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BY MIKE AVITT
This building still stands today and was built in 1892 as Citizens Bank. Day Dunning, who was one of four sons born to Mount Ayr’s founders, Barton and Laura Dunning, hired H. U. Greenlee to do the brick and stone work. Citizens Bank opened its doors in January 1893 with Day Dunning as president and his son, Clyde, as cashier. Day’s previous bank building burned on this same corner, 100 S. Taylor, in 1889.
Across the Mt. Ayr square was the Mt. Ayr Bank. In July 1890, George Allyn, the principal owner, hired a young man named Frank Sheldon. Sheldon was born in Ringgold County on October 3, 1866 and would become one of Ringgold County’s most successful businessmen.
The real estate, abstract, insurance, and farm loan business was a major part of the commercial landscape 120 years ago as the county was full of small, family-owned farms. It was a good time to be a lawyer, real estate, and insurance agent.
While Frank Sheldon was still working for Mt. Ayr Bank, he started a real estate business with Howard Tedford, part owner of the Ringgold Record. This firm would later become F. E. Sheldon & Co.
Meanwhile, Day Dunning and his Citizens Bank had a financial collapse on January 16, 1904. Immediately, investors from Decatur County organized a bank in Ezra McMasters real estate office at 103 W. Monroe. The new bank was Iowa State Bank and moved into the Citizens Bank building in March 1904. In June 1906, ISB bought the abstract books of C. J. Lewis and B. F. Talley with J. E. Scott being slated to run the abstract business.
Enter Clyde Lesan. He had formed a partnership with N. E. Crecelius in the real estate business in 1910. But, Lesan soon found himself working for F. E. Sheldon & Co, a firm he would own someday. It was here Lesan would become acquainted with Clinton Allyn, son of Mt. Ayr Bank owner, George Allyn. Frank Sheldon became President of Mt. Ayr Bank about this time and he reorganized his private bank into a state bank in 1915.
In 1913, Bank of Commerce, at 105 S. Fillmore, was absorbed by Iowa State Bank. F. E. Sheldon owned the Bank of Commerce building when C. S. Palmer and J. E. Holden moved their real estate, insurance, and abstract business there in December 1913. One week later, Sheldon bought their business.
I don’t know where Sheldon & Co. had their office, but I believe the firm occupied the office at 105 S. Fillmore after 1913 as I can’t find any other occupants during these years.
Next week, we will continue to follow the businesses discussed this week.