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Grandpa Ben’s story

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An adventurer and entrepreneur at heart, Ben Samuel Summerwill moved his family from Iowa to South Dakota in 1916, with the dream of running a successful cattle ranch. At that time, South Dakota still was "the Wild West" complete with cattle roundups and branding, and Summerwill served as a deputy sheriff in Pierre, outfitted with chaps, horse and six-shooter. By 1929 and in the grip of the Great Depression, despite hard work by Summerwill, wife Edna and children Bill and Betty and Ben, he had lost the ranch.

This led to him returning to Iowa City, as an employee of the Iowa State Banking Department, to liquidate five banks that had failed due to the depression. Summerwill had prior experience as a bank examiner, but perhaps what prepared him best for this tough job was his own experience starting and losing a business.

This experience gave him a perspective on how to deal with people. He had lost his money, so he could sympathize with others who had experienced the same. As the examiner in charge of these failed banks in the Iowa City area, he took the unusual step of loaning money out of a closed bank to help people get going again. So, as a result of the way he went about accomplishing his work, Summerwill was called on by people in the community to start a new bank in 1934 to provide some competition for the only remaining bank in town. Iowa State Bank & Trust Company was incorporated on October 8, 1934, with deposits of more than $368,000.  While the name of the bank has changed to MidWestOne Bank, it still operates under the same charter founded in 1934, and in the same historic location on the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets.

It was Summerwill’s understanding of people—and his faith in their ability to succeed—that has helped the bank succeed. His three basic principles for running the bank are still among MidWestOne’s operating principles today:

  • Hire excellent employees
  • Take care of your customers
  • Conduct yourself with the utmost integrity

Even MidWestOne’s mission statement, "Take care of our customers and those who should be," comes out of Summerwill’s philosophy that everyone who comes into the bank should be recognized.  Summerwill’s passion for work and a commitment to doing things right lives on in Iowa City and throughout MidWestOne Bank.