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Classic Ashland bank survives
By Mark Hotz
June 30, 2017

For this month’s article, I perused my file of vintage photos of national banks for one that was both appealing and still standing. More often that not, an attractive national bank that existed in 1920 no longer stands in its small town. I was rewarded when I looked at Ashland, Neb., a town we will visit this month.

Ashland is a small city in Saunders County, smack-dab in the center of the eastern part of the state. Saunders County was established by an 1856 act of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature and later organized in 1866; its boundaries were redefined in 1858.

The county was originally named after John C. Calhoun. In 1862, during the Civil War, it was renamed after Nebraska territorial Gov. Alvin Saunders. The county itself has a small population of just around 20,000. Ashland’s current population hovers around 2,500.

Ashland is just 24 miles northeast of the state capital, Lincoln, and easily reached off of Interstate 80, at the junction of U.S. Route 6 and State Route 66.

The name of Ashland was given to the town by a Mr. Argyle. It is said that he was a great admirer of Henry Clay and as he was attracted by the beauty of the scenery and the advantages of the location for a town site, he accordingly had named it Ashland in honor of the home of his ideal statesman, Clay. Ashland was formally organized at its first meeting, held March 4, 1870, and reorganized as a city of the second class on April 16, 1878. 

At this time Ashland faced the same situation as Wahoo and many other towns over the state. The legislature passed an act in 1879, making it necessary for a city to have a population of 1,500 inhabitants in order to retain its franchise as a city of the second class. The best Ashland could do was 1,100 inhabitants and so the city administration died and April 8, 1880, Ashland was organized as a village. In 1886, Ashland again returned the second-class status and has so remained.

The first bank in Ashland was a private bank operated by the Simongton Brothers. This was in 1871. It was succeeded by the Bank of Ashland, with John R. Clark, cashier of the First National Bank of Lincoln, as president, and Samuel Waugh as cashier. This bank continued in business for two or three years. Then came the First National Bank in 1873, charter 2121, organized by John Simongton with a capital stock of $25,000. The bank ran until 1883 but then liquidated at the beginning of 1876. In March, 1883, John R. Clark, D.D. Cooley, John Fitzgerald, O.M. Carter and Samuel Waugh organized the National Bank of Ashland, charter 2921, with a capital of $50,000. A building was constructed in 1889.

The First National Bank of Ashland issued a paltry sum of $54,000 in Original Series notes of the $1, $2 and $5 denominations. Just $300 was outstanding in 1910; a single note is reported. The aforementioned National Bank of Ashland was basically the town’s sole major bank for over 50 years. It issued Brown Backs, all types of Series 1902 notes, and both types of small-size issues.

Its total circulation over this long period was just over $1 million, of which $60,000 was outstanding when the bank went into receivership in July 1934. Its notes are not particularly rare, with over 15 large and 40 small reported. I have included photos of both large and small issues from this bank.

In 1889, as mentioned, the National Bank of Ashland opened a rather grandiose structure in town at the corner of Silver and 15th streets. The building had a large granite double-arched entrance way with small column, and a huge superstructure on the roof. After the bank closed in 1934, the building eventually became home to the Citizens National Bank of Ashland (non-note issuing). Today, it houses the Lutton Law Offices.

The building still has most of its original vintage appearance. The entrance way has been closed up and the column removed, and the roof superstructure was either deliberately removed or destroyed by a tornado.

Compare the various photos and see for yourself. The vintage photo shows the building as it appeared circa 1915.

In 1883, E.A. Wiggenhorn started in the private banking business. In 1904, the bank, known as the Farmers & Merchants, was incorporated as a state bank with E.A. Wiggenhorn as president and H.A. Wiggenhorn as cashier. Its building was located diagonally across from the Ashland National Bank. In 1930, this bank elected for national bank status and received charter 13435. It issued a smattering of Series of 1929 Type 2 notes only, in the denominations of $10, $20 and $50. Although the total issue was just $50,000, a large number of its notes remain for collectors, with nearly 50 in the census. I have included a photo of a note from this bank as well as a photo of the bank building as it appears today in Ashland, still operating as the Farmers & Merchants Bank.

Ashland today has become a quaint bedroom community for Lincoln, and houses the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum as well as the I-80 Motor Speedway.

Readers may address questions or comments about this article or National Bank Notes in general to Mark Hotz directly by email at

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