It’s that eerie season again and our minds turn to the spooky and the strange.
Riverbank has at least two unsolved mysteries in its past, however, looking at the building where they took place, no one would think that it was once the site of an unsolved crime and a disappearance.
The old Riverbank Land Company building quietly sits on the southeast corner of Santa Fe and Third streets with several businesses occupying the first floor of the sandstone colored brick building.
The building’s story begins with its construction in 1912. It was built at a cost of $20,000. Its first occupant was the land company which sold lots in the surrounding area. Most people who are familiar with the area, however, know this structure as the bank building.
The story of the First National Bank of Riverbank begins shortly afterward. It started with a capital stock of $25,000. Riverbank’s population at the time consisted of only 1,200 residents.
The bank was granted its federal charter on June 26, 1913 and it moved into the northwest corner of the building. A total of 19,504 bank notes were printed with a face value of $155,450. The majority were $5 bills and $10 bills, some rare $100 bills were also printed.
The bank did fine until the winter of 1925. It seems the president at the time became somewhat disgruntled with his job. It is uncertain why. His history begins prior to 1907 when he worked in Turlock with C.W. Minniear in the real estate business. In 1907 he married Minniear’s daughter Sylvia. The marriage produced one son, a Charles Laird Flack.
When Riverbank had its start around 1910, both men moved to the area, Flack eventually leaving Minniear’s business to work for the bank.
In December of 1925 Flack decided to leave town with the bank’s funds including the railroad payroll which was $50,000 a month. Flack fled to Los Angeles where he composed an angry letter to The Riverbank News complaining of his unjust treatment as the bank manager. The law made a hasty effort to apprehend him but by the time they got down to Los Angeles, Flack had fled to Texas, following him here they found he had travelled on to Florida. From here he had hopped a plane to South America and it is here where he disappeared, never to be found again.
The bank’s second mystery involves a man by the name of Ed Baldwin who had a shady past. In 1948, a new bank, Citizen’s Bank, took over the space once occupied by the national bank. They hired Mr. Baldwin to keep the furnace stoked in winter in exchange for a place to live in a storage area in the basement. At the time the story was last looked into an old cook stove that was used by Baldwin was still in the basement. There were also old wish bones on one wall. Baldwin last occupied the building in 1957. It is unknown whether or not he left of his own accord or met with a bad end due to his shady past.
At present, the space once occupied by the national and citizen’s bank is now a quilt store. We know of no mysteries going on at the present time, but as they say, time will tell.