The Farmers National Bank of Lebanon had its origin in the office of T.S. Edelen on February 6, 1890, when he and several other citizens decided that Marion County needed another bank.
It didn't take long for these men of action to get the new bank in operation as the doors opened for business on April 1 of that year with capital of $50,000.
Signing the Articles of Association were eleven men named to the Board of Directors, including some of the outstanding businessmen in the community. Judge R.A. Burton was selected the first president, Theo B. Spalding was named vice president, and S.B. Bottom was named cashier.
Serving on the Board of Directors with the three officers were R.N. Wathen, Charles Beaven, L.C. Rawlings, T.S. Roberts, G.C. Hamilton, Dr. R.C. McChord, T. Horace Clelland and Lewis Edelen.
Prominent stockholders when the bank opened included: former Governor J. Proctor Knott; distillers J.W. Dant and Charles Kobert; and Lebanon businessman B.J. Molohon.
The bank was housed in rented quarters on Main Street and it was not until 1917 that the property was purchased by the bank.
Judge Burton ably served as president until his death in 1899, when he was succeeded by R.N. Wathen, a Director from the inception of the bank. During Wathen's tenure, the Federal Reserve System was established and in 1914 the bank made application to become a member.
Wathen served until 1919 when Dr. R.C. McChord was named president. Dr. McChord, noted physician and surgeon, was the owner and operator of Elizabeth Hospital which opened in 1899 at Main and Harrison. It is an apartment dwelling today.
When S.B. Bottom died in 1919, F.L. Dant was named cashier and remained in that position until March of 1927 when he was elected to the office of Marion County Court Clerk. J. LaMotte Spalding, the brother of former Marion National Bank president, Sam B. Spalding, was named to succeed Dant as cashier.
During the early twenties, the Board of Directors had plans drawn for a new bank building but after receiving bids on construction costs, the plans were rejected. At the height of the depression, Farmers National Bank remained sound while many banks across the country were closing their doors. Total assets stood at $289,000.
Dr. McChord's tenure lasted for 14 years until he stepped down as president in 1933 to be succeeded by George W. Dant, the son of charter stockholder and widely known J.W. Dant. At the same meeting in which Dant was named president, J.D. Clark, who later became president, was named to the Board of Directors.
Dant served with distinction until his death in 1943 during World War II. His successor was B.J. Molohon who served as the bank's chief executive until 1950.
The bank's real growth years were just around the corner as T.E. Spragens, Sr. was named president to succeed Molohon. Spragens had served the bank for nearly thirty years since being named bookkeeper in 1922 and cashier in 1932.
When Spragens, known by most everyone as "Mr. Gene," took over the bank in 1950, the assets were $3,243,075. Under his leadership, the Board of Directors agreed to a major remodeling of the bank which was the first significant change in the physical appearance of the bank in its 66-year history. A new front was designed, the entire interior of the structure was renovated, and a new vault featuring a 3½ ton stainless steel door was installed.
Spragens Sr. was called by his friends "a very good banker who never lost touch with his customers." He had a desk out in the open in the bank and was always very accessible to his customers. In 1959, he moved up to the newly created position of Chairman of the Board, a position he held until his death in 1986. J.D. Clark was named president and T.E. Spragens, Jr., who had been at the bank since 1957, was named cashier.
The bank, in 1964, purchased the Masonic building lot on W. Main Street which joined its then current location. Plans were initiated for construction of a new building which was occupied for the first time in 1966. The beautiful new colonial structure was an immediate hit in the community with its warm and friendly atmosphere, which featured the president's desk just off the main lobby where he could be seen and see customers as had long been the tradition at Farmers National Bank.
Another feature, which was well received in the community, was the beautifully landscaped mall with a fountain adjacent to the bank. This park-like atmosphere has greatly enhanced the downtown area.
As the bank moved into its new facilities in 1966, its total assets had grown to over $6 million! As the seventies arrived, the total assets of the bank had grown to over $8 million and a branch bank was built in the Lebanon Trade Center in 1974.
The leadership of T.E. Spragens and J.D. Clark had moved the Farmers National Bank into the modern day world of banking and the bank was primed for new leadership when, in 1977, T.E. "Gene" Spragens, Jr., assumed the presidency.
Young "Gene" took over a bank which was noted for its warm, open atmosphere and said, at the time he accepted the presidency, that it would be his policy to build upon the fine traditions of the past. And such has been the case as Farmers National Bank has continued to grow and develop without losing the personal touch for which it has been widely acclaimed.
During his tenure, Gene watched the bank experience its most dramatic growth as the total assets have grown from $15 million to over $90 million. And during the eighties he led the movement to purchase the "Clydes Shoe Store" building adjacent to the bank mall, which was occupied in 1988 after extensive remodeling to hold the loan department offices and the directors’ room.
In 1982, young Gene made an offer to purchase controlling interest in the bank, acting as agent for a bank holding company to be formed.
It was announced at the time if young Gene were successful in his quest, he and his father would control more than 80% of the outstanding shares.
He was successful and at the time announced that not only would he retain the current Board of Directors but would ask them to serve as directors of the holding company as well.
The Board was composed of Sam May, Charles Lancaster, Robert Spragens, Jr., J.T. Whitlock and William J. Rogers, along with Spragens and his father.
Gene continued a long tradition of banking in the Spragens family. His grandfather, W.A. Spragens, got his start in banking in Hustonville serving as a charter member of the Board of the Peoples Bank of Hustonville when it opened for business in 1906.
He moved to Lebanon and was named to the Farmers National Bank Board of Directors in 1924 and served for 24 years.
Gene's father spent 65 years at the bank holding every position and other members of the Spragens family have served the bank in various positions.
Former Marion Circuit Judge W.H. Spragens succeeded his father, W.A. Spragens, as a member of the Board of Directors in 1948 and served in this capacity until his death in 1964. His son, Robert M. Spragens, served on the Board of Directors from 1964 until 1977. His son, Robert M. Spragens, Jr., succeeded him on the Board of Directors.
Another son of W.A. Spragens, D.B. Spragens, worked at the bank from 1948 until his retirement in 1971 as vice president.
On August 4, 2005, after a long and successful career with the Bank, Gene Spragens passed away unexpectedly.
On Monday, August 22, 2005, the Board of Directors of The Farmers National Bank of Lebanon officially elected George B. Spragens Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, and President.
The youngest son of T. E. Spragens, Jr., George B. Spragens has worked in banking since 1993 where he started at Central Bank & Trust after completing a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting at the University of Kentucky. In December of 1994, he returned home to join the staff of Farmers National Bank. Subsequently, he was named Internal Auditor (1996), elected to the Board of Directors (1999), and named Executive Vice President (2001). Spragens is also a 1996 graduate of the Kentucky Bankers Association Graduate School of Banking at the University of Louisville and a 1999 graduate of the Graduate School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University.
George Spragens contributes to the community and state through his many and varied volunteer positions. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the University of Kentucky Alumni Association. He has also served the South Central Kentucky University of Kentucky Alumni Club since 1994 in many capacities including Steering Committee, Treasurer, Vice President, and President. He is also a current member of the Lebanon/ Marion County Rotary Club. Spragens has a real passion for working with youth in sports and has volunteered his time in many capacities including coaching the Marion County High School Freshmen boys basketball team.
George B. Spragens was the sixth generation of Spragens to live in Marion County. His great-great-great-grandfather, James Spragens, settled near Gravel Switch around 1800. His great-great-grandfather, William Spragens, operated what is now Penn's Store near Forkland in the 1840s.
Effective January 1, 2016, George B. Spragens relinquished the title of President and assumed the title of Chairman of the Board and CEO.
Also, on January 1, 2016 Melissa Lee Knight became the bank's tenth president and its first female president. Knight joined the bank in 2003 as Director of Marketing and was named Vice President in 2009. She has exensive experience in the bank's operations, product development, and customer service as well as human resources. Knight graduated from Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate and Organizational Communication and worked for IBM in California before returning to Marion County. She obtained a Master of Business Administration from Campbellsville University and a certification in entrepreneurship/business coaching from the University of Kentucky Entrepreneurial Coaches Institute. She has expanded her knowledge and skills in the banking industry by graduating from the Kentucky Bankers Association General Banking School and the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.
Knight is an active member of the community, serving in recent years on the board of directors for the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, Lebanon Main Street Board, Centre Square Foundation Board, Marion County Judicial Development Board, MC Country Ham Days Committee, Lebanon Kiwanis Club, and assisted in planning the City's 2015 year-long Bicentennial activities. Recently, as a board member of the Working the Puzzle for Autism, she assisted in the opening of Lebanon's new Autism Center.
Knight is a 2005 graduate of Leadership Lebanon/Marion County. In 2015 she was accepted into the prestigious Leadership Kentucky program, an educational organization which brings together a selected group of people that possess a broad variety of leadership abilities, career accomplishments, and volunteer activities to gain insight into complex issues facing the state.
She is married to William A. Knight, III, and together they have three sons.
Bank Appearance Has Changed Through the Years
When Judge R.A. Burton, the bank's first president, and S.B. Bottom, the first cashier, went looking for a location for the bank in 1890, they found quarters on Main Street which served the bank for 76 years until today's structure was completed.
The original location, where the bank mall is today, was rented from F.H. Lanham and John Barr. It was not until 1917 that the bank purchased the property at auction on the Courthouse steps for the grand amount of $6,400.
Improvements were made over the years, particularly to the heating system, but it was not until 1956 that a major renovation was done. The complete interior, as well as the exterior, was redone. New floors were added, the building was completely air conditioned, new counters were added, new fittings and fixtures were installed, an attractive director's room was added, and a new vault was built which featured a 3 1/2 ton stainless steel door.
The exterior of the bank was changed rather dramatically using aluminum and glass with the name of the bank spelled out in illuminated letters across the top of the window treatment.
The Masonic Building, which was adjacent to the current main bank building, burned and the lot was purchased in 1964, along with the Boner-Campbell lumber yard facing Mulberry Street.
As the bank approached its 75th birthday in 1965, plans were underway for construction of a new building which was completed in 1966. The new structure, which is the main portion of the bank today, was of colonial design to fit into the architecture of mid-town Lebanon. A unique feature of the new design was a landscaped mall built on the site of the original bank building. The mall, which includes a beautiful fountain and statues, added a dimension to Main Street unlike anything which had been done before.
The new building, with stately columns, features a large lobby with teller cages on the left as you enter and the president's desk on the right along with offices. The vault faces the front door and a full lower level is used for record keeping and computer operations.
In 1973, the bank reported resources of over $10.7 million and it was decided that a branch bank should be built. So it was in 1974 that a branch was added in the Lebanon Trade Center in a newly-built structure compatible with the colonial design of the downtown bank.
Expansion of the downtown property also was on the agenda in 1974, as the bank bought property facing Mulberry Street adjacent to its parking lot, from the J. Heber Lewis Oil Co.
The new property not only provided for 21 additional parking spaces, but greatly improved the traffic flow from the bank's drive-in window. The area was beautifully landscaped to make it compatible with the adjacent mall area.
Then, in 1982, the bank purchased the Clyde's Shoe Store building next to its mall area. The building was remodeled in 1988 and became the location of the loan department. Also located in the beautifully appointed building are additional offices and the directors room.
Expansion continued in 1998 with the renovation of a building adjacent to the Clyde’s Shoe Store location which was home to Molohon’s Store for many years. This building now houses a large record vault for the loan department, executive office, conference room and sitting/lounge area. At this same time, the drive-up facility at the main office was also expanded to provide walk-up service, three convenient drive-thru lanes, and an Automated Teller Machine.
In the fall of 2000, a copper roofed, colonnaded canopy was constructed on the plaza area between the main building and the loan department. This centennial project marks the bank’s continuing efforts to enhance its facilities in order to provide its customers, staff and community with an attractive, safe and welcoming environment. Chartered in 1890, the bank can now boast that it has served the community in parts of three centuries.
December 2, 2012, the bank hosted the grand opening of a newly constructed branch at 2160 Campbellsville Highway in the Wal-Mart shopping center. (The small branch at 760 West Main Street was simultaneously closed.) The new spacious building was designed to mirror the Main Bank’s signature columns and architectural style, but with modern features like drive up lanes that face the tellers. The drive ups even include two-way video. The inside was designed to be light and welcoming to customers with two offices dedicated to lending.
In 2015, while celebrating the Bank’s 125th anniversary, the lobby of the Main Office will be renovated.
Farmers National Bank, through technological advancements, improved facilities, and its invaluable human resources, continues to look for new ways to serve a growing and prosperous community.