History of the Bank of Sunset and Trust Company
Biggest Little Bank in the World
In 1906, virtually all transactions were made with silver coinage, since paper money, or “greenbacks,” was not the medium of exchange favored by the general public, especially in the Sunset area. This presented a problem to the local business community, as the old banks that supplied the silver coinage on which the Sunset economy was so dependent were located in New Orleans or Opelousas. Local merchants and businesses in the Sunset area had the choice of having the silver coinage shipped by the express - which was quite costly-or hauling it back to town by horse and wagon.
During one such “haul,” two heavy bags of coins, each containing $1,000 in silver, broke through the wagon’s bed and fell to the roadway. The driver, unable to lift the bags by himself, was forced to wait on the side of the road for help to come along. It was after that incident that the citizens of Sunset decided the town needed its own bank.
A group of local landowners, merchants, and businessmen, including Frank Dimmick, A.J. Gashen, Homer Barousse, E.V. Barry, W.J. Boudreau, Frank Clay, Gaston Horaist, A.C. Olivier, and H.F. Richard, began selling shares of stock in the proposed bank, and on April 16, 1906, with Mr. Dimmick as its president, 40 stockholders and $10,000 in capital, the Bank of Sunset and Trust Company opened for business.
Lloyd Franques was the bank’s first employee, handling all banking activities. A second employee, F.S. Barry, was soon hired for the sum of $20 per month, to help with the bank’s rapidly increasing business. Mr. Barry later was elected cashier of the bank and served in that capacity until his death, in 1942. He was later followed by Robert J. Castille, who served as cashier and executive vice president, until 1950.
Mr. Castille joined the bank in 1921 at the tender age of 16, his starting salary: $10 per month. During the depression, he and other bank officials spent many hours assuring frightened depositors that their money was safe. To affirm this personal assurance more dramatically, stacks of cash were taken from the vault and piled in conspicuous view behind the teller windows and in the bookkeeping department, in order so nervous depositors could readily see that the bank had an ample supply of money available.
The personal attention by the bank’s officers and staff during this national financial crisis created a positive show of faith and trust among its depositors. At the end of the two-week “bank holiday,” declared by President Roosevelt to prevent alarmed depositors from withdrawing all of their funds from banks throughout the nation, the Bank of Sunset’s deposits greatly exceeded withdrawals.
The bank moved into a new building in 1948-at the time “one of the most modern banking facilities in the state for a bank of its size.” In 1969, the bank’s continued growth created the need for a larger building, which it currently occupies.
It is interesting to note that the entire cost of the bank’s original building in 1906, including lot and vault door, was $4,400.33. This is less than one-third of what a vault door costs today. The original building has since been donated to the Town of Sunset and presently serves as its Town Hall.
From its modest, one-location $10,000 beginning, the Bank of Sunset has grown in size, scope, and service to become a modern, multi-office financial institution. The bank currently serves the Sunset, Grand Coteau, Lafayette, and Broussard markets.
The present strength of the Bank of Sunset and its steady growth can be attributed to the talent and dedication of its directors, officers, and staff. It is upon these high ethical standards and total commitment to the financial needs of the community that the Bank of Sunset will build to offer even greater services and products.