Here’s a little-known fact for those of you with ties to Vermilion Parish: The Bank of Erath housed the town’s first telephone. According to historian, Abbeville native and attorney Warren Perrin who recounts the documented history in a 2019 Morning Advocate article, “Mayor Louis Relie LeBlanc made the first phone call from the bank in the late 1930s. To accommodate customers, the bank would leave the telephone on the windowsill of the back window inside the bank. The window was left unlocked. If someone needed to make a call after banking hours, they opened the window and made the call.” Times have obviously changed, but the commitment to serving customers has not, for the Bank of Erath.
Since opening in 1910, the bank has expanded its customer reach to neighboring Delcambre in 1962 and Abbeville in 1986.
Today, the Bank of Erath provides not only checking, savings and loan services to consumers and businesses, but has remained forward thinking by offering conveniences centered around mobile banking and focuses on safeguards like cybersecurity. President Robert Johnson says they strive to help customers protect their financial information against scammers. As he points out, “Lately we’re seeing a lot of debit cards being compromised – people calling in pretending to be a customer wanting access to an account. We educate our customers, one-on-one, about people posing as the bank or as a customer and warn them not to give out their pen number on their debit card.”
Johnson says while customers don’t have to be physically present in the bank to do business, what distinguishes this financial institution, a Texas International Bank “Excellence in Community Banking” recipient, is its customer service. Having worked in both large and smaller banks he says, “There’s nothing like working in a community bank. The services are more personal, and it’s a more fulfilling job to help the local community than a metropolitan atmosphere. It’s satisfying to help the people you know.”
Executive Vice President, Cheney Desormeaux shares that sentiment reiterating, “I love our customers and the small-town community bank allows me to get to know them as a family. Some will come in and we’ll talk, and I’ll catch up on their lives, talking about their children and grandchildren.” That commitment to helping people extends to workers too, as Desormeaux, a 30-year employee, says that was best demonstrated after Hurricane Rita destroyed the homes of several coworkers.
Where the bank really comes to life is through its involvement with organizations, businesses and local events, like its decades-long support of the Erath Fourth of July celebration, the Delcambre Shrimp Festival and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life – where many employees volunteer their help. Mainstays like Delcambre’s elementary school, the volunteer fire department and the American Legion Post 29 have also reaped from the bank’s generosity over the years.
That the Bank of Erath has experienced and survived the highs and lows (including The Great Depression) of an unpredictable economy for 113 years, is a testament to an institution that is still a trusted resource for its area.