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Dr. Henry L. Banks: Half century of service to citizens of Hannibal

Dr. and Mrs. Henry L. Banks lived at 207 (later 208) South Fifth Street from circa 1911 until Mrs. Banks’ death in 1950. Dr. Banks had his office on the first floor, at the front of the structure. The family, including two sons, Garrard and Louis, lived elsewhere in the house. 1959 photo/Otis Howell. Steve Chou collection


More than 1,000 spectators came out to watch two companies of Hannibal firefighters extinguish a blaze that was believed to have begun in the chimney flue of a house occupied by Dr. Henry L. Banks and family in January 1920.

Dr. Banks, who was the only one at home when the fire on the roof was discovered by neighbors at 3:30 p.m., was alerted in time for his safe escape from the two-story house located at 208 S. Fifth St., directly to the south of the Hannibal Free Public Library.

The spectators were particularly interested in whether the fire would threaten the library and its contents. There was little wind that afternoon, according to a report published in the Quincy Daily Whig, and the quick response from the engine crew stationed just a half block away meant there was never a real threat to the city’s house of books.

Dr. Banks maintained his medical office on the first floor at the front of the house, and his family – consisting of his wife, Louise, and their two adult sons, Garrard C. Banks and Louis H. Banks, lived elsewhere in the dwelling.

The fire was contained to one room of the house, but smoke and water damage affected other rooms as well. Damage to furnishings was estimated at $2,000, while damage to the house itself was $1,500. The Banks’ family had insurance on the structure and its contents.

South Fifth Street

The Banks family moved into their home on South Fifth Street by 1909. The address was originally 207 S. Fifth, until the street numbers on the east and west sides of South Fifth were switched prior to 1912. At that time, the library next door was changed from 201 South Fifth to 200 South Fifth, and the Banks home was switched from 207 South Fifth to 208 S. Fifth. (A parking lot separated the library from the Banks’ home.)

Prior to their move to Fifth Street, the Banks family lived at 505 Broadway.

Pioneer family

Dr. Banks was born during the Civil War, in 1864, the youngest son of Henry Pritchett Banks (1818-1904) and Nancy Turpin Banks (1821-1896). The family settled in Round Grove Township in Marion County, near the town that would later be named Emerson.

Dr. Banks’ older brother, Napoleon (Poli) Banks, was 91 years old in 1942, when he shared some early family memories with a Palmyra newspaper. About the time when Dr. Banks was born, Poli was 8 years old and their father was with Gen. Price’s command of the Southern army.

With his mother, Poli Banks and his brothers and sisters, lived in a house near the site of what is would become Lewistown, and he went to the nearby Mt. Pleasant school, taught by his oldest sister, Talitha, who always went by the nickname of “Puss.”

“Yes,” Mr. Banks said, “I remember (Lewistown) when it wasn’t even here. I remember when they built the railroad through here, then they built the town. My first recollection of the railroad was when I was about fifteen. Ewing was then called Briscoe Station, and I remember the long ricks of cord wood piled there for removal to Quincy to be used for fuel on the wood burning engines.”

Dr. Banks’ early years

Henry Lee Banks, the subject of this sketch, attended the rural schools in northern Marion County, and then worked for awhile as a teacher for the county schools. He was graduated from St. Louis Medical college, now a part of Washington University, and after a year’s internship in the St. Louis city hospital he opened an office in Hannibal in 1891, where he would practice his profession for the next 53 years.

He was city physician for Hannibal in October 1893 when he was united in marriage to Miss Louise Carl. The small ceremony took place at the home of her father, L.B. Carl, 1111 Fulton Avenue in Hannibal. The Marion County Herald published news of the marriage in its Oct. 26, 1893 edition.

“The groom, who is Hannibal’s efficient city physician, is well known as an honest, upright Christian gentleman, while the lady of his choice is one of Hannibal’s fairest daughters. She has been a member of the corps of public school teachers of Hannibal and is well and favorably known by her large circle of acquaintances.”

The newlyweds boarded with Mrs. G.G. Gould, on South Seventh street.

Their first son, Garrard C. Banks, was born in 1895. When he was but a year old, the family endured two distressing events.

The year 1896

In February 1896, Dr. Banks’ mother, Nancy Turrpin Banks, died as the result of cancer of the liver, at the age of 76. The Palmyra Spectator published the following tribute: “She was a most excellent lady and her death is sincerely deplored by her many friends.” She was buried at the Banks burial plot on the family farm.

Five months later – at the end of July 1896 – Dr. Banks was back at work in Hannibal and was summoned out in the middle of the night to respond to a medical call at the home of Cement plant worker Will (and Ida) Mackinson at 1210 Park Avenue on Hannibal’s Southside.

Walking from his home in the 500 block of Broadway, he took a shortcut across the MK&T railroad tracks which crossed South Sixth Street, and through Happy Hollow. As he crossed the Ely Street bridge, one man grabbled ahold of the doctor, and a scuffle ensued. A second man joined into the affray, striking the doctor in the head twice with a rock. While he was in an unconscious state, the men robbed the doctor of his gold watch, medical bag and medicine.

When he regained consciousness, he continued walking toward Park Avenue, where he collapsed in the front yard upon arrival.

Another doctor was summoned to treat Dr. Banks’ wounds, and then he was transported back to his house, where he was prescribed bed rest. “His injuries are quite serious but not dangerous,” the Hannibal Post reported.

Carpenter tools.

Dr. Banks’ father outlived his wife by eight years. In 1898, (a year after Dr. Banks’ second son, Louis, was born) The Marion County Herald noted that the elder Mr. Banks sold his carpenter’s tools, chest and workbench to Jete McPike. “Parting with his tools was like giving up a friend for they had served him long and well,” the newspaper reported.

Mr. Banks died in January 1904, at the age of 85. He was survived by nine children, including his youngest, Dr. Banks.

Older brother

Archilies Banks, who was 17 years older than Dr. Banks, died in September 1916, and was survived by the following seven siblings: L.S. and Napoleon Banks of Round Grove township, Dr. H.L. Banks of Hannibal, Mrs. W.H. Carpenter and Mrs. I.S. Marksbury of Round Grove, Mrs. E.H. Hutcherson of Oakwood and Mrs. J.W. Carter, Hannibal.


Dr. Henry L. Banks died Jan 10, 1941, at Levering Hospital. His wife, Louise, died Nov. 18, 1950. Both are buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal.

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