"The Corner Store"
(Formerly The Bank of Surprise Valley)
Townsend and Main Streets, Cedarville
The brick building that is home to Cedarville Grocery was once a prosperous bank serving the needs of the area’s ranching families.
Organized as a result of the intelligent and
energetic efforts of Mr. Frederick E. Bush, the first Bank of
Surprise Valley opened for business in March of 1905 with a
capital stock of $25,000. Bush worked as cashier and was a major
stock holder in the venture.
In 1906, Tom Acty, using locally made bricks,
constructed the building on the corner of Main and Townsend
Streets at a cost of "about $8000". Local papers boasted it was
"well equipped with modern appliances for the conduct of their
Stan Harris (Bush's grandson by marriage)
writes that Fred traveled to the area from Iowa and worked in
the Goose Lake Valley from the ages of 17 to 22. He later worked
in Alturas before moving to Surprise Valley. "Bush must have
been quite organized. He opened the Bank in March and got
married in July to Miss Bessie Fitzgerald of Alturas, and spent
the rest of his life in and around Cedarville."
Bush worked his way up to Bank President of
the Modoc County Bank over 28 years. Branches were opened in
Cedarville and Fort Bidwell during that time. One historical
account characterized Bush as "an intelligent student of public
questions. He believes in Republican principles and gives his
allegiance to that party. In matters of a fraternal nature he
has no especial connection except with the Knights of Pythias."
Fred Bush and Phebe Mickle in the Bank of
In 1924, Bush moved his banking operation's
headquarters to Alturas, leaving branches in Cedarville and Fort
Bidwell. An undated Modoc Record story said, "But when
Cedarville seemed on the verge of blowing away, he (Bush) moved
to Alturas and changed the name to the 'Modoc County Bank'. Like
other banks across the Nation, it failed in 1933. One reason for
this failure was that the bank overextended itself in trying to
help cattlemen who had been hit by a three year drought."
FDR was inaugurated on March 4, 1933 and
within days declared a National Bank Holiday, suspending all
banking transactions. By then, 11,000 of the nation's 25,000
banks had failed, including all three branches of the Modoc
County Bank. None of the 3 local banks ever reopened.
Another article said, "Depositors in the
defunct Modoc County Bank will be paid dividends this month
totaling $18,248.00." The bank went bankrupt here on Sept.2,
1932, a time that is becoming known as the "infamous great
Looking back, that final settlement for the
bank's depositors was considered quite generous though the
bitterness of the times has not been forgotten by some local
families to this day.
Photo from Stan Harris
After its failure, the bank’s Cedarville building was acquired by Walter and Dorothy Kober. They operated “Kober’s Kash and Carry” store in that location for 38 years before selling it to Ron and Lee Seibel and Allan and Patricia Leydecker in 1972. The new owners changed the name to “Cedarville Grocery”. It was next owned by Pat and Penny Flanagan who celebrated its history by displaying photos and artifacts from its heyday as one of the town’s banks.
Today the building is owned by Sandra Parriott.
If you visit the store, be sure to look over the historic photos on display. The frame of the bank’s vault is still visible in the rear of the store and one can faintly make out “Bank of Surprise Valley” under the old paint. The vault’s metal door was donated during WWII to a local scrap metal drive.
The floors, while refinished by the Flanagans, are original. Notice the coins embedded in the once-empty holes of the floorboards.
Occasionally, the old bank sign above the wooden porch cover on the front of the building is unbolted. It’s a simple sign that serves to remind residents of the building’s short life as an important local financial institution.
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