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BANTA, WILLIAM

BANTA, WILLIAM (1827–1897). William Banta, Indian fighter, Civil War soldier, and autobiographer, was born in Warrick County, Indiana, on June 23, 1827, the son of Isaac and Elizabeth (Barker) Banta. The family immigrated to Texas in 1839 and settled briefly at Clarksville in Red River County. The following year they moved to Lamar County; they finally settled on Bullard Creek, not far from Bonham in Fannin County, where Isaac Banta was the county's first justice of the peace. In 1843 he sold his headright and moved to South Sulphur, where he assisted in organizing Hunt County. William Banta moved to Austin in 1849, then to Burnet, where he married Lucinda Hairston on March 4, 1850. They had fourteen children.

Banta organized and commanded the first company of minutemen in Burnet County and participated in nearly every engagement against Indians in the region throughout the 1850s. He saw service on the Texas frontier during the Civil War as lieutenant, then captain, of Company A of the Frontier Regiment. In the spring of 1862 he was stationed at Camp Davis in Gillespie County, where he attempted to enforce the law when a series of murders, robberies, and outrages perpetrated by bushwhackers, state troops of the Third Frontier District, and men of the Frontier Regiment, excited the populace of Gillespie and Kendall counties into a frenzy. Banta's participation in the arrest and execution of an outlaw in Gillespie County led to his arrest on May 19, 1862.. He and six other men were incarcerated in Fredericksburg. Maj. James Hunter, commander of state troops of the Third Frontier District, wrote to Governor Pendleton Murrah and requested that he be allowed to send the men to prison in Austin or San Antonio. On May 25, 1862, an armed group of more than 200 men rode into Fredericksburg and overcame the twelve-man guard stationed at the jail. They pushed their way into the stone jail and opened fire upon the prisoners, who were located in two small rooms separated by a hallway. They killed one of the prisoners instantly and critically wounded four others, two of whom died the next day. Banta survived the episode but was badly wounded in both legs.

During the 1870s Banta lived in Fayette County between Halletville Road and Buckners Creek, where he and his son worked as farm hands.  In 1880 Banta and his family lived in Hamilton, where they worked as a farmers. J. W. Caldwell Jr. and Banta wrote an account of their lives in Texas, Twenty-Seven Years on the Texas Frontier, published in 1893. On August 24, 1893, Banta married Alethia Ann Jeffers Caldwell in Bell County. William Banta passed away on March 9, 1897 and was buried next to his wife at Nix Cemetery in Lampasas.  His headstone indicates his death occurred in 1890, but this date does not appear to be accurate.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day, eds., Texas Indian Papers (4 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1959–61; rpt., 5 vols., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966). William Banta and J. W. Caldwell Jr., Twenty-Seven Years on the Texas Frontier (Council Hill: N.P., 1933).

David Paul Smith

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, David Paul Smith, "Banta, William," accessed July 26, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fba58.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 16, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.