The Farmers and Merchants (F&M) State Bank, its owners and its employees take great pride in running an efficient and successful business that helps people purchase the items they need to run successful businesses and comfortable lives. In 2020, the bank marked one hundred and ten years since its founding.
In the year of 1910, forty-two local farmers pooled their hard-earned money to create a third bank in the small prairie town of Plankinton. During this time, the automobile had only recently been introduced in the state and horses still pulled the plows. Bank regulations were weak, and people could lose everything if a bank failed. Two years later, that bank merged with another struggling bank in town. With assets continuing to drop, the bank reached out and found a father and son team to take control. Things began to turn around when Fred W. and Henry T. Gerhard purchased the F&M State bank in 1914; a bank that is still owned and managed by their descendants.
In 1919, Fred Gerhard replaced Silas E. Morris as president. Upon Fred’s death in 1924, Henry assumed that role.
While many banks failed in South Dakota in the 1920’s and early 1930’s, this bank held on, took austerity measures, carefully managed its loan portfolio, refrained from investments in real estate, and emerged in 1933 as the only solvent bank in Aurora County. It took until 1939 for the F&M State Bank to show enough profit to declare its first dividend in twenty years.
Around the same time, state laws changed, allowing branch banking, thereby providing opportunity for expansion. In July of 1941, F&M State Bank opened a branch bank in White Lake, bringing full-service banking to that city for the first time in almost ten years. Marion Oltmans, previously employed in a Stickney bank, was recruited as branch manager to open the business in the former First National Bank building.
When Henry Gerhard died in 1960, the bank had operated for fifty years with Henry as president for thirty-six of them. Ruth Ann Page, the only child of Henry Gerhard, then inherited majority ownership upon his death. At the annual meeting in January 1961, Ruth Ann's husband, Hershell R. Page, was elected president, while she assumed the office of vice president. Henry passed along a strong bank to his successor, who managed the bank for another thirty-six years. In 2020, Hershell, at ninety-five years old, continued to serve on the board of directors. As president, Hershell grew the bank from $4.4 million with $1.1 million in loans to $40.2 million with $18.09 million in loans. Under his leadership, the bank changed its character from one that was primarily a depository institution to one that was a strong lending institution.
Hershell’s son, Thomas R. Page, took over the helm for five years, starting in 1992, and made a significant contribution moving the bank forward into the age of computer technology. The current president, Ron Kristensen, has continued the tradition of running a strong and successful community bank that has grown over $110 million in assets. Charles Christensen manages the White Lake location.
F&M State Bank originally operated out of banking rooms at the Opera House (today’s South Dakota Mail annex), moving to the site of the Commercial State Bank of Plankinton (today's City Hall) after the two banks merged. In 1919, the bank directors voted to erect a new bank building on the southwest corner of Main and First Street in Plankinton (current bank location). The new bank opened in 1920, costing the bank nearly as much as its capital stock holdings of $25,000. The White Lake operations moved to a new building in 1964, next door to its previous location. In Plankinton, the bank was completely remodeled and expanded in 1969, adding several new offices and a comfortable lobby with a new seating area.
A little more than ten years later, more space was needed, and a second addition was completed in 1981. The bank expanded the White Lake building and completely remodeled the interior in 1997. In Plankinton, a boardroom was completed in 2000, and the computer room updated in 2003. As recently as 2019, the bank in Plankinton updated its exterior. These fine buildings symbolize the commitment of the F&M State Bank to its customers and their future.
The current Board of Directors includes four members of the family whose ownership started in 1914, Hershell R. Page, Thomas R. Page, Jane A. Page, and James M. Page. Ron Kristensen and Charles Christensen complete the board of six directors who meet monthly to provide guidance and oversight in the management of the bank.
Today, the bank’s fifteen full-time employees continue the tradition of offering friendly service, performing with high expertise, and providing the quality loans and financial services that support the people, farms and businesses in the Plankinton, White Lake, and surrounding communities.
The president of Farmers & Merchants State Bank, Ron Kristensen, on behalf of the directors, owners and employees of the bank, would like to thank their customers and the communities of Plankinton and White Lake for support over the years: “The bank could not have succeeded without the confidence and loyalty of our customers and our area communities. When you invest your savings and trust in our bank, we invest in you and your hopes and dreams. Our relationship together helps build success and happiness for each other. We hope to continue to serve you and your families in the next hundred years as we have in the past hundred years.”