The Norwood National Bank of Greenville, South Carolina

The Norwood National Bank of Greenville

County:

Greenville

Charter Number:

8766

Opened:

June 1907

Sold:

March 1926

    The Norwood National Bank was certainly one of the most successful banks in all of South Carolina.  When it opened in 1907 is was located in a small building on McBee street.  It was the third bank in Greenville to receive its national charter, and only 7 years later it was one of six national banks in Greenville.  However, it didn't take even that long to become the largest bank (in terms of assets) of any bank in the county.
    By the first quarter of 1913 Norwood had $838,000 in deposits and by 1925 it had twice as many deposits as any other Greenville bank.  Of course it is mostly speculative to say why any bank does better than another; however, it is safe to say that the presence of famed and namesake banker John Wilkins Norwood at the helm only helped the bank succeed.
    Due to the large size of the bank it issued many notes.  Its notes are the most available in large size for the city and one of the ten most common in the state.
    In 1926 the Bank of Charleston combined with The Carolina National Bank in Columbia and The Norwood National Bank in Greenville to become the state's financial juggernaut under than name of the South Carolina National Bank.  In 1993 Wachovia bought SCNB.  In 2008 Wells Fargo took over Wachovia.

(Picture above is of the Bank while operating as South Carolina National Bank at 108 W. Washington St. in the late 1920s)

First President:

J.W. Norwood

First Cashier:

A.L. Mills

John Wilkins Norwood

b. 3/15/1865 Hartsville, SC
d. 4/10/1945 Greenville, SC

    John Wilkins Norwood is likely one of the most heralded South Carolina bankers of the national period.  He has ties to many banks in the Carolinas and he was the founder and the first and only president of The Norwood National Bank in Greenville.  Despite the success of the last sixty years of his life the first twenty years were a bit hectic.  He did not especially care for books and attended three different colleges, The South Carolina Military Academy, Wake Forest, and Richmond College; he didn't earn a degree from any of them.  He was expelled from what is now the Citadel because a classmate of his pulled a prank involving a cannonball and a stairwell.  JW would not turn his friend in and thus violated the honor code resulting in his expulsion.  That incident fairly well sums up John Wilkins Norwood, he was his own man.
    JW Norwood began working as the cashier of the Peoples Bank in Greenville in 1887 and less than six months later was that bank's president.  He was 23 and allegedly the youngest bank president in the country at that time.  He always held business interests in Wilmington, NC and in 1892 he formed and became the first president of the Atlantic National Bank there.  He would hold that title until 1902 when he moved back to Greenville to become the president of the City National Bank.  In February of 1906 he moved on to another banking venture and started the Greenville Savings and Trust which in July of 1907 became The Norwood National Bank.
    Over the course of his business life he was on many boards.  He was a hero to the people he represented for the board but he often clashed with other members who didn't always agree with him.  He was chairman of the board after Norwood National was combined to form SCNB but that relationship ended poorly as JW often disagreed with management and they parted ways on bad terms.  To say that John Wilkins Norwood was disliked is certainly not the case though.  He had many fruitful business relationships, a large family, and was a pillar of the Greenville community.

    It would be an understatement to say that John Wilkins Norwood led a full life and accomplished much.  Sadly though, his first two wives died before him; but he is now buried beside all three of them in Greenville. 

Arthur Ladson Mills

b. 10/9/1883 Greenville, SC
d. 6/9/1918 Greenville, NC

    Arthur Ladson Mills was a native son of Greenville having been born there and educated at Furman University before earning his degree at Davidson College.  After graduation he got to work quickly as a cashier at what would become the Peoples National Bank in Greenville.  He must have impressed several people because in 1907 he was recruited by John Wilkins Norwood to help organize and become the first cashier of The Norwood National Bank at the young age of 23.  He would be the cashier at Norwood until 1910 when he changed banks to become cashier at the newly formed Fourth National Bank of Greenville.  However, despite his short stint with Norwood he did sign as cashier on the first 1902 red seals issued.
    Mr. Mills met an untimely fate while attempting to rescue a man who was drowning at Laurel Park Lake in Hendersonville, NC.  While trying to save the drowning EB Johnson, Johnson grabbed Mills in such a way that he could not help Johnson or himself and they both drowned.  At the time of the terrible accident Arthur Mills was the president of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and father to three children.  However, like so many of his peers, he accomplished more in his short 34 years than many people do in their whole lives today.
    Arthur's father, Captain Otis Prentiss Mills, began and ran the very successful Mills Mill in Greenville.

Other People Associated with the Bank: Samuel A Moore - Cashier, JP Rickman - Vice President, Benjamin A Cook - Cashier, George A Norwood Jr. - Vice President, JF Davenport - Cashier, WP Anderson - Vice President, CM McGee - Cashier, HP McGee - Vice President, EA Gilfillin - Vice President, JF Gallivan - Vice President, JW Key - Cashier.

The Norwood National Bank has since been torn down.  The information above was gathered from original documents from the Greenville County Library and James Calvin Hemphill's book Men of Mark in South Carolina.  Photos of the bankers and other biographical information was obtained from the families of JW Norwood and AL Mills.