Walt and Margret Banks had neighbors instead of crops

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

(This column initially ran on 12-5-79 in This Week in Peachtree City)

Someone asked me recently about the Banks family that settled on Greer’s Mountain long before Peachtree City was anybody’s pipe dream. I realized again how many people have moved here in the decades since most of us staked our own claim to this beautiful spot of the Earth.

I wrote this for This Week in Peachtree City late in 1979, and was captivated by the affection displayed between Walter and Margret Banks. With some minor updating I believe the story is worthy of a rerun.

“Bottom corn” – so named for the low-lying moist land which nurtured it – grew where the Flat Creek golf course is now. Ironically, today it’s not lowland memorialized there, but one of the highest elevations in Peachtree City: Greer’s Mountain.

Those of us who think of such things often ponder what the old-timers thought of us, moving in and building our own houses and golf courses where they had grown corn and cotton.

The Banks’ was the only house on the 58-acre farm, and the road that ran close to their door reached from the site where Holy Trinity Catholic Church is now, past old Tinsley Mill, to Ga. Highway 74, where the only landmark at the time was the Wilks Grove Baptist Church across the railroad track.

Today a paved street off Peachtree Parkway North bears the name Walt Banks Road, and the property is now subdivided. Soon the Banks had neighbors instead of crops.

The Banks were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their marriage when I wrote their story. Friends and relatives filled their house, and “the front yard was full of cars,” Walt Banks said.

No doubt it was. Aside from having three daughters, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, the Banks had a lifetime of friends in Fayette County. Both came from families who have lived in the county more than a hundred years, and all of their own surviving generation still lived here or within 20 miles.

On the west wall of his living room, Banks has a small, framed painting done by his neighbor, E.D.Persson, who presented the Wyeth-like water color as an anniversary gift.

The weathered slightly worn-looking house in the picture could still be seen where it stood a few dozen feet away, simply by shifting one’s gaze through the window.

Mrs. Banks said that when her great-granddaddy moved into that house, it was already old. Nobody remembered when the back part of the house, a log cabin, was built.

She and her two brothers and three sisters grew up there. All still lived in the county when this story first appeared. One sister, Lillian Brown, lived just east of Peachtree City limits on Highway 54.

Banks told of a team of federal surveyors who came around measuring “the highest and the lowest, the ups and downs of the earth.” They told him his home site, Greer’s Mountain (as it was dubbed by developer J.K. “Chip” Conner in honor of the late Wyatt Greer) is “the highest peak in Fayette County.”

Although he couldn’t see it so well, Banks was proud of the view he once commanded. “I like it here. Got three acres, the old house, the new house (which he built and moved into about 12 years earlier), the well and the barn. And the septic tank. Got city water now, but we sometimes pump water from the well for washing.”

He made only half his living farming his place, and worked for 23 years with a freight line in Atlanta before his 1971 retirement.

“Done some hard work, but now my eyes are so bad, I can’t see to get around much,” he said.

Walt Banks is the only survivor among three sets of twin boys, although two younger brothers and his oldest sister are still living. He evidently came from a tradition of large families.

“Grandma and Grandpa Banks had 17 children right through the Civil War,” Walt said, “and raised every one of ’em. Grandpa said if he hadn’t gone to war, he didn’t know how many he’d have had!”

His grandfather was born and reared in Fayette County, south of Fayetteville “in the east part of the county.”

Banks remembered him well, paralyzed on the right side by a stroke, getting around in a “rolling chair” and strong enough to snatch an errant boy off the ground.

Walt and Margret met “in the road” on a blind date. Mrs. Banks said one of Walter’s friends came to her door and asked if he would go to church with him in Tyrone.

After she consented, he said, “There’s a Banks boy waiting for me.” And then the friend, who already had a date, admitted he had asked her for Walt.

Nonetheless, they hit it off well and went together for a year. Then for a year they did not see each other, “but met up again at a singing and got to dating again.”

They were 18 and 20 when they met, and were married at Preacher Fabon Brown’s place on Tyrone Road four years later.

When asked why Walt’s hair was still jet black, while hers was nearly white, Mrs. Banks answered quickly, “He had someone to take care of him.”

“She’s been good to me,” her husband agreed. “I wish I’d been as good to her as she’s been to me.”

“We get along pretty well,” Mrs. Banks said reflectively.

“Have I ever hit you mad, Mama?” Banks teased. “Never had ‘hand-to-hand’ fought.”

Banks described his favorite walk, from Highway 54 to the old mill. “I’ll walk as long as I can crawl. And Margret’s always finding something to do. She’s got her sewing – she’s made about half the clothes the grandchildren wear.”

What about the encroachment of other people upon what was once open farmland? “I got good neighbors,” Banks said with feeling. “I don’t mind it a bit in the world.”

But his observation that “It’s a different world from the way it was back then” sounded wistful.

Had life with Margret been good? “I’ve enjoyed it. We’ve had a few ups and down,” he said, but dismissed them. “That was mostly just tongue-flapping.”

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Submitted by Dondol on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 2:26pm.

My daughter works at Partners Pizza and came home with a book that someone came by to give to the owners and she had some others for sale.
The name of the book is "Images of America - Peachtree City", I believe that they are selling them at Omega book store. It is published by Arcadia Publishing and is a pretty good history of PTC, from the Creek Indians in 1821 to present day, although it leaves out the fact that the city went bankrupt before it got started good and the dark days of PCDC. It has a lot of pictures and would be great for anyone wanting to learn the history of our city and the surrounding area.

Obama's weapon of Choice!

Submitted by Goldendogs3 on Fri, 05/22/2009 - 1:30pm.

I just finished reading the Walt and Margret Banks story; which reminded me that I have been unsuccessfully making attempts at locating a book of the history of Fayette County/Peachtree CIty. I have lived in PTC nearly 9 years and have wanted a book on the history. Could you possibly point me in a direction?

Thank you~


Submitted by PJBANKS on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 11:42am.

I have a book my mother purchased from the historical society. Call the library in Fayetteville to see if they have the order forms.

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