Smoky Valley Historical Association Lindsborg, KS 67456


Business was starting to flourish in downtown Lindsborg when this photo was taken in 1878. The railroad, which arrived a year later, provided fast, economical, and efficient shipping of goods to stock the shelves of local stores.

This photo was taken on a Saturday night when all downtown stores remained open late to serve farm families who came to town for their weekly supplies, have a restaurant meal, maybe see a picture at the Plaza Theater, and catch up with other farm families and their friends in town. Beginning in the afternoon, while their wives began shopping, the men would stand around the Swedish American Insurance building on the northwest corner of Lincoln and Main swapping stories, many times conversing in Swedish. Photo by Dale Hoag.

A fixture on Main Street for generations Peterson's Restaurant was later known as the Royal Cafe, among other names.

Founded in 1886, Lindsborg's original Farmers State Bank was the only bank of three to survive the Great Depression. In modern times the bank became a branch of Bank of America and another financial institution assumed the Farmers State name. The building became Lindsborg's City Hall in 1955 when the bank moved to a new building one-half block north of this location.

Daniel Johnson's Department Store, on the southwest corner of Lincoln and Main Streets, supplied local residents with a great variety of their needs from between 1875 and 1924. ABOVE & BELOW: Here are two typical scenes inside this large well-stocked store. Lindsborg was home to two other large department stores, including the J. O. Sundstrom store across the street from Johnson's.

The Olson Barber Shop was located just east of the old Farmers State Bank building.

A meeting of the Lindsborg Rotary Club in April, 1944. Many Lindsborg luminaries can be seen in the photo, including artist and teacher Birger Sandzén and Dr. Emory Lindquist, Smoky Valley historian, president of Bethany College and later Wichita State University. This meeting was on the second floor of the Swedish American Insurance building at Lincoln and Main. In 2009 the Rotary Club was holding its meetings in the Pihlblad Memorial Union at Bethany College.

By the 1950's the department stores were gone, but a number of specialized stores had replaced them. By the mid-20th century downtown Lindsborg boasted three automobile dealerships, three grocery stores, two hotels, two men's clothing stores, three hardware stores, a shoe store, a fabric shop, two furniture stores, two drug stores, a coffee store, two barber shops, a dime store, and other retail and service businesses.

The J. O. Sundstrom Department Store was holding a big "used tire sale" the day this photo was taken. Even though the Sundstrom store closed in the 1920's this building, built in 1879, occupied three store fronts on Main Street until 2013. The new J.O Sundstrom Conference Center now resides in it's place.

Today's tree-lined Main Street provides a pleasant environment for shopping, business and dining. The buildings, most dating back to the 19th century, feature authentic Swedish facades adding to the unique experience that is Lindsborg.

(Originally published in the 2003 Svensk Hyllningsfest program booklet.)

Ebba Fornberg

She Accomplished What Many Men Couldn't;
She Saved a Bank During the Great Depression!

Note: The Farmers State Bank referred to in this article became the Lindsborg branch of Bank of America and should not be confused with any other institution of the same name.

By Chris Abercrombie

It was late on the cold afternoon of Monday, December 15, 1930. The buildings at the corner of Lincoln and Main cast foreboding shadows over the intersection. There was an eerie silence in town. The Great Depression was gripping the nation and was now taking its toll in Lindsborg.

In the warm comfort of her office Ebba Fornberg, cashier and acting president of the Farmers State Bank, was finishing up the day's business.

Suddenly the quiet of the day was shattered. It was the news Ebba and the bank's board of directors had dreaded but had planned for; The Commercial State Bank, directly across the street, had locked its doors and would not reopen the next morning.

This was the second of three Lindsborg banks to fail within two months. The First National Bank had been closed since the end of October. Ebba knew there would be a run on the Farmers State Bank the next morning.

After alerting the bank's staff they would be working well into the early morning hours, Ebba drove to McPherson. Away from the ears and eyes of locals who would be watching her every move Ebba asked for and received all the available cash a friendly McPherson bank could spare and arranged for additional cash to be sent at once, no doubt by overnight train, from a large Kansas City bank.

The bank's board members and officers offered up their own personal funds to make sure each and every depositor was paid. Before sun-up customers started lining up outside the Farmers State Bank, jockeying for position to be one of the first to withdraw their funds before, they assumed, the bank ran out of money.

Inside the board of directors, even gravely ill bank president Louis Nordberg, came in to help and observe. Once the doors swung open at 9 a.m. the bank's staff began working feverishly paying off each depositor in full and in cash.

Word spread rapidly through the close-knit town. Then around 2 p.m. the tide turned. Staff members found themselves working even more frantically helping customers redeposit their money. At the bank's 3 p.m. closing there was actually $1,800 more on deposit than there had been at the beginning of the business day. Customers even continued to call through rest of the afternoon pleading to make deposits after hours.

Thanks to the foresight and pure tenacity of Ebba Fornberg the Farmers State Bank survived and even prospered in the 1930's and continued to do so through subsequent decades.

The bank was dissolved as an independent bank and sold to out-of-town banking interests in the early 1990's. Today what was the Farmers State Bank, which had faithfully served the community since 1886, is a branch of Bank of America, one of the largest financial institutions in the country.

Ebba Fornberg was elected president of the Farmers State Bank upon the death of Louis Nordberg in 1931. She held that position until her death in 1950. Ebba had served the institution, its depositors and the community for 35 years.

Depositors of the First National Bank were ultimately paid in full, although it took until 1948 to do so. Those with their money deposited in the Commercial State Bank weren't as fortunate. They received 40 cents on the dollar by the time the final payment was made two years after the bank closed.

A Series 1902 $10 bill issued in 1906 by The First National Bank of Lindsborg. Even though it was issued by a local bank it was backed by the US Government and is still redeemable for $10 at any Federal Reserve Bank (although it's worth much more on the collector market). Each bill was signed personally by bank officers. Like all paper currency of its day this note is about 50 percent larger than today's bills.

This Series 1929 bill, also issued by The First National Bank of Lindsborg, looks more like and is the same size as today's paper currency. Even though the issuing bank closed at the beginning of the Great Depression in 1930 this bill, like the one to the left, is still backed by the Federal Government and is redeemable for it's full face value.

"I've been criticized by bankers for being too big-hearted," she says with a defiant lift of her head. "But regardless of that I know my note case is absolutely sound. This bank kept Main Street open during the darkest days of the depression. We risked money to do it – but I knew these people. Of course, the problem is a different problem here from what it is in some communities. There is a sound, basic honesty in a Swedish community which is something strong and fundamental that you can tie to. We won't lose a thousand dollars of all we loaned to Main Street in those hard days. And it was many times worth it to keep the people working, hopeful, happy and achieving."
- Ebba Fornberg from The Kansas City Star, July 23, 1939

Built in 1887 this two-story brick building at Lincoln and Main Streets, shown here in the early 1900's, housed the Farmers State Bank until 1955. Today it's Lindsborg's City Hall.