Clarks Grove institution puts down roots in Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 16, 2003

Expansion of its financial services to serve customers in Albert Lea could be one way the State Bank of Clarks Grove is celebrating its centennial. And for all those years, four generations of the Johnson-Narverud families have been involved with the operations of this independently owned bank.

This bank was organized in August 1903 by several Clarks Grove citizens who felt there was a better alternative to do their banking than traveling on rough roads or by passenger trains to Albert Lea.

The bank’s first president was Alfred Christopherson, who was also cashier of the First National Bank of Albert Lea in 1903. He helped to organize several of the area’s community banks during his long career.

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Serving as the Clarks Grove bank’s first vice president was John C. Johnson, a Norwegian immigrant who was the grandfather of the bank’s current president.

Christopherson served as president of the State Bank of Clarks Grove for a short time. Other men who have served as the bank’s president during the past 100 years are: Joseph C. Johnson (uncle of the bank’s present president), Andrew Hanson,. Peter C. Sorenson, J. O. Peterson, Rueben Johnson (another uncle of the bank’s current president), and John J. Narverud Jr., better known as &uot;Joe,&uot; who has served in this position since the early 1980s.

The bank as originally located in the Clarks Grove Mercantile until its new building could be constructed. Since 1905, the bank has been in the same location. There have been two additions and a major remodeling and expansion to the east involving the site of the former post office building in the early 1980s. As a result the expanded State Bank of Clarks Grove has a night depository, drive-up window and an operations center for what has evolved into two banks.

On July 1, the Albert Lea branch opened for business at 1401 N. Bridge Ave.

&uot;It’s a good location. We already had many Albert Lea accounts. Now we can better serve them, plus picking up new accounts every day,&uot; Narverud explained.

&uot;We’re very satisfied with the way things are going. Our growth was coming from the north end of Albert Lea,&uot; he added.

This family owned bank has the following officers and staff: Joe Narverud Jr., president; Sue Loch, vice president; Julie Jensen, Albert Lea branch manager; Cari Knutson, cashier; and Carol Perkins, Sarah Gavle, Carrie Munsch, Donna Hoyne and Suhai Solis, tellers.

Joe’s wife, Sandy, works part time in the banks and helped with the decorating of the Albert Lea branch. (Joe and Sandy are the parents of Sue and Julie).

The bank’s board of directors are: Joe Narverud Jr., Sue Loch, Julie Jensen, Jason Narverud and Ted Hellie Jr.

Jason is the son of Joe and Sandy and is a computer specialist at Winona State University. He set up the computer system which links the Albert Lea and Clarks Grove banks.

Joe Narverud said the bank started with a capital of $10,000 and a surplus of $12,000 a century ago. Now he explains that the bank has a capital of $50,000, a surplus of $1,200,000, and retained earnings of $1,511,000.

He grew up on Albert Lea’s south side, attended Ramsey School, and graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1957. Joe attended Mankato State

College for two years, graduated from the Minnesota School of Business in 1961, and started working at the State Bank of Clarks Grove in 1962. During those years he spent six months active duty with the U.S. Army and 5 1/2 years in the reserves.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Narverud was a partner with the late Don Benson in the ownership of the Clarks Grove bank.

He said banking and farming have really changed through the years.

This is confirmed in part with the bank’s ad in a 1953 issue of the Community Magazine., At that time the State Bank of Clarks Grove was offering &uot;assistance in estates, notary work,&uot; selling several types of insurance and both surety and fidelity bonds, and offering the then-new service of Western Union money order transfers by wire.

&uot;I spend a lot of time in Clarks Grove, Now I’ll be jumping between the two places,&uot; Narverud said.

The former resident of Clarks Grove who now lives back in Albert Lea added, &uot;I enjoy the people I work with and especially our customers.&uot;

(Contact Ed Shannon at or call 379-3434.)