First American Bank, formerly The First National Bank, has a long and rich history as a premier community bank since the day we opened our doors in Artesia, New Mexico on November 24, 1903. In April of 2018, to commemorate our 115th anniversary, we buried a time capsule in the parking lot of our corporate office in Artesia to be opened in the year 2053 on our 150th anniversary.
As part of the preparation of our anniversary we embarked on the journey of gathering memorabilia to be enclosed in the time capsule. Our vault was filled with files, ledgers, photos, newspaper articles, advertising and many more treasures from our long history of banking.
Of special note, one of the officers listed below, Brent Hammett began his career in 1968 and is still an employee of the bank. Brent is now a Senior Vice President and celebrated his 50th anniversary in 2018.
The Hammett’s have a very long history with our bank as Brent’s father, C. F. Hammett, Sr. Vice President was also an officer. The elder Hammett worked for The First National Bank for thirty-five years, from 1945 to 1980.
So, between father and son they have over 87 years of service to the bank and we have two of the most loyal and dedicated employees in our history.
History of the Bank
The following information was most likely compiled by the board of directors secretary, detailing the bank’s history to the current date of February, 1978.
The First National Bank of Artesia is older than the city itself, having been issued its charter On Nov. 24, 1903. New Mexico was then a territory, becoming a State In 1912.
The first officers of the bank were R. M. Ross, President; John S. Major, Vice President; A. L. Norfleet, Cashier; and Directors Charles B. McCluskey and S. W. Gilbert.
No buildings were available at the time the bank received its charter and the establishment was unable to open for business until February of the following year.
However the infant bank’s first home – which also was the first brick building to be constructed in Artesia – had been started a month before the charter was issued and The First National Bank opened its doors on February 2, 1904.
At the close of business the first day deposits totaled $67,127.59. The population of the town, which was to become Artesia, at that time was about 1,000 persons.
The cornerstone of the bank’s first building in Artesia was laid October 24, 1903, when the first load of building stone arrived from a quarry near Roswell. The initial building was located at 305 W. Main St. The capital of the newly formed bank was $25,000 this consisted of 250 shares worth $100 each. All of the stock was subscribed for, almost half by Artesia interests.
In 1931 The First National Bank and the old Citizen’s State Bank, which was chartered in 1919, merged to form one banking institution. The consolidated bank retained the name of The First National Bank, but moved to the location of the Citizen’s State Bank which was then located in the building 301 W. Main St.
Officers and directors following the merger were J.E. Robertson; President; C. E. Mann, Vice President; l. B. Feather, Cashier; Fred Cole, Assistant Cashier; W. M. Lindell, Assistant Cashier and directors Rex Wheatley, E. A. Cahoon, Mark A. Corbin, J. H. Jackson, and D. W. Runyan, and Robertson and Mann.
Cole and Feather joined the firm in 1923 and 1917 respectively. Cole was with Citizen’s State Bank before the merger and Feather was with The First National Bank.
Employees of The First National Bank in 1934 were J. H. Flint, President; Fred Cole, Asst. Cashier; Jennie Beth Bishop, Bookkeeper; L. B. Feather, Cashier; Kathryn Mertaugh, Bookkeeper; Hollis G. Watson, Vice President; W. M. Linell, Asst. Cashier.
The officers of the bank in August, 1955 were Ross Sears, Chairman of the Board; Charles K. Johnson, President; L. B. Feather, Vice President; Fred Cole, Vice President; C. F. Hammett, Cashier; Martha Broocke, Asst. Cashier; George H. Ferriman, Asst. Cashier; Vernon Watson, Asst. Cashier; Bill Hart, Asst. Cashier; and Directors Stanley Carper, Charles R. Martin, Fred Cole, J. B. Runyan, L. B. Feather, Ross Sears, Jess Funk, T. J. Sivley, Clyde Guy, J. L. Taylor, Chas. K. Johnson, J. S. Ward, A. W. Langenegger, Neil B. Watson, Harvey E. Yates.
Bank deposits in June 30, 1955 totaled $10,545,981.08 as compared to $6,127.59 on opening day February 2, 1904, deposits on January 11, 1905 totaled $96,492.69.
As of February, 1978 the following are the officers of The First National Bank:
Chas. K. Johnson, President
C. Neal Johnson, Presidential Assistant
C. F. Hammett, Sr. Vice President
Vernon Watson, Vice President
David T. Simons, Vice President
George H. Ferriman, Cashier-Trust Officer
Floyd E. Hall, Vice President
Brent Hammett, Asst. Vice President
Bill R. Carpenter, Asst. Vice President
Kimerick F. Hayner, Asst. Trust Officer
Marjorie Martin, Asst. Cashier
Nelda Price, Asst. Cashier
Wanda Biehl, Asst. Cashier
Sharon Smith, Asst. Cashier
Board of Directors
Chas. K. Johnson, Chairman of the Board
T. E. Brown, Jr.
C. F. Hammett
C. Neal Johnson
A. W. Langenegger
Chas R. Martin
J. B. Runyan
David T. Simons
T. J. Sivley
W. H. Waldrip
J. S. Ward
Neil B. Watson
Harvey E. Yates
Fred Cole, Director Emeritus
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The First National Bank Archive Photos