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Four businesses recognized for over 100 years existence

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CENTURY OLD BUSINESSES – Businesses who have been in existence for over a hundred years were honored Aug. 26 by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. Seated (from left) Allen Espey of Espey Gin Co., Billy Tines from Carroll Bank & Trust, Angela Browning from Centennial Bank and Walter Butler, president of Bethel University. On the back row (from left) are McLemoresville Mayor Phil Williams, Mike Cary CEO of Carroll Bank & Trust, Chamber president Brad Hurley and County Mayor Joseph Butler.

Four Carroll County businesses were honored on Aug. 26  during ceremonies at the McLemoresville Activities Building. in observance of being in business in of Carroll County’ for over 100 years.

  The event was a part of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce’s  county-wide Bicentennial observance.

“Today, we recognize four businesses that have been in operation for more than 100 year,” said Chamber president Brad Hurley. “They include Bethel University, Carroll Bank & Trust, Centennial Bank, and Espey Cotton Gin.”.

They have a combined total of  525 years in Carroll County. Bethel has ben in the county 180 years, Carroll Bank & Trust, 115 years, Centennial Bank, 106 years an Espey Cotton Gin, 124 years.

Hurley said there would be several more of these events in the coming weeks.  Currently, ten businesses have been identified  have identified that have been in operation in Carroll County for at least a century. 

Both County Mayor Joseph Butler and McLemoresville Mayor Phil Williams spoke about the businesses that are over 100 years old.

Three of the four businesses had their beginnings in McLemoresville with the fourth in Trezevant which is only a short distance away. 

Bethel University

The first honoree has only been in business for 180 years of continuing operation in Carroll County and have grown tremendously since 1842.

Bethel University was founded in McLemoresville in 1842 as Bethel Seminary operating under the fostering care of West Tennessee Synod of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Bethel College operated in McLemoresville for three decades. 

Bethel College was granted a charter by the State of Tennessee in 1847 and operated as Bethel College until 2009 when the trustees voted to change its name to Bethel University. 

Bethel successfully weathered the economic hardship brought on by the Civil War and in 1865 admitted women for the first time. 

In 1872, Bethel President W.W. Hendrix led the initiative to move Bethel from McLemoresville to its current location in McKenzie, where the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad intersected the Louisville & Nashville Railway. 

The present president, Walter Butler , was on hand to accept the plaque.

Carroll Bank & Trust

Carroll Bank & Trust was originally organized on September 12, 1907 as The Bank of McLemoresville.  J.H. Bramley was the first President. Over five decades the bank served the McLemoresville community under the leadership of J.H. Bramley, J. Adrian Bramley, J.C. McKinney, Jim O’Neill and J.I. McKinney.  

In 1972, the bank changed ownership with Billy M. Cary as President and Billy B. Tines as Executive Vice President. The bank branched to Huntingdon and McKenzie. 

In February 1987, The Bank of McLemoresville changed its name to Carroll Bank & Trust.  Following the death of longtime President Billy M. Cary in September 2002, Billy B. Times became the President and Chairman.  In 2006, Michael E. Cary became President and Billy B. Tines remained the Chairman of Board.

The bank branched to Camden in 2006 and Milan in 2007. The Bank of Bradford was purchased in 2008 as part of their ongoing growth strategy.  The eighth branch opened in Paris in 2015. 

Tines and Billy Cary’s son, Mike Cary, were present to accept the plaque.

Centennial Bank

On January 21, 1916, Centennial Bank opened its doors as Farmers & Merchants Bank in Trezevant.  The creation of Farmers & Merchants originated from Mr. Arthur A. Argo, Sr. who had a vision to begin a community bank in Trezevant. Mr. Argo, Sr. served as the first President of the bank.  

In 1935 Mr. Arthur A. Argo, Jr. began working in the bank learning the quality business ethics and community service value from his father. In 1960, Mr. Argo, Jr. was named President of Farmers & Merchants Bank, a position held until 1980.  

In 1981, Mr. George L. Atwood, son-in-law of Mr. Argo, Jr., assumed the role of President and CEO.  Mr. Atwood opened the Bank’s first branch in 1995 located in Bolivar.  Over the next twenty-four years, the Bank expanded into Rutherford, Three Way, McKenzie, Trenton, Medina, Middleton, Toone, Henderson, and Adamsville.  

In 2015, Mr. Atwood entrusted his daughters Andrea Browning and Jennifer Marcus to manage the Bank.  Mr. Atwood continues to serve as the Bank’s Chairman of the Board. 

In January 2016, the bank celebrated 100 years of service by changing its name Farmers & Merchants Bank to Centennial Bank.

Angela Browning accepted the plaque from the Chamber.

Espey Cotton Gin

Espey Gin Company was originally founded as Bramley Gin in 1898 by James H. Bramley.  One of his sons, J. Adrian Bramley, operated the business until his death. 

Mr. Orville Pace, a son-in-law, bought the business and continued operation under the name Bramley Gin.  After Mr. Pace’s death, his wife, Evelyn Bramley Pace sold the business to Mr. Billy Espey in 1974.  

After Mr. Espey’s death in 1986, his son, Allen took over and is still owner and operator of the Gin.  The Gin presently operates under the name of Espey Gin Company, Inc

Allen Espey accepted the plaque from the Chamber.

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