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Newton Banner ~ Sophronia Mast House ca. 1890
Newton Banner ("Uncle Newt" or "Grandpa" to most who knew him) was born in 1842, the son of Martin Luther Banner and Mary Weaver Ogburn.
According to BannersElk.com (see link below) :
The story is that Banner Elk, North Carolina was originally known as Banner's Elk because one of the Banner family members shot and killed the last elk seen in the area.
Grace Banner Vannoy in 2004 at the graves of
The house was originally built as an "income property", today's term would be "Bed and Breakfast". Georges Gap Road was a major route to Tennessee and was used by many drummers (traveling salesmen) at that time. The house is right on the road and has two staircases inside. The one just inside the front door leads to two large rooms with fireplaces that were rented to drummers. The family used the staircase in the rear which led to their rooms upstairs. Newton was frequently away. At one point he was a mail carrier in the western North Carolina mountains.
Grace Vannoy shared many memories about her Grandfather. Her parents, Thomas Banner (born 1893) and Josie Baird Banner (born 1894), lived in the house with their 5 daughters and Sophronia (until her death in 1931) and Newton (until his death in December 1941.) Grace, like most others who describe him, referred to "Grandpa" as a "character".
Because Newton Banner fought with the Union Army during the Civil War he had a small pension. This was a time when few people had much cash. Newton was known for being generous, especially with children.
He was also known for playing cards and checkers on his front porch and asking most anyone who passed the house to come up and play. This got him in trouble with local churches but he kept right on playing and taking his daily "medicinal" whiskey.
Because locals knew he had a pension, he was frequently asked for money. This prompted him to put a sign in his yard telling people to look elsewhere for their "security" and ended with the phrase he is known for today, "Life is just one damned thing after another."
Newton's most famous adventure occurred when he and one of his brothers attended a reunion for soldiers of the Civil War in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On their trip home they were invited to the White House where they demonstrated buck dancing for President Franklin Roosevelt.
However, Newton Banner was a lifelong Republican who frequently ridiculed members of the Democratic party and referred to one of his canes that broke while on a walk as a "Democratic cane" !
Newton and Sophronia Banner had 6 children :
Thomas J. Banner and Josie Baird Banner had 5 daughters :
Howard and Grace Banner Vannoy have 3 daughters :
Newton and Sophronia Banner are buried on the campus of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, near where Martin Luther Banner first settled.
Links to references in this article: