History

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We are proud of our past and we are prepared for the future!

Opened in September 1861 by John R. Wheeler, the Union Bank, later renamed Farmers & Merchants Union Bank, began general banking business on James Street in downtown Columbus.

Expansion began in 1919 when famed architect Louis Sullivan began construction on the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank building in downtown Columbus. Sullivan’s masterpiece, commonly known, as his “Jewel Box” became a showpiece for the small town of Columbus and made the National Historical Registery in 1972. The Jewel Box bank was designated a National Historic Landmark (the highest designation of all historic places in 1983.)

The beautifully ornamented Columbus bank, known as the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank, would be the last of eight small community banks Louis Sullivan completed. These eight banks would later become known as Sullivan’s ‘Jewel Boxes.’ Our bank is one of only two to be operating as a bank today. Meticulously maintained, this historic landmark is open for tours!

Farmers & Merchants Union Bank has grown over the last 150+ years to include six locations throughout Columbus, Fall River, Friesland, Juneau and Rio.

History Timeline of Farmers & Merchants Union Bank

September 5, 1861: Union Bank Opens (private bank) | President: John R. Wheeler

1865: Bank moved into building across street from current location

1872-73: Union Bank sold to brother-in-law Lester R. Rockwell 

1884: Bank’s name changes to Farmers & Merchants Union Bank | President: A.G. Cook

1896: John E. Wheeler (son of John R. Wheeler) purchased bank | President: John E. Wheeler | (capital stock $10,000)

1910: Building of original bank was torn down

1917: John R. Wheeler dies | President: J Russell Wheeler (sold bank stock outside of family)

1919-1920: Louis Sullivan built the “Jewel Box” FMUB | President: J Russell Wheeler (wife: Anna Mae)

June 14, 1920: Moved into “Jewel Box” building | President: J Russell Wheeler

1925: William Fritz becomes Bank President | President William Fritz

October 14, 1939: Purchase Friesland State Bank | President: William Fritz

1944: Fred Stare becomes bank President

1960-1961: First addition of drive-thru

1961: FMUB celebrates new addition & 100th Anniversary

1962: T. Bernard “Bud” Thomas becomes bank President

1970: Second addition/remodel drive-thru 

October 18, 1972: Placed on National Register of Historic Places

1978-1979: Third addition - Tetzlaff Drug Store

1983: Designated National Historic Landmark | President: John S. Pratt

March 21, 1994: Columbus Branch Opened

1995: Roger Thomas becomes bank President

September 1, 1997: Moved into new Friesland building

1997-1998: “Jewel Box” façade restoration

1999: Randall G. Bobholz becomes bank President

February 24, 2003: Juneau Branch opened

2005-2007: Addition to downtown FMUB building

April 24, 2007: Fall River Branch opened

2009: Columbus Branch addition & remodel

October 29, 2012: Start of downtown remodel

January 7-18, 2013: Painting & Patchwork in lobby and Mezzanine of downtown office

December 2, 2013: Opened Farmers & Merchants Union Bank 6th location in Rio

Tours

Tour our Jewel Box Bank!

We provide tours of our historic Jewel Box bank to travel groups, schools, organizations, architecture students and anyone who is interested! We welcome the opportunity to share our history and showcase a collection of historical items from our community. A second-floor museum overlooks our bank’s lobby and provides an close-up view of our beautiful, original stained-glass windows.

Feel free to visit our historic site anytime during business hours! We do not require an appointment, but it is helpful for groups of six or more.

Tours are available during regular business hours at our historic location:

  • Monday - Friday: 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
  • Saturday: 8:30 am to 11:00 am

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