George L. Banks. A sterling pioneer and citizen who is now living virtually retired in the City of Independence, Mr. Banks is specially entitled to recognition in this history. He was one of the early settlers of Montgomery County and has contributed his full quota to its civic and industrial development and progress, and he was long one of the prominent and influential exponents of agricultural industry in this section of the state. High honors also are his for the valiant service which he gave as a soldier of the Union in the Civil war.
Mr. Banks was born in Lake County, Indiana, October 13, 1839. His father, Orin Banks, was born in the State of New York, in 1800, and was there reared to manhood, his marriage having been solemnized in Schoharie County, that state. His entire active career was one of close association with the basic industry of agriculture and he was one of the pioncer farmers of LaPorte County, Indiana, where he established his home in 1845. In about 1850 he removed to Lake County, Indiana, where he died in 1856. He was a supporter of the democratic party until the organization of the republican party, when he transferred his allegiance to the latter. He was influential in community affairs and was called upon to serve in various township offices. Both he and his wife were devout members of the Baptist Church, in which he served as a deacon. Mrs. Banks, whose maiden name was Olive Brown, was born in Schoharie County, New York, in 1803, and thus she was eighty-three years old at the time of her death, in 1891, she having been at the time one of the most venerable pioneer women of Lake County, Indiana. Of the children the eldest was Betsey, who became the wife of Major Atkins, and who died in Lake County, Indiana, in 1866, her husband having long survived her and having been a farmer and capitalist of influence. Charles W., a lawyer by profession, died in 1907, in Chambers County, Texas. Morgan, a farmer and merchant, died in McPherson County, Kansas, in 1890. Elisha, who likewise became a representative farmer in McPherson County, died in 1906. Parley A. is a retired farmer and resides at Crown Point, Lake County, Indiana. Mary C. first married Balsar Keith, a farmer, near Union Mills, Indiana, and after his death she became the wife of Simon White, likewise a prosperous farmer of LaPorte County, Indiana. He likewise is deceased and his widow now resides at LaPorte, that county. William A., who died at LaPorte, Indiana, in 1903, had served six years as postmaster of that city and had been a leading importer of live stock in that section of the Hoosier state. George L., of this review, was the next in order of birth. The next two children were sons, both of whom died in infancy. Nathaniel P. is president of a bank at Hobart, Lake County, Indiana. Sarah Lavina is the wife of W. B. Adams, and they reside at Dearing, Montgomery County, Kansas, where Mr. Adams is vice president of a banking institution.
George L. Banks acquired his early education in the common schools of Lake and LaPorte counties, Indiana, and he continued to be associated with his father’s farming operations until he had attained to the age of seventeen years. In the autumn of the year in which he reached this age he went to Minnesota and found employment in a pioneer sawmill at St. Anthony, the nucleus of the present great City of Minneapolis. The next year, 1857, found him employed in the lumber woods in the wilds of Northern Michigan, and he then returned to the old homestead farm. In Lake County, Indiana, he did a large amount of contract work in the digging of drainage ditches and for one year there he clerked in a grocery store, and afterward was a clerk in a dry-goods store. He finally resumed farming in his native county and was thus engaged at the outbreak of the Civil war. On the 6th of June, 1861, in response to President Lincoln’s first call for volunteers, Mr. Banks enlisted as a private in Company C, Fifteenth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, with which gallant command he proceeded to West Virginia and took part in the engagements at Greenbriar and Elkwater. Later he was a participant in the memorable battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga and Chattanooga. In the battle of Chattanooga he was thrice wounded but his injuries were not serious and he was incapacitated for a few weeks only. Mr. Banks was color sergeant of his regiment in the storming of Missionary Ridge, and most gallantly did he acquit himself on this historic field. The colors were shot down six times, and Mr. Banks himself was wounded on the first and last of these occasions. He was first shot in the ribs, and after regaining consciousness he was again wounded,–this time through the top of the head. His severe injuries incapacitated him from November, 1863, until January 14, 1864, and on the 25th of June of the latter year he was mustered out. Mr. Banks received and greatly prizes the Congressional medal of honor that was presented to him and that bears date of November 25, 1863, and he also has a letter from Hon. Russell A. Alger, at the time the latter was serving as Secretary of War, many years later, congratulating him on his admirable service during the ever memorable battle of Missionary Ridge. Mr. Banks, as color bearer for his regiment, was the first regimental color sergeant to plant the colors on the enemy’s works at Missionary Ridge out of a brigade of six regiments, and for this gallant deed he received a medal of honor from Washington, District of Columbia.
After the close of the war Mr. Banks returned to his native county, where he followed farming until the spring of 1871, when he came to Kansas and numbered himself among the pioneers of Montgomery County. He settled in Fawn Creek Township, where he took up a pre-emption claim of 160 acres, and there he continued his farming operations for sixteen years. He developed and improved one of the fine farms of the county and was specially influential in township and community affairs. To his efforts was due the defining of the school district and the erection of the first schoolhouse of District No. 91, and this pioneer school was named in his honor. He had the supervision of the erection of the school building and was a member of the school board until he left his farm, in the autumn of 1886, when he returned to Indiana and became the proprietor of a hotel at Angola. In the following spring he exchanged his hotel property for a farm in Hillsdale County, Michigan, where he remained six years. He then sold his Michigan farm, or exchanged the same for property in Montgomery County, Kansas, where he again was actively engaged in agricultural pursuits for the ensuing two years. He thereafter passed two years at Independence, the county seat, but in 1896 he returned to his farm, upon which he continued to reside until 1903, when he resumed his residence at Independence. Here he has been engaged in the real estate and loan business and in the supervision of his various properties, so that he is not yet fully retired from active business, idleness and apathy being entirely foreign to his nature. He is the owner of valuable residential property in Independence, including his own attractive home, at 417 North Fifth Street, and near Bolton, this county, he owns 240 acres of valuable farm land, besides having another farm, of 160 acres, south of Dearing, this county, and 300 acres in Chambers County, Texas. On the farm near Bolton Mr. Banks effected the drilling of the first large oil well in Montgomery County, in 1903, and the same is still producing extensively.
Mr. Banks has not only achieved large and worthy success in connection with the practical affairs of life but he has also been most loyal and influential in public affairs in Southeastern Kansas. He served two terms as a representative of Montgomery County in the Kansas Legislature, 1905-7, and made a characteristically excellent record in furthering the interests of his constituent district and of wise legislation in general. He is a progressive republican and is well fortified in his convictions concerning governmental policies. While a resident of Fawn Creek Township he served six years as justice of the peace and later held the office of township trustee, his retirement from the office of justice of the peace having occurred in 1882. He has long been a zealous member of the Presbyterian Church, and is affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Anti-Horse Thief Society. Mr. Banks is one of the most appreciative and valued members of McPherson Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic, at Independence, and has not only served several terms as commander of the same but also as junior vice commander of the Department of the Grand Army for Kansas. It is worthy of special record that on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his being mustered in for service in the Civil war his surviving regimental comrades presented him with a beautiful silk flag of the United States, this being a tribute that he deeply appreciated. Mr. Banks is one of the representative men of Montgomery County, has inviolable place in popular esteem and is one of the substantial citizens of Independence, and he is a director and the secretary of the Jefferson State Bank, at Jefferson, this county.
On the 8th of October, 1864, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Banks to Miss Olive W. Chandler, and she was summoned to the life eternal nearly forty years later, while their home was on the farm near Bolton, Montgomery County. She was a gracious and gentle woman who was loved by those who came within the compass of her influence, and she died in the year 1902. Of the children of this union the eldest is William N., who is a representative member of the bar of Montgomery County, and is engaged in the practice of his profession at Independence; Charles B. is engaged in the real estate business at Caldwell, Idaho; and Arthur A. is at Denver, Colorado.
In 1904 Mr. Banks contracted a second marriage, when Mrs. Helen J. (Clarkson) Shoemaker, widow of Philo Shoemaker, became his wife. They reside in an attractive home at Independence, in which city she had resided prior to her marriage to Mr. Banks. No children have been born of the second marriage.