Where did the name Cross Keys come from?
We are frequently asked about the name of our bank, so this seems like a good time to provide some background about our identity.
In 1902 a small group of businessmen in the St. Joseph area of Tensas Parish realized that a bank was needed to serve the needs of the area. By investing their money to provide the start-up capital they became the founding directors of the Bank of St. Joseph & Trust Company. Although none of these directors had any experience in owning or operating a bank they shared the common trait of being successful in their own businesses. Their prudent management of the young bank enabled it to grow and prosper, while at the same time providing funds for the community to grow and also creating new jobs within the bank. In fact, the strength and stability of the bank allowed it to continue through the depression years when many banks failed.
It was 85 years later when another bank failure began a chain of events that led to a new name for our old bank. In 1987 bank regulators closed the old Tallulah State Bank, also founded in 1902, and other banks were invited to bid on its assets and liabilities. The Bank of St. Joseph was the successful bidder, which created the immediate realization that the Bank of St. Joseph moniker was no longer adequate, and a new and more broadly acceptable name must be sought. Since we were so busy running the growing bank we couldn't spend much time thinking about a new name, and two years went by until another failed bank, the Sterlington Bank, was purchased in 1989.
Now, everyone knew that a new name was essential, and what seemed like a simple process of finding a new name became what Bill Watson called "one of the biggest challenges of my career as president of the bank". Many suggestions were tossed around, but none of them had the reaction that we were looking for. Bill, who is now Chairman of the Board, said, "What I wanted was something a little bit different; to distinguish our name wherever we might expand in the future, but also something that had some connection to our roots in Northeast Louisiana. I don't want us to ever forget where we came from."
Bill said the name change took an interesting turn "one day when my wife and I received a visit from her brother, a resident of San Francisco, and we took him out to see the old family farm called Cross Keys Plantation. Later that evening the quandary of a new name for the bank was discussed, and the visitor from California said, 'Why don't you call it Cross Keys Bank?' We all laughed and immediately discarded the idea, as to name a bank for the CEO's family plantation seemed, well, a bit pushy." The plantation has been in Bill's family since 1853, and its name is said to have biblical connotations, possibly referring to Peter receiving "the keys to the kingdom". Also, Lake St. Peter is located on the property, giving further credibility to the biblical influence. One of our customers told us that he had visited Regensburg, Germany, which was once the capital of the Holy Roman Empire of Germanic States. St. Peter was the Patron Saint of the city, and as a result the crossed keys insignia is still seen in many locations, with the keys in an inverted position.
Several months after the idea to use the plantation name, while attending a bank convention in New Orleans, another piece of the bank name puzzle fell into place. Bill noticed that the concierge at the Hilton Hotel wore on the lapel of his uniform a distinctive pin that appeared to be crossed keys. So, Bill asked him to explain it. The concierge smiled and proudly explained that the "the keys stand for the source of information, service, the wine cellar, etc.; virtually anything a guest might need."
The connection between the crossed keys insignia and satisfying customers' needs was the "key" that Bill had been looking for. He said, "I had been leaning away from the name Cross Keys because of my family's connection to the plantation, but the identification of the crossed keys with excellent service was a compelling reason to make our decision. At our next board meeting, I presented a sample logo with the keys on some sample stationery, and on October 16, 1989 our directors immediately adopted our new name and the symbol that we still proudly use today."
After all the information for this article was compiled and discussed at length, Bill said "Why don't you just say that we knew 'The Bank of St. Joseph' was not going to go over very well in Tallulah and Sterlington, and we needed a name that looked and sounded good. We settled on the old plantation that had belonged to my Aunt Lucille because we thought it represented a long and proud history of the economic struggle of our farming community."
So that's the long version. The short version is that we are different; we have been around since 1902, and we are still here to serve you. Our mission is to help our customers succeed. By their success, we will succeed!