NEWS

Citizens Bank celebrates 100 years of history

Andrew Green agreen@postsouth.com
The main office of Citizens Bank on Main St. in Plaquemine in the 1920s

The longest continuously-running bank in Iberville Parish is celebrating its 100th year of business this year, and with it comes a rich history of the City of Plaquemine and the surrounding areas.

Citizens Bank began in 1916 in a very prosperous town.  Officers included Henry J. Levy, president, and board members Mark Arnold, Andrew H. Gay, Maurice Hirsch, Dr. W.A. Holloway, H.J. Levy, W.B. Middleton, Sr., Sam Polizzoto, Charles W. Row, Judge Calvin K. Schwing, Edward B. Schwing, Sr. and H.N. Sherburne.

Citizens was the only bank in the area to survive the Great Depression, a point of pride for its employees, board members and clients..

Current COO William Blackwood credits citizens and businesses as part of the reason the bank weathered so many economic downturns.

“The bank has always been conservative, and been very mindful about how it manages itself,” Blackwood said.  “We never made a ton of money, or have been speculative in any kind of way.  It has been more about quality service.”

According to area historian William H. Myhand, many prosperous businesses in Plaquemine during the 1910’s invested in Citizens Bank and Trust Co. including Schwing Lumber and Shingle Co., St. Louis Plantation/E.J. Gay Planting and Manufacturing Company, a general story called Brown’s Landing under the ownership of Sam Distefano, Polizzotto Groceries and General Merchandise, operated by Mr. Samuel Polizzotto, among several others.

“The people that invested in Citizens Bank and Trust Co., when it started in 1916, were diverse,” Myhand said.  “They were men and women, owners of big lumber mills to owners of small general merchandise stores, physicians to people that worked for the railroad, people that lived in America for generations to people that immigrated from other countries, people in their early 20s to people in their 80s.

“The founders of this bank could not have picked a more perfect name for the bank, ‘Citizens’.”  Myhand’s great grandfathers were original stockholder of the bank, R.I. Schwing of Plaquemine and William C. Myhand of Addis.

The bank has only had three different presidents and first cashiers throughout its 100-year history.  Henry J. Levy began as the bank’s first president along with W.B. Middleton as first cashier.  Levy was a lifelong resident of Plaquemine and was the owner of Henry J. Levy Men’s Furnishings.  He was also a founder of Schwing Lumber and Shingle Co. and served as Mayor of Plaquemine from 1902-1903 and on the Plaquemine City Council from 1892 to 1901.  He also was a member of the Iberville Parish School Board.

Officers changed for the first time in 1947 as Levy and Middleton retired from their respective positions.  W.B. Middleton, Jr. assumed the role as the new bank president along with C.E. Postell as head cashier.  Middleton, Jr., also a lifelong resident of Plaquemine, practiced law in Plaquemine and was a partner in the law firm of Obier and Middleton.  He served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1940-1948 and became Chairman of Citizens Bank Board of Directors from 1984-2000.

In 1969, the second bank branch opened in Plaquemine, the Belleview Branch.  It was built on the corner of Belleview and Hebert Street and included drive-in windows to increase convenience for customers.

Current president Edward B. Middleton joined the bank as a part time employee and board member in 1975.  A native and lifelong resident of Plaquemine, Middleton practiced law in the area and worked half-days at the bank.  Eventually he followed his father’s footsteps and stopped his law practice to become bank president in 1984, and joined current head cashier and COO William Blackwood.

“I decided I really like working with a group of people as a team and I saw what a local bank can do for local people in the community,” Edward Middleton said.  “That was very rewarding to be able to help the community.”

Though Edward had a background in law, he thought it was always a possibility to continue the legacy of his father and grandfather as bank employees.

“It is very humbling to be a bank employee during this time in the bank’s history,” Middleton said.  “This speaks to the people that have come before us and all the men and women that have worked at the bank and ran it the last one hundred years.”

When asked how the bank adjusted to the rapid changes in technology and services throughout the years, Mr. Middleton said, “We hired great people.  I tell people all the time ‘if you want to give me credit for anything, give me credit for hiring good people’.  You hire good people then get out of their way.”

In the early 1990’s, Citizens Bank extended its reach to the east side of the Mississippi.  In 1991, the bank purchased a savings and loan in Baton Rouge, which is now known as the Bocage Branch.  Since then, the bank has grown to six branches, two in Plaquemine and four in Baton Rouge. 

Mr. Middleton said to the citizens of Plaquemine and Iberville Parish, “We are appreciative of your support for these past one hundred years.  Without you we wouldn’t be here.”

Employees and Officers look forward to providing quality service and building on the already rich history of one of Iberville’s most prized possessions.

Shown are some images of the history of Citizens Bank provided by Mr. William Myhand.