Bramwell, West Virginia - Named to National Register of Historic Places - 1983.

The Bank of Bramwell was formed in 1889 by James Mann and his cousin, I.T. Mann established as its cashier. Mann, at one time, controlled all of the lands of the Flat Top Coal Land Association, which he in turn sold to the N&W Railroad at a handsome profit. The Historic Bank of Bramwell was the financial center of southern West Virginia. It was thought to be the wealthiest bank per capita in the country. The bank's janitor, Henry Wade regularly transported leather bags filled with money by wheelbarrow down the brick paved streets to the nearby train depot.

From Martha Jane Williams Becker's book" Bramwell - The Diary of a Millianaire Coal Town"... The Bank of Bramwell was formed in 1888 by James E. Mann, after consulting with J. H. Bramwell, Major Duhring, Captain Welch and others. The Bank was incorporated on February 25, 1889 and began business on May 1, 1889 with J. H. Bramwell as president and Issac T. Mann as cashier. J.H. Bramwell lent his name to this historic town that was founded in 1888. The bank’s last president, Issac T. Mann, lived in the apartment above the bank for a time after it closed.
Bramwell Bank expanded tremendously and by 1894 it had increased its capital to $100,000 and also issued a100% stock dividend. The bank thrived continually and in 1919 profits began to reach astronomical heights for such a small bank.

The symbol of its wealth, the Bramwell Bank, gained fame when it floated the largest Liberty Bond during World War I, resulting in the commonly used 1920s phrase "solid as the Bank of Bramwell". The profits that year were $164,000 and the bank paid out dividends totaling $66,000.

Over the next ten years profits remained high but in 1931 the beginning of the end could be seen as dividends dropped to $82,500 and were reduced from 10% to 5%and finally down to 2.5%. The year 1932 saw profits of $60,620 but no dividends were paid out. Also, this was I.T. Mann's last year as president of the bank, for he died in 1932. Harry Bowen replaced I.T. Mann as president, but nothing could be done, for the bank was sinking fast. The bank suffered sever loses in 1933.The bank directors realized that the bank was in serious trouble and initiated liquidation procedures.

In August 1933 a stockholders' meeting was held to approve liquidation plans. Final liquidation was made and 100% returned to the creditors in 1958, having required a total of 25 years. This is an outstanding example of 100% repayment to the creditors by an orderly liquidation procedure.The Bank of Bramwell is no more but the legends will live forever.

The property was added to and renovated in the 1950s and again in the 1960s. A merger of the Bank of Barnwell and the State Bank & Trust was completed in 1963. From 1982 to 1996 the bank changed hands with a number of mergers, finally settling to First Citizens Bank. First Citizens built a new bank in 2003 out on Dunbarton Boulevard. The downtown bank building stood empty for several years. In 2008-09, the bank building was bought and renovated by the Town of Bramwell. The first floor is used as City Hall while the second story is leased to several offices.

A more lengthy discussion of the Bramwell Bank can be found in Martha Jane Becker's previously referenced book on the history of Bramwell, WV.

NEWS: Published in Bluefield Daily Telegraph: March 15, 2007 - 10:13 PM : Historic Bramwell Bank Reopens.

A landmark investment:

Storied Bank of Bramwell building gets new life.

BRAMWELL — Thursday marked the start of a new chapter in the history of one of southern West Virginia’s most storied towns with the opening of the Bank of Bramwell, a branch of Honaker, Va., based New People’s Bank.

“I can’t explain how I feel,” Becky Allen, a lifelong Bramwell resident said. “I remember coming into this building as a child, but I don’t remember seeing the detail of the tiles in the floor or the carved columns around the door. It’s like seeing it for the first time.”

The bank opening drew a crowd to downtown Bramwell as people came in to get a look at the historic bank that was built in 1889, and served the community until 1933. After the bank closed, the building served as the main office for the Newbold Theater chain, a company that managed several coalfield theaters. The old bank building last served as headquarters for the Bramwell Aristocrat, a monthly newspaper published by the late Bob Barnett.

“This is furniture-quality woodwork,” Dorwin Byrd, project manager of New People’s Bank said. “The trim around the door posts and windows of the big office has hand-carved features and each one is different,” he said during a tour of the bank. Byrd joined the New People’s staff last spring after working as a banker in Mercer County for several years. He has been working out of the Abingdon, Va., office since April.

“We have had a lot of interest in the bank from the community, but a lot of people from outside Bramwell have also called to ask for information about opening new accounts,” Byrd said. “I had somebody tell me that the old bank used to let you open an account with a penny.” On Thursday, bank tellers were giving presents to new customers.

Byrd is a native of Bramwell and a 1961 graduate of Bramwell High School. After serving as project manager for a period of time, he hopes to get settled into the bank’s big office. For now, Lisa Palmer, a Northfork native with 11 years experience in banking, is serving as assistant manager and working from an office that looks out on the picturesque town that is still known for the millionaire coal barons who once called Bramwell home.

“This is a soft opening,” Palmer said. “We plan to have a ribbon cutting ceremony later.” She said that the Bramwell bank is the 26th bank in the New People’s family of banks. “There are quite a few more banks in the works.”

Betty Goins, who has taken thousands of visitors on tours of Bramwell through the years was ecstatic about the bank opening. “Donnie (Goins, her husband) made them some candy in honor of the opening, and I’m over here delivering it,” she said. “This is the most exciting thing that’s happened here in Bramwell in years.”

Goins explained the historical context of the bank and the community. The bank’s first president, J.H. Bramwell, lent his name to the town that was founded in 1888. The bank’s last president, I.T. Mann, lived in the apartment above the bank for a time after it closed. Mann was the namesake of the Wyoming County town, Itmann.

Goins suggested that the bank place an old style wheel barrow outside in memory of Henry Wade, the bank’s janitor who was said to have pushed wheel barrow’s full of money up main street to the Bramwell depot. She also shared insights with bank personnel as to how historical artifacts could be used to conceal the computer terminals and electronic equipment associated with a modern bank

Palmer said that bank has selected that bank employees were busy working with company IT personnel to get acquainted with the new computers. She also noted that the bank selected antique-style furnishings to match with the interior. “We have new desks on the way,” she said. “We’re even using the old vault with a few modifications.

You just don’t see buildings like this anymore,” Byrd said

The bank has five employees and offers a full line of services. Several customers came into the bank, conducted their business and lingered for a while.

I really think this is a great day for Bramwell,” Goins said.