Horizon Bank was founded in Michigan City, Indiana and received its original charter in April of 1873 as “First National Bank.” In 1962, the Bank merged with another local financial institution, Merchants National Bank (founded in 1909), to become First-Merchants National Bank. In 1986, the Bank merged with Citizen’s Bank (founded in 1888) to become First Citizens Bank. The Bank was renamed Horizon Bank, taking on its
holding company name, in 1997.
Join us in a retrospective look at Horizon’s past — a history that has helped our bank grow, innovate and serve your family for generations.
1876-1900 A bank for customers on the move…
Horizon’s original charter institution — The First National Bank, Michigan City — brought the “gold standard” to customer service in banking.
At the turn of the century, local railroad industrialist John H. Barker paid his freight car building employees in gold coins because they didn’t trust paper money. Because of the delicacy and risks involved in making large transactions with gold, the first-ever “drive-up window” was born at The First National Bank.
Once a month, a Haskel & Barker horse-drawn pay wagon, protected by armed police officers, pulled up to the Bank’s back door to load up with $5, $10 and $20 gold pieces for its monthly payroll.
In the early 1900s, many local citizens didn’t trust utility company meter readers. The gas company gave customers the option of paying for their gas service as they needed it — by feeding change into a “quarter meter” installed in the basement.
Much like a parking meter, the quarter meter held four quarters at a time. Whenever a stove flame flickered low — often during the process of cooking the family dinner, family members recall running to the basement to feed the meter and keep dinner cooking. The proceeds from quarter meters were delivered to the Bank in canvas bags, counted with a crank-operated coin counter and hand wrapped.
1901-1925: Uneasy times in the “Roaring 20’s”…
By the late 1920s, notorious bank robber John Dillinger was a household name in Northwest Indiana. He had already done time in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City and pulled a sensational escape from the Crown Point jail armed with a “gun” carved from wood.
First National Bank’s new building had opened in 1913 and featured a 12-ton round vault door installed to protect the Bank’s holdings. The huge, sound-proof vault was regulated by four time clocks and two combination locks that kept bank holdings and customer safe deposit boxes secure.
1926-1975: Building trust in the community
The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the failure of 10,000 of the nation’s 25,000 banks, including two of Michigan City’s five financial institutions.
President Franklin Roosevelt’s “bank holidays” closed U.S. banks for 10 days in 1933 and allowed federal inspectors to review the solvency of remaining banks. When banks reopened, customer fears in Michigan City were calmed and Horizon regained the trust of its customers as it continued to expand its range of financial services.
A banking innovator and community leader, Horizon instituted many “firsts” in the industry during the mid-1900s, including:
- Indiana’s first automobile drive-up and customer walk-up service windows established in 1955
- A 24-hour “weather line” phone number to serve the community established in 1959
- The first Automated Teller Machine in Indiana established in 1974
Horizon Bank: Facing the future from a firm foundation
Today Horizon Bank is a dynamic company rooted in a proud tradition. The bank continues to grow and prosper, and expand its footprint in northern and central Indiana, and southern, central and the Great Lakes Bay regions of Michigan. It continues to be a strong organization of local people making local decisions, and providing sensible financial advice.