REV. FRANCIS BURNETT BANGS
Rev. Francis Burnett Bangs -- A strong, pure and noble spirit held sway in the mortal tenement of this pioneer clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal church in Michigan, and now that he rests from his labors it is manifestly true that his works do follow him, for he lives in the reverent and affectionate memory of all who came within the sphere of his gracious and kindly influence. Mr. Bangs was born in Stanford, Delaware County, New York, March 23, 1819, and the closing years of his long and useful life were passed in Eaton Rapids, where he died May 20, 1891. He was a son of Joseph and Huldah Bangs, who was numbered among the very early settlers of Michigan, where they took up their abode nearly a decade before the state was admitted to the Union. In 1828 they made their way from the old Empire state to the wilds of Michigan, settling in the little village of Tecumseh, Lenawee County, in the autumn of that year. It was theirs to know and experience all the tension of pioneer life, but it can well be imagined that they were not lacking in that fortitude, earnest industry and consecration to noble purpose, which so significantly denoted the character of their son, the subject of this memoir. They were devout members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and soon after they established their home in Tecumseh a quarterly meeting was held in their little dwelling, the same being attended by all of the Methodists in the county -- only seven in all. The devotion which inspired this faithful little band could not but have an influence on the lad of about ten years who was later to go forth as so able and loving a worker in the vineyard of the Divine Master. Mr. Bangs prosecuted his studies in the primitive district school until he had attained to the age of fifteen years, and supplemented this by one term in a select school and two in a branch preparatory institution maintained by the newly established state university. His studious habits and appreciative attitude are indicated when it is stated that he applied himself carefully to the classical languages during his leisure hours at home. His habit of application to study and his marked contemplative and absorptive powers made it possible for him to round out a liberal and symmetrical education. At the age of sixteen years he was converted and even this early in his career felt that he was called upon to preach. He was one who never wavered in his purposes, and thus he lost no opportunity for advancing himself along the lines, which would enable him to successfully carry forward what he had decided upon as his consecrated life work. He had an inclination to complete a collegiate course, but was finally convinced that he could accomplish more by taking up ministerial work and incidentally continuing to devote himself to private study of a thorough order. He thus entered upon the active work of the ministry before finishing work in college, and that his decision was a wise one none can doubt when reviewing his life from the perspective of its completion and its beauty. During his entire active career he devoted himself earnestly and with all of self-abnegation to the work of the ministry, ever keeping the faith and preaching the living word of the Master whom he served, following closely in the steps of the lowly Nazarene. From the pulpit he presented practical truth and exalted ideality, his sermons being characterized by originality, fervor, force and conciseness. His knowledge of the Bible was profound and his interpretation at all times consistent. He was essentially a man of work, and after bearing the "heat and burden of the day" with all of faithfulness he passed to his reward in the fullness of years and well earned honors. In 1840 Mr. Bangs was ordained and became a member of the Michigan conference, being then appointed junior preacher in the Pontiac circuit. Following is a list of the appointments which he held, with respective dates: Flint, 1841-2; Utica, 1843; Mount Clemens, 1844; Tecumseh, 1845-6; Kalamazoo district, 1847; Niles, 1848; Kalamazoo district, 1849-52; Coldwater, 1853-4; Battle Creek, 1855; Albion, 1856-7; Jackson, 1858-9; Kalamazoo district, 1860-63; Homer, 1864; Ionia district, 1865-8; city of Ionia, 1869-70; Lansing, First Methodist Episcopal, 1871-2; Mason, 1873-4; Lansing district, 1875-8; Three Rivers, 1879-80; Homer, 1881; Nashville, 1882; superannuated in 1883; in which year he took up his residence in Eaton Rapids, where he passed the remainder of his life, loved and esteemed by the community. He was three times a delegate to the general conference of his church and served sixteen years in the office of presiding elder. He was a strong adherent of the Prohibition Party from the time of its organization until his death, and was an ardent temperance worker. He was the nominee of his party for representative of Eaton County in the state legislature and ran ahead of his ticket, and he was a leader in all reforms tending to the elevation of his fellow men. Though unbending in his convictions he never kept the fire of intolerance burning on the alter of his life, and his dominating motive was to uplift humanity, whose friend he was, having appreciation of the well springs of human thought and action and having an abounding charity for "all sorts and conditions of men." With the history of Methodism in Michigan his name will ever be given a place of prominence and honor. Mr. Bangs was twice married. January 6, 1842, was solemnized his union to Miss Catherine Hall Webb, who died July 5, 1875, and of their five children four are living, namely: Albert Vale, Frank Lorenzo, Mrs. C. B. Fisk, and Frederick Herbert, none of them being resident of Eaton County. February 19, 1876, Mr. Bangs was united in marriage to Mrs.. Helen (Swift) Latson, widow of Joel Latson. She was born in Batavia, New York, and is a daughter of Thomas Swift. Her father was a pioneer of Jackson County, Michigan, where he died when his daughter, Mrs. Bangs, was a child. Mrs. Bangs' first husband, Joel Latson, was born in New York State in 1819, and came to Michigan when he was sixteen years old. He located near Eaton Rapids in 1837, and about a year later removed to Eaton Rapids, where he died September 24, 1873. He was a pioneer of Eaton Rapids.