Georgia Railroad Bank and Trust/Wachovia Bank, N.A.
The company that began as Georgia Railroad Bank has been a major financial institution in Augusta since the early 1880s.
Company headquarters moved from Athens to Augusta in 1840. The Georgia Railroad was completed to Marthasville (later Atlanta) in 1845. That same year the bank branch of the company helped to finance a canal system in Augusta that brought water-powered industry to the city and fostered its manufacturing rebirth.
A separate subsidiary for banking operations, the Georgia Railroad Bank, was organized in 1890. Trust services were added to the bank's activities in 1929, and the name of the company was subsequently changed to Georgia Railroad Bank and Trust Company. The bank joined the Federal Reserve System in 1931. During the Great Depression, the Georgia Railroad Bank was closed briefly in 1933 for U.S president Franklin D. Roosevelt's "bank holiday," the only time during the bank's long history that it suspended operations.
In 1954 the First Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia was formed as a holding company, and it acquired control of the bank and trust company from the railroad company. From 1958 to the late 1960s the company also offered insurance services but then sold that portion of its operation.
In 1881 the company transferred its rail operations to the Central of Georgia Railway for ninety-nine years under the "Wadley Lease." The lease was renegotiated in 1972, extending it to the year 2030. Large parcels of land in Atlanta and Augusta that were part of the lease agreement became available for disposition and development and were sold between 1973 and 1981, much of it to the Georgia Building Authority. The railroad assets of the company were sold in 1982.
Noteworthy officers of the Georgia bank have included John Pendleton King of Augusta, a former U.S. senator, who was president from 1841 to 1878, and former Confederate general Edward Porter Alexander, president from 1878 to 1880. After Alexander's departure, bank leadership passed to the Phinizy family, and three successive members of the family, Charles H., Jacob, and the younger Charles H., oversaw the bank's operations and expansion until 1947. The rail line between Augusta and Atlanta is studded with towns named for early company officials: Camak (James A. Camak, president), Dearing (William E. Dearing, president), and Thomson (J. Edgar Thomson, chief construction engineer).
In June 2005 Wachovia apologized to African Americans for the bank's ties to American slavery because the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company had employed at least 162 slaves in railroad construction between 1836 and 1842.
James F. Doster, "The Georgia Railroad and Banking Company in the Reconstruction Era," Georgia Historical Quarterly 48 (March 1964): 1-32.
First Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia, 1833-1983: 150 Years ([Augusta, Ga.?]: n.p., [1983?]).
A History of Banking and Wachovia: A Course Well Charted (Winston-Salem, N.C.: Wachovia Corporation, 1991).
W. K. Wood, "The Georgia Railroad and Banking Company," Georgia Historical Quarterly 57 (winter 1973): 544-61.
Russell K. Brown, Grovetown
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