Kansas History and Heritage Project-Montgomery County Biographies

Montgomery County Biographies
"History of Montgomery County, Kansas, Illustrated," 1903

GEORGE L. BANKS – To one not in love with nature unadorned, citizenship on the frontier is uninteresting and monotonous indeed. The absence of stir and the whir of business, the unbroken solitude of days and the primitive and rude accommodations of the settler, all had a tendency to depress and weaken one’s intentions, and but for the determination and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast, discouragements and then desertion would have depopulated Southern Kansas in a decade after the Civil war. But privations were endured – now looked upon as blessings – and other difficulties were surmounted and the versatile and tenacious pioneer laid the foundation and erected the superstructure for one of the great and prosperous states of the American union. No man’s work alone did this, but the efforts of the aggregate, the great whole, brought about a result of which their posterity may well be proud. During the last years of the pioneer period in Montgomery county many men, yet its citizens, cast their lot herewith and participated in the final acts in the shaping of its internal and civilian affairs. Modestly, yet energetically, connected with this particular era, was George L. Banks, of this review, the pioneer and widely known settler of Fawn Creek township. He established himself in the county in May, 1871, and was for fifteen years an active and patriotic devotee to the agricultural and political interests of the same. With the exception of six years, when he was absent from the state, that interest has scarcely lessened in intensity in thirty-two years.

Mr. Banks is one of Lake county, Ohio’s native sons, and was born October 13, 1839. His parents, Orin and Olive (Brown) Banks, were natives of Scoharrie county, New York, and born, the father January 25, 1803, and the mother March 12, 1805. They were married in 1823, and settled in Lake county, Indiana, in 1845 and stopped, first, in LaPorte county. They passed their lives as country people, were upright Christian folk and were thrifty as farmers of their time. They died in Lake county, Indiana, the father October 29, 1857, and the mother January 27, 1887. The Banks’s were of Scotch-Irish origin and the Browns of English lineage. The parents both belonged to old families of the east and reared a large family of children, as follows: Charles, of Salina, Kansas; Elisha, of McPherson county, Kansas; Parley, of Lake county, Indiana; Mary C., wife of Simon White, of LaPorte county, Indiana; George L., of this notice; Nathaniel P., of Lake county, Indiana; Sarah L., wife of W.B. Adams, of Montgomery county, Kansas.

George L. Banks spent his youth and early manhood in LaPorte county, Indiana, and had the advantage of a good country school education. The Civil war came on just after he had reached his majority, and was concerned with the serious affairs of peace, but he enlisted, June 6, 1861, in Company “C,” 15th. Inf., under Col. Geo. D. Wagner. The regiment was ordered at once into the field and it took part in the battles of Greenbriar and Elk Water that same year. As the war progressed it participated in the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Stone River and Missionary Ridge, where Mr. Banks was wounded, and rendered unfit for service for some weeks. During his later active service he was in battle at Charleston and Dandridge, Tennessee. He was discharged from the army June 25, 1864. In 1897, he received from the Secretary of War a medal of bronze, appropriately engraved and inscribed in commemoration of distinguished service while in line of duty. Engraved on the face of the medal is:

“The Congress to Color Sergeant George L. Banks, 15th Indiana Infantry,
“For gallantry at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863.”

The letter from the Secretary of War notifying Mr. Banks of the honor accorded him and announcing the issuing of the medal states the specific acts of gallantry and is where with made a part of this record:

War Department, Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 1897.

George L. Banks, Esq., Independence, Kansas.

Sir: -- You are hereby notified that by direction of the President and under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1863, providing for the presentation of medals of honor to such officers, noncommissioned officers and privates as have most distinguished themselves in action, a Congressional Medal of Honor has this day been presented to you for most distinguished gallantry in action, the following being a statement of the particular service: At Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863, this soldier, then a Color Sergeant, 15th, Indiana Vols., in the assault, led his regiment, calling upon his comrades to follow, and when near the summit he was wounded and left behind insensible, but having recovered consciousness rejoined the advance, again took the flag and carried it forward to the enemy’s works, where he was again wounded. In the brigade of eight regiments the flag of the 15th Indiana was the first planted on the parapet. The medal will be forwarded to you by registered mail as soon as it shall have been engraved.

R.A. ALGER, Secretary of War.

After the war, Mr. Banks resumed farming in Indiana and continued it with a fair measure of success ‘till his departure for the broad prairies and the pure air of Kansas, in the spring of 1871. Matters were in a formative state in Montgomery county and he aided in organizing, and was the first clerk of school district No. 91, and the school house was named “The Banks School House” in his honor. He entered and patented a piece of land and was occupied with its improvement ‘till December, 1886, when he disposed of it and transferred his residence to Angola, Indiana, where he became the proprietor of a hotel. Remaining there only a short time he removed to Camden, Hillsdale county, Michigan, where he resided six years, returning thence to Montgomery county, Kansas. From 1892, to 1895, he was a resident of Independence, and the latter year moved out to his farm in section 8, township 33, range 15, where he owns one hundred and sixty acres. He owns an eighty in section 17, and is regarded one of the successful and reliable farmers of his county.

October 9, 1864, Mr. Banks was united in marriage with Olive W. Chandler, a daughter of Thomas P. and Betsy (Woodmanse) Chandler, of Vermont. Mrs. Banks was born at Caledonia, Vermont, August 25, 1842, and died December 12, 1902. She was her husband’s companion for thirty-eight years and bore him three sons: William N., Charles B. and Arthur A., all honorable young men of Montgomery county.

George L. Banks’ political action has been exercised in the ranks of the Republican party. He has ever manifested a good citizenship’s interest in local, state and national affairs and his face has been a familiar one in local gatherings of his party. He filled all the offices of Fawn Creek township. He is prominent in the State Grand Army and is commander of the Southeast Kansas Association of old soldiers. He belongs to the subordinate lodge Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He is a member of the A.H.T.A.

(Submitted by Emily Jordan)

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