One of the earliest financial institutions in Jessamine County was the Farmers Exchange Bank, located on the corner of Main and Walnut Streets in Nicholasville. As with many individuals and businesses, they experienced financial hardships during the depression of the late 1920’s early 1930’s. Due to these pressures, The Farmers Exchange Bank became illiquid and closed its doors for good in early October of 1934.
In early October of 1934, Robert D. Jeter then working at of the Kentucky Department of Banking, came to Nicholasville to audit and appraise the assets of the defunct Exchange Bank.
During the next month, Mr. Jeter was contacted by Banking Commissioner J.R Dorman about starting a bank in town. Only thirty days after negotiation for its formation began in earnest, on the morning of December 1, 1934, The Farmers Bank opened its doors for business with $10,000 in capital.
To commemorate the event, the Jessamine Journal published a “Farmers Bank Special Edition”. The paper included well wishes from businesses and individuals in both Jessamine and Fayette Counties.
The founders of the bank were Robert D. Jeter, chairman of the board, executive vice president and cashier; Dennis B. Blackford, president; Larkin D. Fain, Robert M. Hunter, Dr. J. A. VanArsdall, Attorney R. L. Bronaugh , Charles Oldham and Tom Scott.
In 1945, William Stone Dale was nominated to serve on the board of directors. A requirement to serve on the board is that individuals had to own a minimum of ten (10) shares of stock. Mr. Dale’s father gave him the ten (10) shares needed to hold his position. In 1951, Mr. Dale became Chairman of the Board and became the bank president in 1965. During this time, he would buy additional shares of stock as they become available and eventually accumulated enough to become the majority shareholder, which he remained until his death in 1999. Mr. Dale’s son, LeRoy Land Dale is currently the majority shareholder of the bank and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
On Monday, January 17, 1955, at approximately 1:30 a.m. an earth shattering blast awoke the town of Nicholasville. An attempt to break into the Farmers Bank vault had gone horribly awry.
Someone had meticulously followed the Town Branch creek, which traveled underneath the bank, to a point closest to the vault. They estimated how much additional tunneling would be required from the waterway to reach the vault area. After digging approximately 60 feet, a massive charge of nitroglycerin was positioned underneath the vault and ignited. The blast shook windows for several city blocks. A substantial portion of the exterior of the building facing Walnut Street was scattered across the street and most of the furnishings were reduced to rubble. Building inspectors found the premises to be uninhabitable. The bank opened a temporary location in the S.J. Yearly Lumber Yard until the building could be razed and a new one constructed in its place. The store adjacent to the bank, Martin’s Department Store, received only minor damage and was allowed to reopen for business within days. This was not the first attempt to gain access to the bank vault in this manner. Earlier, (it is not known whether it was a day or a week or more prior to January 17) a smaller charge was placed in the tunnel and ignited. This blast did not cause significant damage, apparently prompting the robbers to revisit their plan and increase the amount of nitroglycerin being used.
In 1982, the bank purchased several store-front properties from businessman Joe Robb that stood adjacent to the Main Office at 200 North Main Street. These buildings were demolished and Town Branch was re-routed from under the original bank building. The main building was expanded to include several new offices on the first floor, a large board of director’s meeting/conference room; accounting, bookkeeping and customer service departments on the second floor. Behind the main building, a four-lane drive through with canopy was constructed and a parking lot was added between the main building and what was to become Farmers Square. This configuration is maintained to this day.
Farmers Bank operates three branches in the county. The Wilmore Branch was formed in 1935, the year after Farmers-Bank was initially chartered. It operated as “The Wilmore Bank” for many years before changing the name to The Farmers Bank-Wilmore Branch in the 1950’s. In 2007, a portion of Sunny Side Farm in northern Jessamine County was developed into what is known as the Brannon Crossing shopping center. Farmers Bank was one of the initial businesses included by opening a branch location at the main entrance. In 2008, an opportunity presented itself as land became available just off the west by-pass in Nicholasville. In a matter of months, the Bell Place Branch was constructed.
Through the years, the bank building has existed in several different appearances… form the original red brick building that also housed the Farmers Exchange Bank.. to the white building, the building that was nearly destroyed in the blast… to the building that is in existence today.
According to the 1940 census, there were 3,192 residents in Jessamine County. The 2010 census reports that the number of county residents has increased to 28,015. City limits have expanded, communications have been upgraded and all means of transportation have improved. There has been one constant. Farmers Bank is still locally owned and still locally operated.