Ben Scott, Folkston Pioneer, Led 1912 Bank Struggle
By Jack R. Mays
Charlton County, Ga. Historian
Benjamin F. Scott, Sr. leaned against the giant oak shading Folkston’s railroad depot. It was a sultry fall afternoon, October 24, 1912. He stared intently across the sandy street at the large crowd gathered at his Arnold Hotel for a social function. Horses were tied to the hitching posts out front and dozens of well dressed men and women were milling about; others crowded the upstairs balcony. This day Folkston’s Courthouse [Main] Street was alive.
It was Ben Scott’s 39th birthday, and he was jubilant for his economic fortune for one so young. He had come to Folkston in 1894 from Screven County as a school teacher when he was just 20. Soon he would give up teaching to open a general merchandise store near where his hotel now stands. He had married an 18-year-old local girl, Kate Roddenberry, sixteen years earlier. They would have three children, Mary, Carl and Ben Jr.
This day Ben Scott owned a highly successful general store. There it was across the street in the east end of his Arnold Hotel building which he built and opened in 1911. The sign above the store door called it The Scott Tea Company. In the same building was the ten-month-old The Citizens Bank and he was its president too. The new bank opened its doors in January 1912. It was the town’s second bank. Most of the town’s businessmen were among its founders, and many of them were on its board of directors. Ben Scott had a lot to be thankful for.
1912 was a good year for him to celebrate. The new Citizens Bank had done so well that Donald Pearce of Whigham, Ga. had been hired as its bookkeeper after being open less than two months. The city’s other bank, The Bank of Folkston, which was the first to open in the town, in 1906, was tottering and trying to survive its competition. It was located on the corner of Courthouse Street and First Street, east of the railroad tracks. It is the oldest brick building in Folkston.
The struggle for survival between the two banks intrigued Bank Scott. He had noticed the public statement of the Bank of Folkston in July of 1911. It had deposits of $30,000 and loans of $46,000. By February of 1912, its deposits had dropped to less than $16,000 and loans fell to $24,000. Scott’s Citizens Bank on the same date, after being open only two months, had deposits of $28,000 and loans of nearly $10,000. Ben Scott knew it wouldn’t be long before The Bank of Folkston closed its doors. A branch of the Liberty Banking Co. of Ludowici, it appointed a receiver and closed down on March 15, 1913. The Citizens Bank reorganized in January 1920 when William Mizell, Sr. was named president, succeeding Scott.