News: Neillsville - Unity Bank to Celebrate 140 Years (2020)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Kujawa, Gates, Dewhurst, Morley, Grow, Hemphill, North, Struble

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 2/12/2020

Unity Bank to Celebrate 140 Years (Anniversary - 2020)

Neillsville Bank was located in this building on the corner of Hewett and West Sixth Streets from 1909 to 1975. The bank has gone through several name changes and mergers in the tail end of its 140-year and is now Unity Bank. Submitted photo

Unity Bank will soon celebrate 140 years of serving the people of Neillsville. The public is invited to visit the bank for cake and coffee this Friday, Feb. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Unity Bank’s Jenny Kujawa extended her appreciation to “the community as a whole” for supporting the bank over its many years.

Unity Bank was established by Daniel Gates and his son, James L. Gates, as Neillsville Bank in 1879. It was started as a private bank under the firm name of J.L. Gates & Co. At that time the area had been left without a banking business, as the first organized bank in Clark County had been dissolved because of dissension among its owners. The Gates’ bank filled that void and they operated it for a few years.

In 1882, J.L. Gates & Co. sold the bank to a group of men headed by Judge Richard Dewhurst. On Sept. 1 of that year the group received a state charter and Neillsville Bank began operating as a state bank. Dewhurst was the first president and Joseph Morley the first cashier.

The Neillsville Bank was first located in what was known as the “O’Neill block,” in the building that now houses the Neillsville Post Office. Shortly after the purchase by Dewhurst, the bank moved into quarters in the Gates building, a newly-erected structure on the corner of Hewett and West Sixth Streets.

The Neillsville Bank operated in the Gates building for nearly a quarter century before its growth demanded larger quarters. In 1909, a new two-story brick building was erected in its place. The Neillsville Bank remained in that building for 66 years. The bank became as “The Old Reliable” with a lion as its symbol.

The first six presidents of the bank were Dewhurst; Charles F. Grow; W.L. Hemphill; Hemphill’s wife, Mrs. W.L. Hemphill; Herman (Pete) North and Delbert C. Struble.

(The Hemphill’s were daughter and son-in-law of Mr. Dewhurst. DMK)

In 1975, Neillsville Bank moved into a newly-constructed building at the corner of West and 5th Streets, its current location. The first of many name changes began in 1990 when the bank became Mid-Wisconsin Neillsville Bank. That was modified in 1994 to Mid-Wisconsin Bank, with headquarters located in Medford. In 2013, Mid-Wisconsin Bank was purchased and merged into Nicolet National Bank with its headquarters in Green Bay. In 2015, Unity Bank purchased the Neillsville branch of Nicolet. Headquarters are now in Augusta.

“The purchase by Unity Bank has brought the bank back to its original roots of a community bank,” a press release from the bank noted.

Kujawa said that of Unity Bank’s 15 branches in Minnesota and Wisconsin, all but one are located in towns of 2,500 people or less, with the exception being Edina, MN.

“We are proud of being a small community bank.”



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