JAMES OLIVER BANKS
When three brothers established the Banks family in America one settled in New England, another went to Virginia and the third went still further south. From the Virginian immigrant was descended John Banks, a native of the Old Dominion and for years a resident of Kentucky, where he followed the stone-mason’s trade, eventually removing to Missouri. During the war of 1812 he went to the front and aided in defeating the British. Among his children was a son, Oliver Hazzard Perry Banks, who was born in Kentucky and died in California, after a lifetime of agricultural activity in Missouri, where he made a specialty of raising of hemp. By his marriage to Catherine Giddings, who was born in Tennessee and died in Shasta county, Cal., he had ten children, only two of whom survive at this writing. Two of his sons served in the Civil war, namely: John, who died in Texas before the close of the Rebellion; and Samuel, who was a member of Shelby’s regiment and later came to California, where in 1901 his death occurred.
The youngest member of the family, James Oliver Banks, was born near Dover, Lafayette county, Mo., March 25, 1845, and received a district-school education, supplemented by attendance at the Dover high school. In 1864, in company with his parents, a brother Samuel and a sister, Mrs. J. C. White, he crossed the plains with mule-teams and arrived in California, remaining near Red Bluff for four months. Later his father purchased land on the middle fork of the Cottonwood. In 1866 he returned to a more settled district and established headquarters near College City, Colusa county, with his sister. Desiring to gain a more complete education than the free schools rendered possible he took a course in the Pacific Business College of San Francisco, from which he was graduated in 1868. After a service of one year as deputy county assessor of San Francisco county, he returned to College City, and in 1871 settled on a tract of wild railroad land, four and one-half miles southeast of Williams. His purchase comprised three hundred and sixty acres on sections 21, 15 and 2. After breaking ground he engaged in raising grain, to which he found the land was admirably adapted. By a subsequent purchase of eighty acres of grain land near Williams he has acquired altogether four hundred and forty acres, and now limits his attention to the cultivation of this tract, although formerly he had charge of more than one thousand acres each season. With the exception of the period of his service as deputy county assessor of Colusa county under William Hard, he has devoted his attention to agricultural pursuits, and stock-raising, and has had little leisure and less inclination to participate in public affairs. Nor does he take any part in politics aside from voting the Democratic ticket.
The marriage of Mr. Banks took place in Downey, Los Angeles county, and untied him with Miss Nellie Henderson, who was born in Missouri and in 1862 crossed the plains to California in company with a sister and brother-in-law, the journey being made with oxen and wagons. The two daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Banks are Virginia and Kittie, both graduates of the Colusa high school, and the latter now a student in the University of California. As one of the oldest remaining settlers on the plains, Mr. Banks occupies a distinctive position among his acquaintances and wields influence with them as a man of liberal views and excellent judgment. During the long years of his residence on the same farm he has interested himself in the improvement of the place. All of the buildings and fences were erected under his personal supervision, all the trees were planted by him, and in fact he has done everything to redeem the property from its original wild condition. One of the interesting features of his lawn is a eucalyptus tree, which he planted in 1876 and which is probably the largest in the entire county, being nearly four feet in diameter, with a girth of eleven and one-half feet.
Transcribed By: Cecelia M. Setty.
Source: "History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the Sacramento Valley, Cal.," J. M. Guinn, Page 582. The Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1906.
© 2017 Cecelia M. Setty.