L. F. Zeller
||Nothing is more indicative of the material prosperity of a city or town than the character of the banking institutions which are supported there. Upon these depends the development of all other interests; their standing more than anything else influences keen business men in establishing industries in their vicinity. In consequence, judging from this attitude of the world at large, it would seem that the great progress which Oxford Junction has made in the last twenty years, has been due in no small measure to the enterprise, the fidelity and the banking policies of L. and L. F. Zeller, father and son, who are the owners of the Citizens Exchange Bank. It was organized first in 1889, but as its business increased to large proportions its capital was accordingly increased to fifty thousand dollars and an individual responsibility to over one hundred thousand dollars.
L. Zeller, who was the first to see the need and opportunity for a bank in Oxford Junction, was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1839. At the age of thirteen he came to America, taking up his residence in Trenton, New Jersey, where he lived until 1859. In that year he started for Iowa. After about one year spent in Keokuk, he came to Jones county, locating upon a farm which was then known as the Stafford place and is now owned by his sister. In 1875, he disposed of his land and moved to Oxford Junction, which was but a village in those days, being a very new town, for the Sabula & Ackerley and the Davenport & St. Paul railroads had only been laid about four years before. Deciding to go into business he accordingly built a store, which afterward was changed to the Arlen House, and placed on sale a large stock of up-to-date merchandise. Successful as the venture was financially, the change of occupation did not agree with his health so he sold his goods to J. B. Richards & Son, of Wyoming, and the store to Frank Arlen, who has since converted it into a hotel. Then he built the fine residence now owned by P. C. Ingwersen, which was the first brick structure of its kind in the city, and, in the course of years selling it, he erected the fine home where he and his son now reside.
From 1880 to 1889, Mr. Zeller was not actively engaged in any particular business but he was keenly alive to the world of finance, making a thorough study of loans, banking, investments and the general business methods of. financiers, thus acquiring a knowledge which has made his advice and judgment eagerly sought by investors. It also, united with his reputation for promptness and honest dealings, has made possible his success in the conduct of the Citizens Exchange Bank.
In 1864, Mr. Zeller, married Miss Josephine Egida, and of their union was born L. F. Zeller, who is following in the footsteps of his father, although he enjoys a strong character and a fair name all of his own making. He was born in Oxford township in 1866, but as his parents moved to Oxford Junction when he was eight years old, his education has been in large measure derived from the public schools there. After finishing the high school course he entered Cornell College for a year, and then went to Lenox College, from which he was graduated with the degree of B. S. It was in 1888 that he started upon his business career, finding employment as a clerk in a hardware store in Cedar Rapids. There he remained until, as he expresses it, "We were struck with the banking fever," and he joined his father in the new enterprise. Put to many severe tests his capabilities were found sufficient to meet all the demands made upon him and he was taken into partnership. -Now he has full charge of the bank, while his father attends to the outside business, such as land investments, collections and rentals, and so forth.
L. F. Zeller soon won recognition for his ability even beyond the confines of his office, for in 1892, when the younger men of Oxford Junction decided to take the government out of the hands of the older and experienced directors of affairs, the name of L. F. Zeller was placed at the head of their ticket. He was elected by a large majority, served with his usual fidelity to the trust imposed in him, winning notice throughout the state as being the youngest mayor then in office in Iowa. A man full of energy and enthusiasm, he is a most worthy member of the public library board, while his sound business methods, his faithfulness and his courtesy have contributed their share toward promoting the success of the bank.
A few words regarding the institution itself will not be out of place. Organized October 19, 1889, with a capital of ten thousand dollars, in a year and a half it had outgrown its accommodations so that it had to be moved to a place better adapted to its needs. In 1897, another removal was necessary for the same reasons, and a new safe was installed in a fire proof vault. This last adjunct was secured none too soon for in 1898 the bank building was wrecked by fire, which, however, did no damage to the valuables placed in the vault, which has since been made doubly secure against all the perils to which safes are subject. The present building in which the bank is housed was erected at a cost of three thousand dollars and is one of the most attractive edifices on Broadway. The entire first floor is given over to the needs of the concern, the banking rooms being fitted in the most modern and attractive style. There money is received from anyone, interest being paid upon deposits at the current rate, while accounts of farmers, merchants and others are received on favorable terms. Commercial and real-estate loans are made upon acceptable security, exchanges are bought and sold and collections made: indeed, a general banking business in all that that implies is carried on. But in addition the concern has the agency for the leading life, fire and accident insurance companies and the buying and selling of real estate. From them may be obtained letters of credit to any port across the ocean. As the greater part of the bank's securities are placed in farm land, much of it in the vicinity of Oxford Junction, its patrons know that its funds are safely invested. This fact combined with the reputation its owners enjoy have made the institution one in which the greatest confidence is placed by those in Oxford Junction and in its vicinity.
Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 218.
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