Franklin County was named for philosopher and statesmen Benjamin Franklin and was one of the original counties of the state of Mississippi. In 1809, seven years prior to Mississippi’s admission into the Union as a state, the county was organized in the Mississippi Territory. A large part of the western portion of the county, close to the Mississippi River, was settled while the territory was under Spanish Rule.
Our long and prosperous history began when Daniel (Dan) R. McGehee, an incorporator and founder of the Bank of Franklin, was issued a charter on November 8, 1911, along with Franklin County natives Luther A. Whittington, John F. Hollinger, William Calvin McGehee, and Dr. A.M. Dodds. Founder F.F. Becker was a resident of Brookhaven, Mississippi in Lincoln County.
In the fall of 1912, a 30 x 50 brick structure was built on Main Street in Meadville. On October 13, 1912, the Bank of Franklin opened for business and it grew with the county. The Bank of Franklin began its close association with small business and financial institutions, electing the former Purchasing Agent of the Mississippi Central Railroad as its cashier and the former cashier of the Commercial Bank of Brookhaven as its President. The president of the Mississippi Central Railroad and the Homochitto Lumber Company was elected an officer and director and the advisory board was graced with the President of the Interstate Bank and Trust Company of New Orleans, Louisiana.
During the early days of the bank, cotton was the chief agricultural product in Franklin County. Large areas in the valleys or delta areas surrounding the numerous streams and rivers in the County were cleared for this purpose and the cotton industry thrived. Things begin to change in 1918 with the infiltration of the boll weevil and the County gradually turned to livestock as the primary agricultural product. The terrain in the northern portion of the county has lent itself to forestry production, which is maintained until this day.
Wise planning and careful management allowed the new Bank to withstand a run on depositors’ funds on January 5, 1914. After a large bank in nearby Brookhaven was forced to close, the Bank of Franklin calmly paid depositors dollar-for-dollar until the run stopped into the third day. A similar run was withstood in July of the same year as tumultuous economic times crashed the economy of the United States. Confidence built in the young bank as the Bank of Franklin was appointed the depository for Franklin County in 1914. Soon after, the Bank of Franklin adopted the advertising phrase: Bank of Franklin “The Bank that Can’t Be Busted”. By 1915, the Bank of Franklin was the only bank in Franklin County. Riding a wave of confidence, the Bank supported the United States of America’s efforts in World War I by selling Liberty Bonds to finance the war efforts, participating in National War Savings Day, and participating in the Red Cross fund drive.
Daniel R. McGehee was elected President of the Bank of Franklin in 1916. He held this office until his death on February 9, 1962, a period of 46 years. During his tenure as President of the Bank, Daniel R. McGehee, affectionately known as “Smiling Dan,” was elected and served three terms in the Mississippi Legislature, including two terms as State Senator for Franklin and Pike Counties and one term as Representative from Franklin County. Mr. McGehee was elected to the United States Congress in 1934, was re-elected and served six consecutive terms until 1947 (7th Congressional District).
In 1930, there was a threatened run on the Bank of Franklin as a result of many other bank failures. The run by the depositors was thwarted by President Dan R. McGehee, who reassured depositors that their money was safe in the bank but explained if they withdrew their deposits, the Bank would have to close. To confirm their deposits were safe, Mr. McGehee had arranged to have a large sum of cash on hand, which was displayed on a long table in the lobby of the one room Bank. Through the leadership of Dan R. McGehee, the depositors’ confidence was restored and very few made a withdrawal of their funds.
Alarm systems, time locks, vault ventilators, lock boxes, and service charges were the next innovations to hit the Bank of Franklin in the late 1920's and early 1930's. The Great Depression battered many banks hard as 127 Mississippi banks failed during the period of 1930-1933; however, the Bank of Franklin remained sound. President Roosevelt went as far as to declare a bank holiday to stem the tide. While officially closed upon executive order of the President of the United States, the Bank continued to service the community with customers being accommodated at its back door. Soon after came the advent of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation which still protects bank customers.
Innovations continued at the Bank of Franklin in 1938 with advertisements of travelers’ checks and money to lend for education and home improvements. In 1941, the Bank announced that it would sell United States Defense Bonds to finance defense production. On December 31, 1943, the Bank Franklin’s total resources had passed the million dollar mark at $1,037,731.23.
Local management and business relationships had served the Bank of Franklin well for the first fifty years of existence and was at the forefront of the election of J.F. Hollinger as President of the Bank, after the death of Dan R. McGehee in 1962. Hollinger was an officer in the O. V. Clements Timber Company, as well as a local merchant, timber grower, and state representative. Those impressive qualifications and the impressive growth of his Southern Pine Lumber Mill, retail store, and extensive retail holdings, led to Hollinger’s all-to-quick resignation. The board named local attorney and United State Veteran, H.B. Mayes McGehee as its President on September 1, 1962. That appointment led to the Bank’s second impressive run of growth. In October, 1962, McGehee immediately led a major renovation of the Bank facilities in downtown Meadville which culminated with a grand reopening in June, 1963. The Banks focus on facilities soon led to the opening of branch banks in Bude and Roxie, Mississippi in the spring of 1965. Executive Vice President Carey E. Graves was instrumental in the Bank’s impressive growth. Soon after, the Bank of Franklin purchased the old post office and the City Café building in 1971 and built on these lots in 1973. In 1976, the Bank purchased and renovated the Meadville Rexall Drugs building. The year 1975 was landmark for the Bank of Franklin. Mr. McGehee was named chairman of the board and chief executive officer, and Mr. Graves was named President of the Bank of Franklin. This leadership led the Holt Investment Advisory group to name the Bank of Franklin as one of the 100 strongest banks in the United States of America in 1982.
On June 14, 1983, Homer V. Harris was elected President of the Bank of Franklin. Mr. Harris was not a stranger to the Bank or local community. He had served as an officer of the Bank for approximately 10 years before accepting the presidency of a new bank in Morton, Mississippi. A Customer Account Service Center, a Drive Thru branch bank, the Bank’s first ATM machine, and Internet Banking were some innovations offered under the leadership of Mr. Harris.
In January 2004, Mr. H. B. Mayes McGehee and Mr. Homer V. Harris both announced their retirement after many years of dedicated service to the Bank of Franklin. At that time, Mr. James A. Torrey, Jr. was elected Chairman of the Board and Mr. Norman Crain was elected President. Mr. Torrey, a well respected local attorney, had served on the Board of Directors for many years and was instrumental in many of the accomplishments of the Bank of Franklin. Mr. Crain served as President until early 2005, at which time he moved to be closer to his family in Alabama.
In February 2005, the Bank of Franklin elected Edmund E. “Buddy” Prestridge as Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Prestridge has extensive banking experience, having served as President of Copiah Bank in Hazlehurst, Mississippi and as a former President of the Mississippi Bankers Association.
In May 2005, Bradley B. Jones was elected President of the Bank of Franklin. Also a former local attorney, Mr. Jones had previously served on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Franklin. With a strong focus on the future, the Bank has invested in new technology, a newly formed bank holding company, Franklin Bancshares, Inc., and the opening of a Brookhaven branch in 2008 and a McComb branch in June, 2014.
The Bank of Franklin is proud of its accomplishments and the contributions of all of its prior and present employees, officers, and directors. We are committed to our customers and the communities that we serve.