Thursday, March 27, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday - Started in New York Ended in California

Editor's note: Today's post was edited by Sandra Gardner-Benward but written by member Kathie Gutierrez

Henry Hill BANKS and Dora Olive (LAWRANCE) BANKS are my great grandparents.           [Note: The surname "LAWRANCE" is correctly spelled, with two of the letter "a".] 
They were married at Red Bank, in Tehama County. California on August 4, 1886. This was the second marriage for Henry, whose first wife died when their only child, a son, was about two and a half. 

Henry was born in 1848, in Chemung County, New York, came to California in 1870, and owned a ranch in Red Bank, Tehama County, California. One of several diaries written by Henry's eldest brother Eugene, tells us that he encouraged Henry to come to California despite the fact that their father William and one other brother, John, were trying their best to discourage him from leaving home. Two other brothers were already in California. Jerome, a lawyer, who became District Attorney of Red Bluff; and George, also a teacher, who became a prominent farmer in Woodland. I believe that his brothers told him there was more opportunity to prosper in the West than in the small towns where he lived in New York. It took him just 7 days for Henry to get here, so I believe he probably came by train in July, 1870, rather than by ship as his brothers had.

Dora was born in 1863, in Rough and Ready Township, Nevada County, California, and met Henry while living on his ranch with the rest of her family, while her step-father was working for Henry, managing the ranch. 

Henry began teaching while still in New York. He was certified as "to Moral Character, Learning and Ability to Teach" and licensed to instruct a "Common School" by the School Commissioner for Chemung County, New York in November, 1867. Then in 1868 he received a Certificate of Academic Scholarship from the East Genesee Conference Seminary by the regents of the University of New York. He was then just shy of being 20 years old. After arriving in California he attended the State Normal School in San Jose, California and received teaching certificates in several counties, the last of which in Mendocino County.

Henry was primarily a school teacher, and much of the time was not able to tend to his own ranch while teaching in various other districts, such as the town of Vina and Red Bluff in 1885.   This was the same year several secret love letters were written between Henry and Dora while she was caring for her elderly grandparents during that winter in Nevada County. Her sister Ida was the go-between. And I am the lucky descendant who recently inherited them.

He obtained some land in Tehama County after he got here  But I'm not yet sure whether he purchased that piece of land, or whether he was given that land by his first wife's father. His Father-In -Law already owned quite a lot of land in the Red Bank area. A few years after he married Dora, he moved his family to Mendocino County, where he homesteaded some land in Hopland. This is where he and his wife raised four more children while he continued teaching in one-room school houses. When the eldest daughter was old enough to attend high school, the family moved to Ukiah and bought a house.  The down payment for this house was paid for with the money Dora had saved from the eggs she sold to her neighbors. At least that's the story that was passed down.

Henry and Dora's youngest child was my grandmother, Flossie, who attended U.C. Berkeley, paying her own way with scholarships and work such as babysitting and housekeeping on campus. She later changed her name to Florence, which was felt to be a more professional name for her career as an English professor at San Jose State College.

Thank you Kathie for sharing this story with us. I see other story's I would love to hear more about ......... 

Shop and Support Root Cellar Sacramento Genealogical Society.
Click here for details.



  1. These were my great grandparents as well. Thank you Kathie this is very special. I knew mostly of their time after they moved to Hopland. This is a great piece of our family history.
    Lisa Cross-Robinson granddaughter of Lawrance Banks

  2. We received an email from Lisa Cross-Robinson granddaughter of Lawrance Banks but there is not a return email. If anyone knows Lisa or Lisa herself would send an email to so I can forward your contact information onto our member Kathie Gutierrez and get you two together. Thank You.


We love getting your comments!