Welcome to Citizen's Bank & Trust Company
Big Timber, Harlowton, Ryegate
to Citizens Bank and Trust Company. We are an old fashioned bank in the
best sense. Although we offer nearly all of the modern services that
people have come to expect, we are primarily about personal service. In
fact it’s hard to think about our bank separately from the people who
work here. In our communities, our customers soon become our friends.
Jim Overstreet, President
We provide high-quality financial services to make credit available to
promote the growth and prosperity of our community.
We have and demonstrate complete integrity in all that we do.
We will support, sustain and improve the communities in which we reside and operate.
We have and will show respect for all employees, customers, vendors and
We will operate our Bank in a safe, conservative, dependable and
CITIZENS BANK & TRUST COMPANY
The history of our bank traces back to the first financial institution in
Big Timber. In 1890 William Shanks and Thomas Lee placed some private
funds in an office safe and for a while did a loan business. The
following year Shanks helped organize and became Vice President of Big
Timber National Bank. In 1913 Big Timber National was reorganized as
Commercial Bank and Trust Company. Early day Big Timber luminaries, C.T.
Busha and Oscar Nepstad were bank directors. You will note Busha Street
in Big Timber and Nepstad Ditch on area maps.
Citizens State Bank was incorporated in 1906. Its principal founder, an
Irish immigrant named Charles McDonnell walked into Sweet Grass County
behind a band of sheep in the 1870s and became a prosperous land owner,
business man, and state Senator. His granddaughter, Mary Ellen Cremer,
is one of our current directors.
In 1927, Citizen State Bank and Commercial Bank & Trust Company merged
into Citizens Bank & Trust Company. At that time, Anthony Arneson, who
had been President and principal stockholder of the Commercial Bank
became President of the new bank. Arneson, a second generation American
of Norwegian descent, got off the train in Big Timber in 1889 or ’90.
For a while, he worked as a hod carrier during the construction of the
Grand Hotel. Then, using borrowed money he bought a half interest in a
small ranch on Swamp Creek north of town. At the same time he took up a
320-acre homestead on nearby open range. Eventually, he became one of
the largest landowners in the area.
Our Continental branch, formerly Continental National Bank in Harlowton,
Montana traces its roots back to 1905 when Benjamin Urner started a
private bank. This was three years before the Milwaukee Road arrived. In
1906 Urner’s bank was chartered as the State Bank of Harlowton and built
a two story building. In 1917 the bank was purchased by Weyburn Security
Banking Company and renamed Continental Bank and Trust Company. C. A.
Johnson became manager. Norwest Bancorporation purchased the bank in
1930 and renamed it Continental National Bank. A month later, they
absorbed Farmers National Bank of Harlowton. In 1947 a group of local
investors bought the bank and operated it as an independent bank for
over 60 years. In 1998, Continental National opened a branch in nearby
In the summer of 2008, the stockholders of Citizens Bank and Trust
Company in Big Timber purchased all the stock from the Continental
shareholders and merged the two banks.
ABOUT CITIZENS BANK & TRUST
We are an independent bank locally owned and managed.
For most of our history we have had a single location.
Now, in addition to our main branch in Big Timber, our
Continental branch is the principle financial
institution in Harlowton and our Golden Valley Branch is
the only bank in Ryegate. Our primary service area is
the three counties where we are located but we have
customers both from all across Montana and other states
We feel that we have sufficient capital
to survive severe economic turmoil. For more information
about our financial condition, please click on the
Financial Information tab.
Our jobs as bankers require us to
balance the needs of our depositors, with the needs of
our borrowers, the needs of our community and the
requirements of the banking regulators.
Timber and Sweet Grass County, Harlowton and Wheatland
County, Ryegate and Golden Valley County are small
communities and are great places to live. As bankers our
jobs and our lives are intertwined with the lives of our
customers. We might meet at the grocery store, at the
gas station or in a restaurant. We often serve on boards
together, go to church together, and cheer our home
This puts a lot of pressure on
us to get it right.
You may have noticed that
there is no mention above of meeting the needs of our
stockholders. That isn’t necessary because we have found
that when we take care of our customers the effect is to
take care of the stockholders as well.
we are pretty good people, as bankers go, we are still
bankers. As part of a local, national and international
financial system, we have to answer to both state and
federal regulators. All the rules of banking apply. The
difference between us and other bankers is how we use
the discretion we have.
In some ways as lenders,
we are quite conservative. Our credit standards don’t
change much—whether the times are good or the times are
bad. We didn’t get caught up in either the technology
bubble of a few years ago or the more recent sub-prime
housing debacle. We do not take brokered deposits and
large deposits from out of state need to have some local
On the other hand, we can be
extremely flexible. We are not bound by the cookie
cutter mentality that is built into the computer
programs that seem to be making the lending decisions
elsewhere these days. Here, you will work with real
people who can weigh unusual requests and situations
without worrying about how it’s done by the big banks.
You still might not get the loan, but you’ll get a fair
Warning: Our bank does not give
financial advice. We can’t tell you if your venture will
succeed or fail. If you want financial advice hire a
consultant. Of course, if you ask, our lending officers
might offer a personal opinion about a financial
question but it is just that—a personal opinion. You
have to use your own judgment.
What our loan
officers can tell you is whether we can or cannot make
you the loan that you request. The rest is up to you.
LESSONS FROM OUR PAST
Looking back we are very proud of how we remained
trustworthy partners to our customers in a very tough
time. The recession of the mid-1980s was much deeper
here in Montana than in much of the country. Everything
seemed to go bad at the same time—especially for our
agricultural customers. Livestock and grain prices
crashed in a time of severe drought. Hay was scarce and
expensive at a time when cattle prices plunged. Input
costs of all kinds spiked. At the same time, it seemed
like nobody wanted to own land in Montana and real
estate prices dropped precipitously as well. During this
period, the PCA and many of the bigger banks were
selling out even their good customers. Sometimes, we
didn’t sleep too well but we stood by our customers as
long as we possibly could. Not all of our customers
survived financially. Ranches sold and businesses
closed. At times, we practically defied our bank
examiners to help our customers liquidate in an orderly
fashion. We never foreclosed on any of them.
believe that we played an instrumental role in helping
many of our customers survive that incredibly difficult
financial time and would like to think that whenever
tough times arise we will fight just as strongly for our
customers and communities.
Looking back to
earlier days—the 1930s depression—local legend recalls
the following story: Charlie McDonnell, one of the
founder’s sons, was a loan office and later president of
the bank. In those days there were still many small
ranches in the area where families got by raising a few
head of sheep or cows. Whenever Charlie made a loan to
one of these country folk, he required that they buy a
milk cow if they did not have one, so that the kids
would always have something to eat. Charlie was a life
long bachelor and a very conservative banker, but he had
compassion for other peoples children.