With development and growth, every pioneer community felt the need for a bank, and it became part of a village’s beginning. Way back in the late 1890’s, while interested citizens were busy with mass meetings and drafting petitions to incorporate what is now the City of Williston and counting noses for a census, a bustling business was being conducted inside a rustic log shack with a typical old western “false front.” That business was the forerunner of the present American State Bank and Trust Company of Williston.
The history of the American State Bank & Trust Company is old, as history is reckoned in this portion of the Northwest. For the Bank’s ancestry goes back to the foundation of Williston itself, and as Williston grew, the Bank also grew. The first mass meeting of citizens was held on February 18, l894, for the purpose of appointing a committee of five to take steps to organize a town. It was on April 2, 1894, that the interested citizens presented to the county commissioners a petition to incorporate what is now the City of Williston. That petition, and its associated census, lists some familiar names who have been our friends and customers since the city’s beginning.
Our rustic log shack was located where the City of Williston now has a parking lot, across from the Hedderich Building. It was known as the Citizens National Bank, and O. W. Bell, a vice president of our bank for many years, was working there as an assistant cashier, and W. H. Denney was the active manager. The bank was owned by Mr. C. H. Davidson (no relation to W. S. Davidson, Sr.) and Mr. Tom Beiseker.
Mr. W. S. Davidson, Sr. came to Williston April 1, 1906, to work as cashier of the Citizens National Bank. The president at that time was Hank Delaney.
The Citizens National Bank and the First National Bank, which was located where the old Model Clothing Store was (currently the Pro Re Nata store), merged in 1910 keeping the name of the First National Bank and continuing their operation in the same location where the rustic log shack had been. After the merger, C. H. Davidson remained the president. W. S. Davidson, Sr. remained the cashier. J. W. Shaw was vice president and O. W. Bell was the assistant vice president.
In the early twenties, Mr. W. S. Davidson, Sr. and Mr. J. W. Shaw owned banks in Trenton and Springbrook, North Dakota. They moved both banks to Williston and formed the Commercial State Bank. Mr. Davidson and Mr. Shaw retained their positions with the First National Bank. Mr. Davidson and Mr. Shaw sold the Commercial State Bank to J. Arthur Cunningham and his brother Clarence.
In December 1933, because of restructuring, the bank’s name was changed from the First National Bank to the First International Bank.
In April 1936, the bank was reorganized with the Otto Bremer Company, and the bank’s name was then changed to the American State Bank. Mr. W. S. Davidson, Sr. was the president; Mr. M. M. Millhouse was vice president; Mr. O. W. Bell was vice president; Mr. F. E. Stewart was cashier; and Mr. C.O. Harding was assistant cashier.
Plans for the construction of the present-day American State Bank building began to formulate in the fall of 1951, when title was acquired to the property on the corner of Broadway and Main, which was occupied at that time by Anderson’s Bakery and the Diamond Rail Beer Parlor. Ground was broken for the basement on April 15, l955. The new Bank building was in operation in April of l956.
The Bank’s North Station is located at 2523 2nd Avenue West and was opened August 26, l982. This branch has full teller functions and a self-service coin counting machine. The North Station includes a free-standing, 24 hour, drive-up ATM.
In 1984, in response to its continued growth, the Bank purchased the Gambles Store (its neighbor to the south) and renovated this building in order to double the size of the ground floor of the main bank facility. Sixteen years later (2000), an ambitious project was undertaken that resulted in the ground floor of the main bank being completely re-designed and renovated. As a result of this renovation, the main bank facility was transformed into a state-of-the-art bank. The facility upgrade resulted in numerous improvements. Among other things, employees and customers now have access to the latest information technology systems.
Further updating of the Bank’s facilities occurred in the fall of 2006 with the construction of a new drive-up facility that is connected to the back of the main bank facility. The new drive-up includes television monitors, so customers who are sitting in their vehicles may see and communicate with tellers who are located within the main bank facility. It also includes a drive-up ATM that customers can access from their vehicles 24 hours a day.
In terms of information technology (“IT”), the Bank has essentially upgraded all of its IT systems in recent years to remain current and adaptable to current and new technology standards for banks. Among other improvements, the Bank has added internet banking services called NetConnect, replaced its core information processing systems, networked all of its locations, added cash management accounts so businesses may process their payroll function to the Bank, and added check imaging. As an example, employees of the bank (through their work computers) and customers (through the use of internet banking) may look at a customer’s individual check on their computer screen immediately after it is processed by the Bank.
The Bank has also committed itself to providing its customers with the important financial services that they desire. In that regard, the Bank began offering trust services when the Trust Department was added in 1979. Moreover, the Bank made full investment brokerage services available to its customers by adding an Investment Services Department in May of 2006. In the future, our customers should be confident that the Bank will continue to evaluate and look to add new financial services that both fit the needs of our customers and create a more convenient overall banking experience.
To give a perspective of the historical planning that has occurred in terms of the growth and evolution of our Bank, W. S. Davidson, Sr.’s son (Thomas “Tom” M. Davidson, Sr.) previously noted, “When we were planning the new main bank in 1951, my dad and I were told to look toward the future and plan for a $50 million bank, somewhat of a far-fetched idea at the time. Total assets surpassed $50 million in l976.
” It should also be noted that in the year (2006) that the American State Bank & Trust Company and the Davidson family celebrated 100 years of continuous service to Williston and the surrounding area, total assets surpassed $220 million.
It is well known that our customers are comforted by the fact that the ownership and operation of the Bank has been stable throughout its 100+ year existence. Notably, from 1906 to the present, the W.S. Davidson, Sr. family has been an integral part of the operation and/or ownership of the Bank. W.S., Sr. operated and owned the Bank until his passing in the early 1960s. For a short time, W.S., Sr.’s oldest son (Bill, Jr.) ran the Bank. Thereafter, Tom followed in his father’s footsteps and ran the Bank until his passing in 2000.
Presently, the third generation of the W.S Davidson, Sr. family is actively involved in the business of managing the Bank and fulfilling the Davidson family’s role as principal owners of the Bank. Specifically, Tom’s two children (Tamara “Tammy” M. Davidson-Sogard and Thomas “Tommy” M. Davidson, Jr.) have clearly stated that they intend to follow the course laid by their grandfather and father: maintaining the Bank’s status as being locally owned and providing high quality, personal, financial service to the citizens of Williston and the surrounding communities. In that regard, Tammy is a member of the Bank’s Board of Directors and her husband, Patrick Sogard, succeeded Tom in the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors. As had been the case with W.S., Sr. and Tom, Tammy and Pat, as well as their four children, reside in Williston.