George Washington Hanks


Through a residence of about thirty years in Allamakee county, George Washington Hanks firmly entrenched himself in the affection and regard of those with whom he came in contact, while his business ability gained him a place among the representative and valued residents of this section of the state. From 1862 until his death in 1891 he resided continuously upon his farm lying party in this and party in Clayton county and each year added something to his high standing in the community to the agricultural development of which he made such substantial and lasting contributions. He came to Iowa in 1859.

Mr. Hanks was born in West Almond, Allegany county, New York, on the 8th of October, 1834, and is a son of Rufus F. And Cynthia (Knight) Hanks, natives of Greenwich, Connecticut, the former born, September 4, 1802, and the latter, September 29, 1799. The father was a copper by trade and an expert carpenter and joiner, as well as a blacksmith, and he worked at all of these occupations, first in Connecticut, and then in Pennsylvania, whither he went in 1837. In that state he also followed farming, owning an excellent property which, however, was largely operated by his sons. He was one of the pioneers in Iowa, locating in Wayne township, Crawford county, in early times and making his residence there until his death, which occurred in 1880. He had survived his wife only a short time, her death having occurred six weeks previously.

George Washington Hanks was the eighth in a family of twelve children. He acquired his education in the district schools in Pennsylvania and at the same time became a proficient and capable farmer, learning the best and most practical agricultural methods by personal experience upon his father’s property. Under his father he also learned the cooper’s trade, becoming an expert carpenter, joiner and blacksmith, and he did a great deal of this kind of work in his father’s different ships. On the 24th of April, 1859, he left Pennsylvania and came to Iowa, settling in Clayton county where he rented land, turning his attention to general farming. He was very successful and was eventually able to purchase a fine property of his own upon which he moved June 12, 1862, and whereon he continued to reside until his death. For a time he worked at his trade in connection with his farming operations, but later concentrated his attention upon the development of his land, becoming one of the most prosperous and successful farmers in this part of the state. Starting with forty acres, he added to his holdings as his financial resources increased and he owns finally two hundred and seventy-three and one-third acres, one hundred and thirteen of which lay in Clayton county and the remainder in Allamakee. Upon it he made substantial improvements, his progressive and modern spirit leading him to introduce all the newest and best machinery, and to keep the buildings which he erected in good repair. In addition to the development of his fields, he gave a great deal of attention to stock-raising and eventually operated the farm as a general stock farm, whereon he bred and raised pureblooded animals. It was he who introduced Polled Angus cattle in this vicinity and he did a great deal of important work in improving the breed. For thirty years he steadily carried forward the work of developing his homestead and his well directed and practical labors were at length rewarded by a success which placed him in the front ranks of the county’s progressive farmers.

On the 3rd of July, 1856, Mr. Hanks married Miss Mary Ann Banister, who was born in Cherry Creek, Chautauqua county, New York, September 15, 1834-She is a daughter of William and Prescilla (Steward) Banister, natives of Windsor county, Vermont, the former born August 12, 1808, the latter, September 12, 1804. They moved across the Green mountains to New York in 1830 and in that state engaged in farming, an occupation which he followed all during his active life. In 1837 he moved to Crawford county, Pennsylvania, and there resided until his death, which occurred November 8, 1890. He had survived his wife since March 29, 1879. Although Mr. and Mrs. Hanks had no children of their own, they adopted a nephew, W. James Hanks, son of the brother of the subject of this review. He was born in Franklin county, Iowa, August 31, 1871, and grew to manhood in this state. He married Miss Agnes Dunn, also a native of Iowa, and they have two sons: George L. And Harry Newell, who reside with their father in Postville. W. James Hanks is engaged in the piano and jewelry business in that city and is one of the progressive and enterprising young business men of the community.

The death of Mr. Hanks occurred upon his farm January 12, 1891, after a residence of nearly thirty years upon the property. After his demise Mrs. Hanks remained upon the homestead until the following December, when she disposed of the property and moved into Postville, where she has since resided, being well known and highly esteemed in the community. Mr. Hanks gave his political allegiance to the republican party and was progressive and public-spirited in matters of citizenship, cooperating heartily in all measures which eh deemed would be of benefit to the county or state. He served for a few years as justice of the peace in Post township and in Postville was a director of the District Fail Association Mr. Hanks was also a great lover of music and quite proficient in that art. He taught it in early times to the great benefit of the young people, never receiving any remuneration for his work, but teaching with a view of bringing something beautiful into their lives.

He was about fifty-seven years of age at the time of his death which caused deep regret among his many friends who had learned to esteem him for his genuine personal worth and his sterling qualities of heart and character. Although he did not seek to figure prominently before the public, he came to be known throughout the community as an exempliary citizen, a faithful husband and a reliable and trustworthy business man.

-source: Past & Present of Allamakee County; by Ellery M. Hancock; S. J. Clarke Pub. Co.; 1913
-transcribed by Diana Diedrich

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