Farmers State Bank of Cope (Washington County) opened in 1918 at the southwest corner of Main Street and Washington Avenue. The first and only bank that ever operated in Cope, Farmers State Bank was founded and led largely by local women until the Great Depression and Dust Bowl forced its closure in 1934. The bank’s poured-concrete building then housed a liquor store and pharmacy before becoming the headquarters of Things to Come Mission from 1962 to 1990. It is now owned by the Cope Community Church.
Banking in Cope
Established in the late 1880s, Cope was named for early settler Jonathan Cope and took shape as homesteaders began to populate Colorado’s northeastern plains. By the 1910s, despite the dry climate and lack of a railroad, Cope developed into a town of about 100 people, with a post office, school, church, blacksmith, barber, doctor, dentist, and general store. At the time, however, the town had no bank, the closest one being forty miles north in Yuma.
In addition to its bank, Yuma was also home to the Charles B. Marvin Investment Company. Charles Marvin focused on land investments, which were booming in the late 1910s because Colorado’s northeastern plains had benefited from a string of wet years and high agricultural demand driven by World War I. By early 1917, three Marvin employees—Nellie Fastenau, Carrie Ingersoll, and William Foran—had joined with Murray Edward Gilderbloom to start the Colorado Farm Lands Company, which bought, sold, and managed agricultural land. In February 1917, those four filed paperwork with the Colorado State Bank Commission to establish Farmers State Bank of Cope, which would lend money to farmers to buy land and provide a place for Cope residents to deposit their cash.
Construction on the Farmers State Bank building started in 1917, with most of the work done by local men. Murray Gilderbloom was trained as a civil engineer and might have helped design the poured-concrete building, which was the only poured-concrete commercial building in town. The use of poured concrete rather than the typical materials of sod or wood lent the bank an aura of stability.
Unlike most of the town’s other buildings, the bank’s exterior had sidewalks on both street-facing sides and a corner entrance opening onto the intersection of Main Street and Washington Avenue. Large windows on the north and east sides let in plenty of light and gave the teller a chance to recognize customers before they came in. Inside, the one-story bank had four main rooms and a large central vault.
Customers using the corner entrance stepped into the large front lobby, which featured an oak floor, marble baseboards, and a teller counter. Behind the teller counter stood the bank’s large Herring-Hall-Mervin vault. The vault was flanked by two small rooms: an office or storage room to the south and a coat room to the north. Another large room, roughly the size of the lobby, occupied the rear of the building. The large rear room had access to the vault and probably served as the meeting room and bank president’s office. Stairs in the southwest corner led to a concrete basement for coal storage. Originally the building had no indoor plumbing; bank workers and customers would have had to use the outhouses behind Cope Community Church next door.
Farmers State Bank received its charter on April 10, 1918, and opened its doors a month later. The bank started with $10,000 in capital, nearly all of it coming from Fastenau, Foran, Gilderbloom, Ingersoll, and their close relatives. Fastenau served as president, Gilderbloom as cashier, and Allie Campbell as assistant cashier. Within two months, the bank had received more than $23,000 in deposits and made more than $15,000 in loans; after six months, it had more than $32,000 in deposits and more than $47,000 in loans.
In addition to being the only bank ever to operate in Cope, Farmers State Bank was also noteworthy for its predominantly female leadership. At a time when women rarely held positions of power in financial institutions, Farmers State Bank counted seven women among its original twelve investors, hired women as cashiers, and—most important—boasted a female president. President Nellie Fastenau quickly started using her initials instead of her first name in all filings and reports—probably to avoid alienating people who might be uncomfortable with a female bank president—but she remained the bank’s leader throughout its life.
After the Bank
In the early 1930s, northeastern Colorado’s promising agricultural conditions and prosperous land market collapsed as the area was hit by the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and a devastating grasshopper infestation. Faced with those disasters, Farmers State Bank of Cope could not survive. On March 31, 1934, the bank’s stockholders voted to dissolve the institution. Depositors were paid in full before the bank officially closed in July. At the time, the nearest bank for Cope residents lay nineteen miles southeast, in Kirk.
After Farmers State Bank closed, Nellie Fastenau and Carrie Ingersoll still owned the bank building. They soon opened a liquor store and pharmacy there, taking advantage of the recent repeal of prohibition. The liquor store and pharmacy remained in operation until about 1940, which was the last time the bank building housed a commercial business.
In 1950 Fastenau briefly lived in the bank building between selling her house and moving in with her younger sister in Colorado Springs. Five years later, she sold the bank building to R. F. Heady, who then sold the building in 1956 to the Pioneer Construction Company of Pueblo. The company used the building as an office while constructing US 36 through the area.
In 1962 the bank building was acquired by Cope Community Church pastor Eldred Sidebottom and his Things to Come Mission. Things to Come used the building as the headquarters of its international missionary work for the next twenty-eight years. At the end of 1990, Things to Come moved its headquarters to Indianapolis to make it more nationwide. The organization sold the bank building to Sidebottom, who remained in Cope. In 2005 Sidebottom sold the bank building to the Cope Community Church, and in 2017 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.