The First National Bank of Northfield was the first bank founded in Northfield, Minnesota in 1873, just two years before Merchants Bank was founded in Winona in 1875 and, much like Merchants, was established as a bank for the working class. Some of First National Bank’s original organizers and shareholders included owners of the local milling companies as well as other Northfield businesspeople. First National Bank’s first President was Frederick Goodsell, a son of one of the founders of Carleton College, which was founded in Northfield in 1866.
Bank Building Locations
From 1873-1894, First National Bank was headquartered in the Scriver Building in downtown Northfield – which is now home to the Northfield Historical Society Museum. The Scriver Building location is where the attempted infamous Northfield, Minnesota bank raid of 1876 (detailed below) took place. In 1893, the bank moved to the Nutting Building at the corner of Fourth and Division Streets. Built in 1889 by J. C. Nutting and G. M. Phillips, the three-story brick and stone structure originally housed a pharmacy and a jewelry store.
The South location of the First National Bank of Northfield opened in December of 2007 to better serve the bank's expanding customer base.
James-Younger Bank Raid of 1876
On Thursday, September 7, 1876, eight outlaws – including Jesse James, his brother Frank and the Younger brothers, Cole, James and Bob – approached Northfield with the intent to rob the First National Bank of Northfield. The raiders threatened cashier Joseph Lee Heywood at gunpoint, but he refused to open the safe and was fatally shot.
Northfield citizens came to the bank’s rescue by engaging the gang in a gun battle on the street. When it became apparent that the robbery attempt was failing, the gang fled. When the battle had ended three lay dead, including two of the outlaws, Clel Miller and William Stiles, and Joseph Lee Heywood. Four days later Nicholas Gustafson, an innocent bystander, died of a gunshot wound.
The community of Northfield memorializes this event during The Defeat of Jesse James Days, which is held annually the weekend after Labor Day and will continue to be supported by Merchants Bank.
Still Your Community Bank
On August 30, 2019, First National Bank was purchased by Merchants Bank and the banks merged under the same name on May 18, 2020. Throughout both banks’ histories there are many similarities, including deep roots in the local community, an emphasis on relationship-based banking and a tradition of community banking leadership. We are proud to carry on the legacy of the First National Bank of Northfield and embrace what has now become a part of our history.