Hearty Pioneer Raised Eight Children

Elizabeth Banta Leach

By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Elizabeth Jane Banta was born in Dodge County, Nebraska on September 21, 1877. She came to Central Oregon with her parents in the 1880s where they settled near present Culver. She met Thomas Leach; a neighbor homesteader and they soon became enamored with each other. Thomas was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on Sept. 3, 1861. He came to Central Oregon in 1886 and settled near Haystack. He later bought property near Grey Butte. They were married on July 11, 1896.

They lived on Thomas’s farm after their marriage. Thomas supplemented the family income by driving freight by wagon from The Dalles to Prineville. They had eight children. Thomas died on November 12, 1915, at the age of fifty four. Elizabeth was left alone to raise their children with the youngest only one year old.

She moved into present Culver so her children could attend school there. She managed to support her large family by sewing, washing clothes for neighbors, and boarding other children and teachers. She also served as an operator for early phone service in the area and had a switchboard in her home. She was an operator for over thirty years.

Elizabeth, nicknamed Jenny, was well known and respected in the Culver community. All of her children grew up and married. Four of her children remained in Central Oregon and lived near Culver. She lived in Culver until her death on January 13, 1951. Both Thomas and Elizabeth are buried in Grey Butte Cemetery in Jefferson County, Oregon.