The panic of 1819 and the failure of the Bank of Missouri in 1821, resulted in a strong anti-bank sentiment in Missouri. For sixteen years the State refused to charter a single bank. Finally, following the establishment of the Bank of the State in 1837, popular sentiment in favor of the bank gave rise to keen competition for the establishment of branches. An amusing story of how Palmyra secured the second branch bank established in 1839 is well worth relating. The story is recorded in Walter B. Stevens’ Centennial History of Missouri and is as follows:
Hannibal was a rival for the location and likely to win. One branch had been located and the next session of the Legislature was to locate another somewhere in northeast Missouri. Dr. James Shropshire lived at Palmyra. He went down to Hannibal and met a friend who like himself was a strong Whig. The legislature was strongly democratic. Shropshire talked politics. He referred to some recent utterances of Benton which reflected severely on the Whig Party and told his friends that the whigs ought to show their disapproval of the Senator in some way. He intimated that the Palmyra whigs were going to burn the senator in effigy and added, “I think you ought to do the same thing in Hannibal.” The friend enthusiastically agreed. The idea was circulated, and Hannibal whigs had a big bonfire, burned the senator and fired some pistol bullets into the dummy shouting, “Shoot him in the head!” Palmyra of course did nothing of the kind. But when the question of locating the bank came up at Jefferson City and the sponsor for Hannibal, the state senator from that district, moved to insert Hannibal in the bill, he was asked if Hannibal was not the place where Senator Benton had been burned in effigy recently. He said he believed that irresponsible boys had done something of the kind but that citizens generally had nothing to do with it. The explanation didn’t satisfy. Friends of Benton said such boys must have had bad fathers and the gave the bank to Palmyra.