Dr Richard E. Banks

Dr Richard E. Banks

Elbert County, Georgia, USA
Death 6 May 1856 (aged 61)
Gainesville, Hall County, Georgia, USA
Burial Gainesville, Hall County, Georgia, USA
Memorial ID 30782128 · View Source
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Physician and surgeon. He traveled to treat settlers and Native Americans of northern Georgia and South Carolina. He was especially noted for treating the Native Americans for smallpox.

Dr. Richard Banks 1794-1856, Namesake of Banks County, Georgia: son of Capt. Ralph Banks Sr. and Rachel Alston Jones Banks of Granville County, North Carolina and Elbert County, Georgia. From the Third Edition of Banks of Elbert, insert facing page 124 [edited by Sarah Banks Franklin, 1972, from early editions by Georgia Butt Young and Elbert Augustine Banks, M.D.]. Dr. Banks graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1820, gaining eminence as a physician and surgeon in Northeast Georgia.

"Banks County, in northeast Georgia, is the state's 129th county, comprising 233 square miles. The county was created from portions of Franklin and Habersham counties in 1858 and was named for Richard E. Banks (1794-1856), a circuit-riding surgeon who treated white settlers and Indians in the area, developing a good reputation among the Cherokees for treating smallpox." http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2291
Dr. Richard Banks vaccinated his Cherokee neighbors against smallpox

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 26, 2013

"Dr. Richard Banks, one of the most shining ornaments of the medical profession in this State since its organization, was a native Georgian, born in Elbert County in 1784. After obtaining the rudiments of education, he entered the State University, taking a classical course, graduating in the same class with the famous Chief Justice Joseph Henry Lumpkin.

"Later he decided to study medicine and entered the University of Pennsylvania, where, after a two years’ course he was graduated with the degree of M.D., in 1820. He then spent one year in the hospital work, and returning to Georgia established himself in practice in the village of Ruckersville in his native county. It would be considered remarkable in the present time that a man of Dr. Banks’s abilities should have chosen such a location, but in those days when railroads were not, it was not so material a matter.

"A man of profound modesty, detesting notoriety, and a hater of the methods of the charlatan, he would not even allow his friends to make publication of his wonderful cures. In spite of this, his fame spread rapidly and widely, and people within one hundred miles would have no other doctor if they could get Dr. Banks. All over upper Georgia and South Carolina his reputation extended.

"Considering the time in which he lived, his skill as a surgeon was remarkable, and some of the cures which he effected and operations which he performed with the limited facilities then at hand, the use of anesthetics being then unknown, would do credit to the best practitioners of the present time.

"On one occasion when he had performed a very remarkable operation and his friend, Dr. Spalding, wrote a report of the case for a medical journal and submitted it to Dr. Banks, he refused to consent to its publication. In cases brought to him, where the implements then in use or accessible were not adequate to the emergency, such was his skill that he devised and had made others that suited the case.

"One of his earlier triumphs was the successful removal of the parotid gland at a time when the best anatomists and surgeons were hotly discussing the question of its possibility. He performed an enormous number of operations for cataract and for stone in the bladder, for many years being the only surgeon in a vast expanse of country who would attempt these, and his percentage of recoveries was very great. Some years before his death he stated to a friend that in sixty-four trichotomy operations there had been but two unsuccessful cases, and there were probably other operations after the statement was made.

"Space does not permit explanation of his methods, but they were very original and very successful. He did not seem to attach any great importance to his methods or even to comprehend the importance of what he was doing. It was all in the day’s work of the faithful physician.

"In 1832 he moved to Gainesville, in Hall County, where he resided until his death in 1850. This town was within a few miles of the Cherokee Indians at the time of his removal there, and the Federal government employed Dr. Banks to visit the Indians and see if he could alleviate the ravages of smallpox. He performed this duty, vaccinated many of them, and treated many, and greatly amazed the Indians by restoring to sight a number of them who had been blind for years. It is pleasant to know that his practice brought him in such an income that he acquired a competency and was enabled to rear his family in easy circumstances.

"In honor of his memory, the General Assembly of Georgia in 1858 organized the county of Banks."

Source: “Men of Mark in Georgia: a complete and elaborate history…”, Volume 2 By William J. Northen, Atlanta : A. B. Caldwell, 1910, pp. 81-2

"My thanks to Andrew Ayers Martin, Lake Village, AR, for his research assistance on this post."

My thanks also to Dave Tabler for an outstanding piece on my fourth great uncle Dr. Richard Banks, the brother of my third great grandfather Ralph Banks Jr. who owned a large tract of land from present day Banks County [then Franklin County], Georgia to present day Stephens County [then Habersham County], along a line running next to Currahee Mountain. They were sons of Capt. Ralph Banks Sr. and Rachel Alston Jones Banks of North Carolina and Elbert County, Georgia, who came to Georgia after Capt. Banks served in the Revolutionary War. His father Thomas Banks, as well as Rachel's father Capt. James Jones, and her grandfather Col. Solomon Alston, all served and fought as Revolutionary War patriots in North Carolina. Ralph Banks Jr.'s wife Elizabeth Maxwell, was the granddaughter of two Revolutionary soldiers Rev. Thomas J. Maxwell and Capt. Jacob Higginbotham, and the great granddaughter of another Capt. Joseph Higginbotham of Virginia.