Chester and Ellen Banks with their children, c. 1900. Notice that Ellen (left) and Harvey (centre) have the Salvation Army “S” on their uniform collars. Lancelot (back, right) was killed within a year of the picture being taken by D. E. Pelton, kemptville.

To help mark the Salvation Army’s 130th anniversary in North Grenville, this installment of Sons and Daughters features a local man whose life was turned around the first day the Salvation Army came to Kemptville. Harvey C. Banks was a member of a well-known family in Kemptville. His mother, Ellen Johnston, had immigrated to Canada from County Donegal, Ireland, in 1841, along with her parents, Lancelot and Margaret, who settled in Kemptville. Ellen married Chester Banks, who ran a stable and livery business on the corner of Asa and Thomas Streets (where the apartment building is today).

Harvey’s quiet small-town world was changed forever when the first Salvation Army people arrived from Ottawa to start a new work. He later became a Major in the Army himself, living past his 100th birthday and retaining a detailed memory of that first exciting day in January, 1888. This recollection was written in 1933, 45 years after those exciting days.

How well do I remember the coming of the Salvation Army to “open fire” on the hosts of sin in old Kemptville. I stood in front of Blackburn’s general store that winter’s day the 14th of January, 1888, and saw “the Army advancing” up Asa Street and past my home. I certainly was one interested boy at that first open air meeting on Clothier Street just between Bedingfield’s harness shop and Hagan’s tin shop [in front of the South Branch Bistro].

An empty shop in the building opposite my home on Asa Street had been that day speedily turned into an Army hall and that night I managed to press my way with the crowd into that meeting and became a regular attendant every night after that. My mother was the first woman to go to the Army penitent form and that was on January 31st, and two weeks from that day I went to my bedroom at the noon hour and asked God would he please give me the same thing that other boys and young men as Albert McFadden, Tom Evoy, Jack O’Neil had received. I left my room not feeling any different but ready in trust to do anything that I too might be saved. The moment I placed my left hand on that stair bannister (and by the way Edward Jones who may be remembered by some of the older citizens made that bend on that stair bannister) I was saved and knew it. Now for nearly 45 years my greatest delight has been to tell the old, old story.

One of those early Army Captains who came to Kemptville was Sarah Eliza Pitcher, who married Harvey in 1902. Harvey was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Salvation Army in 1892, and served in various posts in Ontario, finally settling in Owen Sound, where he went into the knitting business. His six children grew up there, and his son, Lancelot, became a Captain in the Salvation Army also, until his death in 1953. Some of his other children also spent their careers in various posts with the Army. But Harvey had rejoined the ranks in 1927, when he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, followed by stays in Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana. He retired in Oklahoma City in 1938.

Harvey might have taken up business in Kemptville, like his father and brother, Lancelot, if those marching men and women had not appeared on Asa Street in 1888. The family was an important part of the town’s social and business life. After Chester retired from the livery stable, his son, Lancelot, took over and was also the manager of the town’s ice rink. A well-liked figure around town, Lancelot had lived in Omaha for a few years, returning to Kemptville to take over the business from his aging father. A thriving operation, as well as a livery stable, they ran a shuttle service between the railway station and the town’s hotels, as well as supplying horses and rigs for hire. Banks himself was a carpenter by trade, and built the buses, as they were called, that carried the passengers around town. Sadly, in 1901, Lancelot was killed in an altercation with some youths late at night.

Harvey, however, lived to a ripe old age, passing the 101 years mark, going to his home at last after a long life of service and fulfilment. And it all began on that January evening in 1888.


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