LOUIS BANKER. About the first permanent settlers in Russell County comprised what was known as the Wisconsin Colony. They came here in 1871, and it was in that year that Russell County was formally organized. There is an interesting connection between this colony and the veteran merchant of Russell, Louis Banker, president of the L. Banker Mercantile Company. The Banker family started from Wisconsin with the colony for the purpose of settling in Russell County, but on account of discouraging reports, abandoned the journey while in Iowa and it was several years later that Louis Banker came on to Kansas, arriving at Russell December 9, 1876. He was here in time to participate in many pioneer phases of life, and during the past forty years he has not only witnessed but helped to promote all matters that are vitally related with the prosperity and progress of his town and county.
Before taking up the very interesting record of his personal experience something should be said of his ancestral record which runs back into American history so many generations that Mr. Banker would he justified in claiming an "all American" stock.
His first direct ancestor in America was Gerrit Bancker, who was a native of Holland. This Holland ancestor arrived in this country prior to 1655 and in 1657 was living in the Dutch colony or province of New Amsterdam at Beverwyck in the neighborhood of Fort Orange, now Albany, New York. He was an Indian trader and merchant there and continued to make that his home the rest of his life. In 1662 he was one of the original proprietors of the new colony at Schenectady, though he never lived there. On April 10, 1658, he married Elizabeth Dirkes Van Eps.
The second Bancker generation in America was represented by Evert Bancker, who was born at Albany, New York, January 4, 1665. He lived at Albany nearly all his life and was also a merchant, Indian trader and man of affairs, having much of the success which attended the efforts of his father. In 1695 he was appointed mayor of Albany and in 1696 was one of the commissioners of Indian affairs. He was a prominent member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Near the end of his life he retired to his farm at Guilderland, where he died. He was buried at Albany July 10, 1734. On September 24, 1686, he married Elizabeth Abeel.
A son of Evert and Elizabeth Bancker was Johannes Bancker, who was born February 20, 1712. He spent practically all his life on his father's farm on the Normanskill. He married Magdalena Veeder, and one of their children was a son, Gerrit.
Gerrit Bancker, of the fourth generation, was baptized at Schenectady, New York, February 27, 1737. He was one of the New Yorkers who responded with his life and fortune to the patriotic cause of independence. During the Revolution he was in Capt. Bastian T. Vischer's Company, Col. Philip P. Schuyler's Regiment. He received a commission as ensign. There is record of his residence at Watervliet in 1790 and at that time be owned two slaves. He died August 8, 1803. September 15, 1755, he married Hester Van Arnheim.
Their son, John Banker, was baptized at Schenectady, New York, December 25, 1764. He died March 30, 1826. He married March 15, 1788, Annatje Ouderkerk.
This accounts for five generations of the Banker family in America. The sixth generation was represented by Gerrit Banker, grandfather of Louis Banker of Russell. Gerrit was born in Schenectady March 26, 1789. In early life he was a boat captain on Lake Ontario. He enlisted in the War of 1812 and after that war located at Ogdensburg, New York, and still later moved across the boundary into Canada. For a time he lived at Picton on the shore of Quinty Bay. Although the rest of his life was spent in Canada he never took the oath of allegiance to the British Crown and in consequence continued to draw his pension as a veteran of the War of 1812. In 1832 he moved to Tweed in Hastings County, Ontario, and there located on a tract of heavily timbered land. He cleared up a farm and went through all the trials and hardships of an early settler. He was a noted hunter. About 1869 his home was burned and all his records were destroyed. He died a few years later. Gerrit Banker married Elizabeth Van Slyck.
Albert Banker, who died in Russell, Kansas, in April, 1913, at the advanced and venerable age of eighty-seven, was a son of Gerrit Banker, was born in Picton, Ontario, Canada, November 18, 1826. May 26, 1854, he married Florilla J. Comer. She was born in Ontario November 30, 1834, daughter of Lewis and Ruth (Clement) Comer. In early life Albert Banker worked in the lumber regions of Canada, and during the summers farmed on the old homestead near Tweed. About the time of his marriage he built a mill and residence near Bridgewater, Ontario. A few years later he moved back to Tweed, buying a farm, and that was his home until May, 1864. He then located at Sarnia on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River. A few months later, in September, he moved to Wisconsin, locating at Waupun in Fond-du-Lac County. In the fall of 1867 he established a farm near Rosendale, and in December, 1870, moved to Appleton. The following April the Wisconsin colony above mentioned was formed for the purpose of settling Russell, Kansas. Albert Banker determined to join this expedition. The company started in May, 1871, and the following month arrived in Audubon County, Iowa. While there reports reached them of many discouraging conditions in Western Kansas, and Albert Banker decided to abandon his journey. Late in the same summer he settled on a farm in Cass County, Iowa, and lived there until 1879. He then followed his son Louis to Russell, Kansas, and for a number of years was in the livery and hotel business there. He continued his livery business until 1903. His last years were lived quietly in retirement and he was held in high regard for his many estimable qualities.
Albert Banker and wife had eleven children. A brief record of them is as follows: Eugenie, born January 29, 1855; John Gerrit, born February 25, 1857; Louis, born May 2, 1858; Willard Henry, born January 23, 1861; James Dudley, born March 4, 1863; Lottie, born December 31, 1866, and died July 4, 1892; Albert Edwin, born May 10, 1868; Charles Arthur, born July 11, 1870; Inez Maude, born February 16, 1872; Rosswell Clyde, born February 25, 1875, and died in 1878; and Georgiana born in 1879 and died in August 3, 1882.
As above noted Louis Banker was born at Tweed in Hastings County, Ontario, May 2, 1858, and was just about old enough to remember when his parents moved to Wisconsin. He was twelve or thirteen years old when the colony started from Wisconsin to Kansas and most of his education was acquired in the rural schools of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, and Cass County, Iowa. He left school at the age of fifteen and worked on farms in Iowa until 1876, when he carried out the original intention of his father and came to Russell County, Kansas. He left his father's home in December, 1876, and on arriving in Russell entered the employ of his uncle, George A. Hart, in a general store. In September, 1881, he laid the foundation of what is now the oldest general merchandise establishment under one management between Salina and Denver. In that he was associated with Roy S. Giddings of Romulus, New York. The firm was first Giddings & Banker, general merchants. In January, 1890, Mr. Giddings sold his interests to Harvey J. Penney and E. B. Savage. After that the business was continued as L. Banker & Company with some other changes in personnel until January, 1906, when the L. Banker Mercantile Company was organized under a state charter with Mr. Banker as president, an office he still holds. He is still giving his personal attention to the general management of the firm. He was a young man, thirty-seven years ago, when he entered this business and is still young in all vital respects.
The old firm of Giddings & Banker did its trade with a pioneer locality. One of the familiar commodities accepted by them in exchange was buffalo hides, then exceedingly common all over the West. The story of Indian raids was not altogether ancient history. His first store was 50x50 feet, and that was a very large building for those days. Customers came from a distance of fifty miles and their wants were exceedingly simple compared to the evidence of case now found in the varied stock carried by the L. Banker Mercantile Company. Mr. Banker is a progressive in every sense of the word. He believes that a store must grow either better or worse, and it is an achievement of which he may well be proud that the little place of business which he had in 1881 has expanded into a great merchandise emporium, occupying two rooms, each 25x125 feet, with double basement and store rooms above, located on the best corner in the town. This store carries $40,000 worth of dry goods, notions, clothing, shoes, women's ready to wear goods, groceries, queensware and produce. The vice president of the business is James D. Banker, a brother of Louis, the secretary is F. R. Culbertson, and the treasurer is Louis Waldo Banker, a son of Louis Banker. The business has an annual turnover of about $125,000. The store is thoroughly equipped with modern facilities and the policy of the concern has been to carry a varied stock bought in small quantities, but by frequent purchases, so that the firm is able to offer the advantages of fresh goods and prices based on the nearest market values.
With all the responsibilities laid upon him by his growing business Mr. Banker has found time and will to help many community enterprises. For eight years he was a member of the city council and during six years of that time he gave his study and advice to the town in establishing and building its waterworks system, giving Russell for years a splendid supply of water. November 3, 1908, Mr. Banker was elected a member of the Legislature from the Eighty-Sixth District. During the session of 1909 he was a member of the ways and means and other committees. He was a member of the first Public Library Board of Russell and has contributed generously to that important public institution. He is a member and trustee of the Presbyterian Church and for the past thirty years has been secretary of its Sunday school. Politically he is a republican and is affiliated with Russell Lodge of Masons, is past high priest of Russell Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, is a member of Ellsworth Council, Royal and Select Masters, Aleppo Commandery, Knights Templar, at Hays, Isis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina, and Russell Chapter of the Eastern Star. He is also a member of the Order of the High Priesthood. In 1880 he became a charter member of Pioneer Lodge No. 43, Ancient Order of United Workmen, and has the oldest certificate in Russell of that lodge. He is also a life member of the Kansas Historical Society and the National Historical Society. The Banker home is one of the most attractive in Russell, located on Sixth and Maple streets, a modern residence standing in the midst of a quarter of a block of ground surrounded by noble trees.
July 20, 1890, at Lyons, Kansas, Mr. Banker married Anna May Culbertson. She was born in Ashland County, Ohio, January 6, 1867, daughter of Milo R. and Lucinda N. (Wilson) Culbertson. Mr. and Mrs. Banker had four children: Frances A., born May 18, 1891, graduated from the University of Kansas with the degree A. B. in 1913, and is now the wife of James M. Baker, of Eldorado, Kansas. Mr. Baker attended Kansas Agricultural College in the engineering department, specializing in electrical work, and is now an instructor in the Student Army Training Corps at the Kansas Agricultural College at Manhattan. Louis Waldo Banker, above noted in the firm's membership, was born June 18, 1893. He attended Kansas University, is treasurer of the L. Banker Mercantile Company, but for the past year has been on the fighting front in France. He is sergeant of a Supply Company, All Kansas Three Hundred and Fifty-Third Regiment of Infantry, the Eighty-Ninth Division. He was in the midst of the great fighting north of and around Verdun, participating in the drive which closed the St. Mihiel salient and was at many of the points which will be henceforth familiar to every American school child. The third child of Mr. Banker, Dean C., died in 1916, at the age of twenty-one. Theodora, the youngest, was born February 10, 1905, and is now in the public schools at Russell.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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