June 23, 2012
Our History Hero
Scott Wagar is a history hero for the Stone Bank family — because he led us to the irritatingly elusive details of the bank’s history. His story in the Bottineau Courant was posted here a few days ago.
But we wanted to know how he did it. We have browsed the archives and been frustrated by the scant info available on the genesis of the bank. So your StoneBank Blogger met Scott at the archive to get the story on his fabulous discovery.
As it turns out, patience and diligence helped, but — like many discoveries — unlocking the first clue was a happy accident.
“I just happended to be doing some work on a story about the 1940s,” Wagar said. “I went through all the Centennial books — the 25th, 50th, 75th and 100th — and in the 50th, I found a clue.”
It was a one-sentence mention about the bank building. That “clue” sent him to the bound newspaper archive — with a specific date. And that’s where he found a one-sentence report on the construction of Bottineau County Bank. From there, he just followed the breadcrumbs of tidbits about the bank sprinkled through the 1900 newspapers.
The trickiest part was finding the bound newspapers from 1897-1902 that had been shelved away from the rest of the newspaper archive.
“It was way over there,” he said pointing to a corner of the vault far from where the newspaper archive is stored.
“I was excited, because it had been so long, and I knew there had to be something — we just had to find it,” Wagar said of the discovery. “It was exciting.”
The day in mid-May he found the first clue, he said he stayed in the vault, taking notes and digital photos and reading the eye-straining type. (He says he has lost track of the time he spent poring over the old newspapers, before he published his story on June 5.)
What he discovered is that the original part of the bank was built in about six months in 1900. This is remarkable, because the stone is all hand-cut and there is a full basement of hand-hewn stones under the front 60 feet of the building. That’s a lot of stone-cutting, hefting and hauling in six short months. The bank opened for business on Dec. 23, 1900.
Here is a slideshow of some of what Wagar found.
We have a plan to repair the foundation and to get the back of the building standing again. But we need your help. We need “giving” to match the $25,000 in grant funds we’ve already secured — and soon. There is a PayPal link on this page. Or send a contribution to Touchstones, Inc. to the Stone Bank, 524 Main St., Bottineau, ND 58318.
Success on the Stone Bank project is possible only with the help of fabulous volunteers like Scott Wagar and generous donors like you. We can do this together. Thanks for reading, liking and following the StoneBankBlog!