Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

John Banks, One of Two Executors of the Will of Pelham Founder Thomas Pell

Recently I have analyzed the Last Will and Testament of Pelham founder Thomas Pell, executed on September 21, 1669, only days before his death.  I am trying better to understand Thomas Pell, his life, and times through such primary sources.  I have written about Thomas Pell, his will, and an inventory of that portion of his estate located in New York at the time of his death before.  See:  

Tue., Jun. 28, 2016:  Who Was Daniel Burr, an Executor of the Will of Pelham Founder Thomas Pell?

Fri., Jun. 24, 2016:  Archival Record of the Last Will and Testament and Estate Inventory of Pelham Founder Thomas Pell.  

Wed., Mar. 07, 2007: Published Abstract of 1669 Will of Thomas Pell, Followed by Entire Text of Will of Thomas Pell

Mon., Mar. 31, 2014:  Inventory of the Estate of Pelham Founder Thomas Pell Taken Shortly After He Died in Late September, 1669.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog collects information about "John Bankes" (i.e., Banks) who was one of the two men named to serve as "Executors of Trust" of the Last Will and Testament of Thomas Pell.  The principal purpose, of course, is not to document data about John Banks, but to shed light on the life of Pelham founder Thomas Pell.  

John Banks was born about 1619 in England.  He died January 22, 1684/5 in Greenwich, Fairfield County, Colony of Connecticut.  The reliable record seems unclear regarding when John Banks arrived in New England.  Though undocumented, one source claims he came from Yorkshire, England in 1630 in the ship Mary and Jane.  See Mead, Spencer P., Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich, County of Fairfield and State of Connecticut, p. 495 (Knickerbocker Press, 1911).  

Banks seems to have settled first at Windsor in the Colony of Connecticut, though later he moved to Fairfield.  In 1643 he was clerk for weights and measures in Windsor.  

Clearly John Banks was both a respected and beloved citizen of the region.  He served for eighteen sessions in the Legislature of the Colony of Connecticut from Fairfield and Rye (once part of Connecticut, but now part of New York).  He served as deputy in the Legislature from Fairfield in 1651, 1661, 1663, 1664, 1665, 1666, 1673, 1674, 1675, 1676, 1677, 1678, 1679, 1680, 1682, and 1683.  He served as deputy from Rye (now part of New York) in 1673.  

In 1666 Banks served as a Commissioner for Fairfield and a member of the War Council in 1675 and 1676.  Bankes was an attorney who played a prominent role in a witchcraft-related lawsuit in Magistrate's Court.  Banks represented Thomas Staples who claimed that Deputy-Governor of the Colony of Connecticut Roger Ludlow had defamed his wife by repeating what are believed to be allegations of witchcraft that reportedly were made by Goodwife Knapp to Ludlow as she stood at the gallows shortly before she was hanged for witchcraft in 1653.  I have written before about the witchcraft persecution of Goody Knapp and the related defamation lawsuit by Thomas Staples that followed.  See:

Mon., Apr. 18, 2016:  Another Account of the 1653 Witchcraft Trial of Goodwife Knapp In Which Thomas Pell's Wife Testified.

Fri., Jul. 07, 2006:  The Involvement of Thomas Pell's Family in the Witchcraft Persecution of Goody Knapp

Thu., Oct. 30, 2014:  Did Thomas Pell Act on Pangs of Remorse After Witchcraft Persecution Involving His Family? 

Bell, Blake A., The Involvement of Thomas Pell's Family in the Witchcraft Persecution of Goody Knapp, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Jan. 23, 2004, p. 11, col. 1.

According to researchers who have documented the life of John Banks:

"John Banks was a lawyer.  On 12 Jan 1649, he bought the Daniel Frost home and land there.  On 4 Feb 1665, he bought land from Indians on Aspebuck River.  Witnesses were Thomas Lyon, William Ward, Joseph Lumas and Matthew Sherwood. (Fairfield Probate Records, vol 3, 1675-1900)  Between 1651 and 1666, he was several times Fairfield deputy in the Connecticut legislature. He founded the town of Rye, CT and represented the town, 1670-73, and owned land there.  He laid out the town square in Fairfield to which he then returned.  He was called sergeant at his death [However in Power-Banks Ancestry he says this probably refers to his son John]. [Note: the references to Rye, CT apparently refer to today's Rye, NY, which is near to Fairfield, CT.] (Info from the History of Fairfield, Fairfield County, Connecticut, from the Settlement of the Town in 1639 to 1818, by Elizabeth H. Schenck, vol I, 1889, as provided by Anita Jones). . . .

In 1673, John Banks was sent to the Dutch governor of New York to protest against interference with the English colony on Long Island.  Governor Colve put him under restraint for 15 days.  He returned reporting Colve was insolent and unpopular there.  In 1675, John was on a committee to run a boundary line between New York and Connecticut, from Mamoroneck to the Hudson.  He was on another boundary committee in 1684. (Powers-Banks Ancestry, by William H. Powers, 1921, p 99 - no source listed -- Powers suggests that Banks was particularly interested in the boundary because of his propertry in Rye, NY)  Powers also indicates Schenck's history lists Banks as a frequent bearer of dispatches to Gov. Andros in NY & in 1678 was on a committee to hear the claim of Tunstacken.  However, his usual occupation later in life seems to have been as surveyor, where he fixed the boundaries of a number of southwestern Connecticut towns. (In NY State Archives, vol II, is mention that John Bankes, messenger of the Secretary of Connecticut to the Dutch at Ft. William Hendrick -- apparently confirmed by the Dutch. Gov. Winthrop wrote to the Dutch about this, Oct 1673)."

Source:  Compilation Project All Deceased Banks & Bankes Persons of European Origin in the U.S. & Their Immediate Families (visited Jun. 25, 2016).  

Clearly John Banks was a prominent, respected, and successful member of the community.  Thomas Pell likely chose Banks to serve as an executor of his will not only because he was an attorney, but also because his prominence, age, and wisdom might counter-balance the comparative inexperience of Pell's 30-year-old co-executor, Daniel Burr, the husband of a granddaughter of Pell's wife, Lucy Brewster Pell.  

"Thomas Pell" by Thom Lafferty from an Original by
an Unknown Artist Who Imagined Pell as He Would
Look. There Are No Known Images of Thomas Pell.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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