L&A Railroad built to serve logging, sawmills

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

William Buchanan had set the stage when he built the L & A through the quiet north Louisiana countryside in the 1900s. Buchanan's railroad had created a new way of life for surrounding communities. New jobs became options to plowing unending rows of corn and cotton. Families moved from farms to establish businesses. A post office was established in the little general mercantile store owned by Tom Neal. Jesse McInnis was the first postmaster. The town grew and flourished and by 1912 Castor State Bank joined the small group of businesses clustered together on Castor's North Front Street, in the west side of Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

The Board of the Bank, officially organized June 8, 1912, with J. Rush Wimberly as president, had the following members: W. H. Bogan and C. W. Campbell, vice presidents, J. F. McInnis, secretary-treasurer, Dr. J. N. Blume, W. A. Sullivan, W. C. Carlisle, J. A. Wood, H. H. Lawson, and L. M. Tooke served on the Board of Directors.

The post office, drug store, doctor's office, and two general mercantile stores surrounded the first building occupied by the bank.

Mrs. Julius Wimberly began working at the bank at age eighteen. "Castor was a thriving little village," Wimberly said. "We were in the center of a farming community and the surrounding land was planted in cotton and corn."

The community continued to grow and thrive. After the bank and other buildings had burned in 1929 a new bank was built. The new structure was a two story brick with its upper story occupied by a Masonic lodge. In 1930 capital stock was listed at $10,000 with a surplus of $4,000. The officers were W.M. Caskey, president, H. H. Lawson and A.W. Lawson, vice-presidents, Julius Wimberly, cashier, and Mrs. Julius Wimberly, assistant cashier. Dr. C. H. Sledge was Chairman of the Board of Directors.

A letter from the Castor State bank reflects the times during the Great Depression. This bit of history dated September 19, 1929, was found by Mrs. Kenneth Stanfill among old family papers. It reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Walker,
The note for the expense of your Father's funeral signed by W. E. Davidson and others was for $93.50. That is interest and all they received from the Bank, $85.00 and interest of $8.50 makes the $93.50. The next day Clyde McCarthy gave me $33.50 to credit the note with, this was money made up here by the people.
The balance due was $60.00, you have left $43.00, you are still due the bank $17.00, of which on receipt of $17.00 I will send you the note.
Your Very Truly,
Julius Wimberly, Cashier

During the Depression of 1929, when banks were closing all over the nation, people became frantic and made runs on the banks. Castor State Bank did not escape this fear of some of their depositors. After they had pulled their money from the Castor bank, some deposited again in banks within a fifty-mile radius. Records indicate that many of those banks closed before Castor's bank closed in the spring of 1933.

Not until 1985 was the Village of Castor to have another bank operating within its village limits. The old two story brick building was torn down to make way for the newly built Bank of Ringgold near the old Castor State Bank location.