Anthony Banks was the first Black police constable in Ontario. He was appointed Constable of the County of Essex on April 12, 1881. He was also a farmer and owned 116 acres on Lot 9 Concession 3 in South Colchester.
There is no record of slavery in Anthony’s family. He was born free on June 29th 1840, in Colchester, Ontario. Colchester is located on the north shore of Lake Erie. Anthony’s mother, Esther Malawice (Fields) Banks, was born in Amherstburg, Upper Canada in about 1812. Her mother was Alamania, Sir Isaac Brock’s Black cook, originally from Ghana, West Africa. According to oral tradition in the Banks family, Esther was the daughter of General Brock (1769-1812), commander of the British troops in Canada during the War of 1812 and the administrator of the province of Upper Canada.
Anthony worked as a police constable in Amherstburg for more than 25 years. He was later appointed as a deputy game warden by the Ontario Game and Fish Commission. He held a variety of other offices including that of school board trustee. His brother, Ervin Stuart Banks, Jr., became the first African Canadian elected to the Harrow Town Council. Harrow is a small town located just north of Colchester. One of Anthony’s sons, Walter Banks, also became a police constable.
Anthony Banks was one of the founding members of the Central Grove British Methodist Episcopal (B.M.E) Church, established in 1911 in Colchester, which is still an important community landmark there.
Susan Simpson, who was born March 9, 1909 in Harrow, Canada West, became the wife of Anthony Banks and they had fourteen children. After his wife died, he married a widow named Mrs. Katherine Rideout. They had no children. Anthony Banks was a very good friend of distiller Hiram Walker, whose distillery buildings still make up an important part of downtown Windsor, Ontario. He was also a friend of African Canadian inventor Elijah McCoy, who came from Colchester.
Anthony Banks died at the age of 89 in his farm home in Malden on October 17, 1929. He was buried on October 20, 1929, at the Central Grove British Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery in Colchester.