Banking On Tradition

Robert M. Harris, former Governor of the Chickasaw Nation and the first Bank of the Chickasaw Nation President.

The Bank of the Chickasaw Nation was organized by influential Chickasaws. It originally started in the Hutchens building located approximately one block from the current location. R. M. Harris, former Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, became the first bank president. The bank was incorporated under the laws of the United States as applied to Indian Territory. It started in May 1901, with a capital of $25,000, and within a few days it had doubled. The bank was a designated depository of the Chickasaw Nation and handled all the Nation’s funds.

The building was designed and constructed under the direction of J.A. Shannon, architect. Granite for the building came from the Harris Quarry on nearby Pennington Creek where it was mined, cut and polished. The two-story Richardsonian Romanesque structure was proclaimed to be “the handsomest, most complete, and the most secure bank in the two (Choctaw and Chickasaw) territories.”

The bank came to ruin when a cashier and part owner, Kirby Purdum, in 1909, absconded with all the money. (Records indicate approximately $40,000). The thief was never captured or brought to trial. It is believed he died of consumption in Central America.