis of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's finances for the first
half of that year. ruled that the bank could begin paying a
dividend on its stock if the payment did not violate the bank's
stabilization agreement. The Board of Directors subsequently
approved a quarterly dividend of three-quarters ofone percent
on the bank's stock. if the dividend payment did not violate the
bank's stabilization agreement. with the first dividend to be

paid on October l, 1938.
At the routine operational level the Board of Directors also
addressed a number of bank building, maintenance. and
equipment matters during the 1930s. In September of 1931
Henry Fetzer was authorized to proceed with Investigating a
plan to help reduce noise inside the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
main office by rebuilding ceilings In the bookkeeping area and
main banking room. Within two months an "acoustical [sic!
treatment" was "installed." resulting in what the Door County
News described as a "softening of noise which is very pleasing
to customers of the bank." The News reported that the
installation oflarge sheets ofsound-absorbing ceiling material
had a "soft. quieting effect [compared] to the din which usually
resulted from many voices and mechanical devices being
used" in the bank.
In other developments. Fetzer reported to directors in 1934
that the bank's automobile "was practically worn out. and at
the present time they were doing a lot of collecting in the
country and it was absolutely necessary that they have a car."
The board decided "that the matter be left to Mr. Fetzer" to
purchase another car. Also. in 1936 the board voted to have
John Draeb. who wound and maintained the bank's tower
clock. investigate whether the bank could operate the clock as
well as a second clock at its Sawyer office at reduced costs. And
in 1938 the installation of "teller's cages" and other unspeci -
fied changes in the bank·s main office lobby were approved.

John Minahan
The 1930s also brough t major changes in leadership for the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay as it slowly began recovering from the
economic dislocations early in the decade. One move was
made in mid-1935. when the Board of Directors hired Asa
Thomas for the new position of executive vice-president for
what was designated a one-year period . Although available
bank records are not definitive on the matter. Thomas may
have been hired particularly to help with liquidating mortgage
loans and later all loans.
But the Bank of Sturgeon Bay"s highest personnel change in
the 1930s cam e in 1936 at the very top of its table of
organization. On the same day Dr. John R. Minal1an pu rchased
$50.000 in income debentures to boost the bank's capital. the
Board of Directors selected the seventy-three-year-old Mina-

han as the ins titu tion's fou rth presiden t. replaci ng the sixty-
five-year-old Henry Fetze r. Fetzer in tu m was chosen chairman
of the board . the firs t time t hat posi tion was given any high
p ublic profile by the bank. At the s a me ti me. the Board of
Directors selected S tu rgeon Bay a ttorney William E. Wagener
as a third vice-preside nt. Asa Thomas and John H. Stewart
remained the bank's other vice-presidents. and John C.
Weitem1ann remained cash ier. Said the Door County News of
Minahan's and Fctzer's selections:
Dr. Minahan. as he is fami liarly known throughout north-
eastern Wiscons in. needs no introduc tion to the people of
Door county. 1-lis h ighly successfu l bus iness ca reer over a
long pe riod of years clearly ind icates his diligent practice of
sound. consistent business principles of the highest c ha r-
The retiring president. Henry Ft>tzer. who now assumes
the position as chairman or the board of directors. has
established for h irnself a n enviable record as a conservative
banker during his a ssociation with the ins titu tio n. he
ha ving held the position of preside nt si nce 1907. d uring
which time the bank has become recogn ized as one of the
s ubstantial banks in northeastern Wisconsin.
Born in 1862 in Calu met County to Will iam 8. a nd Mary
S haughnessy Minahan. J ohn Minahan resided fo r most of his
life in Green Bay. He was said to have a rrived there in the early
1890s after graduating from Chilton High School. the State
Normal School a t. Osh kosh. and Rush Medical College in
Ch icago and afte r a s hort period of medical practice in the
Kewaunee Coun ty community of Casco. (As previously noted,
Minahan was repor ted to have traveled to Casco to visit
Edward Decker shorUy before Decker's death in 19 11 to assist
in paying the Bank of Sturgeon Bay cofounder's fune ral
expenses.) He also taugh t for a lime in Calumet a nd Ozaukee
county s chools. Among Green Bay achieveme nts attr ibuted to
Minahan were: a leade r in the d rive for construction of a new
SL Vincent Hosp ital. bu ilde r of the Minahan Bu ild ing office
center. own er of the Orpheum Theatre. founder of the Green
Bay Poste r Advertisi ng Company. p resident of the Peoples
T rust and Savings Ba nk. a nd a d irector of the Hoberg Paper
Mills (now the Procte r a nd Gamble Paper Produc ts Company)
a nd the Hudson-Sha rp Mach ine Company. Among other
activities he was also a director of t h e Bank ofLuxemburg and
a donor to St. Norbert College in De Pere: a mong h is con tri-
bu tions LO the college was a reported $65.000 in 1937 for

construction of an athletic stadium (J.R. Minahan Stadium).
An older brother of Minahan"s was Robert E. Minahan. a
surgeon. mayor of Green Bay. and first president of the Bank of
Green Bay after the Edward Decker family sold its interest in
the firm in 1906. IA grandson of Robert Minahan. Roger C.
Minahan. became a di rector of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay at the
same time John Minahan became its president.)
According to published accounts in Green Bay. Minahan
was considered a leading surgeon. One often-repeated story is
that or the surgery he performed on an eighteen-year-old
woman in 1923. Minahan reportedly held the woman's heart
in one hand while he removed a tack from her lungs. The
incident was said to have received national attention and was
considered the first known case of a beating heart being
successfully moved in surgery.
In a profile in 1983 of Minahan's "favorite nephew," Victor
McCormick. the Milwaukee Journal reported that Minahan
had accumulated an estate of $1.25 million by the lime of his
death in 1941. The newspaper said the surgeon-businessman
had made much of his fortune after agreeing to invest $75.000
in the once-"'struggling" Hoberg company in Green Bay.
"Almost overnight." according to the Journal account. the
Hoberg enterprise was revived and became a successful
papermaking operation, helping to make Minahan a wealthy
man. Brown County historian Jack Rudolph of De Pere
considered Minahan "aggressive. ambitious and aloof ... a
canny businessman whose shrewd investments brought him
a fortune." In an interview in 1982, former Brown County
Historical Society President George Nau Bui-ridge agreed.
describing Minahan as "harsh and hard" and "very much an
enigma" who. nonetheless, displayed an entrepreneurial spirit
and civic leadership while pursuing his business and medical
John Minahan became the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's principal
stockholder at some time between January of 1932. when
Henry Fetzer was majority holder with 2.038 of 10,000 shares,
and December of 1934, when Minahan held 1.037 of 5.000
shares (or $20.740 of $100,000) in capital stock. Other major
stock investors in the bank by the end of 1934 were: bank
director William Wagener. with 300 shares ($6.000); Lucy V.
Reynolds. 263 shares ($5,260); Mrs. Richard P. Cody, 218
shares ($4,360): Karl S. Reynolds, 190 shares ($3,800); Mabel

F. I~ieboldt. 187 shares ($3.740); the Roger Eatough estate.
l 75shares (83.500): bank director Ralph Jenquin, 175 shares
($3.500): Ole Erickson. 131 shares ($2.620): bank director
William A. MacEacham. 125 shares ($2.500): and Herny
Fetzer. 125 shares (82.500).
Unlike Fetzer. Minahan as president of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay never resided in Sturgeon Bay or was an in house manager
supervising the bank's day-to-day operations. He continued to
work and live in Green Bay although regularly attending the
bank's Board of Directors meetings (until his health began
failing in later years) and continuing as the institution's
principal stockholder: day-to-day operations were managed by
others. Exactly what attracted the financier to the Door
County bank in his old age. initially as an investor and director
(the latter of which he became in I 930 ), is not established.
Minahan assumed the presidency as the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's total assets began increasing once again, as they had
before the depression but at a much slower pace. The bank's
low point during the 1930s as measured by total footings and
as recorded in semiannual financial condition reports was
June of 1934. when assets were $1.782.236. From that point.
footings rose to more than $1.9 million by the end of 1935.
$2.1 million in 1936. $2.3 million in 1937. and over $2.4
million by the end of the decade. Net profits and losses for the
period were: +$2 l.230 in 1930. +$31.848 in 1931. -$5.316 in
1932. +$43.349 in 1933. -$15.690 in 1934. SI8.838 in 1935.
+$22.154 in 1936. +Sl l.007 in 1937. +855.755 in 1938. and
~· 843.037 in 1939.
Within two months of Minahan's rise to the presidency in
1936. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay began cutting some expenses
and at least considered cutting others. The moves were made
after the bank·s new president reported to the Board of
Directors that he had conferred with Wisconsin's Banking
Commission in Madison and the commission had recom-
mended that costs be cut. The cuts. some more substantial
than others and made from March to May of 1936, included: a
decision to have certain bank tax reports compiled in the
future by bank officers instead of a private tax.service, limiting
the amount of money spent on advertising.withdrawing from
a Wisconsin taxpayers organization. and even discontinuing
certain subscriptions to magazines and business publica-
tions. The board also discussed terminating at least part of the

bank's burglar-protection system, changing the heating sys-
tem at the Sawyer Branch. and. as noted earlier, investigating
cost savings in the operation of the main bank's tower clock
and a second clock a t the branch facility.
Six months into Minahan's term the Banking Commission
warned that Bank of Sturgeon Bay salaries were "entirely out
of line for the services your employees are performing,"
particularly the chairman of the board's $5,000 annual
compensation. The commission also recommended that the
bank give serious consideration to closing its Sawyer facility.
The Board of Directors balked at closing the thirty-four-year-
old branch. concluding that "it would be inadvisable to
discontinue the Branch unless it was evident that the Branch
was being conducted at a loss." But the directors did readjust
salaries at the state's urging. Effective January 1. 1937.
Chairman of the Board Henry Fetzer's salary was cut from
$5.000 to $4,000. Executive Vice-President Asa Thomas's
salary was also reduced to $4,000. while the board decided to
keep Cashier John Weitermann'ssalaryat $2,800. The salaries
ofall other bank employees were raised by ten percent effective
January 1.
By the end of 1937 the bank advanced a $5 Christmas
bonus for all employees and adopted the following 1938
officers and employees salary schedule after a major personnel
shake-up earlier in the year (explained later in this chapter).

John R. Minahan, president -0-
Asa Thomas. executive vice-president $5.000
John H. Stewart. vice-president 2,500
William E. Wagener. vice-president -0-
Clifford H. Herlache. cashier 2.000
B.J. Keith. assistant cashier 1.800
C.E. Teske. assistant cashier 1.650
Laura Fetzer, assistant cashier 1,200
Carl J. Zahn, bookkeeper 1,500
Bernard E. May, bookkeeper 1,200
Dare! G. Ahrens. teller 1,500
Ralph J. Propsom, teller 1,500
Ann J. Shields, stenographer 1,200

Irene Kemp, s tenographer l, l 00
Marney Lou Benedict. clerk 576
SOURCE: Board of Directors Minutes, Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. December 3. 1937.
A year later. after Thomas had left. Herlache was the bank's
highest paid officer. at $3.000. followed by vice-president
Stewart at $2.500. asst. cashier Keith at S 1.800. Zahn (by then
also a n assistant cashier) at S 1.620. and Ahrens and Propsom.
both a t S 1.620. The l 939 salary for Minahan, who owned
2.090 of the bank's 5.000 shares of capi tal stock at the time.
was set at S750.
In addition to cutting some expenses and readjusting
salaries. the Board of Directors addressed a number of other
concerns of note in the late 1930s after Minahan became
president. In 1937. after hearing from bank employees Carl
Zah n and Ralph Propsom, the board approved purchase of a
Burroughs adding machine for the bank's bookkeeping
department. In 1938 it voted to establish a small loans
d epartment and a money ord er service. Also that year new
banking hours were set: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through
Friday. plus the usual 9 a.m. lo noon . Saturday. Clifford
Herlache. by then cashier. explained that the change in the
bank's closing time (it previous ly had closed weekdays at 3
p.m.) was necessitated by passage of the new 'Wages and
Hours Act." No elaboration on the legislation and its applica-
tion to the bank was recorded in board minutes at the time.
Directors also voted, in 1939. to purchase two n ew adding
machines (one electric a nd one mechanical) and to install
fluorescent lights in bank offices.
Bu t perha ps the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's decision of 1939
with the most visibility was the board's vote inJulyofthatyear
to remove one of the most distinguishing architectural char-
acteristics of the bank's Richardsonian Romanesque head-
quarters building: the corner clock and clock tower. The
board one month earlier had agreed to donate the clock to the
City of S turgeon Bay iflhe city was interested in the donation.
Later it voled to donate the clock's bell to either the "M.E.
Church" or. if that ins lilulion was not interested, "the church
on Washington Island." According to one historical s ummary.
the clock. tower. and bell were removed as a safety meas ure
when their weight "began to buckle the understructure" of the

1940-1954 Main QLfice in Sturgeon Bay. without clock tower.

bank. The removal of the tower, which had extended three and
a half stories high. left the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's main office
building at a uniform two stories in height.

Government Warnings (Again)

John Minahan's tenure as Bank of Sturgeon Bay president
certainly was marked by more than decisions over clocks.
office hours. and fluorescent lights. For one. there was the
ongoing matter of negotiating the bank's post-1932 financial
recovery: gauging the national and local economies: apprais-
ing loans. investments, and other assets in light of the
depression: controlling expenses and disbursements: keeping
adequate capital on hand: rebuilding public, depositor. and
stockholder confidence in the institution: establishing what
Minahan labeled a "substantial" surplus account as security:
and other concerns relevant to the bank's financial restora-
But Minahan·s term as president was also marked by a
series of warnings issued principally by the state Banking
Commission. similar in nature to those sent by state regula-
tors to the Bank ofSturgeon Bay a half-decade earlier, at times
severely criticizing part of the bank's operations. The warnings
actually began in the 1930s during Henry Fetzer's presidency
but extended into the early years of Minahan's term as well.
One of the warnings appeared in December of 1933. when the
Banking Commission expressed concern over the amount of
loans. stocks. and securities considered "doubtful and loss

items:· stating it was "very essential" for the bank to adopt a
more aggressive loan liquidation program.
We appreciate the difficulty your community has suffered
the past few years on account ofcrop failures and poorplices
but we do feel that if you adopt a systematic liquidation on
your loans that you can eliminate much of these question-
able and slow items.
Potential legal problems for the bank emerged in 1935 while
Fetzer was still president when the U.S. district attorney's
office in Milwaukee warned it was investigating "violations of
the Banking Act" by certain Bank of Sturgeon Bay employ-
ees/officials. Among claims cited by the district attorney in a
May l 935 letter to the bank was that no interest on loans of
$5. 700 to F'etzer and signed jointly with other bank directors
had been paid since the loans· inceptions. It requested an
affidavit showing each of the parties' total indebtedness to the
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's affidavit sent to the U.S. district
attorney in response was discussed by the Board of Directors
at its June 1935 meeting. According to the affidavit. when the
bank's captialization had increased from 1,000 shares and
$100,000 to 10.000 shares and $200,000 in early 1930, "it was
thought advisable" not to place all of the new stock "indis-
criminately" on the open market. Instead, it was decided that a
block of the new stock would be purchased by the bank's
directors at par value ($20 per share), with one of the directors
acting as trustee for the stock. To finance the stock purchase.
the directors would secure a loan. The stock held in trust
would then be "disposed of to such persons as the directors
thought would make desirable stockholders" and sold at a
price "as would be to the best advantage of the bank." Income
from the stock sales would then be used at least in part to
repay the directors· loan. According to the affidavit. this
procedure was "the same way that the sale of stock had been
formerly handled by the bank."
The block of stock purchased by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
directors totaled l.145 shares. or $22.900 at $20 per share.
and was financed through a loan from the First Wisconsin
National Bank of Milwaukee. according to the affidavit. At-
torney and director William Wagener was selected trustee for
the stock. Between March and December of 1930. 319 shares
of the new stock were sold at $40 each for $12,760: $6.380 of
that was applied to the directors' First Wisconsin loan and

$6.380 was credited to the bank's undivided profit account.
the affidavit said. As of mid-1935. according to the affidavit.
$8.000 on the $22.900 loan was still owed to First Wisconsin.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's official response to the U.S.
district attorney stated that at the beginning of the depression
First Wisconsin had requested that the balance due on its loan
to the directors be reduced. The Bank of Sturgeon Bay
subsequently made payments to First Wisconsin to reduce the
loan. with Fetzer and four other directors executing notes
from the Bank of Sturgeon Bay to reimburse the Door County
bank for the payments. The $5.700 cited by the U.S. attorney's
office was part of$7.700 still owed to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
by the directors for the loan payments to Milwaukee, the
affidavit concluded. In response to the district attorney's
request for a statement on the total indebtedness of certain
Bank of Sturgeon Bay officials to the bank, the affidavit listed
loans totaling $17.524 issued to three directors.
No minute record of any action by the U.S. district attorney's
office against the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in connection with
the May 1935 Jetter warning of banking law violations was
made by the bank's Board of Directors. However. the issue was
discussed at the Door County institution's January 1936
annual stockholders meeting. Wagener said the directors' loan
from the First Wisconsin bank for purchase of new Bank of
Sturgeon Bay stock had totaled $27,000. (No explanation for
the difference between that figure and the $22.900 cited
earlier was provided in minutes of the stockholders meeting).
Up to the point the Bank of Sturgeon Bay closed in 1932 for
reorganization. Wagener reported. a sufficient amount of
stock had been sold to reduce the amount due on the First
Wisconsin loan from $27.000 to $15.700, with over $6.000
from the stock sales placed in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
undivided profit account. Said Wagener. as paraphrased in
minutes of the stockholders meeting:
If the bank had not been closed lfor reorganization. the
bank·s directors! would undoubtedly have been able to
dispose of all of said stock at a very good profit to the bank.
but after the closing of the bank they were unable to sell any
more bank stock. and the balance of said stock went into the
Segregated Trust Account of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
At Wagener's request. the stockholders authorized the Board
of Directors to use assets previously charged off by the bank to
help raise $6.000 still owed First Wisconsin for its directors'

stock-purchase loan.
The U.S. district attorney matter aside, official criticisms of
certain Bank of Sturgeon Bay affairs. this time by the state
Banking Commission. began appearing again with frequency
by the fall of 1935 as recorded in the bank's Board of Directors
meeting minutes. In September of that year. after a routine
financial examination of the bank. the commission said loans
to three directors which the commission categorized as
"heavy borrowings ... being of Jong standing and as having
improper security" should be settled. The commission also
criticized the amount of the bank's delinquent real estate
mortgages. calling the situation "a very serious problem," and
said its bond account was "poor": of nearly $400.000 in bonds
held by the bank. approximately $215.000 worth were con-
sidered low grade. the commission said.
In an apparent relerence to Asa Thomas (the bank's new
executive vice-president hired at a special Board of Directors
meeting during the U.S. district attorney's investigation) the
Banking Commission said in September of 1935 that it hoped
with "the new arrangement of handling your real estate
mortgages that you will be able to eliminate a large amount of
these delinquent mortgages so that they will not develop into
real estate."
We feel that dertnile authority should be placed as to the
liquidation of all of your notes. both reaJ estate and others.
From the Examine r's report it would seem that this respon-
sibility is not centralized and that there is not full cooperci-
tion on part of all the officers. Mr. Thomas has done some
excellent work on the mortgages and it is our suggestion
that he assume full responsibility for the liquidation of all of
the loans ....
The commission ·s letter was followed by other critical letters
and warnings from the state agency continuing one month
after John Minahan had replaced Henry Fetzer as president:
Febmary 7. 1936. Certain loans to bank directors. officers.
and employees were not properly secured in conformity with
banking law. the commission said. When such a loan exceeded
$1.000. "the entire line [of credit] must be fully secured."
July 15. 1936. The commission said that some deficiencies
noted in a previous financial examination of the bank had not
been corrected. "There can be little justification for these
repeated criticisms." Regarding delinquent mortgages. the
commission warned. "We are afraid that your bank is going to

be b urdened with a considerable amount of other real estate.
particularly in view of the heavy concentration oforchard and
resort loans. Every effort should be made to refinance these
mortgages if at all possible." As noted earlier. the commission
also concluded that the bank's salartes were "entirely out of
September 10. 1936. The commission said it wanted a p-
proval of loans to bank officers and directors and a record of
the specific collateral pledged for those loans entered into
appropriate bank minutes. The commission also commented
in detail on nearly two dozen bank loans. notes. and lines of
credit -ranging from $35 to $4,010--tovarious parties. stating
that it was ··holding open" its analysis of many of the items
until it received financial statements and other information
about lhe debtors.
September 25. 1936. The commission again commented in
detail on certain bank loans. notes, and lines of credit.
requesting more Information about and reductions in some of
the items.
Janua1y 26. 1937. ··some improvement" in overdue paper
had bee n registered. according to the Banking Commission.
"but the volume is still excessive and outofline for the amount
of your loans:· The commission said that the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's Loan Comm ittee was not meeting as regularly as
required by state statute. 'With the volume of your loans this
Committee could be ofgreat service, addition to taking up
applications for credit. they would also review ma turing and
past due paper." The comm ission concluded that the bank
was holding too much real estate from real estate loan
negot iations: "a sufficient volume remains to create a problem
for your bank unless you are able to negotiate sales." it said. It
also recommended that the bank only make loan s from the
main bank and not from the Sawyer Branch.
July 29. 1937. A recent financial examination showed the
Bank or Sturgeon Bay was pursuing a "liberal policy" granting
smaller credit extensions which . according to the s tale com -
mission. was reflected by "the large number of these loans
shown to be overdue at examination." Over a period of years.
the state agency reflected. the bank had had to charge off
numerous loans of that type. The commission also said it
presumed that when returns had been received from the
year·s local fruit crop. improvements would be made in the

excessive amount of slow paper at the bank. Overdue paper
was still ..excessive fo r the volume of your loans." It added that
unsecured loans to five employees were not being sufficiently
retired .

The Henry Fetzer Affair

Up to 1954. the last year fo r which Board of Directors and
stockholder meeting minutes were reviewed for this bank
history. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay has had two periods when
letters ofwamingand criticism from state banking regulators
regard ing the banking firm's operations and management
appeared in those minutes with relative frequency. The first
set of letters. in the late 1920s and 1930. preceded the bank's
closing and reorganization in 1932. Perhaps coincidentally.
perhaps nol. the second set of warnings and criticisms also
preceded a major. traumatic period in the bank"s history. For
the purposes of this historical s urvey. that second period
could be loosely labeled the Henry Fetzer Affair. Although the
"affair" involved at least three and possibly five Bank of
Sturgeon Bay employees. its focal point was the institution's
sixty-seven-year-old chairman of the board.
Lit Ue of Henry Fetzer·s background before Fetzer's affiliation
with the Bank of Sturgeon Bay ls apparent. One 1902
Oshkosh news paper account stated without clarification that
Fetzer .. was in office in Milwaukee for three years prior to
engaging in the banking business" and began with the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay as assistant bookkeeper. Other accounts have
stated that Fetzer·s Bank of Stu rgeon Bay affiliat ion began in
1891. the same year the bank incorporated as a state bank.
The first reference to the Door County firm's eventual presi-
dent in available Bank of Sturgeon Bay records is January 15,
1892. when the Forestville native born in 1870 to Mr. and Mrs.
John Fetzer was officially appointed assistant cashier. replac-
ing AJ. McDonald: McDonald reportedly had resigned from
the post. According to contemporary Door County historian
Stanley Greene. John Fetzer was a prominent area Democrat
and the selection of the elder Fet.zer·s son as assistant cashier
of a bank headed by another prominent area Democrat.
Edward Decker. made a t least certain political sense.
Henry Fetze r's rise through the bank's small number of
employment positions in its early years was steady. After
cofounder James Keogh. Jr.'s. death in 1896 he became

cashier. Following the Decker family dives lment in 1906 he
became president before taking the chairma n-of-the-board
post in 1936. by which time the bank still employed litUe more
than a dozen people.
Some background information on Fetzer's non-Bank of
Sturgeon Bay activities over the years can be ascertained. The
man once described by a Sturgeon Bay newspaper as "one of
the popular and prominent young men of the city" was
reported to have served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Bankers
Associa tion: was a member or officer of the Masonic Lodge. the
Elks. and Rotary Club: and was treasurer of the Door County
Historical Society. In 1900 he helped to solicit suppor t for a
fund -raising drive to supply uniforms and new instruments
for a b rass band in Sturgeon Bay. and during World War I he
reportedly was active in Liberty Loan drives. At one point.
possibly in 19 18 during the war. Fetzer was said to have
traveled to Texas to watch members of"Volun teer Company F"
tra in "and announced that each man in the ou tfit would be
given $50 credit at his bank any time he ran s hort of money."
As noted in previous chapters. Fetzer was a cofounder in 190 1
of the Bank of Green Bay and at one time reportedly was
ass is tant manager of the Ahnapee and Western Railway. His
h ouse at 115 Grant Street (123 North Seventh Avenue} in
S turgeon Bay was designed by Fred D. Crandall. the same
architect who designed the 1900 Bank of Sturgeon Bay. the
Scofi eld Block. and the John C. Rank Building (the bank's
Sawyer Branch).
The series of events marking the departure of Henry Fetzer
and other employees from the Bank of Sturgeon Bay formally
began late In the summer of 1937. On Sep tember 17 of that
year. auditors for the bank--McMurry. Smith and Company. a
certi fied public accounting firm located in Madison--told the
bank's Board of Directors that an initial review of records
begun two and a h alf weeks earlier indicated that one
employee (referred to h ere as Employee A} "was short in his
accounts" for an undetermined amoun t of money. The board
subsequenUy voted to ask for the employee's resignation, to
take effect at noon the next day. Wit hout any recorded
expla nation. the board also voted to request the resignation of
another bank employee (referred to here as Employee Bl
effective in ten days.
The board met again on October 11. 1937. and declared one

of the employee positions vacant "with the understanding
that in the future. if. after a complete Auditor's report the
Board so desired. they could rehire" the employee. Three days
later the McMurry firm iss ued a "preliminary report·· on its
findings. At the same time. the board authorized President
John Minahan and Vice-President William Wagener to mee t
with the stale Banking Committee "and have an under-
standing with them relative to their position as lo the
retention of He nry Fetzer and !Employee Bl as employees of
the Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay."
The Board of Directors met again on October 19. its third
sess ion in li ttle more than a week. After attorney and ban k
director Roger C. Minahan of Green Bay read lo the directors
the preliminary results of McMurry. S mith and Company's
inves tigation. chahman of the board Fetzer, three weeks past
his s ixty-seventh year. officially offered his resignation. The
board accepted a nd appointed Ralph Jenquin acting chair-
man. Employee B's offer of resignation was not received and
accepted by the board. in this case by letter. until November 5.
No explanation for the delay was recorded by the board. In
another development. president Minahan proposed that
attorney Clifford Herlache. special deputy banking commis -
sioner and Sturgeon Bay city attorney. be hired immediately
by the bank for $500 for a three-month period. The board
instructed Minahan formally to contact Herlache and offer the
employment. Herlache accepted.
Sturgeon Bay newspaper accounts of the sudden personnel
turnover at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay were brief and low-key
and in no way reflected the se rious nature of the tum ofevents.
Fetzer's departure was first announced in the local print
media by the Door County News on October 21. In a four-
paragraph article on page one, the newspaper said the chair-
man of the board had resigned as of Tuesday (October 19) of
that week. "Jl is understood he will enjoy a well-earned rest."
said the News. The Door County Advocate repeated some of
the same information the next day in a two-paragraph
account. aJso on page one. Other minor news accounts of the
bank's personnel changes followed.
In addition to the departure of Henry Fetzer. Employee A.
and Employee B. twootherbankemployeeswere in effect fired
in subsequent months during the auditors· investigation.
although it is not established that their departures were

directly related lo the probe. The firs t to go. by stockholder
endorsement, was Asa Thomas. hired for the new post of
executive vice-president two and a half years earlier. Thomas'
termination was s upported twenty-three to six by Bank of
Stu rgeon Bay stockholders convening on January 11, 1938.
for the inslilution's annual stockholders meeting. The vote
was taken after the session was moved from the bank's Board
of Directors room to a local Masonic Temple because of the
number of stockholders present. Minutes of the meeting did
not state the reasons for Thomas· proposed discharge but did
note tha t the vote was taken after president Mina han ad-
dressed the group and cons iderable discussion about Thomas
occurred. Meeting later that same day the Board ofDireetors
declared the post of executive vice-president vacant and voted
not to fi ll the position. Neither Sturgeon Bay newspaper
reported on the Thomas matter in their brief two-paragraph
accounts of the annual meeting.
One month later another bank employee was fired. On
February 4 the Board of Di rectors voted to discharge Employee
C unless the bank's bonding company and the sta te Banking
Departmen t indicated he s hould remain with the bank. The
board took its vote after correspondence regarding the em-
ployee from the Banking Depar tment the exact nature of
which was not explained in minutes of the board's meeting.
was read to the directors . A week and a half later the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's Loan Committee endorsed the board's action
and directed Clifford Herlache to notify the employee that his
employment was terminated.
Current Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Thomas L. Her-
lache said in a 1984 interview that his father Clifford wanted
to resign from the bank at one point shortly after the elder
Herlache was hired during the in-house turmoil of the 1930s.
Ht> told asto1y.and 1don·l know all lhe facts or exactly how
it went. bul when he first came to the bank. there was a
period lwhen l he res igned after he was he re for a short
period of time. He resigned because he didn't like the way the
management was going. and he dlctn ·1 like what was hap-
pening. And John Minahan came up a nd said·ve
got to run the bank. and the other g uy or guys are going to
The younger Herlache said his father feared that "the same
things were happening in the bank that caused the problems
before the depression.and he didn't want to have any part of it

at that time."
Herlache described his father's early period with the bank as
"not an easy time for him."
... t hrre Wt>rt:' people in the community who were friends of
Henry Frrzer's: obviously. he was a well-known figure and
had done a lot of things for people and was a nice fellow.
There were a lot of people who didn ·t know the situation or
the circumstances and obviously couldn·t be told. These
people responded very negatively to my dad and to the bank
at the 1irne.A11cl that was a hard thing for him to go thro ugh.

Auditors' Investigation
Specific activi lies which prompted the firing of Henry Fetzer
a nd othfrs were outlined in a twenty-page "Report on Special
Investigation .. issued Ma rch 8. 1938. for the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay by the McMurry. Sm ith and Company accounting firm of
Mad ison. The report was prepared at the direction of Pres Iden t
John Minahan and in accordance with a Board of Directors
resolution (not apparenlly recorded at any time in the board's
meeting minutes) and was conducted "with special reference
to irregularities." It focused on the actions of two former
e mployees. Henry Fetzer and Employee A and by its own
acknowledgement was limited in scope. Copies were sent to
the state Banking Commission in Madison and the Federal
Bureau of Investigation in Milwa ukee for review.
The McMurry investigation began on Septe mber 1. 1937.
with verification of the ban k's assets and liabilities as of
August 31. The firm said this part of its work "d isclosed
certain shortages" which the auditors recorded in a prelim-
inary report lo the bank dated October 14. According to the- tirneof the preliminaryreport "it did not seem
wise to call in all pass books nor circularize the makers of
It was. therefore.agreed between the officers of the Bank and
ourselves that after completing investigation of items re·
ferrecl to in our preliminary report of October 14. 1937. thal
we should do no more searching for additional items of
fraud. bul should limit our further investigation to verlfi·
cat ion of matters which employees of the Bank discovered.
The McMurry firm's "Special Investigation" document said
the auditors· review of bank records particularly covered the
period from Nove mber I. 1932. about the time of the bank's
reorganization. to October 1. 1937. although numerous other
items of its investigation extended into 1938 as well as back to

almost the turn of the century. In short, the report said the
bank had been shortchanged $22.892 that could be verified
through the auditors· investigation. Of that total. Fetzer
retained $1 6.824 In commissions on Bank of Sturgeon Bay
mortgages he was said lo have sold without authorization and
used $2.000 in bank rental income from 1933 and 1934 to pay
special assessments on his Bank of Sturgeon Bay stock levied
as part of the bank's reorganization plan. The auditors said
another $740 of the $22.892 shortage resulted from Fetzer
apparently using bank money to pay $2.340 in special Bank of
Sturgeon Bay stock assess ments for five other stockholders:
all but $740 of that money was later reimbursed to the bank.
The McMurry report said the remaining $3,328 was at-
tributed to Employee A. The employee was said in part to have
juggled or not made entries of customer savings account
deposits on the bank's ledgers and to have carried returned
checks drawn on his personal checkingaccountat the bank as
"Currency in Till. .. The auditors indicated that Employee A
also stole $30 in nickels from a bank vault. In one case.
according to a bank employee's signed statement included in
the McMurry report. a customer deposited $408 in a savings
account transaction handled by Employee A. but the deposit
was not credited to the account in the bank's records until a
week later and only after Employee A had been approached
about the matter. In another case. according to a second
s igned em ployee s tatement. Employee A told another bank
employee .. not to pay any attention .. if the balance in the
passbook of a bank customer the employee was attending to
did no t correspond with the bank's own records of the
account. The auditors said Employee A at one point in July of
1937 credited a Federal Reserve Bank account with the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay $400 ins tead of what should have been
S 1.400. When approached about the mis transaction. Em-
ployee A was said to have responded .. that he knew it and
admitted that he did it to cover his own cash items:·
The McMurry report did not cite Employee B or Employee C
as direct participants in any of the '"irregularities:· However.
in one section the report did state that Employee A indicated
to the auditors that Employee B had known a bout Employee
As cash s hortages at the bank "for some time"' and that
Employee C claimed Employee B had spoken to him about
Employee A's "cas h items .. at some point during the summer

of 1937, presumably before the auditors' investigation was
launched. The two bank employees who signed statements for
inclusion in the McMurry report claimed Employee B had told
them ··to keep the matter quiet"' when they approached that
person in July of 1937 about Employee A's suspicious activ-
The "Report on Special Investigation·· did not clarify how
the auditors first learned of Fetzer's mortgage-selling busi-
ness. The document indicated that s ince 1906 the former
cashier. preside nt. and late r board chai rman had been using
Bank of Sturgeon Bay mortgages lo operate a personal
mortgage-loan business for personal profit and doing so on
bank time. (A li s ting for Fetzer in 1914 Sturgeon Bay business
di rectory stated "'Henry Fetzer ... Loan Office.") According to
the report. Fetzer took the bank mortgages and sold them to
mortgagors at a reduced Interest rate of usually one to three
percent. In return fo r the lower rate. mortgagors would pay
Fetzer a stipulated "commission for handling." Auditors said
153 bank mortgages were so handled between 1906 and 1937.
with Fetzer retaining a net amount of $16.824 in commis-
sions. Another forty-one mortgages handled by Fetzer in his
personal mortgage-loan bus iness did not appear to have been
purchased from the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. and auditors were
not su re whether the bank could make any claim against the
former bank official for those transactions.
The McMurry report sa id Fetzer maintained a record of his
mortgages in a "private" loose-leaf mortgage ledger which bore
his name on the outside and was kept locked in a cabinet in
his office. Entri es in the ledger reportedly were made by Fetzer
and. at least during the 1930s. a bank secretary. the latter of
whom was said to have sen t oul notices of interest due on the
mortgages on F'etzer's own lette rhead paper at the same time
she sent out Bank of Sturgeon Bay interest n otices on bank
stationery. The secretary told the auditors that only she and
Fetzer tended to the interest collections on the mortgages. She
also said that she never received any compensation from
Fetzer for the mortgage-loan work and that her salary came
entirely from the bank. According to McMurry. Smith and
Company. a review by the a uditors o f the bank's Board of
Directors minutes from 1915 to 1938 revealed no record ofany
action by the board ··bearing on permission for Mr. Fetzer to
handle these mortgages or transact personal business for

profit on Bank's time."
Part of the McMuny investigation also included a special
analysis of the board's 1915 minutes by an "examiner of
questioned documents" to determine if one minute sheet in
particular from that year was genuine. The sheet in question
was not a record of any board meeting but contained a claim
for $23.468 as ofJuly I. 1915. for various payments Fetzer said
he had personally made on behalf of the bank.The claim stated
the money was to be reimbursed to Fetzer at "some time" when
the bank's earnings were sufficient. The documents examine r
apparently was called in to determine if the minute sheet and
Fetzer's signature and typed claim on it were legitimate or if
the claim had been typed and signed at some later date and
inserted back in the 1915 minutes. The legitimacy of the claim
was significant because Fetzer had told the McMurry firm that
he had deducted the $2.000 in bank rental income he used to
make payments on his special stock assessments from the
$23.468. claiming the bank still owed him $21.468.
Results of the examiner"s investigation, contained in a letter
sent by the examiner to McMuny-Smith in October of 1937.
we re what could be called mixed and came after an analysis of
Fetzer's signature on the minute sheet in question: the ink
used to make the signature: the minute sheet paper itself: the
typewriter type; impressions. soiling. and perforations on the
sheet: and the sheet's stamped page number. Although he did
not precisely state as such. the examiner indicated in his letter
that any evidence to prove the minute sheet in question had
been improperly prepared was insufficient. However. the
McMuny firm in its March 8 special report dismissed Fetzer's
claim anyway. stating in part that its review of the bank's
board minutes revealed no "record ofacknowledgementofthis
claim. or any part of it, by any board of directors or any
committee of the board." Fu thermore. it added. the claim
apparently had never been carried on any bank financial
statement as a liability.

Lawsuits and Other Matters

The Henry Fetzer Affair did not end with the McMurry.
Smilh and Company special investigative report. On April 1.
1938. shortly after the report's release. the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's Board of Directors authorized the bank to pursue legal
action against Fetzer if necessary for recovery of the mortgage-

loan commissions. Named with Fetzer as a co-defendant in a
lawsuit later filed by the bank in Door County Circuit Court
was the Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland. The exact
amou nt of compensation sought In the case was not specified
in Board of Directors meeting minutes at the time. although
bank attorney Roger C. Minahan at one point reported that
Fetzcr·s mortgage-loan commissions plus interest on those
commissions totaled ..something in the neighborhood .. of
Trial on the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's lawsuit against Henry
Fetzer and the Pidelity-Deposit company was set for Monday.
September 25. 1939. in Sturgeon Bay before Judge He nry A.
Detling of Sheboygan: c hief attorney for the bank was Roger
Minahan. selected a director of the Door County enterprise
three years earlier. That morning a jury was drawn. and
attorneys made their opening arguments. That afternoon.
a fter the same lawyers met in private conference. the case met
a n abrupt end: DeUing called the jury and dismissed the
lawsuit at the litigants' request. Speaking for all of the
participating attorneys. a "Mr. Duquaine," an attorney for
Fidelity and Deposit. told the court that the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay had consented lo a dismissal after "certain facts had been
discussed and presented to the attorneys for the bank. of
which they had not been advised."" said the Door County
Advocate in an account of the case. The Advocate. by then
Sturgeon Bay's only remaining newspaper. reported that the
legal action had a risen over commissions retained by Petzer
"over a pe riod of years. in connection with the mortgage loan
business that he had conducted in his own individual name
while he was an officer of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay." The
newspaper did not report on any out-of-court selUement in
connection with the dismissed suit.
According lo Roger Minahan. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
chances of winning the lawsuit going into the trial had been
"not very bright ... probably somewhere between desperate
a nd fair." He told the bank's Board of Directors three days
before the scheduled trial that it should accept a "reasonable
setllemen t'" if one were offered by Fidelity and Deposit. (The
Baltimore company apparently had bonded Fetzer in routine
fas hion on behalf of the bank in part to protect the bank from
any losses due to certain unlawful or unauthorized acts by the
former president. Clifford Herlache had reported a t an April

1938 board meeting that the bonding company claimed no
liability "for the actions of Henry Fetzer in operating a
separate loaning business. and collecting commissions for his
services.") The board instructed Minahan to pursue the case
but to accept an appropriate settlement if one were offered.
If the bank's chances of winning the suit "were not very
bright" just before the Fetzer trial, they had diminished to
"even more desperate than we had orginally believed" as the
trial began. according to Minahan. In a report transcribed in
the Board of Directors meeting minutes of October 6. 1939.
nearly two weeks after the dismissal, the attorney stated that
counsel for the defendants had established three principal
defenses: ( l) knowledge of the employees and/or officials of
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay "actual or constructive, which
would constitute a ratification and condonation" of F'e tzer's
conduct: (2) thestatu teoflimitationsapplicable in the case as
a bar to any claims by the bank covering any period ofF'etzer's
activities prior to June 13, 1929;and (3) a defense based upon
the bank's segregated trust account established as part of its
1932 reorganization to liquidate certain bank assets.
Minahan said the defense based upon "knowledge of the
Directors" of Fetzer's activities "was not seriously regarded
until some of the evidence in possession of the defendan ts was
revealed." The evidence. not specifically identified in the
attorney's board report. consisted of "several items. which
quite naturally were so old and so really insignificant at the
time. they would hardly be recalled by a Director. but which.
nevertheless. constituted either actual or constructive notice."
Minahan said. The attorney indicated that the items "probably
would have been sufficient" to defeat the bank's entire claim
for reimbursement from Fetzer.
Regarding the second principal defense. Minahan char-
acterized the statute of limitations as an "absolute bar ... to
the recovery of any takings" having occurred prior to the June
13. 1929, date. This defense if successful in court. he said,
would have cut the amount of the bank's possible dollar
recovery to not more than twenty-five percent of its original
estimate of money owed because of Fetzer's conduct.
Without further explanation. the third principal defense as
outlined by Minahan is more difficult to understand. As best
as can be determined. the defendants apparently claimed that
the bank was not entitled to any reimbursement for claims

against Fetzer covering any period prior to Novembe r 7. 1932.
when the segregated lrusl arrangement was approved by the
Board of Directors and certain assets of the bank were
subsequently transferred to the account. It appears from
Minahan's report that the defe ndants indicated the appro-
priate owner of those claims was the trustee(s ) of the segre-
gated trust and not the bank itself. Regarding this ownersh ip-
of-claim defense. Minahan reported that .. it appeared that the
[state! Banking Commission was prepared to s upport the
defendants in this contention ... If successful in court. he
added, the third defense. which he characterized as .. probably
valid." would have further cut .. the amount recoverable" in the
case to something between S 1.500 and $2.000.
Minahan said that one defense not particularly stressed
"but which would have undoubtedly been strenuously urged
upon the Jury.. was one based upon the language of the bond
covering Fetzer·s activities. The attorney said that the bond
provided for indemnity. or coverage against loss. in the event
of "dishonest" acts by an employee.
This language in substance. requi res proof of an intent to
defraud or its virtual equivalent. in order to recover. and
proof of this would have been exceedingly difficult. Mr.
Fetzer was a good witness and the beginnings of this
business are such that the implication from his conduct and
of the manner of doing business prior to the depression
would hardly have been strong enough to conslllule dis·
Minahan indicated that the kind of bond involved in the
lawsuit. apparently a "Bankers· Blanket bond ... was .. not broad
enough to cover conduct which is not on its face or by proper
implication dishonest." He suggested that in the future the
Board of Directors consider other types of bonds there are
better types of coverage available."
Minahan said an out-of-court settlement in the Fetzer case
had been offered by t he Fidelity and Deposit Company and was
accepted. leading to the lawsuit's dismissal. The settlement
called for a reimbursement to the bank totaling $400. The
board endorsed the settlement.
The case settled out ofcourt was not the only lawsu l t filed by
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay against Henry F'etzer. On November
9, 1938. the bank filed another action against its former
president. a foreclosure proceeding in Door County Circuit
Court for two parcels of property. According to the suit. the

bank had issued Fetzer a $7.500 loan in 1927 secured by first
one and later two parcels of property. The bank said Fetzer
owed $7.500 in principal on the loan (later changed to$7,000).
$1.217 in interest (later changed toS l.249),and $234 in taxes
on the mortgaged properties paid by the bank--a total of
$8.483. On December 5 of that year. more than nine months
before the trial date of the bank's other lawsuit against Fetzer.
a court judgment of foreclosure was docketed. and the property
was ordered sold.
The Bank ofSturgeon Bay made other moves whic h could be
perceived at least partially as attempts to correct and
strengthen its organizational. operational. and fiscal struc-
tures in light of the McM urry-Smi th investigation. On January
11. 1938. the Board of Directors selected Clifford Herlache--
first hired on a temporary basis--permane nt cash ier. setting
his annual salary at $3.000 instead of an originally scheduled
82.000. The salary adjustment was made when President
John Minahan argued that the thirty-year-old Sturgeon Bay
attorney would be called upon to do "considerable work as
Cashier during the ensuing year." One week later. four and a
half months into McMurry·s six-month investigation. the
Board of Directors agreed at a special board meeting attended
by two representatives of the state Banking Department to
appoint an additional person to the bank's Examining Com-
mittee to represent the institution's stockholders: Margaret R.
Reynolds was subsequently selected for the new position. The
board also voted to have the bank eliminate cashier's checks.
drawn by the bank on its own funds and signed by its cashier.
and issue only drafts and expense checks. (Alleged misuse of
cashier's checks by Fetzer to pay for special stock assessments
was later cited by McMurry in its "Report on Special
Investigation.") In April. after discussing cash shortages at the
bank. Fetzer's mortgage-loan business. and the bonding
company's liability for the mortgages. board members agreed
(withoutanyrecordedelaboration) that in the future all safety
deposit boxes at the bank would be subject to rental payments
and that bank employees and officers could not use any of the
boxes free of charge.
With the personnel housecleaning at the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. regular citations of Board of Directors reviews of "Over
and Short" financial reports summarizing cash transactions
at the bank began appearing in the board's minutes. Cashier

Herlache reported in April of 1938 that a comparison of such
reports for the first three months of that year with those of
July and August of 1937 showed "a very much improved
condition." Also with the housecleaning came an abrupt end
to the recorded series or written communications from the
Banking Commission al limes severely criticizing part of the
bank's operations. In ract. board minutes from August of 1938
indicated that government bank regulators were quite pleased
with the turn of events in Door Cou nty.At a special meeting on
August 18. federal and state bank examiners reportedly told
the board that the Bank of Sturgeon Bay "was in much better
shape than it had been heretofore... The examiners were said
to have concluded that the bank's progress "in cleaning up
undesirable items" was "ve1y salisfacto1y:·
In 1939 the Board of Directors increased the salary of the
man responsible for much of the bank's fiscal improvement
program: Clifford Herlache. by then the institution's highest
paid employee. was given a raise to $4,000. Also that year the
board voted to "dispense with the services" immediately of
sixty-one-year-old Laura Fetzer. a sister of Henry Fetzer who
had been an assistant cashier at the bank's Sawyer Branch.
No reason for the termination. made six and a half months
before the bank's principal lawsuit against Henry Fetzer was
scheduled to go to trial. was recorded.
Herny F'etzer apparenlly worked at least part-time in other
employment in Sturgeon Bay after his departure from the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. According to the bank's 1938 foreclo-
sure action. the former board chairman by the time of the
foreclosure suit's filing was by occupation an "agent for surety
companies." Later. during World War II. Fetzer filled an office
position at the L.D. Smith coal-shipping operations in Stur-
geon Bay. by one newspaper account because of the war-
inspired labor shortage and despite ill health.
In what might be considered an odd twist. the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors proposed in October of
1941 that the bank provide Fetzer a $600 annual pension.
Cashier Herlache stated in a subsequent notice for a special
bank stockholders meeting the following month that "one of
the things Dr. J.R. Minahan planned to do before he died"
earlier that year was to provide a pension for Fetzer "in
recognition of his long years of service to the Bank." Herlache
wrote that the Board of Directors had discussed the matter

with the state·s Banking Comm ission ··and the Department
not only offered no objection lo the plan but said in their
opin ion the project was a very commendable one:· According
to the cashier·s notice. the Board or Directors recommended
that Felzer's pension total $1.000 annually {up from the
earlier $600 ). Stockholders taler attending the special meeting
unanimously endorsed the pension proposal. approving a
resolution commending Fe tze r for "'fai th fully and efficien tly"
servi ng the bank for many years. Convening later that same
day. the bank"s directors changed their earlier proposal for a
S600 pension for Fetzer to S 1.000.
He nry Fetzer. Bank or Sturgeon Bay president fo r nearly
three decades. died at a local hospital on March 12. 1946. at
the age or seventy-Bve following what was described as a long
illness. Pallbearers for his funeral were the prominent Ke-
waunee businessman and banker L. Albert Karel. by then
Bank of Sturgeon Bay President William E. Wagener. former
Cashier Joh n C. Weitermann. Judge Grover M. Stapleton.
George Draeb. and form er Door County News President Earl
M. LaPlant. Burial was in the local Bayside Cemetery.

Wartime Growth and Postwar Expansion
On Friday evening. June 7. 1940. s tockholders of the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay convened at Sturgeon Bay's Lucerne Hotel for a
special meeting and ba nquet celebrating a propitious moment
in the bank's fifty-one-year history. The event was the burning
of S50.000 in income debentu res sold during the depression
as part of Lhe Door County firm 's financial recovery. The
debentures actually had been paid off in full by the bank on
December 16. 1939. but officials waited until the s pecial June
7. 1940. mee ting date for the loan certi ficate-burning cere-
mony. Invited to the event was He rbert F. Ibach. chairman of
Wisconsin's Banking Commission. who did not attend but
wrote in a letter that he regretted missi ng "this most important
occasion, in the history of your banking institution."
The debentures-burn ing ma rked more than a loan repay-
ment. As later even ts would con fl rm. It also signaled the end of
the Bank of S turgeon Bay's depression malaise and the
beginning of a new prosperity for both the bank and the Door
County economy. Supported by government military contracts,
Sturgeon Bay's s h ipbui lding industry led the economic revival,
exploding with activi ty during World War II and producing a
s ubstantial increase in jobs and income as well as population
growth for the city. At the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. assets
skyrocketed to more than SI I million. a new high. reflecting
what one local newspaper termed in 1947 "Sturgeon Bay's
greatest economic boom."
The drnmatic climb in finan cial resources. however. was
shortlived. As the local economy cooled from its wartime flush,
Bank of Sturgeon Bay assets declined for a time after the war.
Total footings inc reased again in the 1950s but a t a moderate
rate. By 1960. as tourism. shipbuilding. fruit growing and
packing. light industry. and other enterprises dominated the
local economy. resources at Sturgeon Bay's bank stood a t

William E. Wagener
Bank qf Sturgeon Bay Presldenl (1941-1966)
$16.8 million.
In addition to financial growth--first spectacular. later
modest--the 1940s and t950s brought other major devel-
opments to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. In 1941 President John
R. Minahan died at his Green Bay home. He was replaced by
Board of Directors member and Sturgeon BayattorneyWilliam
E. Wagener. Despite Wagener's rise to the presidency. Cashier
Clifford H. Herlache clearly prevailed during the period as the
Door County bank's principal officer: in 1948 he became
executive vice-president and by formal charge of the Board of
Directors was made "direcUy responsible . .. for all bank
Herlache's promotion came at a time when the bank was
making a number of major changes in its physical operations.
In addition to various remodel i ngs and the installation of new
equipment. the bank opened a satellite facility in 1940 in
Ephraim. its first move into northern Door County. In 1948 it
closed the Ephraim office and opened a branch in nearby
Sister Bay. In 1955 the bank abandoned its two-story, turn-of-
the-century downtown headquarters and moved next door to
a former appliance and hardware store (explained in the
following chap ter). Three years later a new building for its
Sawyer Branch. renamed the West Side Branch, was com-
pleted. and in 1959 the bank opened another office in
northern Door County. this one on Washington Island. The

1959 Washington Island opening capped what was up to that
point an unprecedented two-decade record of physical ex-
pansion for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in both Sturgeon Bay
and northern Door County.

The Postdepression Economy

Although the economy of Door County showed improve-
ment. sometimes substantial improvement. in certain manu-
facturing and nonmanufacturing activities at various times
in the 1940s and 1950s. one enterprise in particular led the
way locally for at least part of that period: shipbuilding.
storage. and repair. What invigorated the local marine industry
was World War II.
At principally four Sturgeon Bay shipyards-- the Leathern D.
Smith Shipbuilding Company (formerly Leathern and Smith).
the Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company
(formerly Rieboldt and Wolter. then Universal). Peterson Boat
Works. and the Sturgeon Bay Boat Works (also referred to as
the Sturgeon Bay Boat Manufacturing Company. formerly
Johnson and Gmack) --more than 250 vessels were said to
have been constructed or rebuilt from 1942 through 1945.
many for the U.S. Navy. Vessels built included cargo ships.
minesweepers and submarine chasers. tugboats. air-sea res-
cue boats, and oil tankers: the war construction in Sturgeon
Bay was said to include converting private yachts for military
use by both the U.S. Army and Navy.
According to the Door County Advocate, Sturgeon Bay's
ship construction. storage. and repair industry employed
some 6,700 people at its wartime peak in 1944. with Leathern
D. Smith accounting for seventy-five percent of that total and
Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding another twenty-two percent. The
major and sudden growth in shipbuilding and the need for
workers were principal reasons explaining Sturgeon Bay's
population jump of nearly th irty percent between 1940 and
1950. from 5.439 to 7.054. although the city's population
undoubtedly was even higher in the decade when shipbuilding
activity peaked. (The increase of 1.615 ranks second in
Sturgeon Bay history for one-decade population increases; the
largest was 2.071 between I 970 and 1980.) Door County's
population for the same 1940-1950 period went from 19.095
to 20.870.
Although at least one historical summary has concluded

that fruit growing "never regained its pre-depression impor-
tance," other sources have indicated Door County's fruit
growing and packing business also were revived after the
onset of the Great Depression. If determined solely by acreage
and the number of trees. the "heyday of the cherry industry" in
Door County was 1959, according to an Advocate report. when
more than 1.1 million cherry trees were said to have covered
more than 11.000 acres. up from 350,000 trees in 1922 and
817.000 trees in 1940. Included in the acreage was what was
described as the world's largest sour-cherry orchard. totaling
close to 1,000 acres and part of the Martin Orchards near
Sturgeon Bay. Small stands along county roadways sold
cherries in season (or individuals could pick their own) and
offered cherry drinks and jellies. among other items.
Near Door County's orchards were at least a half-dozen fruit
processing/packaging plants. including by some accounts
another "world's largest": the world's largest sour-cherry
packing plant, the Fruit Growers Cooperative (or Co-operative)
plant in Sturgeon Bay. To meet the seasonal labor demands of
the fruit business. by the 1940s Door County growers were
employing migrant workers to pick fruit: reportedly up to
10,000 migrants were so employed in "bumper years." The
workers included Native Americans. West Indians. Mexicans.
Chicanos from Texas, and American blacks. (The Bank of
Sturgeon Bay reported in January of 1949 that much of its
money-order business, "a relatively new service." was con-
ducted during summer months, when migrant workers sent
"large sums" of their earnings home.) During World War II
German prisoners of war also were used as fruit pickers.
While fruit growing in Door County may have had its share
of success after the depression. dairy farming seems never to
have matched the economic role it played in the firstquarterof
the twentieth century. In 1956. for example, agriculture in
DoorCountywas considered in "bad shape.'' as determined by
a University of Wisconsin Extension economic survey. "Less
than half of the farms in the county earn enough to provide
more than a minimum subsistence level of living to a farm
family:· the survey concluded. As a result, it said. two of three
Door County farmers found it necessary to work off their
farms at least part-time to supplement their incomes. Another
study eight years later said dairy fanning in the county
probably would continue to decline at least north of Sturgeon

Bay. However. it added, south of the city "the deeper soils.
greater width of the peninsula and more level topography.
combined with a lower demand for land for summer homes.
and nearness to larger market centers. will continue to
encourage dairying."
One Door County enterprise which unquestionably grew
and prospered after the depression and perhaps represented
the most significant, consistent economic revival of all was
tourism. Tol.1rism was said to have increased "dramatically"
after World War II, by the 1950s bringing hundreds of
thousands of people annually from the Midwest and beyond to
"Cherryland" and its more than fifty hotels and resorts as well
as countless vacation homes, parks. beaches. harbors. golf
courses. and other rec reational facilities. In 1946 the Mil-
waukee Joumal noted that colonies of visual artists. mus i-
cians. and acto rs marked part of the county's summer tourist
trade. offe ring art exhibi ts. concer ts. and plays in and around
the s mall communities north of Sturgeon Bay. Said the
Wisconsin newspaper that year. "Mercifully, man has spared
Door county from the honky-tonk. Along its highways there
are no blazing neons, scarcely anything that could be called a
night club: even cocktail bars are few. and gambling joints
don't exist." The Joumal account was only one of scores of
written testi monials about Door County appearing with
frequency after World War II in major national publications
and Wisconsin newspapers and periodicals as well, reflecting
the a rea's growing position. as the New York Times would
la ter put it. as "a prime vacation spot of the Middle West."
Another economic enterprise of note in postdepression
Door County was commercial fishing. No less than seven
newspaper accounts and various government and community
service agency publications from 1940 to 1959 listed com-
me rcial fishing as a noteworthy if not necessarily a dominant
local industry. One newspaper report from 1948. for example.
stated that more than three million pounds of fish had been
caught by Door County commercial fishermen the year before
and estimated the value of the county's commercial fishi ng
industry at $ 18 million. The newspaper said that most of the
fish was shipped in ice by truck a nd rail to Chicago. where
some was sent on to the nation's East Coast. Another report
from the period. published by the Sturgeon Bay Industrial and
Development Committee. labeled commercial fishing one of a

half-dozen locally significant economic e nterprises. The
county's official 1956-1957 directory of government officers
remarked without elaboration that Door County led the state
in "the value of fish caught." A League of Women Voters
historical and economic s ummary three years later also noted
the importance or commercial fishing but added that the
introduction of the sea lamprey into Lake Michigan (appar-
ently with the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway
project) had "sharply" reduced catches of both lake trout and
whitefish. Sea lampreys had been reported in the waters
around Sturgeon Bay as early as the 1940s.
In some postdepression economic summaries or Door
County. stone q uanyi ng also has been cited as a local ind ust1y
but one whose impact on the local economy was not particu-
larly significant. The 1956-1957 county di rec tory. for example.
said the area·s abundant supply of limestone furnished ··an
inexhaustible supplyoffirst class building stone and material
for road building and concrete work:· The county's compre-
hensi ve plan eight years later noted that sand. gravel. and
limestone were quarried and excavated but in only limited
quantities: the activity added ··very little" lo the general
economy. ··rt is fortunate that there never was a great demand
for the limestone of Door County:· the document concluded.
"Extensive quarrying of this abundant and easily accessible
stone could have destroyed many of the features which now
attract tourists.'·
Activity at Sturgeon Bay's shipyards declined dramatically
immediately after World War II with the expiration of wartime
constmction contracts. Some of the shipbuilding companies
changed owners. as Sturgeon Bay turned to commercial-
recreational ship-boat construction. repair. and storage as
well as some peacetime military and government ma ritime
work. The Leathem D. Smith Shipbuilding Company. the
largest of the wartime shipbuilders. became the Christy
Corporation in 194 7 and switched in time to lhe construction
and repair of car-passenger ferries. fireboats. some Navy
vessels, and deep-sea fishing and research vessels. among
others. Postwar construction and repair in the 1940s and
1950s at the second largest of the wartime shipbuilders, the
Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. was said
to have included fishing trawlers. ferries. river cargo haulers.
and Great Lakes freighters. The Sturgeon Bay Boat Works

became Palmer Johnson. Inc .. after World War II and became
associated with principally yachl and pleasure craft con-
struction. Sturgeon Bay's other major shipbuilder. the Peter-
son Boat Works . became Peterson Builders. Inc.. in 1946:
postwar activity for the company included the construction
and repair of yachts. fishing vessels. U.S. Coast Guard boats.
and wooden U.S. Navy minesweepers. among other vessels.
The firm also built houses in the area and sold and installed
heating systems after the war in an attempt to compensate for
the loss of wartime sh ip construction.
Ship and boat building-repair-s torage. fruit growing. farm-
ing. tourism. commercial fishing. a nd stone quarrying had all
existed in Door County in varying degrees of economic import
since at least the tum of the centu1y. What may have been the
firs t major. coordinated. and sustained community effort at
attracting entirely new industry to the area this centurybegan
in the 1940s with the encl of World War II. In l 946 the
S turgeon Bay Development Corporation (sometimes called
the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Developmen t Corporation and
apparently related to or preceded by the Sturgeon Bay Indus-
trial and Developmen t Committee) was formed with the
assistance of the Door County Chamber of Commerce to
attract new industry. in part by purchasing certain properties
in the city and reselling them for industrial development.
Later. the development group also became "a negotiati ng
medium for all Industrial problems confronting the com-
munity," according to the Door County Advocate. Treasurer.
board member. and a leading proponent of the group was
Clifford H. Herlache. president of the Door County Chamber of
Commerce from 1944 to 1946. (In promoting Sturgeon Bayas
a place for industry and business. lhe Sturgeon Bay Industrial
and Development Comm ittee advertised In ca. 1946 that the
residents of Sturgeon Bay "are aJI of the white race. and
represent ma ny of the most reliable and progressive of the
northern European immigrant type.")
At least two manufacturing en terprises were said to have
located in Sturgeon Bay as a result of the Sturgeon Bay
Development Corporation's efforts: two plants of the Amity
Leather Products Company (which made wallets. handbags.
and other leather products). with one opening in 1946 and the
other in 1947: and the Economy Electric Lantern Company in
1947. Although it is not clear if its decision to open in

Sturgeon Bay was related to the development corporation's
work, at least one other major industrial enterprise followed
the lead of Amity Leather and Economy Lantern: the Milwau-
kee Shoe Company. which completed a new factory on Stur-
geon Bay's west side a decade later in 1957. Other industrial
concerns at the end of the decade. most if not all of which had
been operating in the city since prior to World War II, included
a milk condensery. a marine towing and salvage firm. and a
wood products company.
With the advent of the 1950s. Clifford Herlache. by then
executive vice-president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. ex-
pressed optimism about the area's economic prospects--
despite the abrupt decline in military shipbuilding contracts
and concerns about the seasonal nature of much of Door
County's economy. Summarizing the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
1950 annual stockholders meeting. the Advocate reported:
Reviewing the past year·s business condi tions in Door
county. Vice-President Herlache said the high peak of post
war prosperity has been holding up remarkably well.
The year 1949 saw the largest tourist business in history
from the standpoint ofdolla r income, he pointed out.And no
small factor in this increase was a gain in the number of
people building summer homes on this peninsula.
"All in all. the economy of Door county is in pretty good
shape:· Herlache said.
The growth in shipbuilding and other economic enterprises
in Door County during World War II. what the Advocate
termed in 1945 "the rapid expansion of ind us try and business
during the war," meant a sharp, phenomenal upturn in total
footings at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay as both loans and
deposits increased substan ti ally. From 1940 to 1945 resources
at the bank increased more than fourfold. from $2.6 million to
Sl 1.7 million. easily surpassing its previous assets high (as
recorded in year-end financial reports) of S3.8 million in 1931.
The biggest jump occurred between 1943 and 1944. when
footings rose from $6.7 million to $9.6 million. By early 1945,
according to the Advocate. the bank had 2.728 active checking
accounts and 4.538 savings accounts, deposits of approxi-
mately $9 million (up more than $2.6 million from a year
earlier). and owned more than $5.7 million in government
bonds in its own investment account. As measured by total
footings. the bank's financial recovery In the 1940s mirrored
that of Wisconsin's other state banks in that It was not until

1942 that the state banks' resources surpassed their pre-
depression peak, the same year the Door County bank also
exceeded its previous assets high.
Just as the start ofWorld War II inspired major gains for the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay, its end cooled at least part of the local
economy and brought major financ ial growth at the institu-
tion to an abrupt halt. Resources at the bank rose slightly
between 1945 and l 946. from S l l.652.384 to $11.680.180.
before dropping three of the next four years. The bank's
postwar low was 1950. when footings equaled $10.6 million.
(That same year the bank's Board of Directors adopted a loan
policy refusing to comm it money for any "non-essential
purposes by way of construction. a nd to finance no new homes
for the purchase thereof unless the position of the borrower
demand[s l that credit be available.") From 1950 total resources
at Door County's major banking operation began to climb.
although at a comparatively slow rate. increasing each year
throughout the decade: from $10.6 million in 1950 to $14
million in 1955 to $16.8 million in 1960. For the 1950s the
largest yearly increase was between 1951 and 1952, when
assets rose from $11.5 million to $13.2 million.
The period also saw increases in the Bank ofSturgeon Bay's
capitalization. Between l 934. when the institution's cap-
italization was reduced to $100.000. and 1941. capital stock
rose only $25.000 to $125.000 (6,250 shares at a par value of
$20 per share). Bu t in 1943 it rose to $200.000 and in 1944, to
$250.000. Increases continued in the 1950s: $300,000 in
1953, $350.000 in 1956. and $400.000 in 1958 (20.000 shares
at $20 each).

From Minahan to Wagener

The president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay for most ofWorld
War II and for two decades after the war's completion was local
attorney William E. Wagener. who replaced John R. Minahan
in March of 194 l. Minahan . president of the bank for five
years, had died a month and a half earlier. on January 22. at
his residence in Green Bay. According to a Green Bay news-
paper report. Minahan had been in faili ng health for "several'"
years and had been stricken with pneumonia about two
months before his death. Funeral services for the prominent
surgeon and businessman were held at St. Joseph Catholic
Church in De Pere. with Norbe rtine Abbot 8 .H. Pennings the

celebrant for a Requiem Mass. The Bank of Sturgeon Bay
closed the day of the funeral. a Saturday. to allow em ployees to
attend. 'The death ofDr.J.R. Minnahan lsicl. president of this
bank. has deprived us of a talented and deeply inte rested
officer." the bank pronounced in a memorial printed in the
Door County Advocate. "The policy of serving the public in the
most efficient manner possible will be continued as he
envisioned it." Minaha n was seventy-eight at the time of his
With Wagener's selection as president. the Bank of Stu rgeon
Bay made its number two stockholder (although a dis tant
second) of its sixty-five stockholders the institution's nominal
head: as of July of 1941 Wagene r held 330 shares of bank
stock. second only to the Minahan estate's 2.137 shares. of a
total 5.000. As with Minahan. the bank chose as its president
someone considered prominent in professional and civic
circles but also someone again whose principal occupa tion
was s omething other tha n ba nker. Unlike the form er presi -
dent. however. Wagener was bo th a Sturgeon Bay na tive and a
Sturgeon Bay resident. and ma ny of his career and service
accomplishments were made in that city. Comme nted then-
cashier Herlache in a letter to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
stockholders after Wagener's selection as president. "His
election is except ionaJJy popular among employees and public
William Wagener was born in 188 1 in Sturgeon Bay and was
a son of Arnold Wagener. one-time Door County s heriff. and
Isabelle Wagener. The younge r Wagener graduated from Stur-
geon Bay High School in L902 and from the University of
Wi sconsin four years late r wi th a law degree. He returned to
Sturgeon Bay and after practicing law for a short while in the
clty·s Bank of Sawyer bu ilding relocated across town in 1907
to a second-story office in the new Bank of Sturgeon Bay
building at North Cedar and St. John streets. He subseq uenUy
became a "fixture" in that location for more than a half-
century. (In citing Wagener as "The Man of the Wee k" in 1954.
Sturgeon Bay radio station WOKIN said the attorney's more
noteworthy cases had included "Sturgeon Bay Sh ipbuilding
and Dry Dock vs. Trawler Star Line" and "the famous J ack
Wels h murder trial.") Over the years Wagener was attorney for
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay (by offi cial appointment). Sturgeon
Bay city a ttorney. board president of the Door-Kewau nee

County Teachers College in Algoma. secretary-treasurer of the
Door County News. I nc.. p resident of Sturgeon Bay's board of
education. a Door County court commissioner. president of
the Bayside Cemetery Association. president of a local Little
League youth baseball association. and charter member and
first presiden t of the local Rotary Club fraternal organization
and later a Rotary distr ict governor. He also was said to have
assisted the Door Coun ty Park Com mission in establishing
the county's park system. According to the Door County
Advocate. ··1n Republican Door County Wagener was an
outspoken Democrat."
Wagener has been recalled by local residents as an "eloquent
orator" who gave numerous speeches to chari table. school.
church. legal. governmental. and athletic groups and had an
"almost uncanny ability" to memorize and recite literature.
including that of Ralph Waldo Emerson. William Shakespeare.
Edwin Markham. Rudyard Kipling. George Bernard Shaw,
Oliver Golds mith. Elizabeth Browning, William Watson.James
Russell Lowell. John Whittier. and William Jennings Bryan as
well as the Bible. When once asked about his interest in
Ii terature. Wagener said that as a boy
wedid111 havC'TVor radioorcars then and in the evening my
mother would ~ II In the chair by the fire. warming herself.
and I wo uld lie in a bunk by the edge of the firelight. and to
occupy myself. would reacl. Then. when I'd take a walk--and
we had to walk everyv.'11ere--l'd memorize and con template
what I had rl:'ad.
When Wagener was a youth . Sturgeon Bay was nearing its end
as p rincipally a lumber town. He recalled rather fancifully of
those early years:
In my youth I was su rrou nded by families of Canadian
French peopll:'. lhe Trucleaus. the Barretts. the Mirrous. a nd
many olhf'rs. S turgeon Bay was then a saw mill town and
they followed the mills. The men made about a dollar a day
but they wert- happy and care-free and the souls of generosity.
The Bank of Stu rgeon Bay's fifth president was also active in
athletics and the outdoors throughout his life. including
baseball. footb all. golf. ice skating. fis hing. hunti ng, bowling.
a nd track. "He was still taking the stairs two at a time in his
80's:· said one newspaper account of his life.
Wagener firs t became a Bank of Sturgeon Bay director in
1920. In 1936. when Minahan was chosen president. the fifty-
fou r-year-old attorney was selected a vice-president, one of

three at the time. As for his tenure as president, one word is
frequently used to describe Wagener's relationship with the
Door County financial institution: figurehead. Said current
Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Thomas L. Herlache in 1984:
Bill Wage ner was never in active management in the bank.
He had the title of president. but he was never an active
president in the sense of managing the bank and doing
day-to-day operations. He was very highly respected and a
well-liked individual in the community. And rm sure thafs
why they lapped him to come into the bank. because of his
Herlache noted that Wagener had a stock investment in the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay but nothing close in scale to that of its
previous president.John Minahan. The man who was actively
managing the bank while Wagener was president was Thomas
Herlache·s father. Clifford Herlache. "Cliff was running the
show," said then-Door County Advocate Editor Chan Harris
in a 1984 interview. "Herlache ran the bank," agreed local
historian Stanley Greene. also in 1984.
After Minahan 's death. nephew and attorney-businessman
Victor McCormick. also of Green Bay. became the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's new majority stockholder and was elected to
its Board of Directors In July of 1941. By annual meeting time
in 1943, the man who inherited the bulk of Minahan's wealth
(including Minahan's Bank of Sturgeon Bay stock) owned
2,671 shares. or close to half of the institution's 6,250 shares
of capital stock. Meanwhile. the number of stockholders in the
bank rose from sixty-five at the time of McCormick's election
to the Board of Directors to 141 ten years later.

A Glimpse at Operations
Compared to the turmoil of its depression decade. the 1940s
and 1950s generally were peaceful years of growth (sometimes
spectacular. sometimes marginal) and physical expansion for
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. The bank did exit from the Federal
Reserve System in 1946 because of its expansion moves in
northern Door County (explained later in this chapter) but
was allowed to rejoin six years later: the temporary withdrawal
seems to have had little if any effect on operations. With the
depression. its reorganization. moratoriums. and the "Henry
Fetzer Affair" behind it. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in the 1940s
and 1950s preached a gospel of loan policy reform and fiscal
conservatism highlighted with the major growth during

World War II. the addition of some new banking services.
northern Door County expansion. and relocation of both the
bank's east and west side Sturgeon Bay localions.
Wiscons in's Banking Commission. for one, was impressed
with developme nts in Door County banking in the post-Henry
Fetzer a nd postdepression years. In l 940 the state agency gave
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay an "excellent rating" and said it had
received "very fine cooperation" in "making any adjustments
deemed des irable or necessary." It added. "In this connection
we feel likejoiningwith you in an expression you will no doubt
make to Dr. Minahan and Cashier Herlache and the Board for
the ir accomplishmen ts." After a financial examination of the
bank later that year. the commission said it was "pleased to
find that the re has been a substantial reduction in the
amount of loans classified Substandard by the Exam ine r.
showing tha t this type of asset is receiving close attention."
Four years l<:ller. as assets were skyrocketing at the bank with
the wartime economy. the Banking Commission said that the
nomina l amount of loans classified as substandard "again
indicates that care is being exercised in the granting of c redit
and in the subsequent super.ri.sion of the loan account."
The general C'O ndition of your bank and its operations a re
indicative of Ihe dose a ttention being given thereto by both
the active management and the Board of Directors . The
Exam ine rs have had occa s ion to refer to the many evidences
of d ose su pe rvis ion of internal routine and to the apparently
fine ma nne r in which s uch work is coordinated.
The commiss ion co ncluded in 1945 that the bank's loa n
portfolio was in "qu ite satisfactory condition." "It is apparen l
that conservalism is being exercised in the granting of c redit.
for which you are to be commended."
Although major financial growth at the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay in the l 940s e nded abruptly with the conclusion of World
War 11. e ndorsements of the bank's financial operations
continued after lhe wa r as well. In 1950, for example. a postwar
low point for the institution's total footings, state regulators
said lhe bank had a "splendid record for keeping losses down
to minimum amounts" and commended officer Clifford Her-
lache for his "thorough knowledge" of the bank's operations.
Six years later the University ofWisconsin Extension's Bureau
of Community Development said in a brief summary of local
banking con tained in a Sturgeon Bay economic su rvey that
local manufacturers "generally are satisfied" with Door County

banking services. The Bank of Sturgeon Bay. it said, "is to be
commended on its active role in arranging fin anci ng for basic
industrial and community enterprises."
With Clifford Herlache its chiefexecutive offi cer in fact if not
in actual tiUe. t he Bank of Sturgeon Bay's loan policies as
indicated in Board of Directors minutes were decidedly
conservative in the I 940s and 1950s. In a "Letter to the
Directors" in July of 1948, one month after his selection by the
Board of Directors as executive vice-president. He rlache ad-
vised caution in a pproving future real estate loans. indicati ng
that new home construction in Sturgeon Bay was quickly
filling a local housing shortage evident in the 1940s.
As we approach 1950 the scarcity premium on sales of new
homes becomes less and less due to the increased availability
of homes. We have probably nalionally--certainly locally--
passed the peak of premium scarcity.
It behooves us therefore to be extremely critical of home
loans and doubly critical of summer home le nding and
applications for home loans outs ide recognized. developed
hous ing areas (villages. cities. etc.).
Indicating that a new six-room house would cost about
$12,500 in 1948 compared to about $6.000 in 1939. Herlache
said "the soundness" of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's real estate
loan account depended "entirely on what the future has for the
build ing industry." He said he anticipa ted that the local
demand fo r housing would be filled in 1950.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's chief officer also warned in his
1948 board letter of "the next depression" and urged caution
in the bank's general a ttitude toward loans.
We must. to be conservative a nd constructive in our
community. make loans that the borrower can meet. not
now. but in any normal circumstances. Depressions are
normal. as well as booms. We can lake advantage of the
booms to get ourselves and our borrowers into s hape to
stand a depress ion. But we will ban krupt ourselves and the
community if we per mit an un::;upportabledebt to be carried
into a depression.
A close scrutiny of every line of credit. large or small.
should be made to get these people ou t of debt or down to a
point which won't cause collapse. later on .. . .
It may be too early to cry "wolf". but almost a lways the
public thinks a boom lives on itself and that a new era has
Herlache said that newspapers in 1948 as in 1929 quoted
"highly regarded" economic analysLs who claimed that "a

higher level of wages and prices is here to stay."
We mustn't. ourselves, be caught in this type of thinking ...
We will be required to be as liquid in depressions as in
booms. so we had better plan. that no matter when a real
estate or other depression starts. we are in good clean s hape
to meet it.
The executive vice-president proposed a seven-point plan
defining the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's loan policies:
1. The bank's capital loans for business equipment and
construction be reduced to zero within a year
2. New home loans be made only for housing built in
"recognized urban areas"
3. No loans be made on summer property or housing in
open. non urban areas unless at least fifty percent of the cost
was paid down and the balance could be retired within six
years on an immediate amortization program
4. Interest rates on all new mortgage loans be raised to five
percent "to further discourage long term borrowing"
5. No less than fifty percent ofany real estate loan be repaid
within a maximum of six years
6. The bank charge the highest permissible interest rate on
guaranteed loans
7. Guaranteed and direct loans be treated alike "for all
payment purposes"
Within days of Herlache's letter the Board of Directors raised
the bank's mortgage-loan interest rate to five and a half
Shortly before his 1948 board letter Herlache issued a
financial report showing that the amount of Bank of Sturgeon
Bay loans and mortgages had increased substantially since
1945. At the end of 1940, he said. the bank had slightly more
than $782,000 in loans and mortgages compared to about
$284.000 in capital accounts. By Januaiy of 1945 loans and
mortgages had dropped to nearly $344,000, while capital
funds increased to more than $654,000. J?ut by April of 1948,
according to Herlache, loans and mortgages had jumped to
$ 1. 7 million. compared to $661,000 in capital accounts. Loan
demand at the bank had been particularly high since Septem-
ber of 1945. he indicated, when World War II ended. Herlache
said that the bank had managed to increase its capital during
the war largely because of "vety substantial" bond profits and
by "plowing back" into the bank extraordinary earnings from
collections on loans previously charged off the bank's books

but which became collectable during the war.
In addition to the post of president. major changes for other
top positions at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay were made in the
1940s and 1950s. As of 1945 the firm's major officers below
president were: Vice-Presidents John H. Stewart. William A.
MacEacham. and Ralph Jenquin (the latter two being pro-
moted in 1941 when William Wagener became president);
Asst. Vice-President Carl J. Zahn (who had been promoted
from an assistant cashier to auditor and comptroller in 1943):
Cashier and Trust Officer Clifford H. Herlache: and Asst.
Cashiers Irene K. Peterson (also assistant trust officer and
executive secretary),Darel G.Ahrens.and Lester E. Koehn (the
latter continuing as Sawyer Branch manager). Directors were
Wagener. Jenquin. MacEacham. Herlache. Haldor A. Gud-
mundsen ofWashington Island. Dr. J.C. Knudson of Ephraim.
and Victor McCormick of Green Bay.
Major promotions "all along the line" were made in 1948 in
conjunction with the opening of the bank's new office in Sister
Bay in northern Door County. Clifford Herlache. whom the
Door CoLmly Advocate termed the bank's "general manager"
s ince his selection as cashier in 1937. was elected by the Board
of Directors to the post of executive vice-president. vacant
since Asa Thomas was fired in 1938. The Advocate said
Herlache would be "directly responsible to the president and
the board of directors for all bank operations. The investment
account will be in his charge and he will !remain) the trust
officer of the trust department." (The newspaper noted at the
same time that Herlache had recently left Sturgeon Bay with
his family for a "motor tour of the Pacific Northwest. the first
vacation he has had since he took over in 1937.")
At the same time as Herlache's promotion. Lester E. Koehn
was promoted to cashier and what the Advocate termed
"general manager" of the bank. The newspaper said the
Sturgeon Bay High School graduate's new responsibilities
would include "the loan account and the interior management
of the bank proper." Myron A. Laubenstein was named
ass is tan t cashier-West Side Branch (formerly Sawyer Branch l
manager to replace Koehn. Also named as assistant cashier. as
well as manager of the new Sister Bay office. was Ralph J.
Propsom. The Advocate said Carl Zahn would rema in assist-
ant vice-president and would have direct charge of all audi ting
and accounting. supplies and purchases. and the "correlating"

of the bank's main building and satellite office operations.
Irene Peterson. formerly an assi stant cashier, also became an
assistant vice-president. to supervise aJI bank personnel. and
remained assis tant trust officer and executive secretary. Asst.
Cashier Da rel Ahrens was formally designated head teller and
'"placed in charge of the operation of the loan window... Vice-
Presiden t John Stewart had retired from the bank in 1946 and
was not replaced.
According to the Advocate, the Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay's
personnel changes were prompted by its "spectacular ex-
pansion" since the depression. Noting thal loans to local
b us iness, industry. and other customers by lhe bank had
increased to close to $2 million. the newspaper said that
"almost all" of Door County's economicgrO\vth in recent years
had been financed '"directly or indirectly" by the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay. While the bank's wartime growth had been
rapid. lhe Advocate said, "management had few problems
because investments were predominanUy in government
bonds ... It added. however:
Thal great influx of business. coupled with new federal
monetary policies and the imminent opening of the Sister
Bay bank. cons tantly heaped ad di tional responsibilities on
the former officers until the expansion and promotional
program invoked Tuesday [June I , 19481 could be put off no
lo nge r.
The personnel changes also may have been prompted by state
bank ing regulators. In October of 1946 lhe s late Banking
Commission in a letter to the Door County bank noted the
institution's rapid wartime growth. Because of tha t growth.
the commission said. ''it has now reached a point where Mr.
Herlache should be relieved of a portion of his detail work and
No changes in the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's officers were
made by the time of its 1950 annual meeting. But by 1953
MacEacham remained the only other vice-pres ident and
Melvin A Markwardt had replaced Peterson as an assistant
vice-president (Markwardt also was manager of the book-
keeping department}. Marion DeMeuse was assistant trust
offi cer. Directors for the bank's expanded board were: Wa-
gener. Herlache. MacEacham. McCormick. Gudmundsen.
Knudson. Otis S. Trodahl. and Russell J. Austad. Koehn was
added as a di rector by 1955.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's wartime period and beyond was

aJso marked by a series of employee raises reflecting the
institution's rediscovered prosperity. The salary of its highest-
paid officer. Clifford Herlache, went from $4.000 in 1939 to
$5.000 in 1940 lo $6.000 in 1942 to $7.200 in 1944. Other top
saJaries from 1944 among the bank's twenty-five employees
(said to be nine more than in 1941 )wereS3.000 for Carl Zahn.
auditor and comptroller. $2.500 for Vice-President John
Stewart. and S 1.800 for President William Wagener. By Janu-
ary of 1946 the salary for Herlache (by then both the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's trust officer as well as its cashier) had risen
substantially. inc reasing to 812.000. In 1950 the top salaries
among twenty-four e mployees were S 15.000 for Herlache (by
then executive vice-president in addition to trust officer).
$6.000 each for asst. vice-president Zahn and Cashier Lester
Koehn. 83.600 for Asst. Vice-President and Asst. Trust Officer
Irene Peterson. and $2.500 for president Wagener. As of I 950
Herlache had been a director of the bank and secretary of its
Board of Directors for a full decade.
In adclilion lo individual salary increases. no Jess than
fourteen employee bonuses were declared from 1940 to 1952.
some at Christmas and others at midyear: 1 percent of sala1y
(or a minimum of $10) in 1940: 5 percent in 1941; another 5
percent in 1941; 7 1!2 percent for all employees including and
below assistant cashier and 5 percent for the positions of
president. vice-president. and cashier in 1942: another 7'h.
percent in 1942; 7 1h percent in 1943: another 7 1/2 percent in
1943; IO percent in 1944: 10 percent in 1945; another 10
percent in 1945; 5 percent in l 946:another 5 percent in 1946;
I 0 percent in 194 7 to all employees but cashier: and $20 and a
"meat course" of each employee's choice in 1952. with the
exception of Herlache. who received a S 1.500 bonus.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay also changed or expanded some
financial services with the advent of the 1940s. Stockholders
in 1940. for example. approved an application to the state for
trust powers and the creation of a trust department for estate
management and other fiduciary functions. The Banking
Commission subsequently approved the application. and
Clifford Herlache and John Stewart were appointed trust
officer and assistant trust officer. respectively. In 1941, after
firs t discussing the option of creating a separate small Joans
subsidiary company. the Board of Directors approved estab-
lishment of a small loans department within the bank. Also in

1941 if not sooner the bank began selling U.S. Defense Savings
Bonds and later authorized the hi1ing of an "extra girl"
specifically to sell defense bonds and stamps.
The sale of defense bonds and stamps was frequently
advertised by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in the early 1940s. In
one newspaper advertisement. for example. highlighted with
an illustration of Uncle Sam. it noted that U.S. Defense Stamps
could be purchased at the bank in denominations of 10¢. 25~.
SOG:. $1. and SS. In another advertisement. entitled "UP AND
AT 'EM." a photograph of a tank accompanied the following
Sec that tank goi ng over the top? You've helped pay for it.
and you're neeclecl to help pay for many more--plus ships and
gu ns and planes--How? Just stick to you r regular plan of
saving !those funds are helping Uncle Sarn)--and buy as
many War Savings Bonds and Stamps as you can!
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-related participation in the effort to
help finance the nation's wartime military program went
beyond the bank's sale of bonds and s tamps: Clifford Herlache
was chairman of the local campaign for the sale of defense
bonds as well as chairman of the Door County Ration Board,
while William Wagener was treasurer of the Door County War
Chest Executive Commi ttee.
Banking hours in the l 940schanged as well. In February of
1940 the Board of Directors made a minor change in business
operations, altering the bank's open hours from 9 to 2:30 to
9:30 to 3. Monday through Friday. in addition to 9:30 to noon
on Saturday. However. by the late 1940s newspaper accounts
indicated that the 9-to-2:30 time slot was still used by the
main bank during summer months while open hours the rest
of the year were 9:30 to 3. Also by the late 1940s and perhaps
because of the local wartime economic surge the bank was
open on Friday evenings until 8 p.m. Board minutes noted the
Friday evening hours in 194 7. and a list of hours published in
mid -1948 staled that the main bank closed on Friday at 2:30
but reopened again from 4: 15 to 8. The West Side Branch also
reopened for Friday evenings but closed daily in the afternoon
al least a halfhourearlier than the main bank "as has been the
practice in the past." (In yet another change. the bank in 1953
switched the month of its annual stockholders meeting from
January to July. Stockholders meeti ng that year also agreed
that the annual session could be held anywhere in Door
County instead of the ma in bank building "as was previously

As of 1960. at least the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's main bank
continued to remain open on Saturday mornings. which by
then seems to have become a novelty among area banks.
President Wagener told the institution's stockholders that
year that t he "only one complaint" he had heard oflate about
the bank's operations was that the customer lines on Saturday
mornings were too long. This was partly due. he said, to the
fact that the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was the only bank in
northeast Wisconsin open Saturday mornings "and as a result
business comes in from a wide area."

Revisions and Expansion North: Ephraim

As could be expected, the Bank of Sturgeon Bay conti nued to
revise and adjust its physical plant after the 1930s as business
grew. new services were added. and technology changed.
Remodelings, new bookkeeping machinery, signage. and office
temperature control were among those changes in the 1940s
and 1950s. Some highlights:
December 6. 1940. The Board of Directors approved a
"complete remodeling" of the main bank's lobby and conver-
sion of the building's second-story office space to at least in
part a Board of Directors room.
April 18, 1941. The board authorized the purchase of
twenty-six additional safety deposit boxes to be installed in a
vault at the bank.
July 11. 1941.A new burglar alarm system connecting with
either the Sturgeon Bay Police Department or the "Engine
Room" (apparently the Fire Department) was authorized.
July 26. 1941. At the Bank of S turgeon Bay"s annual
meeting. stockholders were shown the bank's new lobby and
remodeled areas.
July 3. 1942. Directors decided to buy a Dodge coupe.
purchased by cashier Herlache. for $625 to use in conducting
bank business.
January 22, 1943. The bank announced the installation of
an "overnight depository" on the St. John Street (now Ken-
tucky Street) side of its main building. Customers paying a
rental fee were issued keys to the depository as well as locked
pouches with keys in which to make their depos its of cash.
valuables. and other items. Deposits thus could be made after
hours. a service which the bank said should be "exceptionally

useful at this lime when large cash reserves are necessary to
cash checks for defense workers...
September 3. 1943. Remodeling of the main building's
second lloor for the bank·s bookkeeping department was
March 3. 1944. The board authorized purchase of two new
seventeen-column bookkeeping machines at a cost of about
$4.000 to allow "more particularly the keeping of all general
and liability records on machines instead of by hand."
December 12. 1944. Purchase of a sign (presumably an
exterior sign) for the bank was approved by the board.
September 3. 1946. Installation of an oil-burning furnace
for the main bank was authorized.
March 4. 1947. T he board directed local photographer-art
stud io owner Herbert C. Reynolds to construct a group of wall
murals for the bank's interior at a cost of $750.
April 12. 1949. A "rearrangement of employees" within the
bank building was approved. as well as the posting of all
mortgage and bond transactions by machine.
February 7, 1950. The Board of Directors discussed air
conditioning for the main bank. but no action was taken.
January 19. 1952. Directors okayed the installation of
thermostat controls for S l.557.
Physical change also took place at the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's Sawyer Branch. such as office remodeling and roof
repairs authorized in 1942. However. more significant in the
history of the bank's satellite operations in the 1940s and
1950s was expansion of service into northern Door County
and construction of a new west side Sturgeon Bay office. The
new satellite facilities were the bank's first since the opening
of its Sawyer Branch in 1902 and not only made banking more
accessible. for residents and growing number of summer
tourists and tourist-oriented businesses in outlying areas.
but helped to e ntrench the Bank of Sturgeon Bay as Door
County's foremost financial institution.
Since at least 1938 the Sturgeon Bay bank had been
contemplating opening another office in Door County; direc-
tors that year authorized Cashier Clifford Herlache to approach
state banking authorities about the possibility of expanding
to Sister Bay. But the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's first post-
reorganization expansion move did not come until 1940, and
the move did not involve Sister Bay. In March of that year the

Board of Directors agreed to contact the state·s Banking
Commission abou t establishmen t of a ··paying and receiving
station .. north of Sturgeon Bay to accommodate customers in
that area of the county during summer months. In April the
board voted to make formal application for the ..seasonal
agency:· to be located in the Village of Ephraim. population
254 ( 1940). situated along Green Bay at Eagle Harbor about
twenty-five miles north of S turgeon Bay. The agency would be
operatt>d in June through Augus t of each year. the board
concluded. One month later cash ier Herlache reported appro
val for the station from the Banking Commission. and the
board voted to proceed with implemen ting plans for the new
On Friday. June 14. 1940. one week after President John
Minahan burned the cap ital debentures issued as part of the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay's depression-recovery efforts. the bank·s
new l::ph ra im Station formally opened with the following
In line with our policy ofservicl' lo c ustomers we a re today
opening our Ephraim Station.
We: hope that it will be convenient and use ful to our
11ort hern customers. It has the s a me secu1ity offered by the
M ain Branch.
S top in to see the Sta lion. We will be glad to show you how
it works. Bank of Sturgeon Bay.

Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Ephraim Stat.ion was located in the Harold

C. Wilson building (building on l~f't).
The new satellite office opened in the .. Harold C. Wilson
building:· By one account the building is the same one--a
two-story. wood-frame structure with a boomtown facade

localed in central Ephraim on Highway 42--that has housed
and still today is the home of Wilson's Restaurant. Harold
Wilson operated a real estate and ins urance agency. apparently
from a roorn(s ) behind the restaura nt; he was also a notary
p ublic. Ralph Propsorn. the Ephraim S tation's first a nd only
manager in its e ight-year history. recalled years later that the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay leased for its s tation operation partofa
twelve-by-eight-foot space. The banking facili ty shared an oil
heater with Wilson. he said. Initial business hours were
a nnounced as I 0 a. m. to 2 p.m .. Monday through F'Iiday. and
9:30 to 11:30 a.m .. Saturday. By 1947 if not sooner the agency
was open daily on Mo nday. Wednesday. and Friday for four
hours each day. June through mid-September.
Although new branch banking by state banks had been
illegal in Wisconsin si nce 1909. the state legislatu re relaxed
restrictions somewhat beginn ing in 1931. allowtng banks to
establish under certain circumstances what were called paying
a nd receiving s ta tions. The stations were designed to have
limited banking powers and as initially authorized could not
"make loans. ex te nd credit in any form. nor accept more then
$300 .000 of deposits ." Accord ing to a Door County Advocate
report on the Ephraim Station's opening, the agency would
"cash checks. accept deposits and offer drafts and travelers'
checks." Without elaboration the newspaper paraphrased
Clifford Herlac he as saying the bank had received "special
permission" from the s tate to establish the northern Door
Cou nty station.

Sister Bay and the Federal Reserve

In 1947 the Wisconsin Legislature reversed course on
banking expansion a nd banned the establishment of any new
paying and receiving stations. but not before the Bank of
Stu rgeon Bay began pursuing changes in its service territory
outside of Sturgeon Bay. The c hanges in time entailed closing
the bank's new Ephra im Station and replacing it with an
agency a t Sister Bay--a move to which prompted the bank's
departure from the Federal Reserve System. The expansion in
S ister Bay barely took place before the state's new ban on
banking expans ion was the las t paying and receiving station
au thorized before the ban. The Bank of Sturgeon Bay was also
said to have been at least contemplating if not actually
pursu ing another satell ite operation. in Brussels in southern

Door County. when the prohibition became law.
The effort at new expansion in Door County formal ly began
in October of 1945 when the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of
Directors. meeting al the Shorewood Inn in Ephraim. reviewed
an unspeci fied number of petitions (presumably from bank
customers and potential customers) to expand service in the
"northern end" of the county. Nothing more is evident on the
question of expansion unlil July of 1946. when the board
instructed one of its committees to investigate extending
payi ng-and-receiving-stalion service to other areas of the
One month later the issue of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
membership in the Federal Reserve System formally came to a
head: the bank's directors agreed to "withdraw" the bank
from the Federal Reserve. voting to cancel the Door County
insti tution's 300 shares ofcapital stock in the Federal Reserve
Bank of Chicago and to file a written request with the Reserve
for waiver of a required s ix-month notice of withdrawal. The
directors also voted to apply for membership in the Federal
Deposit Insurance Co1-pora tion as a non-Federal Reserve
System bank. (Subsequently the board authorized applying
for a written consent from the FDIC to close its Ephraim
agency and consolidate operations at Sister Bay.) No an-
nouncement of the decision to "withdraw" the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay from the Federal Reserve appeared in the Door
County Advocate al the time. Unlike previous years. however.
fo r a time after 1946 the bank no longer listed membership in
the Reserve in its financial statements published in the local
news paper.
In an lnterviewconducted for this historical survey. cu rrent
Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Thomas Herlache said that
the bank departed from the Federal Reserve System because
Federal Reserve officials "weren't interested in letting u s have
a Istation I in Sis ter Bay because they thought that it would be
a money-losing proposition." Minutes from the bank's annual
s tockholders meeting of 1953. when it rejoined the Federal
Reserve. stated the opera tion of the station "would have
violated the terms of our membership" in the Federal Reserve:
the minutes did not elaborate. In attempting to explain the
1953 reuniting of the bank a nd the federal agency, the
Advocate reported that year (also without elaboration) that
"the last congress changed the law, again making membership

possible. and the board of directors filed application to rejoin
the system ... Va rious written accounts from 1953 referred to
the bank's departu re from the Federal Reserve as one in which
its membership ha d been "terminated ... whereas l 946 1:3oarcl
of Directors minutes called the situation a deci s ion by the
bank to "withd raw."
For its new northern Door County station facility. the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay chose the Village of Sister Bay. popula tion 429
( 1950). locatedjust north of Ephra im at the northe rn junction
of State Highways 42 and 57. Plans called for constucting a
bank facility in the increasi ngly tourist-minded village that
would be open year-round. Before the state's new bank station
ban took effect. the Board of Directors agreed in October of
1946 to "continue with the work on the Sister Bay Station on a
time and material basis ... for a total of an estimated $22.000
for the building." However. for reasons not readily apparent
but which perhaps were related to the Federal Reserve mem-
bership issue Glncl/or the 1947 banking station legis lation. the
office building was not opened until nearly twenty-two months

Original Sister Bay Branch opened in 1948.

Th<' new Siste r Bay Station was a small , one-story bu ilding

cons tructed of "native llimc lstone" and featured what was
considered a dis t inclive, modern design. A public open house
was held on Saturday. June 26. 1948. from I 0 a.m. to 9 p.m.:
tours of the new fac ility were given. refreshment s served. and
mememos dist ri buted. Said the Advocate in annou ncing the
opening of the new banking office:

The building. a unique venture away from standard bank
design. is commandi ng considerable attention through the
Mid-West from banking interests. The beauty of the new
Sln.wture is eviden t everywhere. and it blends well with lhe
resort area in which il has been constructed.
The interior. as well. is the acme of modem design wilh
perfect lighting. air-conditioning and working facilities. A
huge fireplace lends homtness and comfort to the ins ide.
destroying rnmpletely the usual cold austerity that is a
carry-over from by-gone banking days.
Everything-- n.tbbcr tiled Ooor. furniture and walls. fLx-
turcs -blt>nd[ s l well. The cei ling is mot tled. of neutral cork
block. rel1ecting the warm. cherry colors and providing
excellent aeoustic's. Flourescenl lighting is used entirely.
Ther mo pane glass is used exclusively throughout the
building and the cant il('ver roof is projected to elimi nate
Arch it ect/designer for the building was E.H. Hezner of lhe
Chicago Bank Equipment Company. which was said to have
special ized in architectural/design work for finan cial insti-
Located at what today is 421 Maple Drive in a reside ntial
a nd summer collage secti on of Sister Bay near its old
commercial center (roughly four miles norlh of the bank's
earlie r Ephraim Stalionl. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Sister
Bay Station overlooked Green Bay from its hillside perch and,
with large wi ndows faci ng the bay waters. commanded "a
beautiful representative Doorcountyview," said the Advocate.
Interior features included a c ustomer service area. office
space. a vault. and safe ty deposit boxes. The Aduocale stated
tha t S iste r Bay was a "natural s ite" for the new facility because
of the village·s location at the junction of two state highways
and its accessibility from bot h the Lake Michigan and Green
Bay s ides of Door County. The newspaper also said that Bank
of Sturgeon Bay Executive Vice-President Clifford Herlache
anticipated initial deposits at the station of more than Sl
In a full -pageAduocaleadverlisemen t on June 24. 1948. the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay said that its new station would "allow
for g reater convenience for our patrons north of Sturgeon
Bay." The advertisement. lis ted the facility's general contractor;
its s ubcontractors for s to nework, plumbing-h eat ing-air
conditioning. electrical work. plaster work. pai.nting and
decorating. concrete work , and g rading and landscaping: and
its materials suppliers --all from Sister Bay. Fish Creek. Baileys

Harbor. or Sturgeon Bay. In addition to indicaling that the
bank employed twenty-nine people at all of its offices. the
adverlisement aJso stated--erroneously. it seems--that the
Door County fin a nciaJ institution was a "'Member F'ederaJ
Reserve System:·
An estimated 1.400 people attended the Sister Bay agency's
open house. Souveni rs distributed included napkin rings
wilh prin ted paper napkins. rulers. balloons. book matches.
memo pads. and letter openers. Doughnuts. cake. and coffee
were served. The Advocate editoriaJized that the openi ng of
the new station was "'another s tep forward in the rapid
development or the northern part of Door county. which
promises to become one of the richest sections of the penin-
sula." AJI of Door Cou n ty's villages were showing growth . the
newspaper observed. but Sister Bay in particular was "devel-
oping into a year-round business center, having a number of
outstanding business houses that attract trade from a large
section of the cou nty...
The Siste r Bay Station offkiaJly opened for business on
Monday. June 28. two days after its open house. Ralph J.
Propsom. who had been manager of the Ephraim Station. was
named assistant cashier and manager of the new facility.
lnitiaJ hours were 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 2:30 p.m..
Monday through Friday. plus 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday beginning
in July of its opening year. Manager Propsom recalled years
later that the S ister Bay building's stone exterior had been
hand-cut and fitted "in a tradition which has not been lost in
the area ... He also recalled that the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had
decided to locate a banking station in Sister Bay because "i t
was apparent that Sister Bay was becoming the centraJ
business area of the northern portion of the county." Added
Thomas Herlache in another interview:
II was d<'lt'rminecl that there was enough volume and
enough business in that area that It would be economically
feasible lo have a fu ll-lime (station! up there. We had had a
(slalionl In 1'~phraim before that. but it was a part lime type
facility. ITlw bank I moved to Sister Bay because that became
more of !he rC'lail hub of the northern area of the county.
Coincidentally or not. construction of the new satellite
facility took place at the same time a new fruit-packing plant
was built approx ima tely one mile east of Sister Bay by the
Fruit Growers Co-operative of Sturgeon Bay. The plant con -
ducted its public open house on Sunday. June 27. 1948. one

day after the Sister Bay Station's opening celebration . With
the new banking faci lity and the pack ing pla nt. said the
Advocate a bout S ister Bay. ''that enterpris ing village has a
b right future before i t."
Four and a half years after the Sister Bay Station's opening.
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay commemorated its link-up again
with the Federal Reserve System in a formal ceremony.
Although the Advocate (nor Board of Directors meeting
min utes ) at the time explained in any detail why the bank's
reapplication fo r membership had been accepted. the news -
paper did state that the membership certificate had been
granted "without a s ingle condition. which is unusual in
obtaining membersh ip in the system." The certificate was
presented a t the bank's January 17. 1953, annual meeting.
which was preceded by a smorgasbord dinner at the Bay View
Lutheran Church hall in Sturgeon Bay. Making the presen-
tation to President William Wagener were W.R. Diercks. vice-
pres ident. a nd H. Fred Wilson. assistant vice-president. of the
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Commented the Bank of
S turgeon Bay's Cli fford Herlache:
In taking this stt>p the Bank of Sturgeon Bay has joined
forces with the greatest banking system in the world a nd is
now in a posilion to provide its customers with the utmost
in service and protectio n . . . . The Bank of Sturgeon Bay is
proud to again become a member of the Federal Reserve
One add itional note related to operation of the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay's Sister Bay Station: in 1951 while the U.S.
under the a us pices of the United Nations was engaged in the
Korean Wa r. the bank's Board of Directors designated the
Sister Bay facility a special records storage area fo r not only
the bank but for the Door County and City of Sturgeon Bay
governments as well "if they choose to take advantage of it."
The board s aid it would microfilm for storage at Sis ter Bay
those ban k records "we t hink migh t b e of Jong term impor-
tance ... in order to avo id possible loss in any war th at we
might get into." The s ame m icrofilming service would be
offered to the two local governments. board minutes indicated.

The West Side Branch

The Ban k of Sturgeon Bay's next major change in its
satellite operations came a decade after its expansion in Sister
Bay and only after numerous false star ts. In August of 1957

ground was broken for a new one-story West Side Branch
build ing on West Maple Street in the old Sawyer section of
Sturgeon Bay. Construction was rompleted eight months
later. and a formal open house was held in June of 1958 during
the West S ide Comme rcial Club's "Prosperity Dollar Days"
re tail promotion.
Relocation of the old Sawyer Branch had been considered by
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay as early as 1945. ln May of that year
the Board of Directors appoin ted a committee to investiga te in
part purchasing la nd for the e rection of a new bra nch bu ilding
to replace the ex is ting branc h a t 108 South Macliso n Avenue
(formerly Un ion Street). Howeve r. the new branc h fac ility was
not forthcoming: the Board of Directors with stockholders'
approval merely c hanged the facil ity's name in 1946 from
Sawyer Branch to West Side Branc h. In explaining the
proposed switch. officials of the bank told stockholders that
"to outside ba nke rs a nd othe rs I he na me 'Sawyer· led them to
believe the branc h was in some city other than Sturgeon Bay."
Sale of the West S ide Branch building. which the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay evidently pu rchased sometime after its con-
struction in 1907 - 1908. and/ or construction of a new banking
facility serving S turgeon Bay's west side was again d iscussed
by the Boa rd of Oi rectors in I 946. I 948. I950. 195 1, and 1953.
In 1946 the board agreed to i nvesligate a possible s ale of the
branch building a nd leasing space in the facility if sold until
new suitable quarters could be fou nd. In 1948 the board
agreed to secure bids on the cost of a new West S ide Branch
b u ilding. Executive Vice-Presiden t Clifford He rlache was
authorized a year a nd a halflatcr to con fer with state banking
a uthorities regard ing a sale or remodeling of the branch. In
1951 the board au thorized the ba nk to negotia te selling the
two-story office s tructure to a potential buyer. And in 1953 a
s ubcommittee of the board was appointed to plan and build a
new west s ide facili ty.
Bu t it was not until 1958. the same year Sturgeon Bay
switched to dial telephones. that a new Wes t Side Branch
finally opened. The move from the former John C. Rank
Building to the new quarte rs at 34 West Maple Street took
place on Sa turday. March 29. 1958. and the new facility
open ed for business the foll owing Monday, with Myron
Laubens tein its manager. Unlike the Sister Bay Station, the
exterior design of the Bank of Stu rgeon Bay's new branch.

21 2
West Side Branch in Sturgeon Bay without sa tellite opened in 1958.

located j ust west of the major west side business thoroughfare

of Madison Avenue. was undistinguished. The rectangular
brick building fea tured a canopy extending around the
structure's front and one s ide: a small park ing lot was
provided in back.
At the time of the branch opening the Door County Advocate
did not provide descriptions of' the new office building's
general architecture. However. both the Sturgeon Bay news -
paper and the Bank of Sturgeon Bay did explain and describe
in detail a new technology featured in the new operation: a
drive-up window. (A newspaper account publis hed fourtee n
years later called it "the first drive-up window In town.") The
window allowed customers to conduc t their banki ng business
with a teller without having to leave their car s. The bank
DRNE-IN Banking Comes to the Wes t Side
Branch of the Bank of S turgeon Bay
You've heard about it. You've read a bout it. And now you
may use it.
We a re proud to a nnounce the Ins tallation of a new Mosler
Electric Drive -In Window. It leaves every o ther method of
banking far behind.
You'll enjoy banking right from your car window. It's so
extra co nvenient .. . whether you're a housewife. s hop owner.
rou te d river. or bus inessman.
The Mosler Drive-In Window is the ultimate in banking
luxury.Just imagine . .. no parklng problems ! No standing in
line! No time wasted ! Now you can ma ke a deposit o r cash a
check from your car window . .. in less than a minute.

In addition to a large illuslration of a woman s itting in the
driver's seat of a car using lhe new drive-up facili ty and being
served by a teller standing behind a glass window. the
advertisement d isplayed a three-step set of instructions on
how to use the drive-up mechanism for banking transactions.
In an a rt icle headlined "Pushbutton Banking Here," the
Advocate said that the drive-up window (located on the west
side of the branch building) was made of bulletproof glass and
was framed in stai nless s teel. The Mosler Safe Company.
builder of the drive-up. it said. had also constructed "the gold
storage vaults at Fort Knox. Ky .. and the bank vaults which
withstood the atom bomb allack at Hiroshima" during World
War II. The newspaper concluded that the drive-up would be
more convenient. save time for customers. "prevent congestion
in the bank lobby." "solve parking problems," and enable
tellers to serve customers with greater efficiency.
With the use of an overhead two-way speaker system. a
customer at the drive-up window could speak "in normal
tones" to a teller s tanding behind the bulletproof glass and
hear the teller as well. Reported the Advocate:
By means ofa push-button. the teller activates the electrically
controlled s treamlined. bullet-proof. d raft-resistant deposit
receptacle which automatically moves from the window to
within easy reach of the customer seated in his car. The
bank laccount l book. deposit or wi thdrawal is placed in the
receptacle which is automatically returned to the teller
within 15 seconds.
"If the customer needs more t.ha11 15 seconds." said Mr.
Herlache. "the teller will keep the deposit receptacle extended
as long as necessary by means of the control button."
Incidenta.Uy. the receptacle has a srnop-like change com-
partrncn t to make it easy for the customer or teller to pick up
coins ·with one motion.
Remarked Clifford Herlache. as quoted by the Advocate:
As ide from its many other distinct advantages. this new
modern banking service will also saw d riving time for many
of our customers who sometimes may have been compelled
to circle the block repeatedly trying to find a place to park.
Sturgeon Bay's semiweekly newspaper (it changed from
weekly to semiweekly in 1948 ) also noted that a new "ultra-
modern night deposit system" had been installed at both the
new West Side Branch and the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's main
bank for night. weekend. and holiday deposits. Each stainless
steel deposit unit. also bu ilt by Mosle r. was located on an

exterior wall of each bank and contained two openings: a
keyless slot fo r envelopes for checking or savings deposi ts and
a hopper wi th a locked steel door for larger deposits. for which
each depositor in tending to use the hopper was issued a key.
The Advocate said larger deposits were placed by customers
"in locked bags" before bei ng placed in the hopper. All deposits
were "automatically transmitted" down metal chutes into a
safe ins ide the bank. according lo the newspaper; both the slot
and hopper chutes contained "ingeniously designed separate
baffles to prevent outside withdrawal of either the envelopes or
bags from the receiving safe." Added Herlache:
This ·rou nd the dock depos it service will be a boon to
businessmen of the City of Sturgeon Bay and vicinity
because they will no longer be compelled to keep on the
premises the funds which accumulate after banking hours.
With its new building. drive-up window. and nigh t deposi-
tory in place. the Wes t Side Branch conducted its formal open
house on Saturday.June 21. 1958. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during
the week-long "Prosperity Dolla r Days" celebration. Free bal-
loons for children and "favors" for adul ts were distributed. In a
large Advocate advertisement. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay said
its West Side Branch offered the drive-up window. night
depository. deposit boxes. and free parking. Telephone and
other u tili ty bills could be paid at the b ranch. it said. Hours
lis ted were Monday th rough Friday. 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m .. plus
Friday afternoons and evenings. 3:30 to 8. At the same time.
the Advocate announced that the D.C. Pisha Ins urance
Agency had moved to lhe Bank of Sturgeon Bay's former west
s ide location.
Llke the Sister Bay Station. the opening of the new west s ide
office or the Bank or Sturgeon Bay corresponded with the
opening of a new fac tory nearby. In th is case the factory was
th e new plant of the Milwaukee S hoe Company. completed on
Stu rgeon Bay's west side in 1957. T he s hoe firm conducted its
open house during "Prosperity Dollar Days" a week before the
West Side Branch celebration. As with Sister Bay. il is not
known without further research whether the construction of
a new Bank of Sturgeon Bay offi ce and a nearby factory a t
a pproximately the same time were coincidental or not.
Washington Island
Before the 1950s expired. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay made
one add itional move of note in its satellite operations. After at

Waslli11gto11 Island Branch opened in 1959.

leas l five years of conside ration. the bank in 1959 opened a

paying and receiving station on Washington Island. located
four miles off the Wisconsin mainland a t the northern tip of
Door County. Accomplished during Wisconsin's continuing
ban again st new bank bra nch and station operations. the
expansion required special authorization from the state
The Bank of Stu rgeon Bay had retai ned an officially desig-
nated "representalive" on Washington Island s ince at least
1953 in bank director Haldor A. Gudmundsen. first elected to
the board in 1939; his I 953 salary for the Washington Island
position was $250. Board minutes did n ot define what
Gudmundsen·s responsibilities were as a "representative:·
but he may have assisted residents of the island community in
at least cashing checks and making bank deposits. particularly
when travel to and from banking facilities on the mainland
was difficult.
In 1954 the Milwaukee Journal reported that Executive
Vice-Pres ident Clifford Herlache had s lated in a recent article
in the Mid-Western Banker magazine that the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay was interested in establishing a formal office on
Was hi ngton Is land but was prohibited from doing so by state
banking law. Accord ing to the Journal account, Herlache
indicated that both the bank's West Side Branch and Sister
Bay Station had "benefited the s maller communities" in
which they were located a nd a banking office on Washington

Island could do the same for that area of Door County. Many
types of nonbank financial -service businesses had come into
existence over the years. Herlache said. and foresight among
bankers would be needed "to prevent offshoots of banking
from ultimately encroaching upon even the check cashing
functions of banks." Legislation was needed. he added. to
make banking sufficiently flexible to anticipate and respond
to the changing public demand for service.
The Joumal commented that most small-town bankers in
the state viewed branch banking as an "evil octopus ... a
system under which a big town bank reaches out its tentacles
to strangle them and suck the life blood out of the local
business community. The newspaper said of Herlache:
T he Sturgeon Bay banker does not go so far as to favor
state-wide branch banking. but he does want limited branch
banking. His very sound argument is that the state law
which fences in the big city banks also fences in the smaller
town banks. And it does not protect them from the compe-
tition of other financial service businesses.
A year later the Journal noted in an editorial entitled
"Moderate. Regulated Branch Banking Is Fully Justifiable"
that hearings had been held by the state legislature on
modifying the state's ban on banking expansion.
The parade of small town bankers at the hearings on such
bills Ito modify the ban] talked a lot about the dangers of
monopoly. but it was almost transparent that what really
moved U1em was the fear of competition--even in areas that
don't have adequate banking service now and can'tget it ....
Probably the legislature will go along with this opposition.
The Joumal noted that Wisconsin had originally imposed a
ban on additional branch banking in 1909 but had relaxed the
restriction somewhat during the depression to allow paying
and receiving stations. The complete ban was reimposed in
1947. and a two-thirds vote of the legislature would be
required to change it. "Only 12 other states have similar
quaint bans on bank expansion." the newspaper said. The
Journal also said. without elaboration. that only a ··hairline
distinction·· separated banking branches from paying and
receiving stations in Wisconsin.
Debate on the merits of allowing new expansion by existing
banks in Wisconsin continued. In 1957 the Door County
Advocate noted that petitions ··an the matter of establishing
bank service offices" were being circulated throughout the

state and were available a t the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. The
Advocate said that the Door County bank wanted to expand
onto Washington Island but was proh ib ited from doing so by
state banking la w. Islanders were "greatly i nconvenicnced" by
not having their own banking office. the newspaper said.
The reason the service office idea has been so ha re! to put
across is that some independent bankers fear that la rger
banks. like those in metropolitan a rea s. would expand out
and prove too tough in compet ition. Meanwhile Washington
Island stays withou t service.
Six mon ths la te r. in July of 1957. Herlache noted at the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay's a nnual stockholders meeting that legis lation
tha t would have allowed a banking station on Washington
Island had been defeated in the state legis lature, failing to
generate the required two-thirds majority vote.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's report to its stockholders on the
Washington Is land affair was much different a year later. In
July of 1958 President William Wagener announced that the
bank's directors had inspected potential office sites on
Washington Island. population 610 ( 1960). two weeks earlier
and that Bank of Sturgeon Bay satellite service there would
probably begin by year's end. What had happened in the
interim between the Door County en terp rise's 1957 a nd 1958
a nnual meetings was passage of legislation allowing bank
s tation expans ion in Wisconsin but under circumstances
which applied only to the case of Washington Is land. Among
other things. the legislation required any new bank s tation to
serve a full township (Washington Island was a town) and that
the township be completely su rrounded by water.
For reasons not clear.opening of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
long-sought Washington Island Station took longer than
anticipated: service did not officially begin until Wednesday.
March 18. 1959. The station opened in a one-and-a -half-story
wood frame house located on Main Road in a small business
district on the island. It offered "general banking services...
including checki ng accounts. savings accoun ts. money orders.
travelers checks. and check cashing. The facility's first man-
ager was Sylvia Jessen. and its initial days of operation were
Monday. Wednesday. and Friday. According to current Wash-
ington Island Ma nager Robert Carr. the Washington Island
building (still used by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay today) was
built as a house in about 19 l l and had been used as an ice

2 18
cream parlor, among other functions. before ils purchase by
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
In announcing the new station opening. the Advocate said
the special legislative act allowing the Washfngton Island
Station had been prompted by Assemblyman Frank Graass.
who worded "the special bill to make it acceptable... Because of
the act's township and water requirements. the Advocate
said. Washington Is land was the only site in Wisconsin for
which the bill was applicable. The newspaper indicated that
some legislators opposed the act because they feared "it might
be a foot in the door for further branches."
The Advocate called the new Bank of Sturgeon Bay station
opening a "milestone in the economic life of Washington
The island has had great inconven ience through lack of
banking facilities. In summer there was a Su11Jlus of cash
and those going to Sturgeon Bay were often called upon to
carry large sums of currency for deposit. In winter transac-
tions were usually made by check. checks sometimes be-
coming filled with signatures.
According to Thomas Herlache. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
had been exper iencing "operational problems" in handling
Washington Island accounts. particularly in winter months
when transportation off the island was limited because of
snow and ice and "checks became cash." Island residents, he
said. would endorse checks "down the backs and up the sides
and down the fronts .... A ten-dollar check was like a ten-dollar
bill. only you had somebody else's guarantee on it." If the check
was no good, he added. "there was no way of finding out who
the last endorser was and going back and collecting on that
item." Herlache said the ability to open a Washington Island
Station benefited both the island's residents and the bank
and constituted a major advancemen t in financial services for
the area.

Chapter XI
Of More Recent Vintage: New Headquarters,
New President, New Branches, New Competition
The years 1940 lo 1959. from the opening of an Ephraim
agency to the opening ofa Washington Island Station. marked
a period of major office expansions and relocations for the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. The main a nd satellite office activity.
however. did not end with the 1959 Washington Island move.
From 1967 to 1986 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay engaged in
a nother round of office expansions. relocations. and revisions
that ranks as its busiest in one hundred years. Inspired by a
change in Wisconsin law which once again allowed banks to
branch. the bank expanded to Brussels in southern Door
County and lo th ree additional locations n orth of its head-
quarters city. It also opened what it called a "motor bank."
relocated and later expanded ils Sister Bay office. and con-
s tructed an addition lo its West Side Branch site.
During the same period. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay expanded.
relocated. and then revised its headquarters operations as
well. as business continued to grow. services continued to
expand . and the number of employees increased. The main
office moves began after Sturgeon Bay's first new bank since
1902--lhe F'irst National Bank of Sturgeon Bay--opened its
doors. And they occu n ed at a time when the city's original
savings and loan association changed ownership and names
as it expanded and a second savings and loan entered the local
financial ma rket.
The moves also came after Cli fford H. Herlache. formerly the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay's cashier and then executive vice-
president. replaced William E. Wagener as president. lfEdward
Decker was principally responsible for the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's founding a nd its emergence as Door County's largest
bank. and if Henry Fetzer guided the enterprise through its
major period of predepression growt h, then it was Clifford

Herlache who returned stability to an institution in crislsand
engineered the bank along a forty-year-long road of growth.
expansion . sound management. and success.

The Scofield Relocation

Since late 1900 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had been located
in its own. two-story. limestone office building on wha t is now
Third Avenue. Sturgeon Bay's principal downtown commer-
cial thoroughfare. Built five years after fire forced the bank to
evacuate Masse's Block-- ils first location after a brief stay in
the law office building of attorney James Keogh. Jr.-- the new
bank contained teller and other customer service areas on
principally its first floo r and. on its second floor. rooms that al
least in the building's early years were rented to other tenants.
According to one estimate by Clifford Herlache. the bank
remodeled the two-story building at least three times in the
structure's first half-century.
By the 1950s. however. after experiencing major fl nancial
growth duringWorld War II and after bookkeepi ng operations
had been expanded to the second fl oor. the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay sought more space and better accessibility for its opera-
tions. Its solution was no farther than the building next
door: the Scofield Company appliance and hardware store.
identified in the 1950s as Door County's oldest hardware
company. The move into Scofield's store was an ini tial round
ofajuggling operation that saw the Bank of Sturgeon Bay first
abandon its 1900office building and then expand back into it
before finally constructing a new. larger headquarters at a
differen t site.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay may have been thinking main
office expansion or relocation as early as the 1940s. In January
of 1948 its stockholders authorized formation of a "subsidiary
corporation" wholly owned by the bank to purchase "the bank
build ings." Although formation of such a corporation did not
take place in the months following the authorization. utiliza-
tion of a subsidiary to purchase bank office facilities was
precisely the legal route taken later in the 1950s when the
Door County firm moved its headquarters.
The immediate series of events leading to that 1950s
relocation formally began on Th ursday. August 27. 1953.
when the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of Directors met in
special session.The board agreed that more space was needed

for the bank's main office and a ppointed Vice-President
William A. MacEacham as its "nominee" to purchase all of the
capital stock of the Scofield Company. whoseslorewas located
immediately north of the bank al 2 15 North Th ird Avenue.
In a major page-one story five days later. the Door County
Advocate reported that the sale of stock to MacEacham. acting
as the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's intermediary. had taken place
on Monday morn ing. August 31 . The newspaper said the bank
was expec ted to move at some futu re date into a t least par t of
the Scofield Company store once It conferred with a "tax
consultant" and a ppropriate plans we re drafted. approved.
and implemented. "It has long been the wish of the directors
and officers of the bank to have more room so as to be a ble to
give the best possible service to its growing patronage." the
newspa per explained. (In a companion. one-paragraph notice
in the same issue. the Advocate announced that the Bank of
Stu rgeon Bay had s urpassed S 15 mill ion in total assets for the
first time in its history.)
With the Scofield Company stock purchase by MacEacham
completed. efforts were under way to con vert Scofield into a
subsidiary of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay to facili tale relocation
of the bank's mai n office. In September the Board of Di rectors
voted to ask permission from Wisconsin's banking commis-
sioner ( 194 7 legisla tion had abolls hed the old three-member
state Banking Commission) for the bank to purchase all of the
Scofield Company's capital stock (except directors· qualifying
s hares) for $60.000. The request was subsequently a pproved
by the state and e ndorsed by Bank of Sturgeon Bay s tock-
holders. The board also approved a S 132.000 ten-year mort-
gage loan to the company.
In October the bank's stockholders authorized the sale of
"all of the remai ning Bank build Ings" to the Scofield Company
for $78,562 (la te r reduced lo $78.053). Under the new ar-
rangement. Scofield became an affiliate of and a real estate
holding company for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. "own ing all
bank s pace and other office s pace s uitable for rental." As it
related to the downtown Sturgeo n Bay buildings. the ar-
rangement meant that the Scofield Company owned both the
1900 Bank of Sturgeon Bay building and the forme r Scofield
appliance-hardwa re store. leasing back the latter to the bank
as the location fo r its new headquarters. By 1957. a rter the
Bank of S turgeon Bay had moved out of the s tructure. the

Scofield Company sold the 1900 bank building to Dr. Hubert
D. Grota.
Cli fford Herlache recalled in a radio interview two years after
the 1953 Scofield stock sale to William MacEacham that
although the Bank ofSturgeon Bay had been looking for a new
headquarters site for a number of years. the Scofield offer
came "out of a clear blue sky." The sale offer was made on a
Wednesday, he said, with the provision that the deal had to be
accepted and closed by the following Monday. "So we did,"
Herlache said, without elaboration. (One factor in why the sale
took place may have been the death of a year earlier of the man
described as a founder of lhe Scofield Company. Herbert C.
The Scofield transaction and conversion of the company
into a subsidiary of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay did not happen
without controversy. One week after the initial newspaper
announcement of the stock sale to MacEacham, the Advocate
printed a short, three-paragraph statement from Clifford
Herlache which the newspaper said was issued "so that any
misunderstanding about the purchase of the Scofield Co. will
be cleared up."
On Monday. Aug. 31, WA MacEacham. vice-president of
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. accepted an offer to sell him all of
the capital stock of the Scofield Co.
The Scofield Hardware. long s uccessfully operaled on 3rd
av. in Sturgeon Bay, will be liquidated.
Use of the space lhus made available has not been fully
decided at this time. Further announcements will be made
as plans for the use of the building are made.
At the Bank of Sturgeon Bay s tockholders' meeting that
October one stockholder asked bank officials whether the
bank had counteracted or would try to counteract "rumors on
the street" about the Scofield deal. "Many of these rumors"
were then discussed, according to minutes of the session: the
precise nature of the "rumors" was not identified either in the
minutes or in an Advocate report on the stockholders·
meeting three days later. Current Bank of Sturgeon Bay
President Thomas L. Herlache added in 1987 that at least part
of the problem may have been discontent among some
Scofield Company employees who had wanted the appliance
and hardware store to remain in business.
The Scofield Company was later dissolved. Tax rolls for the
City of Sturgeon Bay indicated that it owned the Bank of

Sturgeon Bay's new main office until 1962. when tax records
began listing the bank itself as the property's owner.
The Scofield Company store. the next headquarters of the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay. had been constructed in 1903 and was
originally known as the Scofield Block. Construction on the
two-story building had begun in the spring of 1903 after a
house located on the site known as the .. MacEacham resi-
dence" was partially dismantled and moved to another loca-
tion. Built on property sold to Scofield by the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay and fronting what was then Cedar Street. the Scofield
building featured an exterior composed. it was said... largely"
of native. Sturgeon Bay area limestone in a design meant to
blend with that of the adjacent Bank of Sturgeon Bay building.
Another architectural feature was the use oflarge windows on
the building·s first- and second-floor facade. since glass was
"nearly as economical as any material that is to be had at
present." reported the Door County Advocate in 1903. In
commenting on the Scofield construction. the Advocate
noted, "This may sound strange. but it is given as a fact that
glass is cheaper at present than either wood. brick or stone
when used for the fronts oflarge business houses." By October
of 1903 the new Scofield Block was up and its tenant. the new
Scofield Company store. open. The store was said to have been
founded in 1888 and was said to have been known originally
as Scofield and Hendricks.
After the Bank of Sturgeon Bay negotiated purchase of the
Scofield Company in 1953. consultants began drafting re-
modeling plans for the bank's relocation. Architects originally
recommended chipping off part of the Scofield building's
limestone front so it could be overlaid with two inches of
polished granite. The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Board of
Directors, however. rejected the recommendation and favored
cleaning the existing stone to retain its similarity in appear-
ance with the adjacent bank building.
Preliminary plans for remodeling Scofield's were approved
by the Board of Directors in January of 1954. Drafted by E.H.
Hezner of the Chicago Bank Equipment Company (who also
designed the bank's 1948 Sister Bay Station). the plans called
in part for a new front en trance. a new and enlarged vault. and
larger executive office areas: also planned was replacement of
the ten-person (twelve in summer) bookkeeping department.
located at the time on the old bank's second floor. on the new

bank's first floor behind the tellers' service a rea. The basement
would contain an employee lounge a nd some kitchen facilities.
The Advocate announced that the bank's old building would
be re n led lo other ten an ls once the remodeling and relocation
were completed. (The second floor of the Scofield location also
would be used for other purposes. s ince the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay only planned a t least in the immediate future to utilize the
building's basement and first floor.) By the time Hezne r's
preliminary plans were approved. merchandise had already
been cleared from the Scofield s tore to make way fo r the
remodeling project and new bank.
The remodeling. however. was delayed. Bank officials re-
ported at the 1954 stockholders' meeting in July that con-
struction bids on the Scofield remodeling had been about
double what architects had estimated: no dollar amounts of
the bids were recorded in the meeting's minutes. The bids
were rejected and the remodeling plans subsequently sent to
the First National Bank of Chicago for "revision and s im-
plification ... (First National was a correspondent bank for the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay or. in the words of Clifford Herlache.
"our big brothers down in Chicago.") At First National. it was
reported. Frank Guthridge. a vice-p resident of the Ch icago
bank and a long-time Door County summer resident. served as


Main Office in Sturgeon Bay occupiedfrom 1954-1981.

a consultant and principal designer for the Ba nk of Sturgeon
Bay's relocation plans.
Revised plans were subseq uentJy drafted. and remodeling of
lhe Scofield building began: work was barely completed in
lime for thC:' new banks open house on Salurday. May 21.
1955. Scaffolding was removed from the building·s front only
the week before the opening. and an eight-ton door to a new
vault transported by the Mosler Safe Company of Chicago still
had not been installed by Thursday morning. May 19. Since
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had moved its opera tions into its
new localion one week before the official grand opening.
personnel for the bank maintained a special twe nty-four-hour
watch in s ix -hour shifts until the vault door could be insta lled.
Workmen were still at the scene Friday night. May 20. and the
new bank's drapes were not hung until 8 o'clock the morning
of the opening.
In announcing the open house. the Advocate proclaimed
Sturgeon Bay's "spacious new bank ... one that any city in the
nation would be proud lo have. From floor to ceiling it presents
a pleasant. restful atmosphere for doing business:· The
newspaper said the new facility had room for nine tellers.
compared to four in the old bank. It also said that the principal
reasons for the bank's move were more space and to "get the
whole operation on one floor." "The bank had been scouting
for a new location for two years before the ha rdware building
possibility opened up:· the newspaper concluded. In an
accompanying two-page advertisement for the open house.
Execulive Vice- President Clifford Herlache said that the first
floor and basement of the Scofield building had been "com-
pletely reva mped" to provide "much needed floor and teller
space.·· "Practically all of the work was done by local people... he
Photographs of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's new headquar-
ters show that the building·s interior represented what must
have been a dramatic change from the bank's turn-of-the-
century office. A word that might best describe the new
interior is sleek: a clean. efficient. uncluttered look highlighted
by straight lines and sharp angles in floor. wall. ceiling. and
fixture design. Metal bars protecting tellers. described as a
feature of the old bank. were replaced with relatively open.
bar-less counters for customers to conduct their transactions.
Below new fluorescent lights was a band of seven large photo

murals along one wall showing Door County shorelines and
scenes offruit growing. farming. and shipbuilding (some of
these murals were later changed). On the building's exterior. a
large neon sign which originally may have been attached to
the bank's abandoned location next door was installed and
projected over the old Scofield building's front sidewalk.
An estimated 4,000 people attended the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's May 21 open house. held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 1\vo
thousand roses were given to women. candy suckers were
passed out among children. rulers were distributed, and an
electric coffee maker, electric wame iron. electric frier, a
toaster. and a Mixmaster were awarded as prizes. Special
decorations included flowers sent by friends. suppliers. con-
tractors. and business associates of the bank. One of the
highlights of the open house was a radio broadcast from the
new bank on Sturgeon Bay radio station WDOR (and recorded
by the bank on a three-record set). Broadcasting from just
inside one of the bank's entrances. the announcer for the
special program noted the "spaciousness" of the new bank
compared to its old location. "Ifyou have to stand in line, you'll
no longer be crowded by the drinking fountain as you were at
the other place." he said. The announcer mentioned the
expanded teller space. a new night depository. basement
storage areas for records. new wall murals by local photog-
rapher and art studio owner Herbert C. Reynolds (the bank
reportedly planned to leave murals which had been mounted
in its old location in place for the benefit of the office's future
tenant[s]). new vinyl plastic drapes. new all-wool carpeting.
new one-eighth-inch-thick vinyl floor tile. new recessed ceiling
lights ("gives the effect of daylight without a lot of shadows").
and the bank's "striking" green. tan. and yellow motif. The
announcer remarked that the new bank was the place to be "if
you want to see some real modem decoration ... "It's fun to go
into a bank that looks pretty," he said.
Among several people interviewed by the WDOR announcer
was Executive Vice-President Herlache. Herlache said the
bank occupied only the basement and first floor of the Scofield
building and could later use its second floor for expansion if
need be. He also said, among other commen ts. that the first-
lloor ceiling had been lowered by about four feet, the bank's
new building provided room for more safety deposit boxes. and
its new vault was the same width but ten feet longer than the

vault in its old location. When asked by I.he announcer how
"the money" was transferred from the old vault to the new one.
Herlache responded, "That was a secret at the time and
remains a secret."
Other people interviewed for the radio program included a
representative of the First National Bank of Chicago. a
representative of Marshall and Ilsley Bank of Milwaukee
(another correspondent bank). some workmen and customers.
and a surprised bookkeeper who had been with the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay for only one month but was standing nearby
and was mistakenly approached by the announcer for an
interview. One laborer said a crew of workmen on the remod-
eling project had finished its work at 10 p.m. the night before
but stayed in the bank until 3a.m. 'We sopped up a little beer."
he said. ·we had a little cotton in our throat. you know." One
woman customer said she was impressed with the remodeling.
"I think it's beautiful. I'm oven.vhelrned." Another customer. a
man from the Chicago area with a cottage in Door County.
remarked. "I think it's beautiful. something you'd hardly
expect to find up here in the hinterlands of Wisconsin."
Responded the announcer. "Hinterlands. Get him, what he
says. Listen, you won'tget any interest on your deposits if you
call it 'hinterlands."'.

Clifford Herlache
A Ii ttle more than a decade after the Scofield move. the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay officially ratified in name what had been
unofficially a fact foryears: Clifford H. Herlache as its principal
officer. InJanuaryof 1966. three rnonthsafteragroup of Door
County businessmen announced their intent to form another
Sturgeon Bay bank. t he fifty-eight-year-old Herlache was
selected the Sturgeon Bay institution's sixth president in
seventy-seven years. He replaced allorncyWilliam E. Wagener,
whose tenure as president from 194 I to 1966 was second in
length only to that of Henry Fetzer. who served from 1907 to
1936. At the same time as Herlache's promotion. Sturgeon Bay
attorney Herbert W. Johnson became a vice-president of the
bank. replacingWilliamA. MacEacham.a vice-president s ince
1941 .
Herlache's selection came nine months before Wagener's
eighty-fifth birthday. when the "dean of the Door County Bar"
was "arrested" by the Door County sheriff. taken to the Door

County Courthouse in a squad car. and charged wilh "prac-
ticing law in Door County for 60 years with great honors to
himself and to the Bar." He was "convicted" by a jury composed
of fellow bar assoc iation members. According to the Door
County Advocate. Wagener retired to his home following his
career as a n attorney. Upon his death in 1972. the newspaper
report ed that "arthritis lhadJ finally forced his retirement"
and he had spent his last years on the Door County Memoria l
Hospital's extended care floor. "Visitors kept coming even after
he no longer recognized them. He would have done the same
for them." the Advocate said.
In selecting Herlache to fill its top officer's post. the Bank of
Sturgeon Bayabandonecl its prac tice since 1936and thedays
of John R. Minahan of having a prominent. top stockholder of
the bank. whose principal occupation was something other
than banker. serve a figurehead presidency. Like Henry Fetzer.
Herlache was actively involved in the institution's day-to-day
managernent and was its key fun ctionary almost. it seems.
from the day he arrived. First associated wi th the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay as a Wisco nsin special deputy commissioner of
banking after its depression reorganization, Herlache was
cashier from 1937 to 1948. executive vice-president from
1948 to 1966. and a long-time member of the bank's Board of
Di rectors. He also served as its trus t officer. Herlache brought
to the presidency of what was then Sturgeon Bay's only bank
not only the credibility and civic prominence of past presidents
but a long record of active. "hands-on," successful bank
management expertise as well. At fifty-eight. he also brought
relative youth to the position.
Clifford Herlache was born in 1907 in Sturgeon Bay to
RaJph Herlache. Door County clerk during his life. and Anna
HaJstead Herlache. He graduated from Sturgeon Bay High
School in 1924. having been a class president and valedictor-
ian. and with honors from the University of Wi sconsin Law
School in 1930. Between graduations Herlache In 1928 took a
cue from his father and entered politics. in this case as a
candidate for the Wisconsin Assembly from Door County. He
stated in campaign material that in 1926 h e had recorded the
highest grade average of 1.400 students in his class and in
1927 I 1acl been elected to the board of editors of the Wisconsin
Law Review. a publication of the UniversityofWisconsin Law
School. He also stated that he had won a schola rs hip "for high

standing·· in 1925 and. while in college. had worked at a
caf<:> trria in Madison (washing clisht>s and waiting o n tables)
as well U!:i on road crews and in local canning operations
during summer vacalions. Said Hcrlache in a 1928 campaign
advrrtiscment authori%ed. published. and paid for by his
If l'lt·t' led. he will go lo tlw assembly open minded.
11ni11!111t•nccd and unpleclgC'd to a11y political facti on . What
bet !er rl'presentation rn n be l!ad for ALL t.he county than a
yo1111g man who realizes its needs. who will go to t Ile
assembly \\it h the intent ion of rC'prC'st>nling everyone in sleacl
of bC'i ng sent clown by a fact ion SC't'king personal gains for
t lw fa,·ors they have extencled t lie rnncliclate.
The younger Herlache added that he ..would like very much to
sre each voter personally.. during the campaign ... but as I am
earning my own money lo pay my way through the University
it has bren necessary for me to work al the canning factory.
which has taken most or my lime and has prevented a
personal call .... A vote for me isa vole fora young man who is
making his own way and who is ambitious and ready to serve."
The young college student was defeated in a th ree-cand idate
Republican primary. taking second to Moulton B. Goff. identi -
fied as a Sturgeon Bay fruit farmer. Herlache won in Sturgeon
Bay but lost in other parts of Door County.
After graduation from law school. Herlache returned to

Cllfford Her/ache
Bank oj Sturgeon Bay President ( 1966-1983)

Sturgeon Bay with Clara Barney Herlache, his wife since
December of 1928. and practiced law. According to one written
account. the attorney "established" his law practice in the
Door County State Bank building; by 1937 he had an office in
the former Merchants Exchange Bank building. Herlache also
became Sturgeon Bay city attorney, serving in that part-time
capacity from 1932 to 1938; he with drew from the post one
week after his promotion by the Bank of Sturgeon Bay from
temporary cashier to permanent cashier. Herlache's associa-
tion with banking solidified during the Great Depression.
beginning shortly after the September 1931 collapse of the
Door County State Bank when he was selected secretary of a
meeting of the bank's depositors and other c reditors. He later
became the state's special deputy commissioner of banking to
supervise liquidation of the closed institution. In I 932 he
assumed a similar pos ition in the liquidation of the closed
Merchants Exchange Bank. and he later supervised the
liquidation of the special segregated trust established for the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay's depression reorganization. He rlache
was appointed the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's cashier as part of
reform measures instituted s hortly after the Henry Fe tzer
scandal broke. He became the ins titution's key officer. heading
ils daily management under the presidencies of s urgeon-
businessman Minahan and attorney Wagener.
He rlac he participated in various civic affairs during his
legal and banking c.areers. One of his favorite activities seems
to have been chainnan of Door County's U.S. defense a nd
savings bond campaigns duri ng World War II and afterward.
He stated in 1963 tha t his own purchases of the government
bonds were helping to finance the college educations of his
children. (In a photograph published that year, Herlache was
shown displaying a packet of bonds with the wife of the
International Harvester Company's general counsel. appar-
enlly during a Door County art fair.) In an interview of
Herlache in 1963. Mid-Western Banker magazine reported
that the then-executive vice-president "makes it his business"
to tell Bank of Sturgeon Bay customers about savings bonds
and to encourage them to buy bonds when their bank
accounts reached certain levels. When asked about his ap-
proach in sell ing bonds. l le rlache replied:
Sell people on the val ue of what ownership of savings bonds
will do for them! You've seen how I have used them and I

make il a point to tell others about the important role they
are playing in our family.
Herlache was president of the Door County Chamber of
Commerce from 1944 to 1946 a nd. as previously noted. was a
leading proponent of the Sturgeon Bay Development Corpor-
ation: the corporation brought new industries to Sturgeon
Bay in an attempt to fill the vacuum created by the decline in
local shipbuilding at the end of World War II. He also was the
corpora tion's treasurer. Other civic activities over the years
included member of the local utility commission, membe r and
head of Sturgeon Bay's board of education. chairma n of the
Door County Ration Board during World War II. me mber of a
legislative committee of the Wisconsin Bankers Association.
chai rman in the 1960s of a committee studying a city
manager form of government for Sturgeon Bay. treasurer in
the 1960s of a drive for new Door County Memorial Hospital
facilities. president of lhe Door County Historical Society. a
treasurer for the Salvation Army. member of the Un Iversi ty of
Wisconsin Alumni Association. and a member of a horticul-
tural advisory commi ttee for the University of Wisconsin's
College of Agriculture. He was also a Mason. Odd Fellow. and
Rotarian and served on a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
board in the school's early development as a four-year campus.
In l 972 Herlache received the Mayor's Award forOutsta nding
Service. Said the Advocate upon his death in 1983. '"He was
one of the prime movers be hind establishing the industrial
park a nd was instrumental in the move of Manitowoc Ship-
bu ild ing to Sturgeon Bay." Pastime activities included bowl-
ing. golfing. fishing. and yardwork.
As for Herlache's personality. what few resources on this
topic uti lized in compiling this bank history suggest is a bank
executive who at least in his role as banker was direct and
businesslike. to some cold and austere. A two-page su mmary
of Herlache's life prepared after his death in 1983 asked:
What was he like a<> a person? Well. you know he had
defi nite ideas about things and was very open to letting you
know where he was coming from and what he thought. He
was very brief. very direct. and to the point. Perhaps If you
didn't unde rstand him you may be offended by this type of
thing. He was his own person. If he thought. a con ve rsa lion
was finis hed. he may begin walki ng away from you even if
you were in the middle of a sentenl'C.
The summary. apparently p repared for the bank official's

fu ne ral. went on to say tha t Herlache was also a "very caring
person " and indicated he would sometimes write letters to
people in distress (the s u mmary did not elaborate) expressi ng
his concern and "letting them k now he cared a bou t them." In
describing Herlache as correct and very b usinesslike. one
former Door County educator sa id in remarks made in l 986.
"It seemed like he would allot you a certain amount of Ume to
conduct your business. You came in, shook hands. conducted
your business, your ten minutes were up. you shook hands.
a nd that was it." Another observer. an area investment banker.
said that same year in a n interview that Herlache s imply was
"a rrogant" and "autocratic."
On September 21. l 977. a t the age of seven ty. Cliffo rd
Herlache suffered a s t roke and. although con tinuing as
president and a Board of Directors member. retired from
active management in the ba nk. (A photograph. ca. 1983. in a
Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay photograph album shows the longtime
banker standing with the a id of a cane.) Said the s ummary
prepared after his death:
He was very indep enden t and relt that '"If you tried you
could do most anything." T h is was probably the spi rit th at
push ed him on even after his debilitating st r ok e. I le had a
very strong b eliefin himself and never wanted to be a burden
or a care for anyon e else.
Clifford Herlache died at home on July 17. 1983. s ix weeks
before his seventy-sixth birthday, after suffering a heart
a ttack. Funeral services were held at the United Methodist
Church of Sturgeon Bay. a nd burial was in Bayside Cemetery.
According to Thomas Herlache. one of Clifford and Clara
Hcrlache's six children. the cider Herlache was the most
inllucntial person at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay "'in recent
h istory." After starting wlth the bank as its cashier in 1937.
Cliffo rd became in effect both chief operating offi cer a nd chief
executive officer and was "more or less the one-man show"
until 1948, when Lester E. Koehn became cash ier upon
Herlache's promotion to executive vice-presiden t. "From what
I hea r a nd understand:· the younger Herlache said in 1984 in
a n interview conducted for this historical survey. "almost
immediately from the time that [Clifford HerlacheJca me to the
ban k. he became the mos t inlluential person on the policies
ancl directions of the bank eve n though he didn't necessarily
h ave the title of chief executive officer immediately... Thomas

said lhat h is father was for much of his career "the one with
the most influence in the commun ity and on the board. as far
as lhe bank is con cerned" until his s troke in 1977. Koehn also
became increas ingly influenti al and important in the bank's
operations. acco rding to Thomas: "he played a prominenl
role." The younger Herlache desc ribed Koehn's rise in the
bank's management as follows:
I believe il was in 1948 that my dad decided co ta ke his first
vacation Isince becomingcashierl. And weal! went out to lhe
Stale of Washington to visit my dad's aunt out there. And a
week or so before he left he got a hold of Les Koehn, who was
managing the West Side Branch. a nd said. "Les. I'm leaving
for two weeks. You're being promoted up to cashier. and from
now on you're going to be the c hie f operating officer of the
bank ... And il IKoehn becoming ch ief operating o ffi cer I was
more or less precipitated by that vacation. but I assume il
was something that was in the works for awhile.
Thomas said one of Clifford Herlache's most significant
contributions to the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was keeping the
"sp read" between the bank's disbursements and revenue--its
average cost of money and its average interest earnings--low.
He kept il relatively close. He ke pt it very narrow. He was
always very cons cious of the costs in the bank. doing
everything he could to keep the overhead costs down so that
that spread could remain s ma ll compared to what other
banks charged. Historically. we've always done that. Ourcosl
of operation has always been cons iderably below average in
spite of the branch system and so forth that we have.
As for Clifford's policy toward bank loans. particularly
earlier in the elder Herlache's career with the bank when he
was actively involved in day-to-day loan management. T homas
recalled in the 1984 interview:
All that I have to go by lare l stories of' people who said that
they could walk in the bank. and on a handshake they'd have
a loan. People who said withou t the bank supporting this
particular indus try or this particular development the re was
no way that they could have happened. So that kind of
followed th rough with his philosophies that if he thought
that the loan was something that was good for the com -
munity. then he was likely to ma ke it.
Later in the elder Herlache's career.
when particula r loans would come up. at Loan Committee
meetings or so fort h. he would ma ke comments like. "Just
remember. boys. back in the 1930s we could not sell the
Glidden Drive Estates property for seven ty-five cents a foot."

. . . IThe depression I had a great impression on him. and he
was a pretty conservative lender because or that experience
that he had in liquidating the banks ....
I don"t think that he would have been very survrised at the
depth of the recession that we had in I 19179. early ·sos.
There was always a lot of comment that [al depression could
not happen again. or that an extended deep recession could
Inot I ha ppen again. especially in the '60s and the '70s when I
came into the banking industry. There [were] all kinds of
ta lk that those were things of the past. that we knew how to
ha ndle things.
And [Clifford] said th at that's what people said In the '20s.
We had the new Federal Reserve System from the teens. and
we had the control of the money supply and a ll t hese sortlsl
of thi ngs that were supposed to be technically good. Every-
body was riding h igh and heading in to the late '20s thin king
that the bank panics and the deep recessions could never
happen again. He always said that he thought that it could
happen again and ..don't ever think that it can't." 13ecauseas
soon as eve1ybody thinks it can ·t. it probably will. and ft did.
Thomas said Clifford recalled that the earliest days of his
law career were troublesome. "He made the comment that
during the depression the only clients that you had were your
relatives. and your relatives didn't figure they had to pay you
.... They !Clifford and Clara I lived on a Jot of potato soup in the
early days of his law career." Thomas d id not know why h is
fath er was appointed a bank liquidator in the 1930s. Door
County historian Stanley Greene has claimed that it was his
fat he r. Harry Y. Greene. mayor of Sturgeon Bay and a member
of the Sturgeon Bay City Cou ncil and Door County Board of
S upervisors during his political career. who got Herlache the
post of liquidator for the Door County State Bank. Thomas
sa id the fact that Clifford was an attorney and the son of a
coun ty offi cial. the Door County clerk. may have been facto rs
in the elder Herlache's favor.
Thomas also said that in the 1930s. as a liquidator of banks.
his father worked periodicallywithJohn W. Byrnes. whom the
younger Herlache described as having similar responsibilities
at the time in the Brown and Oconto counties a rea: the two
were involved in "comparing notes and ideas and that kind of
thing." he said. Byrnes la ter was elected to the House of
Representatives as a Republican congressman from northeast
Wisconsin. Thomas recalled that although Clifford's political
incl ina tions were Republican. he was not a "card -carrying
member" of the party. "I think hi s philosophies were basically

Republican. But he wasn't a party man:· he said. "If he thought
somebody was good who wasn't a member of the Republican
Party. he'd vote for him."

Expansion in. 1972

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay had relocated to the Scofield
Company store in downtown Sturgeon Bay in 1955 with the
idea that it could use the building·s second floor if needed for
futu re expansion. In the early 1970s. however. with more
growth in operations and a need for more s pace. the bank
c hanged course a nd expanded back into the two-story corner
office building it had constructed next door in 1900. The
expansion. though. was only a temporary solu lion to a Bank of
Sturgeon Bay space shortage. resolved a decade later when t he
finn finally abandoned both its 1900 and Scofield locations
and constructed another building a block away. The new
fac ility. the bank"s current headquarters. represented its first
new main office bu ilding construction in eighty years and its
seve nth headquarters location in a century of S turgeon Bay
The bank"s repurchase for expansion purposes of its turn-
of-the-century office building. sold in the 1950s lo Or. Hubert
0. Grota. was announced by the Door County Advocate in
J a n uary of 1972. The newspaper said the purchase had been
made "recently'": City of Sturgeon Bay tax rolls first lis ted the
Bank of Sturgeon Bay as the property's owne r. replacing
Grata. in L972. The Advocate indicated that a walled area
between the ··crotaBuilding" and the Scofield buildingwould
be opened to provide interior access between lhe two adjacent
structures. "This s ide-by-side proximity makes remodeling
fairly easy." said Thomas L. Herlache. the bank's cashier a nd
assistant trust officer at the time. (He rlache said years later
that the bank had decided to expand horizontally because
moving upstairs in its Scofield location ··would have been very
cosUy and inconven iem for customers... ) The Advocate re-
ported that the Parsons and Parsons accounting firm. whose
offices were said to occupy the 1900 bank building·s entire
second fl oor. would remain.
ln June of 1972 the Advocate indicated that the Bank of
S turgeon Bay's expansion project had been completed. pro-
viding additional s pace for a conference room and desks for
bank personnel. The number of employees (apparently a t all

localionsl had increased to forty-s ix (fifty in summer). the
newspaper said. compared to approximately thirty about the
lime of the Scofield move. While Pa rsons and Parsons would
remain on the second floor of the old bank. the Advoca te
sta ted. the local Elks Club would remain on the second 11oorof
the Scofield building.

The North Fourth Avenue Bank

According to Thomas Herlache. the bank's 1972 expans ion
move into its old quarters d id provide needed space but.
non<'l hcless. resulted in "a pretty gerrymandered operation."
Senior Vice-President Ronald 0. Berg recalled that the bank's
trust department in its remodeled 1972 location "was like a
main highway. A thousand people a day would go through
lh<'re. and the officers were righL ou t in the open with no
In the 1984 interview conducted for this survey. Herlache.
now president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. said that the bank
was growing rapidly in the 1970s and needed more room . ll
had checked into the possibility of expanding to the second
stories of both its 1900 and Scofield buildings. he said. but
found such a move too costly in light ofcontemporary building
codes ~ove ming such provisions as toilet facilities. handi-
capp<'d access. and elevators. In conjunction with the new
codes. more shoring would have been req uired for second-
11oor a reas to meet weight load requirements. "The decision
became easy once we saw the flnances involved." Herlache
said. The bank determined that the cost of expanding and
remodelingatitsThirdAvenue location was "almost as much"
as buying a dditional property elsewhere and building new.
"And lhen we weren't sure what they Icon tractors I were going
to run into when they started the remodeling," Herlache
explained. With a new building. he added, office operations
would be arranged properly. parking would be provided. and
additional expansion space would be available.
Planning fora newheadqua r ters location was underway by
1979: in March of that year a "Program Requirements" pla n
outlining anticipated space requirements and construction
alterna tives for the bank was completed. The plan proposed
construction of a two-level building with 12,000 square fee t of
space on each floor plus the installa tion ofa four-lane drive-in
banking u nit (with room to install two more lanes). The pla n

also provided as one alternate the addition of a third-level
s hell. also with 12.000 square feet. that initially would be
unimproved but could be used later for office expansion.
Another office area could be built a bove the drive-in lanes.
provid ing yet another l 2,000 square feet of expansion space
a nd b ringing t he total building capability to 48,000 square
feet. The report estima ted the cost of a two-level building at
S 1.3 million to S l.45 million plus $338.000 for Interior work
(furnishings. carpeting. etc.). $90.000 for s ite work (apparently
la ndscaping and the like). S 150.000 for security equipment.
and S504.000 to add a th ird-level s hell. No cost estimate for
constrnctio n above th e drive- in lanes was included in the
The Ba nk of Sturgeon 13ay's ""Program Requirements" plan
estimated tha t the bank rnuld utilize about 21.500 square feet
of space.or most of the proposed two levels. immed iately upon
moving into a new bu ilding. In ten years il would require
about 24.300 and in fifteen years. a bout 28.500. the report
said. Located on the building·s main floor would be space for:
officers such as the president and senior vice-president.
secretaries. customer service representatives. loan officers
and and collections personnel. tellers, a cash
vault.a book vault.a cus t.omerwaitingarea.confcre nce rooms.
an elevator. and other functions and personnel. In a below-
ground lower level would be space for: the cashier and
assistan t cash ier. the comptroller and assistant comptrollers.
a telephone answering/ call switching area. a mail room , safety
deposit boxes. clerks. auditors. an employee lou ngc. two vaults.
other customer servicr functions, s torage. and the elevator.
a mong other compone nts.
A survey of Bank of Sturgeon Bay employees revealed some
other interesting ideas about what a new headquariers
building s hould conta in. As reported in the April 2. 1979.
ed ition of the bank's in-house newsletter. Hank Notes, the
employees asked for. a mong other suggestions. an ""on-line··
computer system. a gym a nd locker rooms. more space. a nice
lounge. shower faciliti es. a reference library. privacy. better
lighting. employee parking spaces near the buildi ng. and
Two months later Bank Notes reported that elevation and
in terior design drawings of the planned new bank building
plus (refined) cost estimates would be available in July.At that

time. lhc newsletter said. bank offi cials would review the plans
and estimates and clecide whether to proceed with the new
construc tion. In July the newsletler reported that a go-ahead
for the new building had been given.
In previous years the beginning of major construction
projecls fo r the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had often been marked
with newspaper articles and/or newspaper photographs and.
it is likely. local radio reports as well. However. perhaps in part
as a modern-day secu rity precaution or perha ps because of
the Scofield experience twenty-six years earlier. the bank
seems to have provided remarkably little formal public infor-
mation in 1979 about the decision to build a new headquar-
ters and the subsequent start of construction on the new
facility. Sturgeon Bay's newspaper. the Door County Advocate.
did not report on the recorded July 1979 decision to build or
the groundbreaking for the major new downtown Sturgeon
Bay office structure. which. according to one bank docume nt.
was conducted in September of that year. The newspaper's
first refe rence to the new bank building appeared on the
eleventh page of its Ortober 11. 1979. edition. which showed a
photograph of the building's foundation being prepared. The
two-sentence caption read: "They never had a groundbreak-
ing ce remony but the ground is obviously broken at Fourth
and Kentucky. Footings are being poured for a new building
for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay." Construction lasted a year and
a half.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's new main office building. with
two stories above ground and one lower level. formally opened
at 9 a.rn. on Monday. Ma rch 23. 1981, at 21 7 North Fourt h
Avenue. As documented by the Advocate the next day with a
page-one photograph. an outdoor ribbon-culting ceremony
marked the new bank's opening. President Clifford H. Herlache
cut a ribbon of dollar bills: son Thomas was at his side with
other officers and directors of the financial institution.As part
of the ceremony. the Advocate. said. it was announced that the
bank·s old location at 215 North Th ird Avenue would become
the new site of Harmann S tud io photography store. The old.
clock-less 1900 structure at 211 North Third remained an
office building: its tenants as of the mid-1980s included the
Baylake Insurance Agency. Timothy Graul marine design. The
Milwaukee Compan y investment securities firm. and a State
of Wisconsin Divis ion of Correct ions office. Both of the old

bank properties were sold to Clifton and Wayne Harmann.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's March 23 opening a pparently
was five weeks later than originally anticipated. In a review of
the firm·s move and its new building publ ished the week of the
opening ceremony. the Advocate reported the delay was
caused by a newly installed elevator which had been ordered in
December of 1979 but which was still being tested the week
before the March 198 1 opening. (The newspaper said the
elevator's maiden run consisted of 2.500 pounds of nails.)
Sen ior Vice-Presiden t Berg ind icated to the Advocate that the
move into the new building began in December of 1980 when
college students who had worked at the bank the previous
summer began hauling ··literally tons of boxes·· of files and
other bank possessions during their Christmas holiday vaca-
tion period. Employees were said to have volunteered nonwork
lime to assist with the move.
The b ig. final push in the bank·s relocation began the
weekend preceding March 23. the Advo cate said. In addition
to the hauling of such items as furn iture (at least some of
which had been tagged with color a nd number codes to
facilitate the move) and safetydeposil boxes (transferred with
the aid of members of the Sturgeon Bay Police Department
acting as armed guards). the move meant disassembling and
reinstalling the bank's computer network and "proof and
posting machines" in a matter of hou rs and connecting a new
seventy-five-unit telephone system.
The Advocate indicated that the weekend move was ac-
complished successfully. even offering the unlikely prospect
that it was "business as usual" Monday morning in the bank's
new location. The bank"s new phone system was ··hooked up"
by the Wisconsin Telephone Company that same morning. the
newspaper said, a nd safety depos it boxes were still being
transferred by truck to the new build ing the following day. Left
beh ind at the old location was an eight-ton vault door. the
Advocate said. as bank officials opted for what was described
asa new heat-and-sound-sensitive vault system: it was said to
consist of five vaults and other security equ ipment installed
by the Diebold Company of Canton. Ohio. which also moved
safety deposi t boxes and installed drive-in banking equipment
for the new Sturgeon Bay building.
Ronald Berg. part of a five-member bank committee which
coordinated the building move. said the transfer of bank

possess ions and the installa tion of such equipme nt as the
com pute r network required "very delica te timing" a nd co-
ord ination with others assisting in the relocalion (such as
Diebold ) lo be accomplis hed fo r the new build ing's March
23rd opening. "It's probably only about 300 feet.'' Berg said of
the d istance from the bank's old location to its new facility.
"but it might as well be 300 miles .... We tried to do this with
the leas t amount of chaos."
According to Berg. the Ba nk of Sturgeon Bay with its new
building nearly doubled its headquarters space--to about
37.000 s quare feet--and additionally could provide off-s treet
pa rking for its custome rs and employees. The Ad vocate
repor ted that "nostalgia has been running rampa nt d uring
the las t few weeks all the way from the bank presiden t Tom
Herlache. whose father, Cliff. started at the old location half a
century ago. to the s taff a nd customers." Berg told the
news paper that "some of our older customers especially
wondered why we were moving. They fel t this has been their
ba nk for 50 years... The Advocate concluded: "Berg feels that
old and new customers alike will feel comforta ble in the
s pacious. colorful surroundings combined with the he ritage
of a n ins titu tion whic h has served this area for the last 92
years ... T hree weeks after opening in its new location. the bank
cond uctecl its public grand opening celebration . on Satu rday.
April 11.
Technically. Sturgeon Bay's new bank building was built by

Bank of Sturgeon Bay's current main q[fice located at 4th &

Kentuck y .

a subs id iary of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay: the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay Bu ilding Corporation. which owned the facility
and leased the space in it to the bank. The new building
featu res a cream-colored brick exterior highlig hted with
burgundy. s hingle-like. metal panels and was built on a site
I.hat. according to Thomas Herlache. once contained a gas
s tation. the old National Hotel build ing. an auto parts store. an
earlier two-lane Bank of Sturgeon Bay drive-in banking
facilily. ancl. befo re that, a dairy. Its a rchitect. said the
Advocate when the building opened. was Dino Gianechini.
representing the Bank Building Corporation. "a company that
has built 7.000 banks." Irregula rly s haped. the building at
North Fourth Avenue and Kentuc ky Street has windows of
large glass panels on both above-ground stories. On the
bu ild ing's west s ide is a covered. fou r-lane. drive-in banking
facil ity which. the Advocate has reported. could be enlarged to
six la nes. Over each lane are red and green lights to indicate
which lanes are open for transacting bank business.
The main e n trance of the new Bank of Sturgeon Bay
headquarters is located at its Fourth Ave nue-Kentucky Street
corner. Outside the en trance is a one-a nd-a-half-story electric
sign with an electronic communications board that alternately
flashes the time. temperatu re. and such messages as "Drive
Carefully." "Have a Nice Day," or "Happy Holidays." Two other
much smaller a nd less elaborate s igns are located els ewhere
arou nd the b uilding. On the north s ide nea r Jefferson Street is
a large bank parking lot which includes a small number of
stalls reserved for handicapped customers . Inside a south s ide
entrance foye r to the building is an automated telle r machine:
a TYME (Take Your Money Everywhe re) un it. a computerized.
electronic. twenty-four-hourbankingsystem used throughout
Wisconsin and Upper Michigan that allows a cus tomer--by
using a plastic. coded card inserted into a machine--to
conduct such banking transactions as cash deposits and
withdrawals. On public sidewalks a round the building are
turn-of-the-century-style street lights installed by the City of
S turgeon Bay as part of its downtown "Streetscape" revital-
izalion project completed in 1984.
Ins ide. the new bank provides wha t the Advocate has
described as a "bright. colorful e nvironment." A tour through
and inspection of the building in 1987 showed that the
basemen t lower level includes vaults and records storage.

safety deposit boxes. lhe bookkeeping department, auditing
and control. an area for receiving and relaying incoming
telephone calls. public restrooms. and a small teller unit
providing teller service for safety deposit box customers and
bank employees. Among banking functions handled on this
floor. divided into both individual offices and open areas
where bank employees work en masse. are check processing
and bulk mailings to customers. The main fl oor. the area most
used by and most visible to customers. provides teller and
customer services and includes the loan department. market-
ing. administrative offices. and an information desk. The
carpeted upper level houses the Baylake Insurance Agency (a
wholly owned s ubsidiary of the bank formed in l 985). the
trust department. financial services department. the invest-
ment department. the legal department. the Board of Directors
room. an employee lounge. the chief executive's office. and a
library-reference room. Also on the upper level are a skylight
above the front entrance with plants and. off men's and
women's washrooms. a s ick bed. lockers. showers, and an
employee pool table.
While the basement and second floor are largely divided into
individual offices (some with glass panels fronting hallways),
the firs t floor is largely open: offices ring the outer edge. Off to
one side is principally the teller service area, where customer
transactions are monitored by security cameras near the
ceiling. The teller area includes a tile floor. a long counter for
customers to review their transactions, color murals of out-
door scenes. a nd a model s hip encased in glass. Elsewhere on
the main level are en1 ployee desks. topped with computer
screens and electronic typewriters. and a customer waiting
area with striped. brown and yellow lounge chairs. blue
carpeting. and ash trays for smoking. Magazines available for
customers to read include TYME. AAA World. (American
Automobile Association ). Investme nt Decisions. Woma n's
World. and Sports lllustratecL On the walls throughout the
first floor are original paintings and photographs by area
artists and photographers. while a modern-day grandfather
clock strikes the time at appropriate intervals. Amidst the
sound of voices. occasional telep hone rings. and computer
beeps is piped-in. "adult contemporary" music--light, often
orchestration--only popular songs. Also visible on the main
level a re a drinking fountain. two bubblegum machines. an

Amer ican nag. potted floor plants at various locations. and fire
e.xti ngu ishers on the walls.
First -Ooor bullet in boards at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay are
u sed for a variety of notices. On one partic ular day in 1987
they con ta int"d a statement that the bank ex te nded the
fo llowing types or credit: res idential loans for one to four
fami ly units. re>sidential loans for five or more dwelling u ni ts.
housing rehabilitation loans. home improvemen t loans. small
business loans. fa nn loans. commu ni ty deve>lopment loans.
comme rcia l loans. consumer loans. a nd other types or credit.
"Complelr loan services" were provided at the main bank and
Bruss els. S is te r Bay. and Was h ington Is land bra nches. a
notice sta led. while "limited loan services" were a va ilable at
the Wes t Side. Fis h Creek. Ellison Bay. a nd Egg Harbor offices.
The bulletin boards also included: a notice tha t the bank
conducted its business in accorda n ce with the Federal Fair
Housing Law. prohibiting discrimination fo r such reasons as
race. religi on. sex. or national origin: a "Statement of Policy of
No ndiscrimina tion" stating that the bank wou ld not dis-
criminate int h e grant ing or extendi ng or consumer c redit on
the basis of sex or mari tal status: an FBI noti ce that "To
Com mi t a Robbery. Burglary or Larceny in This Ins titution Isa
Federal Offense": a framed certificate dated January 15. 1953.
s tating th at the bank had become a stockholder in the Federal
Reserve Bank of C hicago: a plaque citing the ba nk's member-
s hip in the Door County Chamber of Comme rce; a nd a s ign
a nnouncing "Sh redded Paper Free--Inquire a t Customer
Interviewed after the new bank construction. President
Thomas Herlache said form meeti ng fun ction played a
defin ite role in designing the bank's new headquarters.
Wf' wantf'd a building. numbe r one. that worked physically
fo r the various departments in the now of work .... So you
established tht> spaces you needed and then you kind of
designed the building around the spaces needed.
Now there a ren't a whole lot of windows in lthe new
builclin~I. but under the new lbuildingl codes you can't have
a whole lo t of windows because you have to be energy
efficie nt. So tha t was part of the thinking on the design. And
we wan ted some thi ng that would be contempora 1y but not
overly contemporary for the City of S turgeon 13ay and would
be attractiw. solid-looking building from the outside.
We weren't looking for a Frank Lloyd Wright building. for
example. I think thallprobably personally would like to have

a building like that. but! think that the consurnerwhen he's
looking for a bank is not looking for that kind of a facility.
J\nd when they drive by they like lo see a solid-looking
building and say. "Gee. my money is sitting in that vault
right there. my dollar bill's in its safe in that solid-looking
building'"--which really doesn't have a whole lot to do with
how safe your money is In a bank. But I think there's that
p~1blic perception or conception. and I think when you're
building a building you ha ve to consider that.
Herlachc added that a lhird above-ground level could be added
to the new bank. "When we built the building," he said, "we
figured that the current floor space would last us fifteen years.
and at that point we would have to build on that third story."
Some remodeling of the new bank in 1983 for ils book-
keeping. posling, and auditing operations was reported. But
in August or 1985. only four and half years after moving Into
its new structure. the Bank or Slurgeon Bay began a major
revision of its central office building: conversion of the largely
unimproved. 12.000-square-foot. second above-ground level
to office space. Before the office expansion. the floor housed
the Board of Directors meeting room: storage space for unused
equ ipment. desks. and fumi tu re: other storage space for office
supplies and bank records not requiring vault protection: and,
according to one issue of Bank Notes. a pool table and a
ping-pong table for employees.
After the conversion project. completed in February of 1986,
the second level housed the Baylake Insurance Agency and a
number or other offices. Added later in the lockers-showers
area were several pieces of exercise equipment for employees.
Areas in the bank vacated by departments and other functions
that moved to the second level were converted to other uses.
such as a relocated audit and control department. storage. and
expanded loan divisions. The executive office on the ground
level previously used by Herlache was reassigned to Berg. the
bank's number two officer. As a result of the office expansion.
the bank was able to add to its DoorCountyartwork collection.

Satellite Activity: The 1960s

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's new central office building
ranks as its most significant construction project since the
bu ild ing of its North Third-at-Kentucky office building in
1900. As previously noted, it came during a two-decade period
of major office construction and expansion that involved not
only the bank's headquarters but its satellite operations as

The first expansion in those satellite operations since the
open ing or the Bank or Stu rgeon Bay's Washington Island
$ talion occurred in 1967-68 when the Door Cou nty e nterprise
bu ilt a "'motor bank"' downtown one block east of its main
office. With construction scheduled to begin the sum mer of
1967. the motor bank opened on Friday. March 8. 1968. It was
built on "the former Pleck dairy property" near the corner of
North fo urth Ave nue a nd Jefferson Streeton la nd now part of
lhe Bank of Sturgeon Bay's new headquarte rs site. With the
new drive-in construction completed. the ba n k could boast of
drive-in banking facilities on both S turgeon Bay's west side--
a l its West S ide Branch--and the city 's east side.

Bank ofSturgeon Bay's Motor B ank at 4th &J(!jferson ( 1968-1980).

The motor bank cons isted of two small b ui ld! ngs. rn11nected
by a tu n nel. each containing space for a te ller equipped with
adding mach ines a nd other banking parap hernalia a nd each
located alongs ide a traffic lane for motorists lo use in ap-
proaching the units.As a t the West Side Branch . each drive-in
teller was posilioned behind a la rge window overlooki ng the
d riving custome r. communicated with the driver by means of
a two-way speaker sys te m. and conducted banking transac-
tions by using a drawer in wh ich cash. checks. receipts. etc..
could be depos ited and retrieved. The Door County Advocate
reported that. in addition to the two drive-in window a reas. the
motor bank also contained night depository facilities. a
parking lot. and a walk-up area for cus tomers doing b usiness
on foot. Hours were similar to those for the ma in bank: 9 to 5.

Monday through Thurs day. 9 to 8. F'riday. and 9 to noon.
According to the Advocate. "nearly all" of the services
available at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's main office were
aV'ailable at the motor bank. including money orders. loan
paymen ts. deposits . and withdrawals. The tellers were con -
nected to the main bank by telephone line. the news paper said.
Proclaimed the bank in an Advocate advertisement:
Bank from the com fort of you r ear ... in anyweather!You can
make loan payments. deposits. w ithdmwals. night depository
and money order s in minutes. It's the easy. comfortable way
to bank! There is also plenty of free parking in our adjoining
lot for patrons doing bu siness in the bank.
Future plans announced for the motor bank included land-
scapi ng. the possible add ition of a park bench area. and the
installation of a mailbox(csl for drive-in customers to use.
The Ban k of Sturgeon Bay's downtown motor bank re-
ma ined in operation until demolished a bout 1980 when t he
bank's new ma in office a nd drive-in facility were built at the
same loc.ation.
Bank expans ion pros pec ts in Wiscon sin received a major
boost in 1967 when legis la tion lifting the state's ban on new
b ranch a nd sta lion banking was s igned into law. The Bank of
Sturgeon Bay immed iately took advantage of the legis lation.
receiving perm ission to establish a branch in the southern
Door Coun ty community of Brussels. According to Bank of
Sturgeon Bay President T homas Herlache, the new branch
was part of the "first batch of branches" approved under the
new legislation. Reportedly interested in opening a Brussels
office as early as the 1940s. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay fi rst
opera ted its new sou thern Doo r County branch from a mob ile
home. A new bui lding opened in 1969. and the branch has
remained at that location since.
The legis lation ending Wisconsin's prohibition against new
bank branches a nd s ta ti ons was signed in late 1967 by Gov.
Warren Knowles. Effective the following spring. the new law in
part allowed a bank to establish a branch in any "bankless
commu n ity" in its own county or in anycontiguous county u p
to twen ty- fi ve m iles from its main office provid ing that the
new branch was not located within three miles of existing
banks or branches (the three-mile limit was later reduced ).
Brussels. for one. was such a "bankless community."

The Door County Advocate indicated on April 2. 1968. that
lhc new Brussels Branch wou ld be located on a lot between the
Brussels Post Office and a gas station (on Highway 57).
fourteen miles southwest of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay"s main
office. Authorization for the b ranch from banking authorities
was repo rted to have been made in Ma rch of tha t year. The
Advocate also said that a "si m ilar request'" for a branch
opera tion by a new competitor of the Bank of Stu rgeon Bay.
the First National Bank of Sturgeon Bay. had been denied by
the federal Comptroller of the Curre ncy. It di d not elaborate.
The Brussels Branch opened, initially in a mobile home. in
April of 1968: Wayne Rauer was its manager. Unli ke the Bank
ofSturgeon Bay"s S ister Bay Sta tion. the Brussels Branch was
not pa rt of a tou rist-oriented comm u nity bu l was situated in
a n agricultu rally oriented Lown serving southern Door Coun-
ty's dairy farming region. Its specifi c location was the unincor-
porated community of Brussels. a cluster of homes and small
bus inesses in and around the inlersection of Highway 57 and
County Highway C located within lhe larger Town of Brussels
( 1970 population 1.050).
By March of 1969 construction on lhe new Brussels Branch
office building was under way at the b uild ing·s Highway 57
site. The Advocate reported the new structure would measure
for ty-s ix-by-thirty-three feet and would be a full-service bank
offering drive-up win dow service. a nig h t depository. and
safety depos il boxes, among other fea tures. T he news pa per

- ·.~

Brussels Branch opened in 1969.

ide ntified Charles Lau as the building's contractor and James
Zwarh as its architect. Like the West Side Branch, the branch
sit<' also included a small parking lot.
Wilh Rauer as manager. the new. one-story. brown. brick
and concrete building official ly opened for business on
Wednt"sday. November 5. 1969. One day before the new
Brussels Branch opening. the Advocate ran a front-page
photograph showing Rauer formally receiving the keys to the
new offi ce s tructure from Bank of Sturgeon Bay "building
superintendent" Myron Laubenstein. with President Clifford
Herlache at his side. Hours for the branch today are 9 to 4:30.
Monday through Thursday. 9 to 6. F'riday, and 9 to noon.
The Bank of Sturgeon Bay opened its Brussels Branch at
least in part as a response to competition and to bolster its
market presence in southern Door County. The competition
camr from an office of Algoma·s Community State Bank in the
Village of Forestville ( 1970 population 349), located in Door
County seven miles southeas t of Brussels. (The office had
opened in 1939 in the old State Bank of Forestville building. )
Because of the location restrictions of the 1967 banking
legislatio n. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay was unable to put a
branch in Forestville. But. accord ing to Thomas Herlache.
even if it could have expanded lo the southern Door County
village. it may not have. "Brussels was our obvious location"
for strengthening the bank's market presence in southern
Door County. he said. "People from southern Door County ...
Iin! their traffic patterns may end up going south. and they
may go lo Luxemburg or Green Bay. We felt that by establishing
a branch in Brussels we would maintain and increase our
rnarkcl penetration in southern Door County."

Satellite Activity: The 1970s

With lhe new Brussels Branch completed. the Bank of
S tu rgeon Bay moved on to its next major construction
project: the rebuilding of its Sister Bay Station, the bank's
la rgest busiest, and oldest operation outside of Sturgeon Bay.
The Sisler Bay project was announced at the bank's July
1970 annual meeting. Bank officials told stockholders that
plans called for a new facility to be bu ilt on a 300-by-400-foot
s ite along Highway 42. south of the existing Sister Bay office.
The forty-by-eighty-foot building. whose architect would be

James Zwach and whose contractor would be Nebel Construc-
tion. would have six teller stations a nd a drive-up window:
parking would be provided for fifty cars. Bank officials said the
old station building. located in central Sister Bay and open
s ince 1948. was no longer adequate. Planning for the new
building. they added. had started earlier in 1970.
The Sister Bay office officially opened in its new location on
Tuesday. November 9. 1971. That same day the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay ran an advertisement in the Door Counly
Advocate procla iming. 'We are now located In our new
modern facility in Sister Bay to better serve northern Door
Cou nty." Two clays later the newspaper showed a photograph
ofoffi cials gal he red for the Sister Bay office opening. including
President Clifford Herlache. Cashier and Asst Trust Officer
Thomas Herlache. Asst. Cashier and ..branch coordinator"
Myron Laubenstein. Asst. Cashier and Sister Bay Manager
Ralph Propsorn. Harvey Olson of the Board of Directors. and
David Anderson. Sis ter Bay village president. A grand opening
celebration f'or the new building would be held in December.
the Advocate said. With the new location. the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay changed its Sister Bay office designation from
"station .. to "branch ... The old station facility was converted to
the Village of Sister Bay Administration Building.

--- .,..__

. - ·--·~.t-·~
-... ... - ..
New Sister Bay'1 opened in 1971 .

The Sister Bay Branch is located in a small. new strip of

retail and business establishments extending from within

Sister Bay (1980 population 564) to within Ephraim ( 1980
population 3 19) on Highway 42. (The two villages are only a
hal f-m ile apart on Highway 42.) The commercial strip also
includes branches of the North Shore Savings and Loan
Association and the First National Bank of Sturgeon Bay. The
one-s tory Bank of Sturgeon Bay branch has a limestone.
concrete. and metal exterior a nd a d1·ive-up banking unit at its
rear. In addition to teller units. the building has an office area
for bank officials. a night depository. vault storage. and a
'fYME machine for 24-hour, push-button. computer banking.
Branch hours are 9 to 4. Monday through Thursday, 9 to 6.
Friday. and 9 to noon on Saturday.
In commenting about the new Sister Bay facility. Thomas
Herlache said the building was larger and had a "more solid"
architectural appearance because it generated more custo-
mers a nd banking activity than the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
other northern Door County offices and because many of the
people who used the facility thought of it as a separate bank
rather than a branch of another bank. The new S ister Bay
Branch. he added, featured a commercial design meant to
blend with other commercial architectu re in the area

Sister Bay Branch with addition. 1984.

In 1984 a 2.400-square-foot addition to the Sister Bay

Branch was completed. The addition provided office space for
expa nded loan. trust. and other financial services plus an area
tha t could be used as a meeting room for both bank and
community functions. The addition. for which James Keys
was identi fied as architect. featured a similar design as the
19 71 office structure. A groundbreaking ceremony w! th bank
offi cials. contractors. the arch itect. and the village president

was held in April of 1984: completion of construction was
anticipated for that summer.
Nex t up for Bank of Sturgeon Bay branch a('tivity was
expansion in the unincorporated co mmunity of Fis h Creek--
another smaJI. northern Door Coun ty tourist area--located in
the Town of Gibraltar (1970 population 590). In 1971 state
ba nk ing author ities approved o pening of a Bank of Sturgeon
Bay Fish Creek Branch. Clifford Herlache announced in late
July of that year that the branch "for the meantime" would be
a s ummer-only operation located in a temporary fac ility.
The Fish Creek Branch was open by Augus t of 1971 in
temporary quarters at Founders Square. a complex of small.
tourist-oriented shops and restaurants: it later moved to a
mobile home. initial hours were 9 to 3. Monday through
Th ursday. and 9 to 8. Friday.

Fish Creek Branch opened in 1973.

A new Fish Creek Branch building constructed on Highway

42 " on the hill next to Bunda"s Hutch" officiaJly ope ned on
Friday. May 25. 1973: a grand opening celebration was
planned for later that year. Present others for the
branch's opening were Fish Creek Branch Manager Ruby
Moore and bank directors and officers Otis Trodahl. Herbert
W. Johnson. and Clifford and Thomas Herlachc. Although the
new s i le was not completely ready a nd a parking lot had not yet
been blacktopped, bank officia ls said at the time that they
wa nted to open the new office s tructure before the Memorial
Day weekend (that Friday. Saturday. Sunday. and Monday). a
time of heavy vacat ion traffic in Door County. The Advocate
said lhe new office featured teller service and a night deposi-
tory. Archi tect was Robert Peterson and general contractor
was Willa rd Erickson. the newspaper said. Business hours
an nounced were 9 to 3. Monday through Thursday. and 9 to 6.
Friday. year-round.
Although the Fish Creek appears to be a two-s tory
building from the outside. itisactua!Jya one story fac ility with
a n open. airy main floor. The five-sided building features a
la rge cupola wi th t ransom windows helping to light the
s tructure's inte rior. T he building also has a wood ex terior a nd
a large limestone chimney. Inside it features a large lobby with
a fireplace. leather couch, tables. chairs. five teller units. office
areas. and a vault. In addition to the night depository. the
fac ility includes a drive-up banking unit and a parking lot.
Thomas Herlache said the Bank of Sturgeon Bay opened a
Fis h Creek Branch in part because its Sister Bay facility "was
ove rloaded in activity." Thus, he said. lhe bank had the
options of expanding in Sister Bay (which it eve ntually
accomplished a nyway a decade lalerl or opening an office
nearby (Fish Creek is approximately seven m iles southwest of
Sister Bay). Competition. or potential competition. also played
a role. ·we felt that putting a branch in Fish Creek would s top
somebody else from putting a branch in Fish Creek under the
limited b ranch banking law:· Herlache said. "Plus lit would)
give us the added facilities."

Poten tial competition was also a factor behind the Bank of

Slurgeon Bay's latesl branch expansions in northe rn Door
County: Egg Ha rbor and Ellison Bay. But before those two
offices opened, the bank first undertook an expansion of its
West S ide Branch.
The wes t side project was completed in l 977 a nd involved
the ronslruc lion of a small. free-standing. one-and-a-half-
story building immediately west of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's
1958 West Side Branch. The building. at 46 West Maple Street.
con tained a new branch drive-up teller unit on its west s ide
ancl a walk-in customer service area leased by the federal
government and used as a branch of the S turgeon Bay Post
Offi ce (Station A). Although the d1ive-up unit has remained.
the post office branch vacated the building in 1986.
The West Side Branch addit ion featu red a n A-fra me-li ke
desig n with a steep gable roof and wooden shingles. a brick

West Side Branch with satellite addition. 1977.

and wood exterior. and. most notably. roof solar panels facing
south used for partially heating the building.According to the
Advocate. the branch addition represented the first commer-
cial bu ilding in Door County to have solar heating as part of its
original construction.
The west side addition offic ially opened for business on
Friday. December 16. 1977. !ls business hours announced al
the time (including the postal branch) were 9 to 4:30. Monday
through Thursday, 9 to 8. Friday. and 9 to noon. Saturday. An
open house was planned for sometime after the 1977 Ch rist-
mas holiday season. With the addition. the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay cont inued to use its adjact>nt 1958 West Side Branch
build ing for an office area. walk -in teller service. night deposi -
tory. and safety deposit boxes.

T he same year the west side addition opened. state banking

a uthorities cleared the way for summer branch facilities for
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in Egg Harbor and Ellison Bay. With
the ir openings in 1979. the bank brought its number of
branch offices to seven--the number it operates today.
Like Fish Creek. Egg Harbor and Ellison Bay are small.
northern Door County communities which cater to th<' sum-
mer tourist trade; Egg Harbor is an incorporated village ( 1980
population 238), while Ellison Bay is an unincorporated
comm uni ty in the Town of Li berty Grove { 1980 population
1.3 13). Also like Fish Creek. the two communities a re located
a long Door County's Green Bay s horeline: Ellison Bay is no rth
of Fish Creek (and S ister Bay) near the tip of lht> Door
Peninsula. and Egg Harbor is south of Fish Creek along

Highway 42.
The two branches officially opened for business on Monday.
May 2 I. 1979. following 1 to 4 p.m. open houses at both
locations two days earlier. The open house offerings included
free coffee. doughnuts. and gifts for visitors. Ribbon-cutting
ceremonies at both locations also were part of the May
openings and were attended by bank and local government
officials. Business hours announced for the branches were:
9:30 to 3. Monday through Thursday. and 9:30 to 6. Friday. at
Egg Harbor: and 9 to 2:30. Monday through Thursday. and 9 to
6. Friday. at Ellison Bay.

Egg Harbor Branch opened in 1979.

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay's Egg Harbor and Ellison Bay
b ranch buildings are identical in design. Both are s mall. one
and a half stories high. with irregular gabled roofs and wood
exteriors. The interior of each building contains a small lobby.
three teller units. a vault. and room for a desk or two in the
rear. The Egg Harbor Branch i s located on Highway 42 north
of the village's commercial district: the Ellison Bay Branch is
also on Highway 42, which extends along Door County's
bayshore side north of Stu rgeon Bay. north of a small
commercial area and near the highway's intersection with
Lakeview and Garrett Bay roads. The facilities are open May to
According to Thomas Herlache. establishing a branch at
Egg Harbor was "more as a territorial. protection-type thing"
than a move necessarily made in response to customer
demand. "It was more to keep our competition off the western
seaboard of Door County. if you will. and establish a branch
there:· Herlache said. "We felt at the time that Egg Harbor was
going to be a growing com mu ni ty. and in fact it has grown and
we do have our presence es tab! !s hed there now because of that
Herlache said territorial considerations played "somewhat"
of a role in establishing the Ellison Bay Branch. but the move
was partly in response to a "demographics problem." Sister
Bay had become so congested with s ummer tourist traffic. he
explained. that a t times customers north of the village had
difficulty driving to the bank's branch office there. In addition.
Herlache said. th e S ister Bay office did not have sufficient
room at times during the summer season because of its high
customer volume (prompting its expansion in 1984). By
building a summer branch in Ellison Bay. the bank president
s aid, the Bank of Sturgeon Bay could alleviate some of its
customer travel problems and relieve some of the summer
Sister Bay office demand in a way "that wouldn't cost us any
money in the wintertime."

Competition and Controversy:

The First National Bank
After the Great Depression and throughout the 1940s and
1950s. only two banks/savings and loan institutions remained
in business in Sturgeon Bay: the Bank of Sturgeon Bay and
the Sturgeon Bay Building (later Savings) and Loan Associa-

tion. The only other bank/savings a nd loan enterprise oper-
ating in Door County dur ing the period was a station of
Algoma's Commun ity State Bank in Forestville in southern
Door County just north of the Door-Kewaunee county line.
Once housed in the former State Bank of Forestville building.
a two-story neoclassical structure on Main Street. the Forest-
ville Station (now Branch) has s ince relocated a block west on
Ma in to a newer one-story building.
Beginning in the 1960s. however. a number of other
financial institutions entered a nd/ or expanded in the Door
County market. The first of the new financial institutions
entering the local market place originated when ten individ-
uals described as Door County busi nessmen sought formation
of a "First National Bank of Door Cou nty... After federal
authorities approved the move. stock was issued and in
August of 1967 the bank formally opened as the First National
Bank of Sturgeon Bay in the former Merchants Exchange
Ban k building at 10 North Third Avenue in downtown
Sturgeon Bay.
An annou nceme n t that application for the national bank
had been made with the federal Comptroller of the Currency
came in October of 1965. The new bank's ten organizers were
identi fied as: J oseph J. Zettel. a Sturgeon Bay building con-
t ractor: Ellsworth L. Peterson. president of Peterson Builders.
Inc.: Harvey H. Olson. a n Ellison Bay commercial fisherman:
M.W. Miller. a former Sturgeon Bay fru it processor; Arthur R.
Moeller of Moeller's Garage ofSturgeon Bay: James D. Newman
of Newman Insurance and Realty of Sturgeon Bay: J oseph E.
Jungwirth , a Sister Bay hardwa re store operator; George J .
Baudhuin, founder of the Baudh uin Yacht Harbor; Martin C.
Kelsey. Jr.. of Palmer J ohnson. Inc .. boatbuilders: and James 0.
Ebbeson. a Sturgeon Bay attorney.
T he new Door Coun ty bank organizers announ ced that they
intended to have ownership of their bank as b roadbased as
possible. with no one person. family, or interest exerting
undue con trol. They requested that 25.000 shares of stock for
the bank be au thorized. the Door County Advocate reported.
The Advocate said that discussions about forming the bank
had reached the "serious s tage" during the summer of 1965.
when one of its organizers was said to have s poken to an
Illinois banker and Door County summer resident and the
banker advised contacting a Chicago bank which could assist

in forming the new enterprise.
At least on the surface. the organizers of Door County's new
bank seemed to express no dissatis faction with the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay in that institution's provision of financ ial
services. They issued a press release stating: "All of the
organizers emphasize that. as customers and clients of our
existing bank. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. they desire to further
a spirit offriendlycompetilion which. they feel. is necessary to
help our community continue to grow." Attorney Ebbeson
added that Door County was one or only three counties in
Wisconsin with one bank (headqua rters); the other two were
Bayfield and forest. he said.
A week later the Advocate announced that Fred J. Peterson.
board chairman for the Sturgeon Bay shipbuilding firm of
Peterson Builders. Inc .. had purchased the three-story Swo-
boda Hotel in downtown Sturgeon Bay on behalf of First
National's organizers as the site for the city's new bank. "The
locatio n is the one most sought. after by the organizers of the
new bank." the newspaper paraphrased Peterson as stating.
Peterson said he would lease the s ite--at t he comer of North
Third Avenue and Louisiana S treet a block south of the Bank
of Sturgeon Bay--to the new bank. The fifty-four-room hotel. a
brick landmark with Italianate a rchitectural influences built
around the turn of the century as the Waldo Hotel. could
eventually be razed for construction of a new bank building.
the Advocate indicated.
For reasons not readily apparent. six of the original ten
organizers in Door County's new bank reportedly withdrew
thei r interest after preliminary clearance fo r a national bank
charter for the en terprise was g1 ven in January of 1966. Si nee
at least five organizers were said to be required to form the
bank. the bank organization effort was nullified. However. five
new organizers publicly emerged later that year. and the
Comptroller of the Currency subsequently approved establish-
ment of the new bank. The five. all described as Door County
businessmen and professionals. were identified as: Fred J .
Peterson (reported in one news paper account as a "prime
mover" in the new bank's organiza tion); Robert H. Tilden. a
mink rancher: Robert L. Wolter of Wolter Engraving Service:
Lawrence E. Wulf of Wulf Propane Service; and Dr. Hubert D.
Grota. who had purchased the old Bank of Sturgeon Bay main
office building in the 1950s.

In January of 1967 the Advocate reported that the Swoboda
Hotel would be razed for construclion of a new one-story bank
and lhat. meanwhile, the First National Bank had a temporary
office (apparently for organizational purposes ) at 306 South
Third Avenue. The newspaper also reported that the new First
National had been authorized by the Comptroller of the
Currency Lo sell 25.000 s hares of common stock at a subscrip-
tion price of $20 per share (or $500,000 tolal ). The bank's
organizers. it said. wanted no one person to own more than
1.000 (or four percent) of the 25.000 shares offered. Advice and
assistance in establishing First National would be provided by
the Marine National Exchange Bank of Milwaukee and the
LaSaJle National Bank of Chicago, the Advocate said.
Desc.:rlbecl by Door County historian Stanley Greene as "a
conveni ent extension of Peterson Builders" at least in its early
years. the First National Bank of Sturgeon Bay formally
opened on August I. 1967, in new temporary quarters in the
former Merchants Exchange Bank; Sturgeon Bay Mayor
Bernard Lienau attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Ship-
builder Peterson was named chairman of the bank's board of
directors. and mink rancher Tilden was selected as president.
In 1968 It moved to its new. one-story. limestone-glass-metal-
and-concrete building on the Swoboda Hotel site at 57 North
Third Avenue. holding a formal open house on April 20 of that
year. Over the next two decades the bank opened branches at
Baileys Harbor and Ephraim in northern Door County and on
Sturgeon Bay's west side. The Baileys Harbor Branch is the
only banking facility north of Sturgeon Bay located on the
Door Peninsula's eastern (Lake Michigan) side.
In 1975 eight men identified as First National directors
bought out the Algoma Bank. located in the nearby Kewaunee
County community of Algoma, and the bank reopened as the
First State Bank of Algoma. (Thomas Herlache of the Bank of
Sturgeon Bay represented one of four groups of Investors said
to have bid on the Algoma Bank.) According to the Green Bay
Press -Gazelle. the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporalion
had said in May of 1975 that the Algoma Bank would have to
cease operati ng as the Algoma Bank or its federal deposit
insurance (one of the banking reform measures enacted
during the depression) wouJd be withdrawn. The newspaper
said banking authorities had required that investors inter-
ested in taking over the Algoma operation provide $500.000 In

new capital plus a "premium bid"; the bidder with the highest
premium could then charter a new bank in the Algoma Bank's
place. The First National associates' premium hid reportedly
was $151.000. The Press-Gazette said that the FDIC had
taken over all of the Algoma Bank·s loans. total ing approxi-
mately $3.5 million. and the new bank could buy back those
loans it wanted.
In a controversy reminiscent of Sturgeon Bay"s banking
controversies of the 1930s. the First Na tional Bank of Sturgeon
Bay by the early 1980s was saddled with messy and public
accusations of financial impropriety. At least two top officers.
President Calvin B. Falk and Senior Vice-Pres ident Curtis
Schwantes. left the ins titution shortly before or during the
public dispute. In January of 198 l rural Egg Harbor resident
Francis Butler. a minor stockholder in First National. filed a $5
million lawsuit in Door County Circuit Court against Falkand
other cu rrent and former directors of the bank charging
negligence and fraud in its manage ment. Despite claims at a
1981 stockholders' meeting that there was "no funny business
going on at First National Bank" and that Butler's lawsuit was
"questionable at best." two years later a Door County Circuit
Court jury decided in Butler's favor. finding the defendants
negligent in the bank's operation and awarding First National
$666.000 (later cut to $636.000) in damages. One attorney
claimed at the time that the award was the largest ever made
by a Door County civil court jury.
According to Butler's lawsuit. the defendants--particularly
Falk--had mismanaged First National's loan opera tions. Loans
had been made with the knowledge that certain borrowers
were bad credit risks. the lawsuit said. or without obtaining
adequate credit information about loan recipients. The legal
action claimed in part that loans had been improperly and
insufficiently secured. securities for the loans had been
inadequately monitored. and adequa te loan records had not
been properly maintained and preserved. Losses suffered by
such practices had reduced the bank's cash reserve. the
lawsuit stated. and limited its ability to service existing clients
and attract new customers. The lawsuit concluded that the
bank directors and former directors named in the proceeding
''had adutyto befamiliar with the operation oflhe bankand to
detect negligence on the part ofCaJvin B. Falk but failed to do
so" but also had "failed to reveal and have concealed and

suppressed from the stockholders full knowledge of the
wrongs complained of."
As a result or lhis negligence of all defendants, the bank's
earn Ing:; have been substanlially less than they should have
been. the growth and value of the bank has been reduced. the
issuance of preferred s tock to generate capital to cover funds
lost through bad loans has become necessary. thereby
decrt>asing the value of common stock. unnecessary legal
fees have been in('urred. valuable bank customers have been
lost and many bad loans have been unnecessarily endured.
all to the bank's damage in the amount ofS5 million.
'You can't run a $25 million bank by the seat of your pants:·
said one of Butler's a ttorneys. "By 1980 this bank was in deep
trouble." The only witness said to have been called in the case
by the defense was Thomas He rlache. then execu tive vice-
president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
First National's financial problems at least in part may have
been related to the nation's economic climate; Butler filed his
lawsuit in a year of recession for the U.S. economy. The
Advocat.e said in May of 1981 that new First National Chief
Executive Officer Keith McLeod had pointed out at a bank
stockholders meeting lhat month that "the economy h ad
changed in the past year and several small business operations
had gone under. Among the harder hit borrowers !locally) were
those in the cherry business. recreational operations and real
estate." McLeod said his bank wanted to reduce its "so called
'bad loans'" from seven and a half percent to under four
percent by year's end.
Just prior to Bu lie r's lawsuit. First National had been issued
a "Cease and Desis t Order" by the federal Comptroller of the
Currency. Issued in October of 1980. the order stipulated
seventeen condi tions for the bank to meet They included:
employing a new chief executive officer"skilled in lending and
operational function s"; preparing plans for improving the
performance of its offi cers and the bank's lending. auditing.
and operational functions: reducing all loans and other credit
extensions which d id or could exceed statutory lending limits:
complying with statutory restrictions regarding loans or
credit extensions to the bank's officers, directors. or principal
shareholders: obtaining c urrent a nd satisfactory credit in·
form ation on all loans lacking s uch information; and the
"immediate injection " of $375.000 in new capital or plans be
made for the bank's sale or merger. Said a 1981 First National

stock-offering document: "The injection of the new capital
was necessitated. to a substantial degree, by loan charge-offs
during 1980 and the resulting decline in the Bank's ratio of
capital to total assets."
The First National Bank also experienced contested elec-
tions for membership on its board of directors for at least two
years after the filing of the 1981 lawsuit. In 1983. for example.
four cand idates joined in an al ternate sla te to that proposed by
the bank and advocated management changes at First Nation-
al "if they were in control." Three of the four later wtthdrew
their nominations, but the fourth was subsequently elected to
the board.

Other Door County Financial Institutions

In addition to First National and the Forestvi lle Branch of
the Community State Bank, First Northern Savings and Loan
Association of Green Bay opened a Door County office--in
l 978 at 1227 Egg Harbor Road in Sturgeon Bay--bri nging the
number of bank/savings and loan institutions operating in
Door County to five. As for the Sturgeon Bay Building and
Loan Association. it later became the Sturgeon Bay Savings
and Loan Association before mergi ng in the early 1970s with
the 1\vo Rivers Savings and Loan Association. The new
enterprise became the Marine S avings and Loan Association.
and a corporate office was opened in s uburban Green Bay.
Marine later changed its name to Frontier Savings Association
and then Sunrise Savings and Loan Association before be-
comingpart of the North Shore Savings and Loan Association,
headquartered in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield. North
Shore has Door County offices on Sturgeon Bay's east side
(225 North Fifth Avenue) and west side (209 Green Bay Road
in the Bay Plaza shopping center) and in Sister Bay (944
South Bay Shore Diive).
As of 1989 Door County tallied seventeen bank and savings
and loan offices. with nearly half located in Sturgeon Bay.


Sturgeon Bay
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-main bank
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-West Side Branch
First National Bank of Sturgeon Bay-main bank
F'irst National Bank of Sturgeon Bay-West Side Branch
North Shore Savings and Loan Association-east side
North Shore Savings and Loan Association-west side
Fir st Northern Savings and Loan Association

SiSter Bay
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-Sister Bay Branch
Nort h Shore Savings and Loan Association

Baileys Harbor
First National Bank of Sturgeon Bay-Baileys Harbor Branch

Bank of Stu rgeon Bay-Brussels Branch

Egg Harbor
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-Egg Harbor Branch

Ellison Bay
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-Ellison Bay Branch

Town of Liberty Grove

First National Bank of St urgeon Bay-Nor thern Door Branch

FiSh Creek
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-Fish Creek Branch

Community State Bank-Forestville Branch

Washington Island
Bank of Sturgeon Bay-Washington Island Branch

As previous ly indicated. none of the savi ngs and Joan
agencies is headquartered in Stu rgeon Bay or Door County;
the offices represent branch operations of compan ies head-
quartered in Green Bay or suburban Milwaukee. As also noted.
the bank office in Forestville isa b ranch as well. in lh iscase of
an Algoma bank. Of the remaii11ng enter-prises-- lhe two
Sturgeon Bay-based banks--the Bank ofSturgeon Bay is by far
the larges t. with total assets at the end of 1986 of S 157.8
million. By comparison. the First National Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's assets fo r the year totaled $49.5 million.
Thomas Herlache displays a generally favorable attitude
abou t the compe ting financi al ins titution s tha t ha ve opened
a nd expanded in Door Coun ty in the past two a nd a half
decades. In a recent interview. the Bank of Sturgeon Bay
president claimed his father was not necessari ly opposed to
the thought of another bank in Sturgeon Bay.
I can remember as early as the late ·sos my dad would come
home from work a nd ma ke comm<:"n ts that he th inks that
Sturgeon Bay a nd Door County need another bank. Me felt
that the competition would be good. that people wo uld see
that the other bank really didn't do things much diffe re nUy
than our bank. Also. the people would have a second c hoice
locally: they could go and get a second opinion if they appl ice!
for a loan and it was turned down ....
When you're the only major fin a ncial lnstitullon. you ·re
always subject to the criticism "yeah. if there was somebody
else in town you·c1 be doing something differently." And I
think to some extent we did. But overall. the banking
operation a nd the things that we did in the rommunity
didn't change that much when the other bank opened up.
I think the fact that we were the only bank for so lo ng
(based ! in the Door County com munity is probably a tribute
to the people who were running the bank. that there was no
compelling need for another ins titullon. In the late '6 0s. of
course. th ings we re turning around. and people could see
growth and could see profit opportunities. by going into a
new bank. whic h weren't there before>. And I th ink that. as
much as anything.contributed to the starting of a new bank.
Herlache also said that. al though the Bank of Stu rgeon Bay
has been Door County's largest fin a ncial inslltul!on through-
out this century, il does indeed harbor a competi tive sense.
a nd he noted the pressure of F'irs t Na lionaJ. the two s avings
and Joans, and a c redit union in the county.
There is competition. 11-iowever.J we have fell that we've
maintained a percen t of the market that's much higher than
we had anticipated maintaining when First National opened

up. l think that the fact that they're there probably. in some
ways. has made a better bank out of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay ....
l think that the fact that the First National Bank opened
up in 1967wasalsoacontributor to the growth of[bankingl
deposits in the area. Obviously. we weren't satisfying every·
body: you never can satisfy everybody. There were some
people who were going out of town with their deposits and
financial services. A lot of that monev came back into the
community [with the opening of the second Sturgeon Bay
Herlache said that the operation of the First National Bank
indirectly benefits the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. When the other
bank makes a loan to some client. that client may very well use
the money to do business with clients of the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay. Those clients. in turn. deposit their funds in Herlache's
bank. He also said that First National's presence has "made us
go out and work a little harder."

To a large degree chap ter eleven of this historical survey
focuses on the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's ambitious construction
and expansion program the last two and a half decades.
However. the bank's recent history and the related history of
Door County contain other important elements. which in part
because of time constraints for this survey. their complexity.
and limitations on access to some of the bank's more recent
records cannot be better explored here. Following are some
parts of that recent history. which are left to future historians
to expand upon.
Perhaps the biggest story oflate has been the bank's growth
from an institution ofSl6.8 million in total assets in 1960 to
one of more than $166 million in total assets today. Even when
accounting for inflati on. the increase relative to the bank's
h istory is phenomenaJ a nd unprecedented.
Resources throughout most of the L950sas well as the early
1960s had increased annuaJly--at rates of $10.500 to Sl.7
million. But in 1967-- the same year a second bank opened in
Sturgeon Bay--assetsjumped $4.5 million to $27.5 million; it
was the la rgest one-year increase in the ban k's his tory. From
that point. multimillion-dollar increases each year in assets al
the Bank of Sturgeon Bay became commonplace. Resources
hit $37.6 m ill ion in 1970. $65.5 million in 1975. and $101. 7
million in l 980 as recorded in year-e nd finan cial condition
reports; annual increases throughout the 1970s ranged from
$2.8 million ( 1974) to $ 13.5 m illion ( l 977). By one ranking of
Wisconsin's state and national banks. the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay by 1980 was the state's thirty-sixth largest individual
bank in assets. thirty-third largest in deposits ($9 l.4 million) .
It was. claimed the Door County institution. Wisconsin's
la rgest bank in communities unde r 10.000 in population.
Commented bank President Thomas Herlache about the
There's no question that there's been quite a period of

change. llnl the late '60s Ito mid-I '70s ... we had rapid
expansion in Sturgeon Bay and Door County. Bay Ship-
building came in and built up a shipbuilding concern. that
I had been I down lo nothing, up to 1.800 employees .... They
also brought a lot of money into the community. At that
same time. our tourism industry In the county was building
s ignificantly.
So we saw quite a lot of expans ion. not only for the bank
but forthecommunlty asa whole. We went through a period
of time from the late '60s to the early '70s [when ] our annual
growth rate was fourteen percent. fifteen percent every year
. . . . That. of course. was partly due to the economic
expansion and was also due to the fact that the money
supply nationally was growing. We came into an Inflationary
pertod . ...
. . . We were havt ng a faster growth than other places in the
state or nation ... because we did have the shipyard growth,
we did have a tourist Industry that was growing rapidly. we
did have some development in our industrial park. So our
growth was higher than average at that particular pertod of
time. But. also. a part of that growth was a national
Herlache said the period in general was marked by a "heavy
loan demand" at the bank. helping to reduce its rate of capital
to assets. 'We couldn't maintain enough earnings to grow at
the rate we were growl ng and still keep our capital-asset ratios
where they were." he said. "It created management decisions
that didn't have to be made before that period of time. It
created a lot of changes."
Herlache noted that the dollar growth in assets at the bank
has continued in the 1980s but in general at a slower rate. The
slower rate. he said. is due in part to the national recession
early in the decade. competition for funds from non bank
financial service insti tutions and markets. a slowdown in the
growth of the nation's money supply. low in Oatlon. and swings
in the local economy (Including a major cutback In operations
at the Bay Shipbuilding Corporation).
Door County in the mid-1960s was a "chronically depressed
area." in thewords ofone DoorCountyChamberofCommerce
official. "Tourism. the cherry harvest and shipbuilding were
up and down. There was nothing really stable in the economy
.... "The assessmen t came despite some positive economic
developments, such as expansion reported for l 962 and 1966
at the Milwaukee Shoe Company. increasing its plant size by
more than forty percent. according to one estimate.

Not helping matters any was the demise of the only railroad
serving Door County. the Ahna pee and Western. Founded and
built by Edward Decker in t he 1890s. the line--whose opera-
tion had been taken over by the Kewaunee. Green Bay and
Western Railroad in 1906--ended freight service in 1968:
passenger service had been discon tinued during the depres-
sion. Officials blamed the railroad's demise in part on the
increasing popular! ty over the years of trucking. the clos ing of
a major customer (a Sturgeon Bay milk condensery) in 1964.
and .. the gradual decline of the Door Coun ty fruit industry."
said a Door County Aduocale summary in 1976. Part of the
railroad's roadbed. between Sturgeon Bay and Algoma. became
a state recreational trail.
ln the 1970s. however. led by sh ipbuilding and boatbuilding.
Door County's economy surged once again. prompting such
publica tions as the Milwaukee Journal. St. Louis Globe-
Democrat. and Green Bay Press-Gazette to peg Sturgeon Bay
that decade a ..boom town ... Leading the surge was the Bay
Shipbuilding Corpora tion. the former Sturgeon Bay Ship-
b u ilding and Dry Dock Compa ny purchased by the Manitowoc
Company. lnc .. in 1968. In 19 70 the adjacent property of the
Christy Corporation was acquired for expansion. and shortly
thereafter Manitowoc Shipbuilding. Inc .. a subsidiary of the
Manitowoc Company. moved Its operations from Manitowoc
to Sturgeon Bay. Employment at Bay Shipbuilding Corp.
increased dramatically throughout the 1970s to a reported
peak of approximately 1.800 employees near the end of the
decade. The company said the sudde n resurgence in s hip-
building was due to a need for replenishing an aging Great
Lakes commercial fleet and demand for more coal and iron ore
carriers. Other important facto rs included the increasing
popularity of self-unloading s hips and the opening in 1969 of
the 1,200-foot-long Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie. Michigan.
allowing the construction oflarger sh lps for travel through the
Great Lakes.
At Peterson Builders. lnc .. employment in 1978 was reported
in the range of750 to 799: work there included military patrol
boats. minesweepers . and gunboats for s uch countries as the
United States. Iran . a nd Saudi Arabia plus such commercial
vessels as ferries. tugboats. cargo ships. research vessels. and
tuna boats. Palmer J ohnson. Inc.. focused on the construction
of custom yach ts and sailboats. with employment at that firm

in the latter half of the 1970s at approximately one hundred
The rise in the manufacture of ships and boats was a major
reason behind S turgeon Bay's population increase of 2,071 --
from 6.776 to 8.847--between 1970 and 1980: it was the
largest one-decade rise in the city's history.At the same time.
Door County's population increased by 4.923--from 20.106 to
25.029--second only to a jump of 6.726 between 1870 and
Acco rding to an economic profile of Door County compiled
in ca. 1979 by the Wisconsin Department of Business Devel-
opment. manufacturing in 1977 was Door County's largest
source of work. employing nearly 3.300 people in a work fo rce
of approximately 12.000: that figure increased to more than
4.000 by 1979. As of 1978 the county's top manufacturing
employers--all located in Sturgeon Bay--were: Bay Shipbuild-
ing. Peterson Builders. Doerr Electric Corporation (manu-
facture r of electric motors. employing 550-599 people). Th e
Bootmakers of Sturgeon Bay. Inc. (formerly the Milwaukee
Shoe Company. men 's s hoes an d boots, 150-199), Palmer
Johnson. and Darco Manufacturing, Inc. (formerly the Econ-
omy Electric Lantern Company, wire prod ucts, 70-99). (Doerr
Electric was identifi ed in 1977 as having the largest plant in
the west s ide Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park; the company was
founded in Sturgeon Bay in the 1960s.) Manufacturing was
followed by: retail trade. l .805: services, 1,532: and govern-
ment. 1.343. among others. As of 1978 the top nonmanu-
facturing employers were: Door County Memorial Hospital of
Sturgeon Bay. 250-299: the Dorchester Nursing Home of
Sturgeon Bay. l 00 -149: the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. 70-99: the
Leathern Smith Lodge of Sturgeon Bay (a resort), 70-99: and Al
J ohnson·s Swed ish Restaurant of Sister Bay. 70-99.
Sh ipbuilding and boatbuilding have continued on theiron-
again. off-again course in Door County in the 1980s. (The
Wisconsin Department of Business Development profile called
Sturgeon Bay's shipbuilding "historically ... an unstable
industry" helping to make "intermittent periods of economic
dis tress . .. a fact of life in this area.") Government military
work rema ins a t Peterson, much of it part of a major building
program t his decade for l he U.S. Navy. and Palmer Johnson
continues manufacturing pleasure craft. But employment at
Bay Shipbuilding has dropped at times to a pre-1970s level of

less than 200. Company offi cials have blamed the decrease to a
large degree on compe tition from foreign shipbuilders. "All
these !commercial] ships are now built in Japan. Korea and
Yugoslavia:· a company official said in late 1987. Bay Ship-
building now confines ils operations primarily to commercial
vessel repair work.
The layoffs at Bay Sh ipbuilding senl Door County's unem-
ployment rate to more than fiftee n percent in late 1987 and
resulted in a retail bus iness market in Sturgeon Bay described
as "flat ." "Jn hindsight. I'd say that 1986 was our economic low
point." Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Thomas He rlac he told
the Green Bay Press-Gazette in September of 1988. 'We
started to rebound in 1987. and 1988 was bette r ye t. Bank
deposits are up. The fact that they're up in spite or Bay Ship
would ind icate that tou rism is strong as a general rnle." In
1988 the Door County Economic Development Corporation
was formed as a cooperative venture between local government
and private industry to s timulate economic development: the
hiring of its first executive director was announced in early
Some major developments on the retail scene in Sturgeon
Bay in recent years have included the openi ngs of the Bay
Plaza shopping center on the west s ide and the Cherry Point
Mall (including a J.C. Penney Compa ny store) on the east side
and the 1984 comple tion of the downtown "S treetscape"
revitalization project. involving street and sidewalk recon-
struction. tree plantings. and the installation of banners.
benches. a nd tum-of-the-century-s tyle street lights. Accom -
panying the "Streetscape" project has been cornmercial store-
front rehabilitation at some downtown locations. (Much of
Sturgeon Bay's downtown and a nearby residential area a re
listed in the National Register of Historic Places as historic
districts. )
In addition to those projects. new Wal-Mart a nd K-Mart
stores/shopping cente rs a re expected lo open in 1989 near the
Cherry Point Mall: both companies are national retail chains.
And Prange Way. a Wisconsin-based retail chai n. has a n-
nounced plans to ope n one of its stores in Cherry Point in
s pace previously occupied by anothe1· discount s tore. Mean-
while. efforts are under way to a ttract development of a
downtown hotel-convenllon cen ter-marina along the bay of
Sturgeon Bay: one of the s hareholders in a private organiza-

tion formed to promote the downtown project is the Baylake
Corp .. the holding company for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
Tourism remainsalinchpinofDoorCounty'seconomyfrom
year to year: in 1979. for example. approximately two million
visitors were attracted to the area's beaches and bluffs. resorts
and harbors. villages and lakes. and trails and golf courses.
accounting for an estimated $80 million in revenues.Although
the a ttractions of Door County had been highlighted earlier in
Field & Stream magazine. among other major publications.
some believe a bench mark for the local tourist trade was a
1969 article entitled "Wisconsin·s Door Peninsula: "A King-
dom So Delicious··· appearing in National Geographic maga-
zine. The twenty-five-page spread of text and color photo-
graphs touted the attractions--both summer and winter--of
Wisconsin's "alien thumb of land on the com-knuckled fist of
the Middie West.·· 'The Impact the National Geographic article
had on Door County cannot be overstated," said one analysis.
"[It! unleashed a 11ood ofsummer visitors." Stated one summer
resident in 1981. as quoted in Town & Country magazine:
We were doing fin e. tucked away here in the North Woods.
Then people read about us. Now there are license plates from
all over America on Main Street. Parking has become
In 1984 the Door County Advocate noted that Door County
had surpassed Wisconsin Dells --anotherpopular tourist spot--
as the state·s number-one visitor attraction: an estimated two
and a half million people had visited the county in 1983. the
newspaper reported . The substantial increase in tourism
since World War II has brought with it increasingly persistent
concerns about and sometimes noteworthy actions add ress-
ing overdevelopment. overcrowd ing. zoning and land use.
sewage treatment and disposal. surface and ground water
pollution. esthetics. road construction and roadway main-
tenance. and soil contamination (the latter from the use years
ago of pesticides in fruil orchards and elsewhere). Meanwhile.
the construct ion and opening of new resorts, condominiums.
motels. campsites. shops. galleries. restaurants. and recrea-
tional facilities continue.
As of 1978 farms in Door County represented fifty-four
percent of the county"s tolal land area, as measured by the
Wisconsin Department of Business Development. Another
thirty-three percent was forest. and seven percent was public

land and ··quasi-public" areas des ignated for recreational use.
The state agency listed 1.220 farms In the county with annual
sales of S 1.000 or more and an average farm size of 14 7 acres
(compared toa stateaverageof 196 acres). Farm income (cash
receipts) for the cou nty totaled $27 million in 1978. with $16
m illion of that from dairy products. $5.9 million from s pecialty
crops such as cherries and apples. $2.8 million from "meat
animals." and S 1.3 m illion from fi eld c1·ops. The Depart ment of
Busi ness Development state that. in line with regional trends.
the county had experienced a decline in agricultural employ-
ment: sales per fa rm in Door County in 1978 were "signifi-
cantly" below the state's average.
A substantial proportion of farm operators supplement their
incomes through off-farm employme nt. The fluctuating
labor force requirements of the shipyards have been met. toa
certain extent. by reliance on farmers.
The state agency noted that dairying provided more income to
farmers than such s pecialty crops as cherries and apples. "but
the fruit trees have given the county a landscape and an
agricultural income base different from any other in the
state:· It concluded. "The cherry industry has been shrinking."
Red tart (or sour) cherry harvests in Door County over the
years reportedly have totaled as much as 40 million pounds
annually (in 1948. for example). but a 1975 Door County
Chamber of Commerce publication said harvests of late had
varied between 13 million and 20 million pounds: the 1983
crop totaled alight 4.5 million pounds. The decreases were due
in part to market conditions and losses sustained through
damaging fros ts. storms.drought. and win ter injuries to trees.
They came des pite the commerical l n trod uction of mechanical
harvestingequipmentin the county in the 1960s. replacing in
time the earlier reliance on migrant workers for picking. The
Door County Aduocate listed eight processors of Door County
cherries in the county as of 1983.
In 1976 the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's managemen t organized
to form a bank holding company to purchase the capi tal stock
of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Named Baylake Corp.. the
holding company became opera tional in 1977 and. as of
October 21 of that year. had acquired 205.140 shares (ninety-
three percent) of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's outstanding
shares of stock: today it owns one hundred percent. No cash
outlay was involved in the 1977 bank acquisition. as Bank of

Sturgeon Bay stockholders merely exchanged their stock for
shares of Baylake stock on a one-for-one basis. The Bank of
Sturgeon Bay remains the holding company's only acquisition.
In a "Communication to Stockholders:· Baylake Corp. noted
in August of 1977 that its officers and directors were also
officers and directors of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay: Clifford H.
Herlache. president: Otis Trodahl. vice-president: Thomas L.
Herlache. secretary-treasurer: Herbert W. Johnson, chairman
of lhe board; and Ellsworth L. Peterson. vice-chairman of the
board. It also stated that the Bank of Sturgeon Bay had paid
dividends in stock and/or cash each year continuously since
1941 .
Baylake said early on its only intent at least initially was to
be a one-bank holding company. with the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay its only subsidiary. In explaining the move toward holding
company ownership. the company said that "shareholders
gain nexibility in the banking market." It noted that. unlike a
bank, a holding company could own other banks as well as
businesses providing closely related lines of services (such as
leas ing, insurance, brokerage. and computer services).
Bank of Sturgeon Bay President Thomas Herlache said the
financial problems of the Algoma Bank in the 1970s precipi-
tated formation of Baylake Corp. As noted in an earlier
chapter. Herlache had represented a group of bidders inter-
ested in purchasing the Kewaunee County bank: in 1971 the
group submitted the second highest bid of four bids for the
enterprise. Said Herlache:
It pointed out the need that. if any other bank in our
theoretical market area became available, we didn't have a
holding company, and it may hinder our ability to buy that
bank if you didn't want to make it a branch, if you wanted It
to stay as an independent bank ....
Also, at that particular lime. our bank became of a size
that. under Federal Reserve rules. we were going to have to do
the same kind of financial reporting that you would hav<" to
do to the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission I if you
had a holding company .... So there was going to be no real
cost of having a holding company as opposed to remaining a
bank, and it would give us more flexibility.
We also started back at that lime ... looking into the
possibility of having our own computer service. having our
own in-house computer. and maybe offering that service in
the community. We determined that it'd be more beneficial
to do thatfroma holding company environment than from a
bank environment.

Herlache said in a 1984 interview that Baylake at that time
was not actively looking for other banks to purchase but added
that "it's important to us to be able to do it" if an opportunity

Thomas L. Herlache
Bank of Sturgeon Bay President l 1983-present)

Another major development at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in

recent years was the selection in 1983 of Thomas L. Herlache
as president. He replaced h is deceased father in the post and is
the bank's seventh president in its history.
A twin of brother John and son of Clifford and Clara
Herlache. Thomas Herlache was born in 1942 at Door County
Memorial Hospital in Sturgeon Bay. He graduated eighteen
years later from Sturgeon Bay High School and pursued his
education at the UniversityofWisconsin in Madison. where he
graduated with a business degree In 1964 and a law degree in
1967: he also has a degree from the UW-Madison Graduate
School of Banking ( 1974 ). In the 1960s while In college. as well
as during his high school youth. Herlache was employed in a
number of seasonal/ part-time capacities: picking cherries in
Door County. clerking at a drug store. working at a fruit
processing plant. lifeguarding. working for a construction
company, and working a t the Bank of Sturgeo n Bay as a
book.keeper. teller. and law clerk.
Upon graduation from the University of Wisconsin Law
School, Herlache was hired in June of 1967 as an assistant

trust officer at t he Bank of Sturgeon Bay. He later became a
Joan officer (in 1968) and in 1970 was elected to the bank's
Board of Oirectors--at twenty-eight its youngest member (he
was first appointed to the Board in late 1969 to fill a vacancy).
Herlache also became assistant cashier before becoming
cashier and chief opera ting officer in 1971 after the unex-
pected death of Lester E. Koehn in March of that year. The
Door County Advocate said Koehn's sudden death and
Herlache's promotion from "relative obscurity" forced the new
cashier to learn "every aspect of the banking business in a
short time." "I didn't get much sleep for the next six months."
Herlache told the newspaper. "Les's death left quite a void."
Herlache's quick rise through the ranks of the bank headed
by his father continued. In 1971 he also became a trust officer
and. in 1974. a vice-president of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay.
After his fa ther suffered his debilitating stoke in L977.
Herlache that same year became the bank's executive vice-
president and its chiefexecutive officer. Six years later-- in July
of 1983--he was appointed president: that year he was also
selected vice-chairman of the Board of Directors.
Like most if not all other Bank of Sturgeon Bay pres idents.
Thomas Herlache has compiled a noteworthy record of com-
munity activity and service. He has been Sturgeon Bay'ssixth-
ward alderman (1968-1970). serving on the City Council's
finance and personnel committees and on the city's Board of
Public Works. He has also been the Door County Board of
Supervisors thirteenth -district representative ( 1968-1978)
and was elected the board's chairman in 1974 at the age of
thirty-one. Herlache was said to have been the county's first
County Board chairman representing a Sturgeon Bay district
since shortly after World War I: he served for two years in the
position. He was also a member of the board's personnel
(chairman). property (chairman). agricultural and extension.
emergency government. health. and highway committees and
had been the County Board's vice-chairman before his selec-
tion as chairman. In add ition to those posts. Herlache has
been president of the Sturgeon Bay Utility Commission and a
member of the Door County Ad Hoc Water Quality Committee.
In 1968 he chaired the Door County campaign for the
reelection of Republican Cong. John Byrnes.
Other activities have included: presiden t of the Sturgeon
Bay Businessmen's Association and the local Rotary and

Lions clubs: treasurer of the Rhodestead Foundation of Fis h
Creek, the Door County Salvation Army. the Sturgeon Bay
Waterfront Association. and the Miller Art Center (as well as a
member of the latter's board of directors); chairman of the
Door County Cancer Society Annual Crusade and a division
chairman of the Door County United Fund Drive; a director of
the 1YME Corporation. the University of Wisconsin Alumni
Association, and the Door County Chamber of Commerce:
building fund drive chairman and a director of Sunshine
House: and a member of an operations committee of the
Wisconsin Bank Association. the Door County Beautification
Committee. the United Methodist Church of Sturgeon Bay
board. the Door-Kewaunee counties and state bar associa-
tions. the Door County Rod and Gun Club. the local yacht club.
and the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited. In 1969 he won a
Jaycee Distinguished Service Award. while in law school in
Madison he was honored with members hip in the Order of the
Coif forsignificantacademic achievement,and in 1988 he was
selected the Door County Chamber of Commerce "Man of the
Year." In addition. he is a nationally recognized carver and
painter of ducks.
Herlache's activities as of 1989 included: member of the
Door County Memorial Hospi tal Foundation Board of Direc-
tors. member of the Hope United Church of Chr ist Board of
Trustees and chairman of its finan ce committee. member of
the Sturgeon Bay Harbor Commission. a director of Alpine.
Inc. (a Door County resort). assistant treasurer of the Door
County Salvation Army. chairman of the Door County E-Bond
sales campaign. Instructor-volunteer for the YMCA 'ti'it fo r
Life" program. and various Rotary Club function s.

Within the past thirty years the Bank of Sturgeon Bay has
seen a major increase in the number of employees: from
approximately 30 thirty years ago to more than l 00 today (93
full-time and 19 part-time at all locations as of 1986). Among
those is Senior Vice-President Ronald D. Berg. the bank's chief
operating officer and number-two execu tive. In addition to
Berg. the bank as of 1986 had four other vice-presidents (vlce-
president/cashier. vice-pres ident/trus t officer. vice-president/
loan services. and vice-president/Sister Bay Branch manager)
and twelve assis tant vice-presidents plus a general counsel.
comptroller, chief investment officer, marketing officer. two

additional trus t officers (plus Thomas Herlache, who also
continued as a trust offi cer). fi ve assistant cashiers. two
assistant comptrolle rs. an auditor. and a trus t a nd financial
service re presentative. With the increases in pe rsonnel have
come the introduction of computers to the ban k and an
expa ns ion in the fina ncial services it offers.

One of the Bank of S turgeon Bay's branch operations was

the location in l 98 1 of what has been described as Door
Cou n ty's firs t bank robbery. It occu rred shortly after noon on
November 12th of tha t year at the Brussels Branch when two
"heavily bearded men" believed to be in their twenties forced
two ba nk employees a nd a cus tome r into an u nlocked vaul t
after taking approxima tely S3.000. One of the robbers pointed
a handgu n a t Branch Ma nager Wayne Rouer. bu t no one was
inju red. A Green Bay man a nd a second man. fo rmerly of Green
Bay. were a rrested in 1983 in connection with the holdup a nd
convicted by a fede ral court ju ry in Milwaukee of armed
robbery a nd conspiracy to rob a bank.
Also in 1983 a local grocery store employee was robbed while
ma king a night deposit al the Bank of Sturgeon Bay's main
office. A woman told police s he was placing a deposit bag in the
bank's night deposito 1y about 9:40 p.m .. Saturday, December
3. when a male appare n Uy armed wi th a handgun and wearing
a ski m ask a pproached her from behind, ordered her to tum
over th e money. pus hed her aside. a nd grabbed the deposit
bag. The a mount of money s tolen was not immediately
disclosed .
Finally. it s hould be noted tha t the Bank of Sturgeon Bay in
January 1989 pu rchased a major parcel of downtown S tu r-
geon Bay prope rty fo r possible fut ure redevelopment. The
parcel fron ts North Third Avenue a nd Kentucky Street once
contained Gallagher'i:;, a hotel-ta vern -restaurant building
dest royed in a fire earlier this decade. According to Thomas
Herlachc. the bank has no defi nite pla ns yet for the property.
which carries a liquor license. T he land. largely vacant. is
located immediately across an alley from the Bank of Sturgeon
Bay's ma in office bui lding.



Edward Decker ( 1889-1898)

Yankee entrepreneur from Maine who founds and settles in

Casco (Kewaunee County) in 1850s. Activities Include lum-
bering. land s peculation, Kewaunee County politics. news-
paper publishing. railroads, and establishment of nine-mem-
ber Decker chain of banks in principally northeast Wisconsin.
While president. bank changes from private bank to state
bank (1891 ) and survives both financial Panic of 1893 and a
fire in 1895.

David Decker ( 1898-1906)

One of Edward Decker's four sons. selected for new post of

vice-president in 1893. Becomes president when father retires
from position at age seventy. An attorney. David also officer-
director-investor In other Decker banks. Kewaunee County
district attorney. and Ahnapee and Western Railway vice-
president and general manager. While president. bank con-
structs and relocates to major new office building ( 1900).
br ings in new investors ( 1901 ), and opens first branch ( 1902).

Henry F'etzer ( 1907-1936 l

Forestville native. begins employment with bank in 1890s.

Promoted to president from cashier after Decker family
fortune collapses and David resigns amid bank's falling
assets. Pres ides during bank's financial rebound and major
period of predepression growth, its agreement to enter Federal
Reserve System (1918). its consolidation with State Bank of
Maplewood ( 193 1). its 1932 closing and reorganization . and
1933 banking moratoriums. Resignation as Board chairman
accepted in 1937 as auditors' investigation reveals "irregu-
larities" in bank's operation while president: at least two
others leave bank in connection with investigation.

John Mina han (1936-1941)

Prominent Green Bay surgeon and businessman: bank's

majority stockholder by 1934. Becomes president at age
seventy-three on same day invests an additional $50.000 in
the bank through purchase of income debentures. In 1937
obtains Board approval to hire Clifford Herlache as cashier to
help restore bank's financial management inlight ofaud itors'
investigation. Bank continues postreorganization recovery
program, approves establishmen t of trust department ( 1940 ).
and opens second satellite faci lity (1940) while president.

William Wagener ( 1941-1 966 l

Popular Sturgeon Bay attorney. chosen pres ident after Mina-

han dies at Green Bay home. Becomes a director in 1920. a
vice-president in 1936. and is bank's attorney. Serves figure-
head p residency and is not active in day-to-day management.
Is president while business booms during World War II. bank
exits for a time from Federal Reserve System (1946-1953).
main office is relocated (1955). and additional satellite facili-
ties are opened in Door County. Retires from post at age

Clifford Herlache (1966-1983)

Sturgeon Bay native and attorney (initially) who begins

associat ion with bank during depression as deputy commis-
sioner for special segregated trust. Considered bank's most
influential person in last half-century, serving in effect as both
chief operating and chief execu tive officer in early years as
cashier. Becomes executive vice-president in 1948. Active in
bank management until 1977 stroke. President during local
shipbuilding surge of 1970s (when assets increase substan-
tially). main office expansion ( 1972). holding company organ-
ization ( 1976). opening of major new office headquarters
( 1981 ). and more satellite expansion. Also president when
bank's services expand. number of employees at all locations
increases to approximately one hundred. and computers

Thomas Herlache ( 1983-

A son of Clifford Herlache. replaces father as president after

elder Herlache's death in 1983. Joins bank as an assistant
trust officer in 1967. Later assistant cashier. cashier and chief
operating officer. a vice-president. executive vice-president
and chiefexecutive officer ( 1977). Like father and earlier bank
presidents. active in community. particularly local government
and politics, Door County economic development. service
clubs, and charitable organizations.


Office Building of Attorney James Keogh. Jr. 1889

Cedar Street {Third Avenue)

Masse's Dlock 1889-1895

Cedar Street at Spruce Street
{Third Avenue at Mich igan Street)

··sailer building" 1895

M.E. Lawrence's Block 1895-1900

Cedar Street (Third Avenue)

Bank of Sturgeon Bay 1900- 1955

20 l North Cedar Street
(211 North Third Avenue )

Former Scofield Company Store• 1955-1981

215 North Third Avenue

Bank of Sturgeon Bay 1981 -

217 North Fourth Avenue

*Bank in 1972 expanded back into the adjacent 1900 Bank of

Sturgeon Bay building.



(Year Opened or Years in Operation)

Sawyer Bran ch (renamed Wes t Side Bra nch in 1946: relocated

1902 in 1908 a nd 1958: additional building added
in 1977)

Ephraim Station

Sister Bay S tation lla tr r renamed Bra nch: relocated in 1971)


Washington Is la nd Station (la ter rena med Branch)


Motor Ba nk* (Sturgeon Bay)


Brussels Branch

Fish Creek Branch


Egg Harbor Branch


Ell ison Bay Branch


'"Demolis hed about 1980 to make way for new Bank of

Sturgeon Bay build ing construction al 217 North Fourth

Note: Some of the newer branches initially occ upied mobile

homes or other tempora ry quarters until new buildings were

Bill Meindl
Author and Historian

Bill Meindl is education and tour director a t the National

Railroad Museum in Green Bay. Previously a reporter for the
Green Bay News-Chronicle. he also does free-lance historical
work and is completing a term as docent a t Hazelwood. a
152-year-old historic house museum in Green Bay.
A graduate of the University ofWisconsin-Green Bay with a
bachelor's degree in history, Mr. Meindl has written histories
of other northeast Wisconsin businesses and is completing
work on a catalog of the National Railroad Museum's locomo-
tive and rail car collection. For the State Historical Society of
Wisconsin, he has conducted historic building surveys in
Marinette and Florence counties and has been a researcher for
the Fox Valley Historical/Industrial Site Survey. He has also
been scholar-in-residence at the Neville Public Museum of
Brown County.
Mr. Meindl currently is on the Board of Directors of the
Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation and chairs its
Communications Committee, is publisher and an acting
editor of the magazine Voyageur: Hist01ical Review of North-
east Wisconsin, and is a member of the Brown County
Historical Society's Preservation Committee. Past volunteer
activities have included: northeast regional representative for
the Wisconsin Council for Local History; a Board of Directors
member of the Northeastern Wisconsin Arts Council; a co-
f9under and first Planning Committee chair of Artstreet,
Green Bay's annual downtown arts festival; chair of an ad hoc
committee to save Green Bay's historic Federal Building from
demolition: and cochair ofa historical task force assisting the
East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in
developing a long-range plan for the lower Fox River.

Interese conexe