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The Community of Banks, Oregon was named after John L. Banks. Mr. Banks was born on October 1, 1840 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. He came to Oregon in 1882, and became a successful farmer and businessman. Mr. Banks passed away on September 22, 1909 in Washington County, Oregon. - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society
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The first store in Banks was built around 1901 on North Main Street, near Banks Road. Montgomery “Gum” Turner, owner standing to the left of post, his wife Vessie (Parmley)Turner, standing to the right of the post. Gum’s younger brother, Ewell Turner was the store’s first operator until Gum returned from this Cincinnati-Chattanooga Railroad position of engineer in 1904. Upon his return, Gum took over operation of the store. - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society
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This is a photo of Otto Galaway and Wheelock Marsh inside the Washington County Bank. The Bank was located on Main Street, and opened in 1909. The City of Banks City Council Chambers and Administrative Offices now sits on that site. - picture used with permission of the Banks Historical Society
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Banks Pharmacy - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society
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Front porch view of the Banks Furniture Company, ran by John Henderlich - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society
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This is a photograph of the Banks Baseball team, The Stars. The photo was taken around 1906. - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society
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This is a view of Main Street in Banks, circa 1910-1912. On the left is the blacksmith shop, Kinton & Schulmerich Grocery, Powne & Jensen Grocery and Dry Goods, and the Dance Hall. On the right is the Millers Hotel and Bar, the Banks Herald office, Washington County Banks, and the pharmacy of Dr. William Munford. - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society
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Photo of Ben Dooley and his son Jack, standing their cabinet shop in Banks, Oregon. - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society
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This is a photo of a group of children on the Banks School bus. Photo circa 1923-1925. - picture used with the permission of the Banks Historical Society

History of Our Community

In order to understand the City of Banks one must understand that its past is the strategic foundation that made it the town it is today. Long before pioneers inhabited the Tualatin River Valley, the Atfalatis Indians roamed the area. As the non-native population began settling in the area, the Atfalatis population quickly declined, most likely due to the new diseases the settlers introduced. Their population was almost completely diminished when in 1855 the Federal Government forced them onto Grande Ronde Reservation, near McMinnville. Although a few remained in the area, by end of the 19th century the only trace of the Indian existence was the arrowheads, etc., that farmers found, and still find, in their fields.

The Wilkes family is credited as being the earliest settlers of the area.  Peyton & Anna claimed nearly a Section of land, or 634.49 acres, in 1847 that included the place where Banks would eventually grow.  Peyton Wilkes chose the west fork of Dairy Creek because the nearby plentiful oak trees supplied the tanbark he needed for his tanner's trade.  White Oak trees are native to the valleys of western Washington County, and are considered the king of all western oaks.  Peyton was a native of Virginia, and is buried in Wilkes cemetery, today known as the Union Point Cemetery. At the time the Wilkes’ established their farm they had practically no neighbors. This all changed in the years to follow, when many people began to settle the Valley due to the generous government land acts that were created to spur western migration. By the 1860s, a small community had formed around the Wilkes property and, appropriately, it was called "Wilkes". In the 1890's the Wilkes' children divided the remaining 160 acres and sold it to the Schulmerich family and the Banks family, who were dairy farmers.

In 1901, development of the settlement made a radical change after news of a railroad running through the John L. Banks dairy farm property was announced. The railroad bypassed the market town of Greenville, which had the post office, school, and other businesses just two miles south of Wilkes. Greenville, understanding the importance of the railroad, decided to move the town, including the buildings and the people, up the road and relocated near the Banks property. The post office renamed itself "Banks", after John L. and Nancy Banks. Following the traditions of the day, the town adopted the same name as the post office and became Banks.

The town grew slowly, adding various businesses and residents. By 1920, Banks looked like many other small Oregon pioneer towns, with a less than impressive building stock and dirt roads, but its strong community made it a good place to live. The main industries of the town were general farming, dairy farming, and logging. In 1920, the town voted to incorporate, allowing it to use funds from taxes and licensing to renovate the town. The rest of the decade was spent modernizing the town by adding a water system, streetlights and paved roads.

Like other Oregon rural towns in the 1930s, Banks focused on surviving, not expanding, during the Great Depression. Even though there was no major expansion during this time, significant events took place that would shape the town's future. As the automobile proceeded to become the more dominant mode of transportation in Oregon, the town's hopes of becoming a major railroad shipping and receiving center were diminished. The town focus turned to getting major highways through or near Banks, and in 1931 the Main Street became part of the Nehalem Secondary Highway. The Southern Pacific Railroad limited the number of rail cars running through town and then completely shut down the Banks Depot in 1933. Although the town lobbied to get the Sunset Highway, a major artery that connects Portland to the Oregon Coast, the final plan for that highway bypassed the City of Banks and placed it just three miles away. The Sunset Highway was not completely finished until 1948.

 During World War II, many people left Banks to fight in the war. Many others began commuting by auto to jobs in Portland or other larger nearby communities, thereby leaving Banks operating as a bedroom community. Another mass exodus also occurred during this time, but this one was forced. Ninety Japanese families who lived in the area were forced to sell their land and businesses to move into camps in Ontario, Oregon. This left a large hole in the community and their presence was missed greatly.

 The fact that the Sunset Highway bypassed the town has had both positive and negative effects. On one hand, the town retained the same small town and rural feel that had drawn people to the area in the first place.  And it still has that aspect of the sense of “place” for those who live here today. The downtown remained mostly unchanged after the 1930s since new roadside businesses were not developed. The downside is that the business community was left stagnant as new businesses situated themselves in towns that were located on the highway.

 The highway bypassing the town was just the beginning of the downturn in Banks economy. Starting in the 1970s, the timber industry was hard hit when state and federal government regulation increased and modern machinery replaced the need for as many laborers. The smallest logging operations were affected the most, as they struggled to turn any profit at all.

When compared to the rest of Washington County, Banks does not represent the typical economic and social trends that have been taking place over the last fifty years. Part of the Portland Metropolitan area, Washington County has seen tremendous growth in the past few decades. High-tech industries began locating in the eastern part of the county as early as the 1950s, and today more than half of Oregon's 53,000 high-tech jobs are located there. Following the increase in jobs, there was an increase in both housing and service industries, resulting in a great deal of new development. Western Washington County, however, has not followed those trends. Most of the area remains rural with the major economic base stemming from agriculture and some logging.

The City is stable and expects to continue as a small town where families grow and thrive.  Since the earliest days, it has been a great place to live, and such is the case to this day.