by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist
While researching Joan B. Fletcher, Jane Jones discovered a fascinating story about a family of strong women.
Joan B. Fletcher’s Family Story
Joan Fletcher, a Black woman, was born 28 June 1925 in Council Bluffs, Iowa to Russell and Mabel Banks Fletcher. Joan was baptized at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Council Bluffs. Her father, Russell, worked in the Roundhouse for the Chicago, Great Western Railroad later becoming a carman. Russell was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma and according to the 1940 Census he had a 3rd grade education. Russell and Mabel were married in Kingman, Kansas, March 4, 1924. According to Council Bluffs City Directories Russell and Mabel were together from 1925 to 1935.
Mabel and her daughter, Joan, left Iowa in 1935 and came to Newton, Ks. Mabel sought a divorce from Russell on a charge of cruelty. It was granted Aug 15, 1935. She never remarried.
The Banks Family
Mabel’s family was already established in Newton. On arriving in Newton, Mabel and Joan lived with Mabel’s brother and sister, Fred and Nellie Banks, on the family farm in Sec 33 of Newton Township. Mabel’s father, Joseph Banks, had bought that farm (80 acres in the NE ½ NE ¼ Sec 33) for $8,000 on Oct 22, 1925. Joe was able to pay the full amount.
Before arriving in Harvey County, Ks, the Banks family traveled across the country to find their home.
From Slavery to Kansas
Ferdinand Banks and Sylvie Walton (Miner)
The story begins in Virginia with freed slaves, Ferdinand Banks and Sylvie Walton (Miner).
The “Cohabitation Act of 1866 passed by the Virginia Assembly of Feb 27, 1866, legalized the marriages of formerly enslaved people in Virginia and declared their children to be legitimate.”
According to the 1866 Act, Ferdinand and Sylvie were “married” in 1842 and had nine living children in 1866–Maria 5; John 14; Emma 15; Martha 16; JOSEPHUS 17; Ellen 18; Cynthia 19; and LEWIS 22. After receiving their freedom, Ferdinand and Sylvie remained in Roanoke County,Virginia. The 1870 and 1880 Federal censuses found them farming in Roanoke County. Sylvie is on the 1900 census as head of household with a daughter and two grandchildren. One would assume Ferdinand died sometime between 1880 and 1900.
While Ferdinand and Sylvie stayed in Virginia, several Banks children family traveled from Virginia after the Civil War to Illinois and then to Kansas.
The two sons, Josephus (Joe) Cephus Banks and brother Lewis Edward Banks, were born slaves in Roanoke County, Virginia. After the Civil War, they began searching for a place to call home. Joe and Lewis set off undercover in a wagon from Roanoke County, Virginia to Bond County, Illinois. They followed their slave master’s daughter who married and relocated in Illinois after the Civil War. Joe and Lewis farmed.
Lewis and Mary Frances Day Banks
Lewis married Mary Frances Day in Virginia on December 4, 1858. The Illinois household in 1870 consisted of Lewis, Mary, and Joseph Banks. Charley Floyd also came with the group and lived with them until he married. The connection with Charley went back to their days as slaves.
“Mrs. Banks and Charley Floyd were servants of the same master in slavery days.”
In her obituary Mary was described as:
“…especially..popular among the better class of residents of that section (Bond County, IL). She was a splendid housekeeper and cook and her services were much sought after by persons who appreciated the best service, and she was above the average in refinement and good breeding.”
Lewis and Mary had no children.
Joseph and Adella Scott Banks
Joseph married Adella Scott in Bond County on November 4, 1879. There first child, Nellie, was born in 1883. The Banks and the Floyd families packed up and made a move to Kingman County, Kansas in about 1883. They were farm laborers. The rest of Joe and Adella’s children were born in Kingman—-Florence, Fred (Ferdinand), Pearl Henry, and Mabel.
Children of Joe & Adella Banks
Nellie Banks – the oldest never married.
Florence Banks Mays – married Will Mays in 1924 and lived in Newton on E. 8th..
Thomas Ferdinand (Fred) Banks – never married. Like Nellie, he stayed with the family and helped farm.
Pearl Henry Banks – Pearl eventually married and lived in Kingman, Ks.
Mabel Banks Fletcher – the youngest, Mabel, Joan’s mother.
Reno County Farm
In 1905 Joe saw an opportunity and moved to Roscoe Township, Reno Co, Kansas. An newspaper article noted:
“...they (the Banks) will reside on a farm and go into wheat and hog raising on an extensive scale. There was never a better family of colored people resided in this county…”
Move to Harvey County
The Banks remained near Pretty Prairie in the heart of Roscoe Township, Reno County until 1925, when they moved to Harvey County.
Mabel’s story continues in our next post :”From Slavery to Harvey County, Part 2.”
- Council Bluffs, Iowa City Directories. Ancestry.com. City Directory Collection
- Newspapers consulted through subscriptions to newspapers.com and GenealogyBank
- Council Bluffs Nonpareil Feb 14,1945 p. 5
- Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil. Aug 15, 1935 p 7
- Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil Mar 21, 1935 p 3
- The Leader Courier. Kingman, KS July 26,1918 p 1
- The Leader Courier. Kingman, KS Mar 16, 1905 p 3
- The Leader Courier. Kingman, KS Mar 12, 1914 p 4
- The Hutchinson Blade Jun 18,1921 p 1
- The Hutchinson Blade Oct 23, 1920 p 4
- The Hutchinson Blade Jan 22, 1921 p 1
- The Hutchinson Blade Jun 18 1921 p 1
- Hutchinson News Apr 21, 1921 p 6
- Pretty Prairie Record Feb 23, 1906 p 8
- The Kingman Journal Apr 28, 1899 p 4
- Pretty Prairie Times Feb 20, 1913 p 8
- Harvey County Register of Deeds. Margaret Hermstein.
- General Warranty Deed Record No. 68. Mary K. Babb et al to Joseph C. Banks.
- Special thanks to David W. Jackson, a family historian and Archives Consultant who researched Joan’s African/American family and sought a “home” for her materials. We received the Joan B. Fletcher Collection at HCHM in Dec, 2018 along with Joan’s Scrapbook, some family pictures and the following:
- Register of Colored Persons of Roanoke County, State of Virginia Cohabiting Together As Husband And Wife on February 27, 1866. Library of Virginia.
- Death Certificates for Joseph, Adella, Lewis and Mary Banks
- Census Research for Joseph and Lewis Banks families.
- Charcoal drawings of Nellie, Florence and Fred
- Kansas City Star. February 22, 1998
- Delayed Birth Certificate for Joan Fletcher
- Letter from African-American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation May 30, 1996
- Civil War Pension Record for Thomas Scott (National Archives)
- Federal Censuses (Ancestry.com): 1870, 1880, 1900, 1940