Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 15, 2003

First Community Bank celebrates 90 years

By Ryan Gueningsman

First Community Bank Lester Prairie has been thriving since its incorporation Sept. 15, 1913.

The following history of Farmers State Bank (now First Community Bank) Lester Prairie was taken from the Lester Prairie Community history book ­ 1886 -1986.

1932 ­ The State Bank moved to Winsted and the building was sold to the Farmers State Bank, which had been doing business in a building next to the drug store.

The Farmers State Bank was incorporated September of 1913 and opened for business on the 15th of the same month. The first officers were: Alvin T. Johnson, president; O.H. Smith, vice-president; George McKenzie, cashier. Directors were John Kuhlmann, Emil Schmalz, Alvin T. Johnson, George McKenzie, John H. Rolf, O.H. Smith, and J.B. Clement.

Johnson, the first president, was accidently shot while hunting near Benson, in 1914, and his interest was taken by Henry L. Simons of Glencoe and August H. Schultz.

Mr. McKenzie left after being with the bank for 8 months. Henry Simons was succeeded by Dr. J. B. Clement as president 1917. August Schultz passed away in 1933 and was succeeded by Henry Emme as vice-president.

The bank started with the idea of creating new business of benefit to the town.

In 1920 Harold Milbrath joined the bank as assistant cashier. Henry Emme passed away in 1947, and Harold Milbrath became first vice president January 6, 1948.

Dr. J.B. Clement held the chairman of the board and president positions continuously from 1917 to 1958. Harry Milbrath served as a cashier in 1919 and 1920, at which time he left Lester Prairie, and in 1936 he came back as cashier.

Jan. 6, 1959 ­ Harold Milbrath was elected President and Harry Milbrath as vice president and cashier. In April 1963 Harold Milbrath retired and Harry Milbrath purchased his interest in the bank and became president, which he held until April 1, 1969.

Clement Milbrath, son of Harry, became the director of the bank in 1962 until 1969. Clement did extensive interior remodeling in 1963.

In April 1969 controlling interest of the Farmers State Bank was purchased by Loren E. Jilek who had been assistant cashier and accountant at the bank for the last six years. Loren Jilek was president, and directors Dr. John J. Smyth and Reuben Schmalz.

Lloyd Weisenburger joined the bank as cashier in 1969 thru 1974. In 1974, Dale Mensing joined the bank as assistant cashier and later advanced to vice president.

The bank was again remodeled in 1973 with a walk-up window added. In July 1983, the bank celebrated 70 years in business with a grand opening of its newly enlarged and remodeled facilities.

The construction work and remodeling, which cost over $150,000, began Labor Day of 1982. Floor space inside the bank was doubled and the outside redone.

A drive-up teller window was also added. One of the more unusual aspects of the remodeling work is the installation of a passive solar heating system expected to save from 15 to 18 percent on the cost of keeping the building warm.

The following is reprinted from the Sept. 12, 1963 Lester Prairie News:

Farmers State Bank notes 50 years continuous service

Fifty golden years have passed since the Farmers State Bank of Lester Prairie was incorporated and opened its doors for business with Alvin T. Johnson as its first president.

The bank was established Sept. 15, 1913 with the idea of creating a new business of benefit to the town and community, which it has done, by safe, sound, progressive, and accommodating methods.

This banking institution was first housed in a building adjoining the present Thiel's Food Market and Scrimgeour Drug Store known as Farmers State Bank until 1922, when the present building was purchased. The former building was destroyed by fire.

Since those early days of the 1930s, many changes have been made in appearance, methods, and conveniences in the banking profession.

Dr. J. B. Clement, the second president of the Farmers State Bank was succeeded by Harold O. Milbrath, who retired in April 1963 with 40 years service to the bank.

Harry O. Milbrath, the present president, has undertaken a great change in the bank with an extensive remodeling program, completely altering the interior of the building.

The entrance to the bank has taken on a new, all-modern look with a walk-in entrance, new spacious windows, and all glass foyer bringing you to the lobby, given the ultramodern look. Off to the left of the lobby are two private offices enclosed in glass with full length draperies.

Present officers of the bank include president Harry O. Milbrath, cashier Clement Milbrath, and assistant cashier and insurance agent Loren Jilek, assistant cashier Gladys Milbrath, vice president Mrs. Harry Milbrath Vice President and bookkeeping machine operator Mrs. Loren Jilek.

An open house observing the 50th anniversary of the bank will be celebrated Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The open house will be delayed until October due to completion of the remodeling.

In recent years, First Community has seen an ownership change with Douglas and Sheila Jilek taking the helm.

Current bank board members include Douglas and Sheila Jilek, Fred Holasek, Larry Russell, Dale Mensing, and Jeff Engen.

There will be a 90th anniversary open house at First Community Bank and a complimentary meal at Lester Prairie City Hall Wednesday, Sept.17 from 4­ 8 p.m.

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