TISHOMINGO, Okla. (KFOR) — Visitors to town arriving from the West still stop to take pictures of this old, granite, Romanesque style building on Main Street.
Historian Sue Robins is often on hand to show off the treasures inside the Johnston County Historical Society Museum and Chickasaw National Bank Museum.
‘We don’t ever know who is going to walk through that door,” she tells us.
Exhibits include a collection of Native American baskets and pottery, and a display of famous people from Tishomingo.
Upstairs, another historian, Cody Reynolds, is happy to show off several additional displays.
He shows off a wall full of old hats and explains about a local pharmacist named Gene Lafitte who collected them from his customers and displayed them in his store.
“He was in Tishomingo for more than 55 years,” Reynolds says.
But the main part of this museum is a re-created bank lobby quite a bit like the one that was here from 1902 to 1909 when The Bank of the Chickasaw Nation did its business in the same location.
“It’s stood the duration of time,” says Robins of the building itself.
Former Chickasaw Governor R.M. Harris constructed the building using rocks from his own quarry.
Townspeople made deposits and withdrawals without thinking about a teller and part owner named Kirby Purdum.
His is suspected of walking into the vault one night and stealing $40,000 in cash, which in 2022 dollars that would equal $1.4 million dollars.
Robins says he got away clean.
“They never saw him again,” she says, “and the bank just couldn’t recoup its loss.”
The bank did not survive the theft.
Purdum was rumored to have caught a boat to Central America.
The building became a real estate office and even the Tishomingo City Hall for a time.
“All of the floors are original,” says Robins who also points out the original pressed tin ceiling, and several old adding machines.
The county historical society bought it from bankruptcy in the 1970’s and started putting treasures back inside.
The edifice came through its troubles like a rock.
It even survived a fire that took two other businesses next door in 2015.
The bank itself is long gone, as are the people who ran it and robbed it.
But the stories survive as part of the foundation now, unexpected gems inside a structure full of them.
Great State is sponsored by WEOKIE Credit Union