Walter L. Danks

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Chris & Kerry
December 4, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume II

WALTER L. DANKS, whose technical and executive ability need no further voucher
than the statement that he is the efficient superintendent of the Parkersburg
Iron & Steel Company, at the metropolis and judicial center of Wood County, West
Virginia, claims the State of Nebraska as the place of his nativity and is a
representative of one of its sterling pioneer families, though it is to be
recorded that is father, a man of independent means and marked resourcefulness,
did not consent long to endure the ravages wrought by grasshoppers and drought
in the pioneer period of Nebraska history, but soon left that state in whieh
many other pioneers were compelled to remain, as they had no financinl resources
that permitted them to flee from the dcsolation wrought by the pioneer scourges.

Walter L. Danks was born at Cozad, Dawson County, Nebraska, on the 11th of
November, 1875, and is a son of John G. and Elizabeth (Vance) Danks, the former
of whom was born at Mount Savage, Maryland, and the latter at Muncie, Indiana.
Samuel T. Danks, grandfather of him whose name initiates this review, was a
native of England, where the family has been one of not minor prominence, among
its representatives in the past having been one or more distinguished musicians
and composers, one of whom composed music for many of the beautiful chants of
the Church of England. Samuel T. Danks was reared and educated in his native
land and there acquired his fundamental knowledge of the iron industry, of which
he became a prominent and influential pioneer exponent after coming to the
United States. He came to this country about the year 1847, and in 1849 he
became one of the argonauts of California, where the historic discovery of gold
had just been made. He made the long and perilous overland trip to California
and became one of the first to utilize hydraulic power in connection with gold
mining in that state. He did not long remain on the Pacific Coast, however, but
established his home at Mount Savage, Maryland, where he became prominently
identified with the iron industry, as a pioneer in its development in this
country. He was the inventor of the rotary puddling furnace that bore his name
and that did much to advance iron production industry in the United States.
Both he and his wife continued to reside in Maryland for number of years, and
thereafter he became superintendent an extensive iron manufacturing plant in
Cincinnati, Ohio, in which state he and his wife passed the closing years of
their lives.

John G. Danks seems to have inherited a predilection for iron industry, with
which the family name had been prominently identified in England for many
generations. He was reared and educated in Maryland, where he early gained
practical experience in connection with iron industry under the effective
direction of his father. As a young man he became mechanical engineer for one of
the large iron corpoations at Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father was
simultaneously serving as an executive in connection with the same line of
enterprise. After the father invented the Danks Puddling furnace John G., the
son, went to England to superintend the installation of these improved devices
in that country, and after his return to the United States he continued such
installation service, in which he met with much opposition and had many
remarkable experiences on account of the opposition of the historic organization
in Pennsylvania known as the “Molly Maguires.” In the early ’70s he made his
venture in connection with pioneer ranching enterprise in Dawson County,
Nebraska, but the adverse conditions previously mentioned in this sketch led him
to abandon his activities there and to return to Cincinnati. After his retirement
from active business affairs he removed to Los Angeles, California, and there his
death occurred in 1914, his wife having preceded him to eternal rest, and two
children survive them.

Walter L. Danks, the immediate subject of this sketch, passed his boyhood days
principally on a farm owned by his paternal grandfather near College Hill, a
suburb of the City of Cincinnati, and his early educational discipline included
that of the high school and also of a business college, which later he attended
at night. He gained under the direction of his father and grandfather his early
experience in connection with the iron and steel industry, and in this
connection he has well upheld the prestige of the family name, as his entire
active career has been one of close and effective association with this
important branch of industrial enterprise. He was for five years in the employ
of the Inland Steel Company at Indiana Harbor, Indiana, and with the same won
promotion to the position of assistant master mechanic. In 1906 he came to
Parkersburg, West Virginia, to take the position of master mechanic with the
Parkersburg Iron & Steel Company, and this alliance has since continued, while
he has served as superintendent of the company’s extensive plant since 1913.

Mr. Danks is found aligned loyally in the ranks of the republican party, and is
vital and progressive in his civic attitude. He takes deep interest in all that
touches the welfare and advancement, of his home city, and during the nation’s
participation in the World war he was able to give valuable patriotic service
both through the medium of his industrial association and through his personal
efforts in support of the various local war activities. He and his wife hold
membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in the Masonic fraternity he
has completed the circle of the York Rite, in which his maximum affiliation is
with the Parkersburg Commandery of Knights Templars, besides having received the
thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite and being also a member of the Mystic

The year 1902 recorded the marriage of Mr. Danks to Miss Hannah Stephens, of
Indiana Harbor, Indiana