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History of Hartington, NE.

Hartington, like many Nebraska towns, is located where it is because of the distance a steam engine train could travel between stops to refuel and take on water – seven to ten miles.  Hartington is seven miles from Coleridge, Nebraska located in the rolling hills of Northeast Nebraska on the extreme Eastern edge of the semi-arid lands of the Great Plains.  It was named for Lord Hartington of England.

In August of 1883 the Northern Nebraska Improvement Company, with Frank Peavey from Wisconsin as president, purchased 520 acres for $ 6,720 from L . M. Howard and J. N. Lemon.  A two-day auction was held September 18-19, and 80 of the 82 lots designated for business locations were purchased.  These lots included a train depot of course.  As families arrived, churches and schools were formed.

The county seat was moved from St. Helena to Hartington by vote of the people on January 20, 1885.  The Cedar County courthouse was built in 1892 by area builder Henry Stuckenhoff at a cost of $19,999.

In September of 1888, a fire started in the basement of Lynde’s livery stable and swept north, destroying nearly two blocks of the business district.  As a result, an ordinance was passed that required all buildings to be constructed of brick or stone, with fire walls between every other building.  Many of the buildings on the north side of Main Street today are those that replaced those destroyed in the fire.  A municipal water system was also inaugurated by the citizens.  This provided fire hydrants in the downtown area and running water to all of the businesses and most of the residential areas.

In 1898, with a population of 1,400, Hartington was incorporated as a second class city, A.B. Gable was elected its first mayor – who ably filled the post for the growing community. 

Our Bank of Hartington History:

The community of Hartington is now a very progressive town of over  1,600 people.  The Bank of Hartington is proud to have been such an integral part of its early beginnings and the many other successes the community has had over the years.  The history of the Bank of Hartington began in Winnebago, Nebraska.  Emmett William Rossiter, born in Bancroft, Nebraska, son of Albert Rossiter and Mary McKeegan, first entered banking in 1915.  He and his brother Bert organized the Winnebago State Bank.  Emmett moved to Winnebago while his brother remained in Decatur continuing to operate the real estate firm they had owned together in Walthill.  In 1917 Emmett founded the State Bank of Decatur located in Decatur, Nebraska.  During the same time another bank failed in the nearby town of Rosalie, Nebraska.  Emmett was asked to start a bank there also, which he did, becoming the president, the cashier and the clerk.  He also bought stock in the First National Bank of Walthill and subsequently managed that operation too.  Emmett was managing three banks, at the beginning of his career, within just a few miles of each other.   As the Great Depression deepened, the Rosalie bank was merged with the First National Bank of Walthill which the family continued to own and operate.  The Decatur bank fell to deposits of only $ 8,000 and there were many runs on the bank but Emmett was always proud of the fact that no depositor of any of his banks ever lost a dime.  

In 1934 during the depths of the Great Depression,  Mr. Rossiter made the decision to move the bank's charter out of Decatur to the Cedar County seat town of Hartington, Nebraska and thus the Bank of Hartington was officially established.  It was a tough decision to make in those desperate times but it was necessary.  Emmett and his wife June Hitchcock Rossiter, with the approval of the state and federal regulators, moved their bank charter and their family to Hartington.   Hartington had been without a bank for three years after all the banks in town failed.  He purchased the two-story  First National Bank of Hartington building that had failed around 1931. For over three years the Hartington merchants had to extend credit and handle all of the banking business themselves.  

The bank was founded with $ 25,000 in assets and $ 5,000 in capital.  The bank survived those difficult years due to the tenacity of its founder.  Emmett was one of the founders of the Hartington Chamber of Commerce as it is known today.  In 1943 Mr. Rossiter established the first rural Blue Cross/Blue Shield group in the United States, operating the service out of the bank and realizing no revenue from it except for the good will that it created for the institution.  He was the lone democratic banker in the State of Nebraska in his day.  There are at least a dozen businesses operating in Hartington today that received their start up loans from the Bank of Hartington dating back to those times.  Money for a college education was always a priority to the Rossiter family and still is.  Today, the Bank of Hartington continues to originate student loans for those in need.  

After Emmett’s untimely death in 1951, at the age of 63, Vincent Emmett Rossiter, Sr. was named the president of the bank.  Vince was only 37 years old when his father passed away.  Vince worked his way up the bank ladder from the teller line to the position of President/CEO and was very proud to be a second generation banker.  Vince was very active in the State of Nebraska Democratic party and traveled the country fighting for the family farmer.  He was a member of N.O.R. M  - The National Organization of Raw Materials.  This organization promotes parity, the idea that commodity prices should cover the costs of farming and provide a decent livelihood for family farms, and axiom that Vince passed down to his children and grandchildren.  The N.O.R.M. organization is still active today.  Farming families have always been, and continue to be, the backbone of our small rural communities.  The Bank of Hartington will always advocate for family farming and local businesses and the way of life that the people who farm and work to support these farmers and businesses live. 

As a family owned business, like many in this small town, the Rossiter family descendants continue to own and direct the business of the bank.  Vince had three boys that worked in the bank or that managed it at one point in time or another.  They were Vincent Emmett Rossiter, Jr. aka V.E. Rossiter, Max Rossiter and Don Rossiter.  V.E managed the bank in the 80’s while Max managed the institution in the 90’s.   J. ( Joseph ) Scott Schrempp, Vince’s grandson by his daughter Phyllis Rossiter Schrempp and  Leon  V. Schrempp, assumed the duties of bank president/CEO in 2001 at the age of 38.  Scott is still its president and chief executive officer today.   

Scott began his banking career with the bank in 1988 as a bank teller/CSR.   Mr. Schrempp led the bank through many perilous times, taking the reins only 10 days after 9/11.  With the help of the board of directors, Scott built a strong, resilient institution, rejecting practices that led many banks to fail after the housing bubble of 2008 and the subsequent recession. 

With the help of his staff and the approval of his board, Scott was instrumental in expanding the bank's footprint by opening two loan production offices over the last number of years.  The bank opened its first LPO in Niobrara, Nebraska  on March 15, 2011 and its second in Bloomfield, Nebraska  on October 14, 2016.

The Niobrara loan production office was started after President Schrempp received a contact from a company looking to place a local lender in a bank in the area.  Niobrara was too far to drive for this lender, but it was decided that it would be a good idea to build an LPO closer to her.  Scott and his new hire located and eventually remodeling a great office space in a local downtown landmark building.  Today the Niobrara LPO is an intricate part of the bank's business plan and is growing and thriving.     

The second LPO, opened in 2016, was in Bloomfield, Nebraska.   It was evident the town of Bloomfield had a void.  In 2010 the Tier One Bank of Lincoln, Nebraska had failed and was purchased by Great Western Bank.  Great Western's business plan did not including banking in small towns and it subsequently closed some of its small town branches.   This action opened the door for the Bank of Hartington’s second loan production office to be opened.  The Bloomfield LPO is a cutting edge virtual bank offering most in bank services through ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines) which at the time were some of the first in the state of Nebraska.  Today the decision to open this LPO has been a resounding success. 

Like her father and great grandfathers before her,  Scott’s daughter Emily also works at the bank  and is its 5th generation banker.

The motto coined by Vince’s son Don Rossiter still rings true today, “  Where other banks have their branches, we have our roots!”

Documents used in production of this history:

By Lee Rose, Hartington Librarian, Hartington, NE 68739, with the assistance of Alice Pommer.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: 1899 Plat Book, History of Cedar County, McCoy; and the Hartington Centennial Book.  University of Nebraska Lincoln.

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