A Brief History of Austinville and the Austinville Bank
Austinville is named for the Austin family. They moved to a farm west of the town in 1868. They were successful farmers and businessmen and hired many of the people who were moving into the area from the Ostfriesland state in Germany. The Illinois Central Railroad had come through town in 1856. The Austins were instrumental in building a grain elevator and a stockyard along it, which was used by many in the area to ship cattle to market. By the 1900’s some stores were built along the main street by the German settlers.
As the frontier was settled and grew, people needed a dependable source of financing to promote the increasing demands for expanding livestock and crop production on the farms. As the area increased in population, the necessity of additional businesses also increased, to supply the provisions they needed and to provide a market for the products produced. The founders of the Austinville Savings Bank saw this need and opportunity.
In 1911 Samuel Patterson, R.C. Bode, and Walter Austin formed the Austinville Savings Bank. The first structure was a wooden building at the present site. In June of 1916 the present brick structure opened for business with Samuel Patterson, who had married Alice Austin, managing the business. Mr. Patterson had a reputation as a very conservative lender, but also knew how to encourage customers. He managed the bank from its opening until 1945.
Austinville Savings Bank was the only bank in a wide area that did not close even during the Great Depression when many banks failed. The bank moratorium, closing all banks for a period of time during the stock market crash, only slowed its operation briefly. When the banking regulators entered the bank questioning Patterson as why his bank was still open, he promptly complied by locking the door and going to his home across the street. However, he was open for business as usual the following day.
Later Austinville Savings bank also operated a branch bank that reopened after the depression in the town of Aplington. The bank continued under original ownership until 1945 when Harry Lekwa and Henry and George Carstens purchased the business and moved the main office to Aplington and renamed it State Savings Bank with Austinville as the branch office. Other owners have been: Eugene Youell, Al Saylor, Wayne Hopkins, Lee Davidson and Gary Larson.
Over the years there have been at least 7 robberies or attempted robberies, which are part of local folklore. In the first robbery in 1922, $2370 was stolen after the safe was blown open. In 1930 nitroglycerin was used to open the safe. In the 1930s Sam Patterson and Fred Voogd were each credited with thwarting a planned robbery when they closed the bank after seeing unfamilar cars casing the community. In 1940 “experienced yeggs” cut through the 3000 pound safe with a torch using water in stolen cream cans to cool the safe. The robbers were not as successful in 1977 when their total was only $300. The four suspects were pursued by Austinville Elevator employees in a pickup towing a fertilizer spreader. Thieves armed with a stun gun robbed the bank on October 4, 1985.
In 1991 it was sold to Lincoln Savings Bank of Reinbeck, Iowa and the Austinville office was closed on February 28, 1998, forcing the large number of clientele to use a main branch or find a new bank. The property was then deeded to the Austinville Historical Society. It is presently a museum and provides space for a contract post office.