Horizon History

In 1873, Horizon Bank was founded in Michigan City, Indiana - a small settlement on a sand hill at the southeastern tip of Lake Michigan. The city's early leaders were able to turn sand into prosperity by selling it to glass manufacturers, starting Michigan City on the road to economic growth and development. Throughout the last six generations, Horizon Bank has grown and evolved along with the city, providing comprehensive financial services and community activism.

The Bank received its original charter in April of 1873 as "First National Bank." In 1962, the Bank merged with another local financial institution, Merchants National Bank (founded in 1909), to become First-Merchants National Bank. In 1986, the Bank merged with Citizen's Bank (founded in 1888) to become First Citizens Bank. The Bank was renamed Horizon Bank, taking on its holding company name, in 1997.

A banking innovator and community leader, Horizon has instituted many "firsts" in the industry during its history, including:

  • Indiana's first automobile drive-up and customer walk-up service windows in 1955
  • The first Automated Teller Machine in Indiana in 1974
1873 - 2013:  Celebrating a history of service to the community

Michigan City, Indiana was a small settlement on a sand hill at the southeastern tip of Lake Michigan when Horizon Bank was founded in 1873. 

But Michigan City learned early on how to turn a hill of sand into prosperity by selling sand to the glass manufacturing industry.

Horizon has also used the community’s resources and strengths to initiate and build on the quality financial services you’ve come to expect from us. Throughout our 140+ year history, we’ve dedicated our efforts to bringing you the latest innovations in financial products and services. We’ve grown with you and with the community. 

Join us in a retrospective look at Horizon’s past — a history that has helped our bank grow, innovate and serve your family for generations.

1876-1900 A bank for customers on the move...

Horizon’s original charter institution — The First National Bank, Michigan City — brought the “gold standard” to customer service in banking.

At the turn of the century, local railroad industrialist John H. Barker paid his freight car building employees in gold coins because they didn’t trust paper money. Because of the delicacy and risks involved in making large transactions with gold, the first-ever “drive-up window” was born at The First National Bank.

Once a month, a Haskel & Barker horse-drawn pay wagon, protected by armed police officers, pulled up to the Bank’s back door to load up with $5, $10 and $20 gold pieces for its monthly payroll. A payroll chest was mounted securely onto the back of the pay wagon for added security and guards were instructed to shoot the horses in the event of a holdup to prevent would-be robbers from making off with the gold.

Because local merchants were being paid with the gold coins earned by Haskel & Barker workers, the Bank’s staff would spend the rest of the month periodically visiting all of the local merchants that lined Franklin Street, personally collecting the deposits of gold coins and returning them to the Bank in time to make the next payroll.

1901-1925 Two bits for gas...

The dawn of the last century saw citizens concerned about their money and looking for ways to control their individual assets and budgets.

In the early 1900s, many local citizens didn’t trust utility company meter readers. The gas company gave customers the option of paying for their gas service as they needed it — by feeding change into a “quarter meter” installed in the basement.  

Much like a parking meter, the quarter meter held four quarters at a time. Whenever a stove flame flickered low — often during the process of cooking the family dinner, family members recall running to the basement to feed the meter and keep dinner cooking.

The proceeds from quarter meters were delivered to the Bank in canvas bags, counted with a crank-operated coin counter and hand wrapped.

1901-1925:  Uneasy times in the “Roaring 20’s”...

The “Roaring 20s” presented new challenges to Horizon as Public Enemy No. 1 posed a threat to the bank’s assets.

By the late 1920s, notorious bank robber John Dillinger was a household name in Northwest Indiana. He had already done time in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City and pulled a sensational escape from the Crown Point jail armed with a “gun” carved from wood.

First National Bank’s new building had opened in 1913 and featured a 12-ton round vault door installed to protect the Bank’s holdings. The huge, sound-proof vault was regulated by four time clocks and two combination locks that kept bank holdings and customer safe deposit boxes secure.

The threat of a Dillinger hold-up or a copy-cat robbery also prompted the Bank to mount a World War I rifle to a rail in the Director’s office above the bank lobby and teller lines.

1926-1975: Building trust in the community

The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the failure of 10,000 of the nation’s 25,000 banks, including two of Michigan City’s five financial institutions.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s “bank holidays” closed U.S. banks for 10 days in 1933 and allowed federal inspectors to review the solvency of remaining banks. When banks reopened, customer fears in Michigan City were calmed and Horizon regained the trust of its customers as it continued to expand its range of financial services.

In 1962, First National Bank and Merchants National Bank merged, serving customers under the new name of First Merchants National Bank.

A banking innovator and community leader, Horizon instituted many “firsts” in the industry during the mid-1900s, including: 

  • Indiana’s first automobile drive-up and customer walk-up service windows established in 1955
  • A 24-hour “weather line” phone number to serve the community established in 1959
  • The first Automated Teller Machine in Indiana established in 1974


1976-2000 A proven financial leader

Today, Horizon offers a full range of banking, insurance, investment and trust services for its customers and the communities it serves.

Horizon’s impressive list of “firsts” continued to grow as it moved into the new millennium, including:

  • Offering the first adjustable rate mortgage in 1982
  • One of the first 100 banks in the nation to offer a bi-weekly mortgage plan in 1987
  • The first Automated Loan Machine in 1995
  • The first bank in the nation to initiate an employee ownership program in 1985
Horizon Bank:  Facing the future from a firm foundation

Today Horizon Bank is a dynamic company rooted in a proud tradition. The bank continues to grow and prosper, and expand its footprintserving northern and central Indiana, and southern, central and the Great Lakes Bay regions of Michigan. . It continues to be a strong organization of local people making local decisions, and providing sensible financial advice.

Horizon’s experienced team of banking, investment, trust and mortgage experts is ready to guide our customers through a complete range of financial services — everything you need to help make sound financial decisions that can help your family find prosperity and security.