R.B. Price Home
Excerpt from Centennial History of Missouri
One Hundred Years in the Union
By Walter Barlow Stevens
Full Text Available Here
ROBERT BEVERLY PRICE.
Interwoven with the history of the Boone County National Bank is the biography of Robert Beverly Price, the distinguished citizen who has made the bank one of the foremost financial institutions of the central west. The activities and public service of Mr. Price are not confined to the special interest of banking, in which he has been a leader for over a generation, but have embraced much more. The history of Columbia—its growth in business, its widening influence as an educational center, its social and intellectual life—may not be written with justice and comprehension except large chapters therein be given to the record of the contributions to Columbia of this eminent and honored citizen. More than sixty years ago Robert Beverly Price had laid the foundations of a character which has ripened through the stress of wars and panics and has developed into a life that is as much a part of the things which Columbia cherishes permanently and with pride as the bank building which stands as his monument.
Robert Beverly Price was born in Charlotte county, Virginia, October 17, 1832. His father, Dr. Edwin Price, was a practicing physician. Two sisters and one Like so many other Virginians of his day. Doctor Price heard the call of the west, "the land of opportunity," and with his wife and four children started westward. He led the caravan on horseback, although he weighed nearly three hundred pounds; then followed the family in a large elliptical spring carriage and after these, wagons of the old style filled with household goods necessary for housekeeping at the end of the Journey. In this order they crossed the historic Blue Ridge through the Cumberland Gap, and after a long and tedious journey through a new and unbroken country reached St. Louis, then a small river town. From this point the caravan to the Prices followed the Old Trails Road through 'Columbia to Payette, where the family, locating, lived until 1837. Then they moved to Brunswick, and there Doctor Price devoted his life to his profession and to farming on a large scale.
When Robert Beverly Price had reached the age of eighteen his father decided that he should have the best education the state afforded. He sent him to Columbia, and on March 8, 1850, he became a student at the University of Missouri. Columbia was then a small town of about twelve hundred Inhabitants and the university had but one building, of which only the old columns remain today. Not more than one hundred and twenty students were in attendance, but from the stories that Mr. Price still delights to recall of his school-days it seems that this small student body more than did its part toward rousing the town.
In this present day of "specializing" it is interesting, in view of Mr. Price's success as a banker, to consider his university course. He specialized in engineering and geology, and was an apt student in both. The careers of many eminent men who started life at occupations other than those by which they ultimately became famous all go to show that Mr. Price was not alone in proving that there are exceptions to the old rule that as "the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined." His first employment was as a draftsman for the State Geological Survey, under Prof. G. C. Swallow and in this capacity he showed marked ability. Sketches that Mr. Price made in his leisure hours, done in India ink, are still to be found in the homes of some of the "befo' de wah" families in Columbia, and they indicate an artistic ability and appreciation of things beautiful that one who did not know him well would never suspect in the successful banker of today. One of the sketches, a view of North Eighth street from the window of the hotel, which then occupied the corner where the Boone County National Bank now stands, has been reproduced over the mantelpiece in the new bank, and will be a familiar scene to many Columbians of the older generation.
Pour years Mr. Price spent with the Geological Survey and during that period he married. His father-in-law. Moss Prewitt, a merchant, had for the convenience of his customers, opened a small banking department in his store. Mr. Price, seeing the need of the town and county, formed a partnership with Mr. Prewitt and in 1857 opened the banking house of Prewitt & Price on the site now occupied by the Peck Drug Store. He was active in the business from the beginning and naturally the institution soon became known as "The Price Bank." After sixty years it is still "The Price Bank." R. B. Price has been its active head through all that time. For more than sixty years he has been the confidant of the people of Boone county, honored and trusted by them. He has been told of their hopes, their ambitions, their dreams; when they were successful he helped them to reinvest their money; when they were on the brink of failure he has saved them when he could. He was always counted upon for sound business advice and heard their stories of misfortune with deep 'sympathy and understanding. In the troublous times of the Civil war, in order to save from hostile armies and predatory bandits money intrusted to him, he buried it. Through all.the years he has never violated a confidence or a trust; holding the respect of the community, ever faithful to the interests of his depositors, and, always and everywhere, a courteous gentleman.
Mr. Price's bank has ever been his pride but he has not let it absorb all of his business attention. At one time he also conducted one of the largest farms in the county. He once owned the Wabash Railroad line between Columbia and Centralia. In conjunction with W. T. Anderson he built and operated the first electric lighting and waterworks system in Columbia. Though always taking a keen interest in politics he never sought political preferment outside his own county, though for many years he served as county treasurer. For more than forty-six years he has been treasurer of the University of Missouri and often has helped to tide the institution over financial difficulties. When younger he was considered a crack rifle shot and hunting was his favorite pastime. He has always been a patron of the fine arts and possesses many paintings of merit, his chief treasures in this line being those painted by his personal friend, Gen. George C. Bingham, the most famous Missouri artist. In 1891, in company with his wife, he made an extended European tour and found keen enjoyment in visiting the great picture galleries of the continent and the battle fields where history had been made. He reads much and widely. No one in Columbia is so well acquainted with the works of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and he can quote, with exactness, many of Burns' poems from memory. Ha possesses a real sense of humor and is a charming conversationalist. Mr. Price has never outlived his love of a good horse and up to comparatively recent years his erect figure on his favorite mare, "Lady Vanity," a noted horse show winner, was a familiar object on Columbia streets.
Mr. Price has been twice married. His first wife was Miss Emma Prewitt, by whom he had two children, Edwin M. Price and Mrs. W. H. (Emma B.) Willis, both of Columbia. His first wife died on March 8, 1859. He married on May 1, 1860, Miss Evelyn Hockaday, of Fulton, Missouri, and by her has had one child, Mrs. Florence P. Blair, of Chicago. All of his children and his wife are living. Though an attendant upon the Presbyterian church he has not confined his financial aid to that church alone but nearly every church in town and many in the county have been the recipients of his bounty. To the colleges for women, to the university, to all enterprises that have tended to make Columbia a better place in which to live, he has been liberal in his support.
Mr. Price is a man of striking appearance. Over six feet tall and with the carriage of a West Pointer he does not look his eighty-seven years. For this he gives credit to regular habits and to his garden, for he has always been an enthusiastic gardener. Columbia and Boone county have every right to be proud of this man. He has generally been able to foresee the future and to build for it. Because of his progressive spirit, his sound judgment and the high plane upon which he conducts his business, he has the esteem and confidence of the leading men throughout the state and far beyond its borders. He has never been afraid at any age to "dream dreams and see visions" and his present magnificent banking home is the result of one of these dreams.
That Mr. Price enjoys the esteem of his fellow-citizens—the home folks who know him best—was amply illustrated by the banquet that was given him on his eighty-fourth birthday, October 17, 1916, by one hundred and fifty business and professional men of Columbia. The speakers at this banquet paid a most fitting tribute to his long and honored career and to his influence in the community. At the close of the banquet he was presented with a resolution, signed by all present, which is treasured by Mr. Price far above any material thing. This resolution gives an appreciative and merited estimate of Mr. Price's life and character as regarded by the men among whom he has lived:
"To R. B. Price on his eighty-fourth birthday:
"Sir: For more than sixty years you have had a prominent place in the life of this community. By your devotion to your calling you have made yourself indispensable. By your sincerity and honesty, you have made yourself respected. By your unshaken fidelity to the many and great trusts reposed in you, you have made yourself honored. And by the strength and uprightness of your character, you have inspired confidence in others. To all of which we, your fellow citizens, sincerely and cheerfully bear testimony while we still walk the long path together. May you continue your work to the last with a fine courage and a wholesome joy and with an ever increasing faith in Him who is the source of all our blessings and the Father of all."