Sherman T. Cogswell
Sherman T. Cogswell

Western Bank of Wolf Point began life as the First State Bank of Wolf Point in January of 1913 when 13 stock subscribers met in Wolf Point and put together capital of $20,000 through the issue of 200 shares of stock at $100 per share.

The Articles of Incorporation for the First State Bank were approved by the State of Montana on February 14, 1913. The first directors were: Sherman T. Cogswell, Henry T. Smith, John Listerud, Ralph E. Patch, and Howard M. Cosier.

Probably the best-known name and the leader in establishing the First State Bank was Sherman T. Cogswell. Mr. Cogswell came to Wolf Point in 1885 and was a teacher, Indian trader, merchant and postmaster for many years in old Wolf Point. For years before the Bank was formed, Mr. Cogswell was extending credit to early settlers in the area.

In March of 1913, a contract to build a bank building was awarded to Mr. E.L. Olson of Poplar. The low bid was $1,580. The Bank opened its doors to the public on May 13, 1913. The Bank building was located on the south side of Main Street and was in what was later to be known as the Handy Shop.

There were difficult times for the First State Bank in the beginning years as the demand for loans was much greater than the deposits. Homesteaders and business people alike needed capital, and there was not much money to be had. An interesting note is that interest rates in 1915 were nine percent during the high loan demand.

In 1917, business was brisk, profits were up, and the directors decided to build a new bank building. The new building was built of brick and was located just west of the frame building the Bank currently occupied. In later years this building became the Stockman’s Bar and is now part of the Black Jax Building. The low bid submitted for the new building was $5,100 by “Howe and Steele”. In that year, the Bank declared a 15% dividend and the capital was increased from $20,000 to $30,000. In 1937 the Bank moved into its third home on the corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue South in the Huxsol Block Building, this followed the liquidation of the First National Bank of Wolf Point.

In 1939, the First State Bank reached a milestone when bank footings were in excess of $1,000,000. The number of employees and bank deposits continued to grow and in 1963, construction began on a new bank building located at 111 Third Avenue South in Wolf Point. During that same year, the Bank converted to a national banking association and took the new name of “The Western National Bank of Wolf Point”. Also in 1964, A.R Appelgren was elected President of the bank due to the death of his father, A.V. Appelgren.

The years 1994 and 1995 brought many changes to the bank. Gib S. Nichols, President since 1979, retired and R.J. Doornek assumed the duties of Chief Executive Officer and President. During this time the bank converted back to a state chartered bank and changed its name to “Western Bank of Wolf Point.” In addition, the Investment Center was established as a new business located in our bank and a major renovation of the bank interior was completed.
During the summer of 2000, the bank was given a substantial face-lift. The front of the building was bricked and new windows installed. CTA Architects designed the retrofit to have a turn of the 20th century look and theme. The Teller line was moved to the north wall and the drive up lanes were modified. The modification has been well received and complimented by the customers and visitors.

Today’s Western Bank provides service to much of northeast Montana. From very humble beginnings in a small frame building with living quarters in the rear, the banking house is now a modern, spacious building, providing ample room for customers. Mr. Sherman T. Cogswell would be proud to see the progress his little bank has made since he first opened the doors of the First State Bank to the pioneers of this community!