Banker's shotgun on display
by CSurridge
Oct 10, 2011 | 1383 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Working in a bank in the 1890s and early 1900s one would expect a banker to be armed.

After all, this is the era of the Dalton Gang and Butch Cassidy robbing trains and banks.

Luther Cortelyou Jr. may have found himself in that position in the late 1890s when he took his first job as a banker in a small, one-room bank in Indian Territory in Oklahoma, said Great Southern Bank vice president Montie Taylor.

Taylor’s belief stems from the discovery of an antique double-barrel shotgun in an old upper vault inside the bank, which was formerly the First National Bank.

Cortelyou's job as a banker in Indian Territory was "to live in the bank building, which had dirt floors, and protect the money day and night," Taylor said. "We believe this shotgun played a part in his doing that."

Cortelyou moved to Parsons around 1910, taking a position as a teller with First National Bank when it was at the corner of 18th and Broadway. Cortelyou worked in every position in the bank until he was named president.

"He worked here until 1965, when they literally carried him out the front door," Taylor said. "This gun is a really unique piece of history when you couple it with Cortelyou. He had a long life here in Parsons, which is really fascinating. Not many people worked for 60 years in a job back then. There are still a few customers out there that remember Mr. Cortelyou."

First National Bank was established in 1871 and was relocated to the corner of 18th and Main in 1923. Taylor, who has worked at the bank for 25 years, said they were aware the old shotgun was in the vault, but had never given it much consideration until bank staff was recently cleaning out the vaults.

An admitted history buff, Taylor was telling a friend of his about the shotgun stored in the vault. His friend asked him to send the shotgun to him so he could research it. Reportedly, the shotgun was made by gunsmith Thomas John Albright in St. Louis, Mo., and dates to the 1850s. His friend cleaned up the weapon, enclosed it in a display box, and returned it to Taylor telling him to display it in the bank.

"We don't know, but can only surmise that the old, double-barreled shotgun may have played a role in providing security and protection for Mr. Cortelyou and his bank," a plaque below the now displayed shotgun states.

Mary Ann Keller, a long-time cashier for the former First National Bank, helped provide some of the background on Cortelyou. Keller was the last person hired by Cortelyou before he died in 1965.

On the same wall as the shotgun are displayed other pieces of history pulled from the bank's main vault: A $100 national currency bill, featuring Benjamin Franklin, issued between 1929-1935, and a $50 national currency bill featuring Ulysses S. Grant, issued between 1929 and 1935. The national currency bills bear the name of the First National Bank of Parsons and the bank's old charter number 1951.

"You could go to the Federal Reserve and request to have your own bills printed with your name on them. The bills are legal tender," Taylor said.

In addition to the bills, a $20 currency note issued between 1882 and 1902, one of only 14,500 made, is displayed. Also, two checks written in January 1873 to the First National Bank, signed by Angel Mattheson, "a big time instigator in the establishment of Parsons," Taylor said. "One check is for $4,000 and the other is for $6,000. That was a lot of money back then."

The bank also found numerous sheets of stamps from the 1938 presidential series. Displayed are 1 cent stamps, featuring George Washington, and old 2 cent stamps featuring John Adams.

"We thought those were rather unique, and they have obviously been well preserved, so we decided to display them as well," Taylor said.

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