Nathaniel Moore Banta was born December 3, 1867 in Rensselaer, Indiana to Henry and Mary Jane Banta. He was the eighth of ten children. He graduated at Valparaiso University and took a post graduate course at the University of Chicago. He was also a student at the Berlitz School of Languages and at the Soper School of Oratory.
He was active in school teaching and administration for 16 years. For two years in Indiana, eight years as the principal at Niles Center, three years in Arlington Heights, and three years in Barrington. Banta came to Arlington Heights in 1900 as principal of the public schools. He married Minnie Muller on July 17, 1901.
According to his obituary, Banta as a "leader in almost every activity of a community nature in Arlington Heights".
He became a member of the First Presbyterian Church of A.H. in 1906. He was ordained as a ruling elder in 1908 and served as a trustee from 1915 to his death. He was acknowledged as an "earnest, energetic, and efficient leader in upholding the financial welfare of the church".
He was the first President of the Community Library Board in 1926. Through his leadership, the library became a permanent publicly supported entity in Arlington Heights in 1927. He continued as a member of the Board after it was chartered by the village and served until his death in 1932.
He was an author of 27 books, including the "Brownie Books" for children and many books about nature and bird life. His first book The Brownie Primer was published in 1905. These books were widely used as supplemental texts in area schools. He became Managing Editor of A. Flanagan and Son, Publishers, in 1906 and continued in that position until his death.
As a former school teacher and principal in Arlington Heights, Banta served as President of the School Board until 1914 and under his leadership, a High School program was added. Prior to this, A. H. youth were required to attend Charles Schurz or Des Plaines High.
He also served as President of the Park Board from 192 5-1928 and was an early environmentalist. His gardens were well known in the area. His opposition to the intrusion of traffic through the town was carried all the way to Springfield in 1928 when he fought against Northwest Highway. His early leadership in preserving recreational areas was the beginnings of a highly regarded Park District. During his tenure, the District took over control of the railway parks and war memorial park.
The efforts of Mr. Banta in providing good schools, parks, and a public library made Arlington Heights attractive to developers in the late 1920’s. The developments which were begun then and which were turned to again after a depression and a World War, made the community one of the fastest growing suburbs in the Chicago metropolitan area.
Banta was also a member of Arlington Heights Lodge No. 1162, A.F. and A.M., Arlington Heights Chapter No. 992, Order of the Eastern Star, and Royal Arch Masons, Palatine Chapter No. 206.
Aside from his civic activities, Mr. Banta’s principal interests were in nature. " His beautiful garden in season is famed as one of the principal beauty spots in Arlington Heights; a joy to all beholders."
Banta died of myocarditis on Friday, February 5, 1932. He left behind his wife Minnie, and daughter Elizabeth Banta Mueller.
Today, a park at Phelps and Waterman is named in honor of Nathaniel Moore Banta in recognition of his contributions to the community of Arlington Heights.
Books by Nathaniel Moore Banta, many of which were co-authored with his sister, Alpha Banta Benson, in the Collection of the Arlington Heights Historical Society:
Autumn and Winter Festivals
Bluest of Bluebirds
Brownies at Work and Play
Brownies in the Greenwood
Busy little Brownies
Fairies of Nine Hills
Four and Forty Fairies
Kris Kringle’s Christmas Book
Spring and Summer Festivals
St. Nicholas Christmas Book
Ten Little Brownie Men
The Bluebird Book
The Brownie Primer
The Brownies and the Goblins
The Chickadee Book
The Fairy Primer
The Jenny Wren Book
The Little Brown Man
The Little Brown Pitcher
The Robin Redbreast Book
|View Family Tree graphic or text|