Thursday, April 25, 2024

From the beginning: A history of First National Bank of Granbury





Jake Caraway, vice chairman of the board and senior vice president of First National Bank in Granbury, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Bridge Street History Center Museum.


First National Bank began as Traylor and Cogdell, a private bank, in 1883.  In an article from last year, I said that D.C. Cogdell was an early entrepreneur who was into many businesses, such as land, cattle, farming and the cotton oil mill. John Henry Traylor was a farmer, real estate promoter, banker, Hood County sheriff and tax assessor-collector, and legislator. He moved to Dallas in 1887 after the business became First National Bank of Granbury. The next year he was elected mayor of Dallas. Both men were quite colorful.

When the bank was chartered on June 18, 1887, the directors were: D.C. Cogdell, chairman and president; J.H. Baker; J.H. Traylor; G.W. Eastwood; E.A. Hannaford; V.S. Anglin; and A.M. Thomas.

The bank still operates out of its original building at the corner of Bridge and Houston Streets.  The cast iron doorsill still reads Traylor and Cogdell, 1883.  Over the years, FNB has expanded down the block.  Sometime in the 1950s we estimate, the second building was joined to the first by chiseling arches through the walls. The third building was joined in.

In those days, Hood County had a variety of business and agriculture customers whose needs the bank served. Much of the agriculture at that time was cotton.

D.C. Cogdell owned a cottonseed oil mill near the railroad, and there were two gins in Granbury.

There were other banks in Hood County. In Granbury, there was FNB, City National Bank and Hood County State Bank. Hood County State opened in 1905 and closed in 1913 for a reason we do not know. An advertisement in The Granbury News on Jan. 30, 1913, announced the closing and consolidation with First National Bank. I am not sure when City National Bank started business; however, it closed in 1928 and consolidated with FNB.

Tolar had its own First National Bank and later the Continental State Bank. Lipan had First National Bank of Lipan and Lipan State Bank. The two consolidated in 1925, and it still operates as First National Bank of Lipan. The Continental State in Tolar closed in December 1935. I have not found any records on First National in Tolar.

D.C. Cogdell was chairman and president of First National from its beginning until his health began to decline. In 1935, his son-in-law C.H. Bencini, husband of his daughter Lena, took over running the bank. Bencini had worked in a number of businesses and was a wealthy man. He did not remain in that position long. In early 1936, Bencini and his son were injured in a car accident. Mr. Bencini never recovered and died when a blood clot caused him to have a fatal heart attack.

When Bencini died, the Board of Directors elected Jake Green as chairman of the board and president.  Green had served on the Board of Directors since the 1930s before his election. Green was a well-respected farmer and rancher.  He lived in Granbury but had a large amount of land just west of Thorp Springs. Green served in that position until his death in 1948.

After Green’s death, Henry Zweifel was elected as chairman of the board and president. Zweifel left his law practice in Fort Worth to become a banker for the next 23 years. Zweifel had served on the Board of Directors since 1929. Zweifel had been the Granbury postmaster, practiced law in Fort Worth, served as U.S. Attorney, and was a cattle rancher. Zweifel was a prominent Republican in Texas for a number of years. There are many great stories about him during his tenure at FNB. In 1969, Zweifel resigned as president and John S. Luton replaced him. He remained chairman of the board until his death in 1970.

In 1953, Luton, Zweifel’s son-in-law, replaced Ted Sears when he resigned from the Board of Directors. John S. Luton had left an oil business in Graham to come to Granbury. Sears began work at First National in 1949 and served as vice president, cashier, and member of the board. He resigned as vice president to become president of First National Lipan in 1956. John S. Luton began working at First National in 1957 as assistant vice president. He worked his way up to become president in 1969 and chairman of the board in 1970. He was associated with First National for 47 years. He was very active in our community. He was involved in all sorts of organizations in Granbury. He could be depended on to help when most anything was needed. Johnny, as we called him, remained with FNB until his death in 2000.

John Henry Luton joined First National in 1974 after graduating from Texas A&M University, and then working for a bank in Bishop, Texas, to gain outside experience. He worked his way up at First National, starting as assistant vice president in 1974. John Henry was elected to the board shortly after that. When John S. Luton decided to step back from his duties, John Henry was elected president and vice chairman of the board in 1984. He is active in A&M Alumni activities along with managing the family ranch. It has been during both Lutons’ tenures that FNB established our Golden Rule, “Treat everyone as you would want to be treated.” Another thing is that we want all our employees to feel as if they are part of a family. When his father John S. Luton died, he became chairman of the board and president. He is now nearing 50 years in banking.

James Hodges became a part of the First National family in 1971. He was fresh out of Texas Christian University. James came to learn the accounting side of banking from Bennie Swenson, who had been with FNB since 1950 as vice president and cashier. Swenson was considering retiring, and we needed to train a replacement. He retired at the end of 1973, and Hodges was elected vice president, and cashier in January 1974. It was still a few years before smaller banks got computers, so we were still using ledgers and hand-posting accounts. Hodges started out as assistant cashier and worked his way up through all levels at FNB. In 2016, John Henry Luton decided to step back from his duties as his father did. At that time, he stayed on as chairman of the board, and Hodges was elected president by the board. John S. Luton, John Henry Luton, and James Hodges have given great leadership to First National Bank.

In the last 50 years, there have been tremendous changes. In 1976 FNB went from hand accounting in ledgers to using computers for our daily operations. We purchased our first in-house computer in 1986. The year 1982 brought our first venture off the Square.  The State allowed banks to have off-premises branches. We started with a modern motor bank between Houston and Crockett Streets downtown. First National started its first true branches by building on Highway 377 in 1989. Following that was the Highway 144 Branch in 1991 and the Acton Branch in 1996. In 2017, the board decided to expand into Johnson County by placing a branch in Cleburne. Following that was a branch in Tolar.

As the reader can see, First National Bank has grown with Hood County through thick and thin.  As we approach becoming a bank with assets of a billion dollars, we still strive to remain the small bank on the Square.