009-012 History of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company (annotated)


Dublin Core


009-012 History of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company (annotated)


A typewritten narrative history of Joseph I. Irwin's foundation of Irwin's bank and the growth of the bank under later presidents. Includes a timeline of events from 1871 to 1961. Pencil annotations add information, and correct typos.





In Copyright
The organization making this Item available believes that the Item is in copyright. The organization either is the rights-holder, has obtained permission from the rights-holder(s) to make their Work(s) available, or makes the Item available under an exception or limitation to copyright (including Fair Use) that entitles it to make the Item available.








301 Washington Street (Columbus, Ind.)

Is Part Of

Cline Keller Library General File Collection, Irwin-Union, Bartholomew County Historical Society, Columbus, IN; 301 Washington Street: Cornerstone of Columbus, Indiana (digital collection)

Bibliographic Citation

History of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company (annotated), 1962, Irwin-Union, Cline Keller Library General File Collection, Bartholomew County Historical Society, Columbus, IN.


Bartholomew County Historical Society


Bartholomew County Public Library

Text Item Type Metadata


Four-page typewritten document on onion skin paper

Typewritten text (sheet 1):



Mr. Joseph I. Irwin, the founder of IRWIN’S BANK, came to Columbus in June, 1846 from his farm home in Johnson County, Indiana. He was twenty-two years old and had thirty cents in his pocket which his mother had given him. He went to work for $3.00 per week in Snyder and Alden's dry goods store and remained in their employ for three and one-half years. During this time he had saved enough money to open his own store and on January 1, 1850, began operating his own business.

Mr. Irwin's mercantile business continued to prosper and, since he had the only money safe in town, he used it as a depository for funds of the townspeople and farmers. He told Clessie Cummins, the inventor of the Cummins Diesel, that the first time he realized he was in the banking business was when a farmer presented him with anotew from another farmer written on sycamore bark saying, "Mr. Irwin, please pay Jim Brown $5.00 from my poke in your safe". He was well known through his many business enterprises and during the Civil War acted as a government representative to purchase hogs and grain for the Union Army.

About 1862 he moved to a larger building and expanded his store, continuing to use his safe as a depository for his customers. In 1871 the McEwen Bank in Columbus failed and in that same year Mr. Irwin received a charter for his private bank, IRWIN'S BANK. He purchased the McEwen Bank safe which was much larger than the onehe had been using and continued to expand his banking business. However, even after the bank was chartered, Mr. Irwin did not consider himself primarily as a banker, as he is listed in the 187 State Atlas as a merchant. Bartholomew County Museum has a copy of THE DAILY EVENING REPUBLICAN dated Saturday, November 17, 1877, which carried the following advertisement BANKING HOUSE * JOSEPH I. IRWIN

Is now doing a regular Banking business at his store, 94 Washington Street. Exchange on the principal cities bought and sold at reasonable rates. Business solicited.

One of the oldest residents of Columbus today, remembers going with her mother into Mr. Irwin's store, as a small child. She remembers how fascinated she was with the "big,

Typewritten text (sheet 2):

black safe and desk" which constituted Irwin's Bank in 1874 and 1875. She remembers the safe and desk as being set off from the store by a railing, or an enclosure of some type.

In 1881 Mr. Irwin built a large store building on the corner of Third and Washington Streets and the bank occupied a smallroom in the corner of the store, with a separate entrance on the main street. In 1891, Mr. Joseph I. Irwin sold his store to two employees and gave all his attention to banking and the many other enterprises in which he was interested.

Stories of Mr. Joseph I. Irwin's "banking ideas" are legion. Mr. Wm. E. Marsh, a veteran newspaper reporter, says in his book about Columbus, that Mr. Irwin had a sign posted by the door of his bank which was typical -- "This is a private Bank and I own it. Joseph I. Irwin". He would withhold a small portion of pay checks and deposit it in a savings account for the customer - even against the customer's will, and later the customer always thanked him for teaching a lesson of thrift. Another time a man came into his office to ask for a loan and he was smoking a cigar. Mr. Irwin told him that since he had money to burn, he had no money to loan him. The incidents are truly characteristic, but more important is the fact that Joseph I. Irwin contributed more to the early building of Columbus than any other person. he loaned money to the men in whom he had confidence, and in so doing, he made it possible for men with ideas about business and manufacturing to put their ideas to work. Many incidents are on record where these people felt they were failing and offered to turn their assets over to the bank, but Mr. Irwin had confidence in them and loaned them more money. Some of these businesses, or their successors are in existence today. Up and down ma n street his bank's money went to work and all about town factories sprang up to give people an opportunity to earn a living. In making money for himself, he always contributed to the well-being of his neighbors. At the same time, his private funds were being used to build roads and electric lines to add to the existing railroads. It is said that heassisted in constructing more than forty miles of turnpike roads in Bartholomew County.

The bank continued to grow and in 1889 William Glanton Irwin, son of Joseph I. Irwin, had finished his education and became cashier of Irwin's Bank. Early in 1900 the building was remodeled and fixtures were purchased from the Indiana National Bank which was then

Typewritten text (sheet 3):

remodeling its building in Indianapolis.

On August 13, 1910, Mr. Joseph I. Irwin died and William Glanton Irwin succeeded him as president of Irwin's Bank. He carried on the traditions and ideas in banking and building businesses in Columbus that his father had before him. However, his business ventures were known far and wide and he becamenationally known as a financier, industrialist, and philanthropist. He was,as his father before him, "Mr.Banker" to the people of Columbus. At his death, December 14, 1943, he was, among many other things, president of the Indiana National Bank of Indianapolis and his many abilities were widely acclaimed in the nation's newspapers.

William G. Irwin, wanting to be relieved of some of his heavy responsibilities, and realizing the seriousness of the economic situation in the country early in 1927 and 1928, suggested a merger between his private bank and the Union Trust Company, a strong bank brough about by several mergers. This move gave great strength to Bartholomew County in the depression of the thirties... A good example of the keen insight and ability to look into the future which seemed to be special gift which this banker father and son used to benefit themselves and others of their community.

The following is a chronological accounting of the mergers which have resulted in the present Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company of Columbus, Indiana:

1871 -- Irwin's Bank, chartered

1903 – People’s Savings and Trust Company was organized with M. O. Reeves of Reeves Pulley Company, as president, and L. K. Ong, Cashier.

1916 -- Farmer's Trust Company was organized with John M. Thompson, a prominent farmer as President, and CharlesM. Setser, Cashier.

1922 -- Peoples Savings and Trust Company and Farmer's Trust Company merged to form UNION TRUST COMPANY, using the building of the Farmer's Trust Company. Mr. M. O. Reeves was the first President and Charles M. Setser, Cashier. On February 2, 1924, they moved into their new building on the Southwest corner of 5th and Washington Streets.

1928 -- On April 1st, Irwin's Bank and Union Trust Company merged to form Irwin- union Trust Company, using the new building of the Union Trust Company.

Typewritten text (sheet 4):

William G. Irwin was President, and the Vice-Presidents were chosen from both banks. They included Hugh Th. Miller, husband of Joseph I. Irwin's grand-daughter, Nettie Sweeney Miller; John W. Suverkrup former cashier of Irwin's Bank; William E. Parker, Frank P. Brockman, and Charles M. Setser was cashier, The Secretary, William H. Scott, was originally with the Peoples Savings and Trust Company, so officers represented members of all the banks in the various mergers.

 1953 – On December 4, 1953, the Irwin Union Trust Company name was changed to Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company and the bank was granted a perpetual charter on that date.

1954 – March 1, 1954, the bank moved into its new and very modern building on the northwest corner of Fifth and Washington Streets. Eero Saarinen, a world-famous architect designed the building .

1956 – The Hope State Bank, Hope, Indiana, was purchased by the Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company on June 50, 1956, and on July 17, 1959, moved into a new building on the public square in Hope.

1960 – A branch was opened in the Eastbrook Shopping Center in Columbus on October 1st, and their new building was opened for business on September 7, 1961.

1961 -- A third branch opened on December 5,1961, in a new building at State and Mapleton in East Columbus.

Since the last merger, the bank has had but four presidents; William G. Irwin, who died December 14, 1943; his nephew, Hugh Th. Miller, who died May 26, 1947; Joseph Irwin Miller, great grandson of Joseph I. Irwin, who became Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1953; and S. Edgar Lauther, who was made president at that time.

Present  Officers ????


Unknown, “009-012 History of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company (annotated),” BCPL Archives, accessed May 30, 2024, https://bcplarchives.omeka.net/items/show/158.