As the cornerstone of Proctor’s business district, the First National Bank building may echo the past of Proctor more clearly than any other existing commercial structure. With its distinctly historic roots, the structure – still standing on the corner of Highway 2 and Second Street (but no longer housing the bank) – remains an anchor tenant in the City.
Curiously, the First Nat’l Bank of Proctor didn’t start under this name, or at its long-standing location. The financial house actually began in the west side of Proctor as the “Missabe Bank.” Under this name in 1902, Hamilton H. Peyton opened the small, private firm to accommodate the banking needs of the Proctor community.
A native of Duluth whose father (Hamilton Murray “H. M.” Peyton) was a banker, Hamilton Howe “H. H.” Peyton returned to Duluth upon graduating from Harvard University in 1901. After brief tenures at American Exchange Bank in Duluth and Superior State Bank in Superior, he moved to Proctor and established the Missabe Bank with Bronson Murray “B. M.” Peyton, J. W.Kreitter, and Fred C. Mitchell in 1902.
His first bank was described as a “ramshackle shed with $3,000 to its name,” but as a 22-year-old, newly-minted bank owner, Peyton was devoted to its success. To protect its assets, he even slept in the bank’s back room at night to scare away robbers should they try to break in and loot the bank vault. While this may seem like a considerable precaution to take, one night Peyton didn’t make it back to the bank after a date in Duluth with his future wife, and when returning to Proctor the next morning on foot, he came upon his bank safe emptied and discarded along “The Boulevard” (modern-day Skyline Parkway); although he found the bank loan notes and ledger nearby, it was enough to validate his concern and hire people to sleep in the bank into the considerable future.
1904 and 1905 saw changes for both the bank and Peyton. First, in 1904, the bank was relocated to N. 5th Avenue – near the current site of Lake States Insulation. Renamed “Missabe Bank of Proctor,” this new building was a significant upgrade from the “shed” that formerly housed the business. Second, in 1905, Peyton married Olive Lewis, of Superior.
Over the next two decades, both the bank and Peyton’s family grew. On March 23, 1908, the Bank was officially incorporated as Proctor State Bank. In 1915, Proctor State Bank was officially renamed the First National Bank of Proctor. During this time, the Peytons gave birth to two children: John Lawrence (b. 1907) and Newton Howe (b. 1914). While these additions were exciting, 1918 turned out to particularly be a banner year for both the bank and the family; this year, Olive gave birth to a third son, Lewis Randolph, and the bank moved to its iconic corner on what is now Highway 2 and 2nd Street.
As a side note, the First National Bank of Proctor clock was an original facet of the building in 1918 and is still displayed prominently at the corner. Traditionally serving as a meeting spot for people in Proctor, the bank clock has since become an important symbol in the community.
John Peyton, who is well known as a Duluth artist and author, took over the presidency of First National Bank upon his father’s death in 1957. In 1960, he guided transition of the bank from its corner location into the former Odd Fellows Temple and Date Theatre, where it is today. In 1983, Todd Peyton (John’s grandson) took over the presidency. Like his great grandfather at the inception of Missabe Bank, Todd was 22 at the time.
A formidable presence for its anchoring of Proctor’s business district, the First National Bank building extends an important reminder of family heritage and Proctor’s community past, symbolically reminding its passersby of the time that has been spent, and the time yet to come.