As I read down the list of names that are cast on the plaque that is affixed to the great boulder outside of Union Cemetery that pays homage to Easton’s World War I soldiers and sailors, my first question was, “Who was Marsten E. Banks?” And in what battle did the young man perish?
The Banks name is one of Easton’s oldest. The family dates back to Fairfield and then transitions through the years as Weston splits off to become its own town in 1787 and then in 1845, another split results in the incorporation of Easton. Following the generations can be a bit of a challenge to say the least.
I figured the best place to begin was at the Connecticut State Library where they maintain a wonderfully complete set of resources that contain the names and service records of all those from the state who have served in our wars. It didn’t take long to find him, but sadly those who approved Easton’s plaque all those years ago misspelled the poor lad’s first name. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as complete surprise, since they also had the years of the war wrong; the last time I checked it ended in 1918! The name on that plaque should read, “Marston”. His full name was Marston Edson Banks, Marston being his mother’s maiden name and Edson the middle name of his grandfather, Moses Edson Banks, an accomplished educator turned publisher who grew up in Easton, received his education at the Staples Academy, then taught in Redding and various other towns before becoming a successful publisher in New York.
Family histories, especially those originating in Easton, are often full of surprises, and this one is certainly no exception. There’s another “Banks” name on that same plaque. “C. Lincoln Banks” to be exact. Any relation to Marston, I wondered? Just his father, Charles Lincoln Banks – born in 1865, so there’s likely no question as to where the “Lincoln” came from, although one wonders if he received his middle name before or after the 16th President was assassinated only six days after Charles’ birth?
A father and son serving in the war isn’t an everyday occurrence, especially when the father was 52 years of age!
Called up to duty from his position as a surgeon in the Connecticut National Guard, Doctor Charles Lincoln Banks was assigned to Camp Upton on Long Island on October 18, 1917 (Camp Upton eventually became the Brookhaven National Laboratory). Educated at Lehigh and then Columbia University, he practiced medicine in Bridgeport prior to the war.
Marston Edson Banks was a student at Yale when the United States became involved in the war, and enlisted in the navy on April 16, 1917. He was assigned to Scout Patrol Duty where he served until September of 1917 when he was reassigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In June of 1918, he was about to leave for officer’s training school to become a mechanical engineer when he paid his surgeon father a visit at Camp Upton. At Camp Upton, for reasons unknown, Marston decided to undergo a relatively minor surgery when according to his obituary, “suddenly, with no warning, death claimed him.” Whether his father was involved in performing that operation, I have yet to determine.
So, as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War One and we honor those who served, let us remember poor Marston E. Banks, and let us always get the spelling of his name correct going forward.