As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Peoples Bank, we look back at the bank’s history, its founders and its growth in our community. See the full list of stories here. Be sure to pick up a copy of our cookbook “Centennial Commemorative: Recipes & Remembrances” at your local branch office.
To understand why the Peoples Bank founders wanted to establish a new bank in the town of Catawba in 1912, it’s necessary to take a brief look back into the town’s history.
The town of Catawba grew up during the 1860s, enjoying the prosperity brought by the Western Railroad company who built a depot in Catawba. While the War Between the States contravened the town’s growth, it proved to be a temporary setback. By the 1870s, the town’s expansion had resumed.
In the late 1800s, Catawba’s economy was founded on trade. Local farmers brought goods to the railroad depot. As times got better, more trade came to town. This increase fueled growth in mercantile stores and demand for more infrastructure (like warehouses and cotton gins) to support the trade.
To illustrate the mind-set of Catawba residents and the value they placed on trade, it is interesting to note that in the mid 1880s a new bridge was built across a railroad to accommodate access to the town from the northern farming communities. This new bridge proved to be popular with farmers from Alexander and Wilkes counties and significantly added to the town’s growth. The town residents apparently understood the importance of investing in customer convenience.
By the turn of the century, Catawba supported several mercantile stores, a growing group of warehouses, along with other trades and professions. In the late 1800s there were doctors, dentists and pharmacists in town. There was a distillery and at least one blacksmith and shoe maker. There were two churches in the town itself. The town also had two sawmills to support the railroad, as well as local construction, and even a gold mine or two.
As the new century began, a new market force emerged. More and more people were leaving the old farm ways in favor of a more “citified” lifestyle. This lifestyle change was due, in part, to farmers’ ability to increase the quantity of what they grew. The excess was brought to market, generating profits for the farmer and for the businesses that were growing up to support the farmers’ efforts. It was a classic marketing story that replayed all over the South in the early years of the twentieth century and it had a powerful determining effect on the town and the institution that was to become Peoples Bank.
The Depression brought on by the Wall Street crash interrupted Catawba’s growth. Times were hard. Commerce and trading experienced a considerable loss. But, by the mid-1930s, the economy began to turn and upward progress was renewed.
By the later part of 1930, the town of Catawba began to fully participate in the manufacturing boom that would take hold of the entire Piedmont region of North Carolina. Textile and furniture manufacturing, and the related support companies, would create an economic expansion that would last almost to the end of the next century.
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