Visionary men, from families who would earn state and national recognition, including Hiram Eastland, Sr., and Major R. W. Millsaps, were the original founders of Bank of Forest. The bank was granted a corporate charter by the State of Mississippi on March 1, 1900 and opened its doors for business in February of 1901, following an initial stock offering of $16,000.
A successful first year signaled a bright future for the new bank. Proudly announcing deposits exceeding $42,000 and a new profit approaching $500, the bank promptly purchased two brass spittoons and two feather dusters in celebration!
Over the years, subsequent stock offerings were made to increase capital as Bank of Forest continued to grow. By investing in the lives of Scott Countians and following a course of stability, the bank’s reputation of strength and integrity was established early in its history.
Mr. J. R. McCravey, the original cashier of the bank, set much of the groundwork for this reputation during his 47-year tenure with the bank. Mr. McCravey had very little formal education, but made his first dollar by loaning money to another farmer on farm real estate security. According to Mr. McCravey, “I was born on a farm, but I was born a banker.” One of his sons, W. D. “Bill” McCravey, served Bank of Forest as Chairman of the Board for 46 years. Descendants of J.R. McCravey are still major shareholders of the bank to this day.
The next Chairman of the Board for Bank of Forest, T. E. “Gene” Walker, came to the bank as Chief Executive Officer in 1979. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 2013 and remains on the board of directors today. Allen M. Breland, our current CEO, has been with the bank since 1987 and was named Chairman of the Board in 2020.
In 2005, the bank expanded its market into Rankin County with a loan production office and in 2007, opened a full-service office in Flowood, Mississippi. In 2017, Bank of Forest moved into Leake County with the acquisition of the Bank of Walnut Grove. This expanded presence in central Mississippi affords our bank a path of continued growth and success. The bank’s performance has been recognized by numerous bank rating companies which place Bank of Forest near the top of its peer group. Our asset base now exceeds $240 million and total capital is in excess of $20 million.
Forest Insurance Agency was acquired in 2000 and relocated directly behind the bank’s main office in Forest as a full-service insurance agency and subsidiary of Bank of Forest. Diversified Mortgage Corporation, located inside the bank’s Flowood office, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of Forest in 2009. We are pleased to offer these additional services as part of the Bank of Forest family.
At Bank of Forest, we are indeed proud of our heritage and are dedicated to continuing our commitment to strength, stability, and community today and into the future. We strive to provide the level of service our customers deserve by offering the financial products and services they need with the integrity and soundness they are looking for in a financial institution.