The Bank of Hartington, Nebraska was founded in 1934 by Emmett William Rossiter with capital of $25,000 and a surplus of $5,000. This was a very small margin to absorb losses in those perilous times of depression. Through Emmett Rossiter's personal legal knowledge, he was able to save Decatur bank when depression conditions nearly caused its closure. Emmett sold his stock in the Walthill bank, moved the Decatur charter to Hartington (1,660 population) and purchased the defunct bank building of the former First National Bank; the three previous banks in Hartington had all failed.
The year that the bank opened, corn which was the principal crop of the area was at a low price of 10 to 20 cents a bushel. There was a complete crop failure that year and as a result, the price of corn rose to $1.00 a bushel the following year. A loan that defaulted at the bank in 1934 had as its principal security 5,000 bushels of corn. When the price went up as a result of the 1934 crop failure, the man was able to pay off the loan. This enabled the Bank of Hartington to get through the year of 1935. The next year, in 1936, corn dropped to about 25 cents a bushel and there was another crop failure. But the Bank again weathered through. Today it is a well-capitalized country bank with total resources of approximately $80,000,000.
Emmett Rossiter, born in Bancroft, Nebraska, son of Albert Rossiter and Mary McKeegan, first entered banking in 1915, when he and his brother organized the Winnebago State Bank at Winnebago, Nebraska. Emmett moved to Winnebago and his brother Burt Rossiter, continued to operate the real estate firm at Walthill, Nebraska. In 1917 Emmett founded the State Bank of Decatur at Decatur, Nebraska. When a bank in the small town of Rosalie, Nebraska failed during the depression, Emmett Rossiter was asked to start a bank there; he was the president, the cashier and the clerk. He had bought some stock in the First National Bank of Walthill. He was operating three banks in towns within a few miles of each other. As the depression deepened, the Rosalie bank was merged with the First National Bank of Walthill. The Decatur bank fell to deposits of only $8,000. There were many runs on the cash of banks; Emmett was proud of the fact that no depositor of any of his banks lost their money.
Three employees were hired for the opening of the Bank of Hartington, including Emmett's son, Lawrence Rossiter. Emmett drew no salary. Lawrence started at a salary of $75 a month. Emmett told his sons, Lawrence and Vincent that no banker could hope to live on a salary a bank could pay. Edgar Hoar, past vice-president of the Bank of Hartington, who worked with Emmett from 1919, remarked that Emmett had drawn no salary from the State Bank of Decatur from the day it was founded in 1917. He made his income from real estate and insurance sales, as did his sons in the early years.
Emmett was the prime mover in organizing the Hartington Chamber of Commerce, and set it up to operate on an annual budget of $5,000. In 1943 he established the first rural Blue Cross group in the United States, operating it as a service and realizing no revenue from it except in terms of the good will that it created for the bank. He was the lone Democrat banker in the State of Nebraska. There are a dozen businesses operating in Hartington today that received their original capital from the Bank of Hartington. Money for college education was always loaned.