FirstBank of Nebraska is comprised of four banks spanning the Southeast Nebraska communities of Wahoo, Syracuse, Sterling and Burchard. While each branch possesses it’s own unique history, the Sterling, Burchard and Syracuse branch locations were each acquired by what is formerly known as the First National Bank of Wahoo. In 1992, the State Bank of Burchard and Bank of Sterling were merged into one charter under the First National Bank of Wahoo—while the First National Bank and Trust of Syracuse was purchased in 2010, nearly doubling the overall bank in asset size.
Although the organization has always embraced its origins, we also recognize that growth and additional locations expand and diversify our customer base. Therefore, in 2013, the decision was made to officially change the charter name from First National Bank of Wahoo to FirstBank of Nebraska—better reflecting the many communities we serve.
The Wahoo branch has remained in the same location since its inception in 1882, and the Burchard location also preserves and utilizes their historic building. The Sterling and Syracuse facilities have both had the opportunity to establish new facilities. FirstBank of Nebraska remains under the guidance of long time President/CEO, Steve Sallenbach. Our staff takes pride in the bank’s progress, longevity and dedication, as it continues to look ahead and provide a full range of banking services to the communities we serve.
The First National Bank of Wahoo was organized in Wahoo, Nebraska on July 15, 1882 with a capital stock of $50,000. The bank’s first President, Henry Anderson, was the pioneer of the banking business in Wahoo, starting the first bank in the town with a small iron safe and $200 in money. The bank continues to operate in the location of its predecessors—“Anderson and Griffith”, private bankers—on the corner of Fifth and Linden Street in Wahoo, Nebraska. The current building was erected in 1919 and in 1955 an addition, including a new safe deposit box vault was added to the structure. Ten years later, the east side of the building was extended, adding teller space, a new walk-up window and a drive-through window. Since that time, the building has experienced ongoing renovations, upgrades and remodels to accommodate the ever-evolving needs of the industry.
The bank has been a member of the Federal Reserve System of the United States since 1914 and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation since it originated in 1933. While other banks were forced to close, this charter was able to sustain through the early eras of wars and economic shifts, including the Great Depression and the market crash of Wall Street. The bank also printed its own national currency until 1935, a rare 54-year printing period for a national bank.
In 1969, Edward J (E. J.) Carlson—doing business as Bank Management—purchased the controlling interest in First National Bank of Wahoo and in June of 1982 sold the controlling stock to the J. V. Johnson family, who also owned banks in the Johnson County area. With the change in ownership First National Bank of Wahoo acquired sister banks that included the State Bank of Burchard, Bank of Sterling and Tecumseh State Bank.
In July of 1982 First National Bank of Wahoo celebrated a milestone for the bank’s charter, commemorating its 100th anniversary. The J.V. Johnson family continued to own and operate the bank until January 1987 when William March—whose wife, Margaret, was the daughter of J.V. Johnson Sr.—assumed controlling interest through 2017. At that time, the Schart Family Group transitioned into ownership.
In 2010, First National Bank of Wahoo purchased the First National Bank and Trust of Syracuse, nearly doubling the bank in asset size. The organization grew from three to a total of four Nebraska locations, spanning: Wahoo, Sterling, Burchard and Syracuse. In order to better reflect the many communities that it served, First National Bank of Wahoo changed its name to FirstBank of Nebraska in 2013. The charter, routing number, staff, ownership and internal management of the organization remain the same under the new identity.
First National Bank & Trust of Syracuse opened its doors for business November 5, 1883. It was originally located on the south side of Main Street between Mohawk and Midland Streets, in the middle of the block. At that time, communities lived in an almost moneyless society. Purchases were made in trade for grain, cream, eggs and produce. Syracuse had a population of 510 people with 57 businesses, and continued to grow over the next decade, reaching a population of 728.
The late 1800’s brought drought to Southeast Nebraska, but the first two decades of the twentieth century were productive and prosperous. Syracuse consistently grew in population and in 1906, the First National Bank moved into a new, two-story, brick building on the southwest corner of Main and Midland Streets. Due to the nationwide depression, First National Bank voluntarily closed its doors for a short time in 1931. The directors believed the financial conditions at that time were just too uncertain, but they later decided to reopen and were able to stay in business.
The bank was remodeled in 1950, and added onto in 1970 to accommodate for the growing needs of the community. By that time, Syracuse housed 1,562 residents—and while the population experienced growth into 1980’s, so did the bank’s staff. With more than 30 employees, a new building was built in 1984 across the street, to the northeast corner of it’s previous location. The new facility included a north-facing, drive-up window, which was relocated to the east side of the building in 1999 when the lobby was remodeled.
In 2010, the First National Bank of Wahoo purchased the First National Bank & Trust of Syracuse. By 2013, in order to better reflect the many communities served, First National Bank of Wahoo changed its name to FirstBank of Nebraska. The Syracuse branch currently employs 17 people, along with the computer and bookkeeping department for all four branches. As of 2015, the population in Syracuse was 1,933 and to this day, the community continues to experience steady growth.
The Bank of Sterling opened for business on September 1st of 1944; a welcomed addition for a community that had been without the convenience of a commercial bank for more than a decade. Under the leadership of Bank President J.V. Johnson and Vice President H.W. Shepman, the bank provided customers with the maximum protection afforded to them as a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The family of J.V. Johnson continued to own and operate the bank until it was acquired in 1986 by Bill March—whose wife, Margaret, was the daughter of J.V. Johnson, Sr. In 1992, the Bank of Sterling, along with the State Bank of Burchard, was merged into a single charter under the First National Bank of Wahoo. Later, the First National Bank and Trust of Syracuse would also be acquired, adding a fourth location to the First National Bank of Wahoo.
By 2013, in order to better reflect the many communities served, First National Bank of Wahoo changed its name to FirstBank of Nebraska. Bill March continued to serve as Chairman of the Board until the time of his death in 2014. His daughter, Paula, succeeded him as Chairman.
After several years of being located downtown, the Sterling branch was excited to announce the opening of its new banking location in February 2015. Conveniently located along the highway and equipped with a full service drive-thru window, the new facility was built to better accommodate the needs of its growing customer base.
The pioneer of the banking industry in Burchard was the Honorable W.J. Halderman. In 1884, the town incorporated with a population of 240 residents and one year later (1885), Halderman—as a stockholder and part proprietor—erected the Bank of Burchard. Upon the bank’s opening Halderman served as cashier. To this day the bank has remained the only business in Burchard to continue operating without ceasing, even surviving the Easter tornado of 1913.
In 1928 The Bank of Burchard applied for a charter to become the State Bank of Burchard. As evidenced by the Articles of Incorporation, May 14th was the first day of business under the new name with capital stock of $25,000. The cashier was A.B.(Bert) Kammerer, earning a salary of $140 a month plus half of all commissions until his resignation in May of 1937. Replacing Kammerer was F. H. Obermann until his death in 1946, when his wife, Viola Obermann held the position. Viola (Obermann) Rinne remained cashier until 1956 when she became Executive Vice President and then later President in June 1961 until her retirement in 1973.
The J.V. Johnson family owned State Bank of Burchard until 1986 when William March assumed controlling interest and was elected Chairman of the Board in 1993.
On July 31, 1992 the State Bank of Burchard was acquired by the First National Bank of Wahoo along with the Bank of Sterling and began operating under the name of First National Bank of Wahoo.
In December of 2013 First National Bank of Wahoo converted from a National to a State Charter. Additionally, the bank has experienced a multitude of growth and now serves the four Southeastern Nebraska communities of Wahoo, Syracuse, Sterling and Burchard. As a result of this continued growth, in 2013, the bank changed its name from First National Bank of Wahoo to FirstBank of Nebraska—better reflecting the many communities it serves.