From Slavery to Harvey County: Banks Family, Part 2

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.  

Plat Map, 1931 showing the Joe Bank Farm — Section 33 N 1/2 of N 1/4

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.

Nellie Banks

Florence Banks Mays  –  married Will Mays in 1924 and lived in Newton on E. 8th..

Florence Banks Mays.

Thomas Ferdinand (Fred) Banks – never married. Like Nellie, he stayed with the family and helped farm.

Thomas Ferdinand (Fred) Banks

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…”

Section 10, Roscoe Twp, Reno 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.”


  1. Council Bluffs, Iowa City Directories. City Directory Collection
  2. Newspapers consulted through subscriptions to and GenealogyBank
    1. Council Bluffs Nonpareil Feb 14,1945 p. 5
    2. Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil. Aug 15, 1935 p 7
    3. Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil Mar 21, 1935 p 3
    4. The Leader Courier. Kingman, KS July 26,1918 p 1
    5. The Leader Courier. Kingman, KS Mar 16, 1905 p 3
    6. The Leader Courier. Kingman, KS Mar 12, 1914 p 4
    7. The Hutchinson Blade Jun 18,1921 p 1
    8. The Hutchinson Blade Oct 23, 1920 p 4
    9. The Hutchinson Blade Jan 22, 1921 p 1
    10. The Hutchinson Blade Jun 18 1921 p 1
    11. Hutchinson News Apr 21, 1921 p 6
    12. Pretty Prairie Record Feb 23, 1906 p 8
    13. The Kingman Journal Apr 28, 1899 p 4
    14. Pretty Prairie Times Feb 20, 1913 p 8
  1. Harvey County Register of Deeds. Margaret Hermstein.
    1. General Warranty Deed Record No. 68. Mary K. Babb et al to Joseph C.    Banks.
  2. 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:
    1.    Register of Colored Persons of Roanoke County, State of Virginia Cohabiting Together As Husband And Wife on February 27, 1866. Library of Virginia.
    2.    Death Certificates for Joseph, Adella, Lewis and Mary Banks
    3.    Census Research for Joseph and Lewis Banks families.
    4.    Charcoal drawings of Nellie, Florence and Fred
    5.    Kansas City Star. February 22, 1998
    6.    Delayed Birth Certificate for Joan Fletcher
    7.  Letter from African-American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation May 30, 1996
    8.    Civil War Pension Record for Thomas Scott (National Archives)
  1.  Federal Censuses ( 1870, 1880, 1900, 1940

Joan Beatrice Fletcher Comes Home


Our post this week was researched and written by  Jane Jones, guest blogger and HCHM Archivist. The post links our February focus on Black History and March’s Women’s History.  The collection of documents and photos are a recent addition to HCHM Archives.
This is part 1 of a three part blog series featuring the Collection of Joan B. Fletcher.

Joan Beatrice Fletcher Comes Home

by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist

Her scrapbook, family pictures and a well-worn original land abstract (N1/2 NE1/4 Sec 33 Newton Township) arrived at the Museum in December, 2018 from David W. Jackson, a family historian and archives consultant living in Jackson County, Missouri.  Mr. Jackson contacted us after looking at our website asking if we would accept Joan’s materials that had been kept by her friend. Fletcher was a 1943 graduate of Newton High School. She died in Kansas City, Missouri in 2011 at the age of 85.

Joan’s picture in 1943 NHS Senior Edition


Joan’s Scrapbook 1938-1945

Joan’s scrapbook contains news clippings about her piano performances, speeches she gave as a high school student in a local contest for the American Legion and a speech on Temperance Sunday. Senior and  junior high play programs, musical programs, and critiques of piano performances are also found in the Scrapbook.

She received a Certificate from the Guild of Piano Teachers, a national group to which her teacher Anna Tellin belonged. In 1940 for the National Piano Playing Auditions District Honor Roll Joan received a Good + Rating.  In 1941 she competed in the State Junior Competitive Festival at Arkansas City under the auspices of the National Federation of Music Clubs receiving an Excellent Rating. In 1942, Joan performed for the Association of Colored Women Wichita District held at Newton’s C.M.E. Church April 17 and 18. Fourteen in 1940, Joan had been studying piano for 6 years. Her piano teacher, Anna Tellin, was an exacting and well-respected instructor in Newton and Hutchinson.

This is a program from a recital Joan performed on November 25, 1941 at the Newton Junior High School Auditorium (the school is no longer standing).  She played Bach, Chopin, Clementi and Brahms. Antoinette Blanchard was a voice student of Miss Tellin’s.

Joan’s high school activities included musicals, Glee Club, Orchestra and Girl Reserves.  She received a Scholarship Pin her Sophomore year. With her piano and school activities she was an active young lady no doubt encouraged by her mother. In 1943 Joan was accepted into Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita.

See Addendum below for new details on Joan’s involvement during this time.

This was a portion of the letter she received.

“My dear Miss Fletcher,

We are pleased to notify you that you have qualified for a Scholarship at Sacred Heart Junior College for the scholastic year 1943-44.”

After graduating from Sacred Heart in 1945,  Joan received another  scholarship of $225 to further her education. She finished at Bethel College in North Newton receiving her B.A. in Chemistry in 1947.  Below is Joan’s graduation picture in the 1947 Bethel College annual.

See Addendum below for new details on Joan’s involvement at Sacred Heart.

A form from Bethel keeps track of each student and their post-graduation work experience. Joan’s was in the medical field.  In 1948 she was working as a lab assistant in bacteriology at Winter General Hospital in Topeka. She received her Med Tech degree and worked at Minneapolis General Hospital in 1949. Joan was a Blood Bank Supervisor for the United States VA Hospital.  I was told she spent time in Washington, D.C. working for the VA. The Junction City City Directory shows her as a Blood Bank Supervisor there in 1961. She may have been working at Fort Riley. Joan’s mother died in 1961 in Kansas City. In 1967 Joan joined her Uncle Fred Banks as a Joint Tenant for the family property in Newton Twp Section 33–2 miles south of 1st St on Hwy 81, ½ mile east. Her address at that time was 419 W. 13th St, Junction City.  And then there was Kansas City living on East Linwood Blvd. By 1990, Joan would have been 65 and able to retire. I don’t know if she continued her obvious interest in and talent for the piano. Nor do I know for sure where she worked in Kansas City– for the VA or a hospital. After retirement she had more time to pursue her interest in her family’s history.

A rather short obituary in the Kansas City Star stated Joan died in the Armour Oaks Nursing Home on April 4, 2011. She never married.  Funeral services were held at St. Monica Catholic Church in Kansas City. Saint Monica was founded in 1909 to serve Black Catholics in Kansas City. The church is located at 1616 The Paseo  in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District near downtown Kansas City. Joan was a Black Catholic having been baptized in the Catholic Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery in Newton with her family.  She was home.


 Jane found this additional info on Joan B. Fletcher during her years at Sacred Heart.

                        Joan Fletcher competed with 17 others in a scholarship examination given on May 8, 1943 covering mathematics, physical science, social science and literature at Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita.  She was one of the winners.  In 1944 while a student at Sacred Heart Joan showed interest and leadership in the newly formed National Federation of Catholic College Students and was one of the students attending the first regional conference at Marymount in Salina.  One of the conference commissions was “inter-racial relations” which Joan probably attended.  She was chairman of the Apostolic committee at Sacred Heart in December, 1944 which assumed the role of “Santa Claus” to provide presents for St. Joseph’s Home in El Dorado.  March 16, 1945 it was reported that the members of the interracial commission held a panel discussion to mark the nation-wide observance of the first national Inter-racial Justice week. “The panel presented the various problems of the Negro in war-time America.  As chairman of the Inter-racial Commission Joan participated in that panel discussion.

While attending Sacred Heart Joan showed her interest in and provided leadership on the discussion of racial issues facing Black people during World War II.


  1. Joan’s Scrapbook 1938-1945.
  2. Newton High School Senior Edition 1943 of the Weekly Newtonian
  3. Obituary from Kansas City Star Archives published April 8 2011.
  4. Letter from Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita. Dated 1943.
  5. Bethel College Yearbook for 1947
  6. Bethel College alumni information for Joan Fletcher
  7. Saint Monica Catholic Church, Kansas City, MO website.
  8. Thanks to Karen Wall and Sylvia Kelly for finding and providing information.
  9. Harvey County Register of Deeds, Margaret Hermstein
  10. David W. Jackson, Archives Consultant.
  11. Joan’s Baptismal record  (David W. Jackson)
  12. Junction City, Kansas City Directory 1960 (
  13. Kansas City City Directory 1960 (
  14. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) May 14, 1943 p 3
  15. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) April 14, 1944 p. 1
  16. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) Mar 16, 1945 p. 6