Etowah Historical Society

since 1954

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How the first bank was

established in Gadsden

In 1857, when Colonel Robert B. Kyle came to town, it had about 100 inhabitants and three stores. Kyle was a man of dynamic energy. He used his capital to infuse into the slow, sleepy town --- opening a bank, setting up a large mercantile business, and organizing a steamboat company to operate on the Coosa and its tributaries.

But Gadsden's first real bank was actually a private one organized in the early eighties by A. L. Glenn, of Atlanta , and W. G. Brockway, of Malone , N.Y. , under the name of Glenn, Brockway, and Company. By 1883 it was finally established and did much toward expanding the commercial and industrial interests of the little town. Mr. Glenn was president and Mr. Brockway was cashier. Before coming to Gadsden Mr. Brockway had been in the banking business in the South and he married Miss Brockford of Brownsville , Tennessee , a very beautiful and talented young woman. She was a great musician, a fine vocalist and an able teacher of piano, voice and organ. Mr. Glenn mar­ried Miss Emma Wheadon, niece of Mr. and Mrs. C.D. Dunn. Mr. Dunn was a merchant and forwarded an advertisement in the Times that was featured by a fat man beating a bass drum. Mrs. Dunn a very brilliant woman. The Dunn home once stood directly across Fifth Street from the First Baptist Church .

In 1887 the private bank secured a national charter and became the First National Bank with Mr. Glenn as the first president and Mr. Brockway as cashier. Mr. Glenn was president until 1894 when he saw president succeeded by W.H. Simmons a Florida banker. He served for four years and was succeeded by S. W. Riddle, a pioneer merchant, farmer and all-round businessman. He served as president of the bank until 1902 when Charles A. Lyerly, president of the First National Bank of Chattanooga became president, a position which he held until 1916. T. S. Kyle then became president until 1920. He was succeeded by J. H. Lester. Mr. Lester retired in 1925 in favor of Hugh Agricola, one of the greatest if not the greatest industrialist Gadsden ever had. He died in 1939 and was succeeded by his son, Hugh Agricola, who has been president ever since.


Many of thousands today remember visiting the American National Bank and admiring its interior. Even at that time, if its founder, Jesse B. Wadsworth was alive (he died November 1940), he would have noted what wonderful progress has been made by that institution and how faithfully his successors have carried out his policy of conservation and progressive banking. Some remembered that when the American National observed its silver anniversary in 1936 a speaker quoted Emerson's expression that an inst­itution is the lengthening shadow of one man, the mirror of his ideals, the pro­duct of his handwork, and declared that Emerson might have been speaking of the American National and J.B. Wardsworth, and he could have aptly added that "He build­ed well".

Jesse B Wardsworth was born in Marietta , Ga. , Nov. 10, 1862, and began his banking career as a bookkeeper and teller in the old Alabama National Bank in Birmingham . In 1892, after eight years of experience, he resigned his position and organized the Blocton Savings Bank at Blocton, be­came its president and remained in that capacity for 18 years. In 1910 he came to Gadsden . He bought a vacant lot at Broad and Third Streets, erected a modern four-story fire-proof and office building which is still the home of the bank which he organized ul1der the name of Etowah Trust &: Savings Bank. In Febraary, 1911, he became its first presedent. In 1930 the name was changed to the American National and it has since operated under a national charter.

On February, 1940, he retired as president to become chairman of the board and his son, D. C. Wadsworth, was elected president. It has been under the direction of father and son that the American National Bank, through its strength and stability to serve the community, has played a leading part in the growth of Gadsden and surrounding territory. Jesse B. Wadsworth was rated as one of the best and ablest bankers of his time.

The late S. S. Caldwell, one of the best and most successful businessmen Gadsden ever had was the first chairman of the board and B. W. Duke, equally as prominent and successful, was the first vice-president. All along the bank has had progressive directors, men trusted and respected for their character and ability. The American National set the pattern for financial institutions in Gadsden today.



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ducational Programs- Presentations of historical interest. Current programs of history in the making.

istorical Markers - Markings of historical homes, cemeteries, schools, rivers, trails, public buildings

ignificant Preservations - Preservation of historical buildings, homes & landmarks



















The Etowah

Historical Society

 P.O. Box 8131

Gadsden, AL 35902

(Physical address at

2829 W. Meighan Blvd.)


Danny Crownover






Officers & Board Members

President ...........................Danny Crownover

1st Vice President ..................Traci Pondick

2nd Vice President ............Sharyon Ramsey

Recording Secretary ...........John McFarland

Corresponding Secretary ..Molly Cheatwood

Treasurer ............................Gorden Maddox

Historian .................................Patsy Hanvey

Devotional ...........Gennie McDaniel Dawson




The Society meets every 2nd Friday night each month at Elliott Community Center, corner of 29th Street & Meighan Blvd. at 6:00pm.

Each month we have an enjoyable presentation and refreshments.

Come and enjoy!!!


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