The history of Panhandle banking

Part of being "Panhandle Proud" means understanding where you came from.

The "Pioneer Town" at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum is now giving all of us a lot more of that.

The bank was one the first buildings to go up, alongside the chapel, and schoolhouse. It ensured the financial stability of a booming up and coming town. A lifeline of helping create new businesses and jobs.

If you want to step back in time, just head over to Canyon, where one of the First National Banks in the Panhandle stands. It didn't even have electricity when it first opened.

The museum's bank's tile, is reminiscent of their floor, and it's teller cages are those of the first bank in the area, the "Panhandle Bank".

However, in the early 1800's, cash was in short supply and merchants provided limited financial services.

"People did not have that much money, the barter system was used a lot more than cash. We are cash dependent today, but back then it was bartering, I'll fix your wagon, for a share of your crop," said Guy Vanderpool, PPHM Director.

That was until in the 1880's when the railroad business boomed. Making the need for a bank even more important to sustain the markets, and people's confidence.

"They needed the bank to be able to create the capital so that would create jobs, that would create other capital, that would help other businesses grow, etc.The banker was the key to getting a community going," said J.Pat Hickman, Happy State Bank President and CEO.

But like those good old westerns, robbers were always looking to steal the banks money. Hence, the reason for the teller cages. The safes back then were round instead of square. But to help towns folk feel more secure, the banks started to grow. Stockholders of the Panhandle Bank formed the First National Bank of Panhandle in 1926, which is now owned by Happy State Bank.

"It's still the motor that drives the engine. We create the capital, we use our depositors funds, those deposits that come in, we have a strong judicial duty to our customers to make sure we're taking care of their deposits it's because it's those deposits that we loan out," said Hickman.

The first banker in Canyon was L.T. Lester. In 1910, Hickman says he donated $10,000 to start the construction of what's now known was West Texas A&M University.