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Concorde Bank celebrates 100 years

The State Bank of Blomkest opened an office May 3, 2004, at 1102 First St. S. in Willmar and changed its name to Concorde Bank. The bank is celebrating 100 years in business. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)1 / 2
Larry and Marcia Knutson prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Concorde Bank as well as their families' involvement and ownership of the business during that time. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 2

WILLMAR -- Concorde Bank will celebrate 100 years in business and family involvement on Thursday at the Willmar office and on Friday at the Blomkest office. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.

Concorde Bank traces its history to 1910 when three officers of the Bank of Willmar decided to start their own bank. They selected the southern Kandiyohi County village of Svea as the site to be closer to rural customers at a time when traveling any distance was not as easy as today.

"At that time it was difficult for farmers to come into town on a daily basis. They had a location where they could do their banking in the rural area and didn't have to come to town every day,'' says Marcia Knutson, who has written a history of the bank. Her grandfather, James Matson, was bank cashier.

The bank's pending arrival was mentioned in a 1910 edition of the Republican Gazette. The newspaper said the people of Svea and vicinity "will not have to come to Willmar with their Shekels. A state bank will open up about that time by well-known Willmar and Svea people large enough to hold our surplus, and if we should need a loan we save time and travel to go the busy city.''

In December of that year, the State Bank of Svea opened. It was located in the Svea Co-operative Mercantile Co., also known as the Svea Store. Other officers besides Matson were A.E. Rice, president, and N.O. Nelson, vice president.

The general nature of banking in 1910 consisted of receiving deposits, buying, selling and discounting notes, bills and other evidence of debt, dealing in gold, silver and coins, and lending money on real estate and personal security.

The bank was not immune to criminal elements. In 1927, burglars entered the bank at night and blew open the safe. It was one of many robberies in the county during what was later called the lawless decade, according to records from the Kandiyohi County Historical Society.

Marcia Knutson's grandparents and her father, Eldon, were living in a house next to the bank. The story is told that gunshots were fired and Eldon could hear bullets flying past his bedroom window. The gang that blew the safe might have been the same gang that robbed the Bank of Willmar.

Also, in the early 1960s, burglars entered the bank and tried to cut their way into the vault with a torch they had stolen from a next-door body shop. The attempt was unsuccessful, however. The door still hangs in the former bank building.

The bank operated in Svea until 1928 when it was moved to Blomkest to take advantage of the emergence of the Luce Line Railroad. James Matson continued as cashier. Other officers were Edwin Selvig, president, and George Robbins, vice president.

The Willmar Weekly Tribune reported on Nov. 28, 1928, that the bank, known as the State Bank of Blomkest, opened "in a fine $5,000 brick building.'' The open house was attended by more than 500 community residents who were treated to coffee, doughnuts and tours.

Following the death of James Matson in 1953, his son, Eldon, became president. Eldon served 64 years in the bank at Blomkest. Eldon's wife, Carol, joined him in the bank in 1941.

In 1984, the bank moved to a new building across the street from the 1928 building, which still stands today and is home to Mid-Central Steel Erectors. At the time of the move, Larry Knutson, Marcia's husband, was named president and Warren Matson was named vice president.

Twenty years later, the bank opened an office on May 3, 2004, at 1102 First St. S., in Willmar and changed the name from State Bank of Blomkest to Concorde Bank. With the office located in Willmar, the bank could better serve current and future customers.

Today, Concorde Bank is reflecting on successful relationships developed during the past 100 years and is looking forward to serving the community in the future.

The Matson family has been involved in the bank from the beginning and has never been part of a larger group of banks. In about 1967, Eldon and Carol Matson bought all of the outstanding shares in the bank that they didn't already own.

Three people from the bank -- Eldon and Carol Matson and Maynard Lawrence -- are members of the Minnesota Bankers Association's 50-year Banker Club. Warren, who started working in the bank in the early 1970s, handles most of the outside investments and some lending.

Larry Knutson says small banks like Concorde Bank continue to face new challenges.

"But we've been very fortunate,'' he said. "We have a lot of good employees and it's always been a commitment, I think, of the family to maintain that. Obviously, there's a few other banks around that have had that kind of ownership over the years.''

He says no depositor ever lost a penny in the bank, even during the bank holiday of the Great Depression when President Roosevelt closed the banks in 1933. There was no Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that was going to guarantee deposits, but Knutson says the bank had the trust of local people.

"They had to depend on the trust they had in the local people running the bank,'' says Knutson. "Those banks that were able to demonstrate that had a real advantage in surviving the Depression.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150