Pony Express Community Bank
Founded by John & Joann Means along with other principal investors – Owen Henson of Elwood, Richard Schultz and Henry Kiehnhoff of Wathena, Bill Glasscock of Manhattan, and Bill Allen of Kansas City - and a number of Elwood residents, The First State Bank of Elwood came to be in December of 1975. At the time, Elwood was the largest town in Kansas not to have a bank.
Over the years, the bank has experienced modest but steady growth along with reasonable profitability.
In 1993, Missouri River flooding topped the levee protecting Elwood and the bank was engulfed by almost 10 feet of floodwater. The flood occurred on a Sunday morning, but with the help of state and federal banking regulators, temporary banking facilities were operating by mid morning Monday across the river in St. Joseph, Missouri. The flood had devastating effects on many families and area businesses and the bank was no exception. While both the bank and community rebuilt successfully, bank leaders recognized that things needed to change. In order for the bank to successfully serve future generations, it needed to establish and operate multiple banking facilities in several communities…the beginning of a new breed of community banks.
In 1995, friends of John and Joann Means (Steve and Rhoda McAllister) came in contact and suggested a business partnership in purchasing Farmers State Bank in Lucas, Kansas. Along with Steve and his business partner, Doug Hickman, Pony Express Bancorp (parent to First State Bank) acquired Farmers State Bank, Lucas. In January 1996, the two banks were merged and the charter was moved into St. Joseph while continuing to operate in Elwood and Lucas. A name change was in order. With St. Joseph being the birthplace of the Pony Express and Elwood being the first stop on the trail, Pony Express Community Bank (PECB) became the new name; reflecting a rugged heritage of innovation and service.
In 1998, a branch location was purchased from Mercantile Bank at the corner of the Belt Highway and Faraon Street (St. Joseph). This location now serves as the bank’s headquarters.
In 2006, Bank of Paxton (Nebraska) was acquired by Pony Express Bancorp. Bank of Paxton and Pony Express Community Bank were merged at year-end 2009.
In 2010, PECB acquired a branch in Horton (Kansas) from United Bank of Kansas and then in 2012 1st Bank of Troy (Kansas) was acquired from the Patton family.
In mid-2015, PECB was approached about selling the west Nebraska location. After contemplation, the difficult decision was made and the Paxton bank was sold in December of that year.
Today, PECB operates in St. Joseph, Elwood, Troy and Horton. Interestingly, each of these communities is along the original Pony Express Trail. The branches in each community continue to operate similarly to how they did when they were stand-alone banks…local directors, local management and staff, local involvement and local commitment…but with the added strengths of broadened management expertise and economic diversification.
The Pony Express
The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. The Pony Express consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddle bags of mail across a 2000-mile trail. The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day.
Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence. Although California relied upon news from the Pony Express during the early days of the Civil War, the horse line was never a financial success, leading its founders to bankruptcy. However, the romantic drama surrounding the Pony Express has made it a part of the legend of the American West.