Merchants State Bank Debacle, Part I

This time, I’m going to switch things up a bit and profile a business rather than a building. I alluded to the drama surrounding the Merchants State Bank here and here. The failure of this bank ruined several men financially and nearly bankrupted Ford County. It’s a long story involving a lot of names you will recognize so I’m breaking it up into a few parts.

First of all, let me just say this ad right here says all you need to know about James Langton:

The Ryansville Boomer, January 1, 1886

The brief history of Ryansville, Kansas was quite dramatic and Langton was in the thick of it. But that’s another story for another day.

Merchants State Bank was organized on February 18, 1886 by some very prominent men in Dodge City…and also James Langton. I should note that the State of Kansas shows the official date of the bank’s formation was March 8, 1886.

The Dodge City Democrat, February 20, 1886

$50,000 was a massive amount of capital in 1886 – the equivalent of more than $1.5 million in 2023. But that didn’t mean they had actually *raised* $50K! I can assure you they had not.

Dr. T. L. McCarty commissioned an architect by the name of Weston to design the new bank building and plans were ready in April of 1886. It was to be a two-story brick structure measuring 25 x 50 feet adjoining the Post Office.

The bank officially opened in its temporary quarters on April 15, 1886 and took in a whopping $10,000 in deposits the very first day.

The Sun, April 22, 1886

On May 20, 1886, many of the same players organized the Monarch Mortgage and Bond Company of Dodge City. This entity set up shop right next door to the bank with J. P. Brown in charge.

The Dodge City Democrat, June 12, 1886

The bank moved into its permanent location at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Chestnut Street in August of 1886. The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the bank with frontage at what was then 714 Second Avenue.

The Dodge City Times, February 10, 1887

Langton *definitely* needed to pay more attention to the hardware business, considering it was mortgaged to the hilt. More on that fine mess later.

Ford County Republican, March 16, 1887

Langton was also Treasurer of Dodge City’s public schools at this time. By June of 1887, Charles Martin had replaced Langton as Cashier but Langton was still on the Board of Directors.

I don’t know exactly when it became known around town that Merchants State Bank was offering risky loans to officers of the bank and their friends. Langton alone was into the bank for $8,000! That’s more than $251,000 in 2023 dollars.

Dodge City Democrat, July 30, 1887

In July of 1887, the bank paid Dr. McCarty $20,000 for the lot which included the post office and bank buildings. I find it interesting that neither the Journal nor the Globe nor the Times pointed out that McCarty was still on the bank’s Board of Directors. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but it was certainly relevant. The purchase was also an enormous mistake.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, August 2, 1887

By mid-November, Langton’s name stopped appearing in the Merchants State Bank newspaper ads. Here’s where the bank’s finances reportedly stood as of January 26, 1888.

Dodge City Democrat, February 4, 1888

I don’t want to make Langton out to be a super villain but he was also Treasurer of the Bloom town company. From what I can tell, he owed money on various properties to people all over Ford County, including Carrie Rath. The lawsuits started pouring in but he had opened a hardware store in Monte Vista, Colorado and it appears he left several people in the lurch. Unfortunately, the bank was forced to foreclose on the Langton Hardware Store in August of 1888 and that caused a serious financial ripple effect in Dodge.

Times-Democrat, September 6, 1888

George Cox shipped the remaining merchandise to Oklahoma where he also shipped his drug store. Cox had been elected Ford County Treasurer in November of 1887 but didn’t take office until October of 1888. I don’t fully understand all of the particulars but R. M. Wright’s term didn’t expire until October and I guess Cox was Treasurer-elect all those months because of the election cycle. Seems weird, but whatever.

The Dodge City Times, January 17, 1889

George Cox announced his candidacy for reelection in August of 1889 and was heartily endorsed by The Dodge City Times. He won again.

The Dodge City Times, August 22, 1889

Cashier Charles Martin moved to Washington at the beginning of 1890 and was replaced by J. W. Guynn of Ingalls.

The Globe-Republican, January 8, 1890

Merchants State Bank was included in this lawsuit against Langton Hardware in July of 1890.

The Dodge City Times, July 25, 1890

By October of 1890, there were concerns about Cox’s handling of some tax bills but nothing was officially recorded. And then this happened. Weird, huh!

The Globe-Republican, November 26, 1890

Cashier Guynn left for Pueblo in January of 1891 and was replaced by E. E. Smith. I’m thinking Smith may have had regrets.

The Dodge City Times, January 9, 1891

Merchants State Bank closed its doors nine days after its fifth anniversary on February 27, 1891 and the Democrat specifically referenced Cox’s failure.

The Dodge City Democrat, February 28, 1891

Next time, I’ll dig into how exactly this all transpired and will present a series of dueling narratives via newspaper editorials. Mud was being slung in every direction. I’ll also explain what that last sentence about school districts and townships losing meant in real terms.

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!


Your support keeps the caffeine flowing! Make a one-time donation. Your contribution is appreciated!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: