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Here is a glimpse of some of my mother's family (quoted sections are from the Banta Genealogy):
Henry D. Banta was born January 20, 1785 to Daniel “Captain Dan” Banta and Anna Shuck Durie, famous widow of Peter Durie. Peter was killed during an Indian attack in Kentucky, along with Anna’s two young brothers and Peter’s sister. Anna witnessed the deaths and narrowly escaped into the woods with her three young children by carrying two of them and dragging the third one at her side. She traveled all day through rain and sleet before being discovered by another group of settlers. “A few years afterwards the brave and somewhat reckless Captain Dan Banta met the widow Druie, having heard of her fame; she exactly suited him. It is enough to say he courted and married her, and bravely did she stand by him while he played a conspicuous part in reclaiming Shelby County from the wildness of nature. Daniel Banta died December 15, 1827.”
The Banta men must have been attracted to strong women. Many of the accounts in the Banta Genealogy are tales of these pioneer women living in the wilderness and raising their children despite danger and disadvantages. Dan and Anna’s son, Rev. Henry D. Banta, married his cousin, Eleanor Van Arsdale, June 23, 1803. Henry enlisted and served from April to August, 1813, as a ranger under Captain W. Dunn. Afterwards he was a farmer and minister. His wife Anna toiled and served beside him and also brought thirteen children into the world. This newspaper item about them was written in 1878 by Henry’s son J.W. Banta:
An Old Pioneer- Mrs. Eleanor Banta-A Brief Sketch of Her Life
Vevay, Indiana, May 4, 1878
Editor, “Reveille”- Having some time since promised you that I would give you a short history of the life of one of the oldest settlers of this count, viz. that of my mother, Eleanor Banta, I therefore proceed to redeem that promise, and as much as possible will give it in her own language.
She was born in Ketcham Station, of Fort, in Shelby Co., KY, May 4th, 1786, and of course is 92 years old today, this being her birthday, and therefore as suitable a time as any for such history. When she was nine days old the Indians drove her mother, with the other women in the Fort, six miles back to the nearest settlement at that time, and they had to retreat in the night for fear of being shot down or tomahawked and scalped by the Indians as she was afterwards informed by her parents. She resided in that section of the country until after her marriage. She married Henry D. Banta and lived with him until his death, which occurred at the age of 81 years, they having lived together 64 years.
Many of your readers will recollect him as the old regular Baptist preacher. Being a regular Old School Baptist, he never did, or would, receive a salary for preaching, believing it to be wrong to do so. He preached regularly, as health permitted for 41 years and 6 months, both in this State and Kentucky. He was pastor of Four-mile Church in Kentucky for years, and pastor of the Baptist Church in Vevay for 7 years; was pastor of Brushy Fork, Grant’s Creek, and other churches- I know not how long. His membership was in Bethel Church, in Craig Township, for 41 years and 6 months, all of which time he was the regular pastor of the same up to the time of his death. He was buried in Bethel Cemetery. But I have left the history that I commenced writing, and have given part of that of another. I know, however, that your readers will pardon the digression and I will return to the subject upon which I started out- that of the history of Eleanor Banta. She says:
“My parents told me that the morning I was born one of my uncles was shot near the Fort, and the woods around the Fort was full of Indians. They were driven off, however, and we had peace for a spell again. We remained in that section of the country until the year 1817, then moved to the State of Indiana, County of Switzerland, in Pleasant Township, near or perhaps on the farm now known as the George Hotchkiss farm. There we erected tar first horse-mill in the settlement, which for many years was called the Old Dutch Settlement. We had to pay $4 per bushel for salt then, and carry it in sacks on the backs of mules from the salt licks, or furnaces, as they sometimes called them in Kentucky, and we had to pay in proportion for many other things. Before we built the horse-mill we had to grind all of our corn on hand mills. They were a very simply constructed affair. The hopper, as it was called would be a portion of a trunk of a large tree, two or three feet in diameter and three or four feet high; one end of this block would be chopped out or burned out deep enough to receive the mill-stones; the bottom stone would be securely fastened in this hopper, and a small hole cut in the side of the hopper, just at the top of the bed stone, and a small spout attached to carry off the meal; the top stone, or runner as you would call it now, had two holes in it, one in the center to receive the grains to be ground, the other near one side, in which was placed an upright pole, two or two and a half inches thick; the top end of the pole was placed into a timber or beam overhead for that purpose and the operator would take hold of this pole and turn it round, much the same as the apothecary would his pestle in a medicine mortar, turning with one hand and feeding the mill with the other at the same time. Many and many times I have ground my meal on the hand-mill, and that was the way we got all our corn ground in the those days for we had no wheat then. If we had had wheat we had no mills but the hand-mills to grind it on and I think they would have made bad flour.
I recollect of hearing my parents tell that my uncle Samuel Durie and his brother (Peter) and his brother’s wife (Anna) were out some little distance from the house and two uncles were cutting a tree for the purpose of building a hand-mill, when they were surprised by the Indians, and fired upon, and all three fell mortally wounded and died in a few minutes. Dear me, folks nowadays know nothing about trouble and hard times, for the Indians would frequently come into the settlements of nights and kill the milch cows and cut out a slice or chunk from their hams and leave the balance for an aggravation to the owners. Talk about hard times, you know nothing about it. After the Indians were driven from the country so there was not so much danger, I used to take my little spinning wheel and go many times of a night and spin flax and sew by the light of the brush heap fires that my husband was burning in the clearing.
In 1825 we moved from the Dutch Settlement to Craig Township. We bought 173 acres of land from George Craig, one mile from the Ohio River, now known as the farms of the Widow Elizabeth Banta and Zachariah Cotton. There we remained until the year 1840 when we moved to Vevay and remained in the vicinity of Vevay eight years; then moved to the neighborhood of Allensville, in Cotton Township, and remained there nine years, and then moved back to Craig Township, near Braytown, on the farm now occupied by Dallas F. Banta; remained there until the death of my husband.
I am now living with my son-in-law and daughter, Justus Thiebaud and Mary Thiebaud, on the Ohio River, three miles below Vevay. I live half of the time with my son and daughter-in-law, Jacob and Sarah Banta. “
She was the mother of thirteen children, and raised twelve of them to have families- one died at the age of two years- leaving six girls and six boys. Now there remain but six: Daniel, Jacob, Abraham, Mary Thiebaud, John W., and Eleanor Beach. She has had ninety-one grandchildren and eighty-one great grandchildren. She reads well without glasses, having her second sight, but prefers glasses for steady reading. She says she can sew very well and knit just as good as ever, but not quite so fast. Takes great pleasure in reading the Bible and Spurgeon’s Sermons, and is a good Scripturian for one of her age. She has been a faithful member of Bethel Church ever since its organization, which is now upwards of fifty years. Her health is very good, and she retains her mind remarkably well for a person of her extreme age. Respectfully, J.W. Banta
Eleanor died April 22, 1879.
I’ve been working on my family tree again. Since I changed computers and lost most of my old data, I’ve had to go back through paper copies of all my old files and retype everything to the new Family Tree Maker 2009 program that I purchased last month. I’m really enjoying the process, but it has made me painfully aware of something lacking in my data: stories!
As I’ve typed in names and dates and relationships it has occurred to me that one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the Banta Genealogy printed in 1893 is the stories of the people. My mother’s ancestors come alive in the little comments about them and the stories of their travels and marriages and activities. I love to read about their encounters with Indians and their adventures in the wilderness. But I also love to read about their ordinary, daily lives. I love little bits of information like these:
1. “I give and bequeath unto Anna, my beloved wife, all and singular my lands, and also all my personal estate of every sort and kinde.”
2. “Henry Banta was the father of twenty-one children, and is said to have left a larger number of descendants than any other man in Kentucky.”
3. “The New York Herald, of March 14, 1882 contained an account of the coming celebration of her one-hundredth birthday…”
4. “She had ninety-one grandchildren and eight-one great grandchildren. She reads well without glasses, having her second sight, but prefers glasses for steady reading. She says she can sew very well and knit just as good as ever, but not quite so fast.”
5. “For many years he officiated as a minister of the Baptist denomination- old school- declining all pay for his services.”
For the most part my own work has been sterile and lifeless! And it occurred to me that I am the only one left, at least on our side of the family, who actually knew some of these people! I may be the only one to remember that Aunt Ruth made Hawaiian chicken wings and called them “Hiwahyan” chicken, or that Uncle Don and Aunt Marie loved to dance in the living room. Or that Gran had a bird that sat at the table and ate off her plate. Or that Bigg dipped snuff. Or that Hib stopped his farm work each day to watch a soap opera.
Thankfully the Family Tree Maker program has a section called “notes” that encourages the addition of not only source information, but personal information that adds color and life to the raw data of people’s lives. And I’ve also made it my new mission to write a separate story of everything I can personally recall about each of my ancestors. It may not be important now, but a hundred years from now, my descendants may find the stories as fascinating as the ones in my Banta book.
Yes, we’ve discussed plans before. They're those things you might make if you don’t live in Oklahoma. That’s why I spent the weekend shivering in front of the computer and working on some genealogy projects instead basking in the warm spring sunshine and planting my summer dreams.
I suppose now I’m just adding to my “to do” list. I have mulch, rocks, and potting soil piled on the patio. I also have a peach tree and a white pine. Waiting on the back porch are a red rhododendron, a flowering almond, two grapes (one white, one purple), a blueberry, a raspberry, gladioli bulbs, and more seed packets than I care to list. The weather forecast is for one more day of cold followed by six days of warm (and 20mph winds). Please, let them be correct for once!
I’m also working on preliminary plans for our vacation in June. We’re going to CA to see our daughter and granddaughter and some other family and friends. Also stopping in UT to see my niece and her family. It will be a short trip, but we haven’t been there in several years. Time to go before Nana has a meltdown!
Ten weeks left to change the hearts and minds of my little kindergarten darlings. Most are ready for first grade right now, but just need a little “finishing”. Some wouldn’t be ready if we had ten months left. They will be returning to mature and learn next year. Others just really need to pay attention and practice a few details like handwriting and rhyming words. All of my students are beginning to read at some level: anything from sight words to first grade readers.
I’m planning a few projects for spring break. I try not to cram too many things on my list for those precious nine days. Have to leave room for a little spontaneity! Of course my shopping list includes buying a new scanner. Hopefully the installation and operation of it will go smoothly.
March is the birthday month for my son-in-law, Rob (Happy Birthday today!!!), my son Robert (the 13th) and my brother-in-law, Mike (the 21st). My friend Eula will be 90 this week!! Wow! And our 37th anniversary will be the 31st. We’ve actually been together for 38 years if you count the year we were dating. We haven’t planned our celebration, but I’m sure it will involve food! LOL
Add a TRAC meeting, school board meeting, workshop, and a few minor plans and the March calendar is pretty full. Let the fun begin…