Museum the New Llano Colony

Elizabeth "Bessie" Harcourt Banta

Birth: Born in Jasper County, Iowa in 1859.  

Description: (In 1932) at the age of 73, she was a rather small, grey woman with a ready smile and a ready wit. "There was fire in those grey eyes, tabasco in her talk. She was active enough for a much younger woman."

Carrying in her heart the tradition of the fighting preacher, she often re-read her Bible, had even studied Hebrew to aid her in the understanding of it, and in 1923 adhered to a religion which owned no churches, never passed the plate, and was a bridge to the Co-operative Commonwealth.  

Pre-Colony History: In her veins ran the blood of a grandfather who had given up a place in the public life of England to espouse the cause of Irish freedom and who'd then come to America to fight for the freedom of the colonies. Besides being a soldier, he had been a circuit rider and an itinerant physician. His services, both religious and medical, had been given entirely without cost.

On another side of the family tree were to be found such figures as Daniel Boone and General Robert E. Lee -- so if Mrs. Banta was a pacifist, it would never have been guessed from the character of her ancestors.

She'd married R.W. Banta on July 4, 1874. In 1890 they had taken their six sons and two daughters to Louisiana where they'd prospered, growing first rice and later sugar. In 1932 they still owned 500 acres on Bayou Teche where they had once rubbed elbows with southern aristocracy whose prosperity rested on the backs of menials, though even then, the Banta men worked their plantation while Mrs. Banta did her own housework.

She and her husband had first heard of the colony in 1915 while they were visiting San Francisco, but returned home after reading the literature. In 1928, they learned that not only did the colony still exist, but it had moved to their home state of Louisiana and they soon made plans to join them.  

Family Information: Wife of Rufus W. Banta.

In 1930, their granddaughter, Bonnie Mae Mayson, was living with them in the colony.

Bondell Banta's first husband, Roy Banta, must also have been a grandson of Rufus and Elizabeth Banta -- in December 1935 an article in the "Llano Colonist" reports that Bondell had brought her children from Sykes, Louisiana to the elder Banta's home in the colony which was referred to as "Grandma's".  

Job in Colony: Most often helped out with food preparation in the kitchen and cannery. In 1928, she and Mr. Banta went to live and work at the Rice Ranch, doing housework and cooking for the workers there.  

Home in Colony: The Banta home was nicer than most in the colony because it had been built by their sons  while most colonists were forced to wait until colony workers had time to harvest what was needed from colony property.


Other Info: In July 1930 he visited the Rice Ranch along with Sextus Garrett, Mrs. Charles Brannon, Ernest Kimball, George and Bee Jensen, Laura Synoground, Royall Thompson, Lois Thompson and Hope Shoemaker.


Post-Colony History:  

Death: Died in 1938 in San Francisco, California from complications following a fracture of her femur.  

Sources: US Census: 1900, 1930; "Llano Colonist": October 13, 1928, January 12, 1929, July 19, 1930, June 18, 1932, October 13, 1934, December 14, 1935 ; San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985  

Center Top: Banta home -- this photo of the Bantas was used in many issues of the "Llano Colonist" to show that the colony had begun to its building program and share their plans to build more like it -- it was touted as the "first permanent home in the colony".

Center Bottom: Clipping from the Llano Colonist dated May 18, 1929 -- describing the efforts to get the photograph of the Banta house.

Right: Banta home in background -- Standing R to L is Rachel Valleau, Mrs. Mary Maki and Irene Maki; Sitting in front is Myrtle Maki.