City of Banks

Banks is a small town about twenty-five miles west of Portland. The seeds of the community were sown in the mid nineteenth century, when white settlers began arriving in what is now western Washington County.

The area that is now western Washington County was originally inhabited by the Atfalati, or Tualatin, tribe of the Kalapuya people. The arrival of white settlers and the new diseases they introduced greatly reduced the Atfalati's numbers, and the remaining members were forced onto the Grand Ronde Reservation near McMinnville in 1855.

Peyton and Anna Wilkes, who took up a Donation Land claim in 1847 in what is now Banks, are considered the first white settlers in the area. The land was ideal for farming in the Tualatin River Valley, and a community developed around the Wilkes property. In the 1860s, the town was named Wilkes. In the 1890s, the Wilkes land was sold to the Schulmerich and Banks families.

In 1901, news reached the region that the Pacific Railway and Navigation Company would be building a railroad through John Banks’s dairy farm in Wilkes, bypassing the nearby town of Greenville. In response, the entire town of Greenville—including a post office, a school, businesses, and the homes of many residents—was relocated closer to Wilkes to take advantage of the boom the railroad was sure to provide. The post office was renamed Banks, and the new town took the same name.

The town voted to incorporate in the 1920s. Funds from taxes and licensing allowed for a renovation and modernization project that gave the town paved roads, streetlights, and a water system. But the town never became a major center on the railroad, and the Banks Depot was closed in 1933.

The community struggled to survive during the Depression, and town leaders decided to launch a campaign to make Banks a center of highway traffic. Main Street was incorporated into the Nehalem Secondary Highway (Highway 47) in 1931. By 1948, however, the Sunset Highway (Highway 26), which connects Portland to the coast, was completed and had bypassed Banks. The highway lies just three miles from town, and Highway 6 connects the two.

Because of its proximity to major highways, Banks became a bedroom community in the 1940s, as many of the town’s residents commuted to jobs in Hillsboro, Beaverton, and Portland. The town’s economy is centered on the lumber industry and agriculture, while the eastern part of Washington county has become home to high-tech industries.

The population of Banks in 1990 was 563. By 2010, it had grown to 1,777 people.


Map It

Further Reading

Bourke, Paul, and Donald DeBats. Washington County: politics and community in antebellum America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1995.

Related Articles

Community of Roy

Roy is a small, rural community in Washington County, about three miles southeast of Banks. The community is named after the Roy family, early settlers of the area whose name railroad officials used for a station along an intended rail line in 1906 (which became the Roy post office …

Community of Verboort

Verboort is a small, unincorporated community about three miles northeast of Forest Grove. In 1846, famine and poverty in the southern Netherlands propelled a large migration of people to the United States. Many settled in Wisconsin; but because of severe winters there and the lure of fertile land in the …

Main Street Hillsboro, 1908.

Hillsboro, the seat of Washington County, is in the Tualatin River Basin west of Portland. The earliest people in the area were Atfalati, who gathered at Chatakuin—today’s Five Oaks—to settle disputes, arrange transactions, and carry out community affairs. The first Europeans and Americans arrived in the late 1830s: retired Hudson’s Bay …

Tualatin peoples

Tualatin (properly pronounced 'twälə.tun in English) was the name of a collection of related but independent villages whose members spoke a dialect of Northern Kalapuya, the northernmost of three languages composing the Kalapuyan language-family. Synonyms include Atfalati, Tfalati, and Twalati (variously spelled).

Sixteen Tualatin villages are known by name: these stretched through Tualatin Plains …

This entry was last updated on Dec. 12, 2019