Vital Bangs (with fancy hat), from the History of Stanislaus County, 1913.
Following on the heels of San Francisco mayoral candidate Brilsford P. Flint, another oddly named Californian gets accorded his due...Vital Emanuel Bangs of Stanislaus County. A two-term member of the state assembly from that county, Bangs also gained distinction in Modesto educational circles, being a vice-principal, county board of education member, and a contributor to educational journals of the time. Although a resident of California for a good majority of his life, his birth didn't occur in that state. Bangs was born in Victoria, Mexico on August 26, 1834, the son of printer and publisher Samuel (ca. 1798-1854) and Susan (Payne) Bangs, respective natives of Massachusetts and Virginia who had settled in Mexico prior to their son's birth. Given the unusual name "Vital" upon his birth, Bangs' middle name Emanuel is listed as being spelled with both one and two m's.
Bangs' formative years were spent in Mexico and by age 14 was residing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he attended school. He further studied at the Cedar Park Seminary and the Kalamazoo College before putting his schooling on hold, having caught the gold rush bug in the early 1850s. In 1853 he resettled in El Dorado, California and after a short spell at mining began teaching a Spanish night school in that county. By 1858 Bangs had returned to Kalamazoo and, after completing his studies, removed to Vernon County, Missouri. His time in this state saw him teach school for two years, whereafter he pulled up stakes once again and this time removed to Douglas County, Kansas.
Vital E. Bangs married in Kansas in 1863 to Mary G. Moore (1845-1918), to whom he was wed until his death. The couple's near five decades of marriage saw the births of for children, Henry T. (birthdate unknown), Susan (1870-1934), Victoria Letitia (1878-1956) and Vital Everitt (1886-1890).In the year following his marriage Bangs and his wife made the move to California, where they would reside for the remainder of their lives. He would subsequently begin a teaching career that would take him through Tulare, Placer and Sacremento County, and by 1873 had permanently settled in Modesto, Stanislaus County.
Within a short period of his arrival in Modesto Bangs had entered into the post of vice-principal of schools for the city, and for decades afterward loomed large in Stanislaus County education. Bangs would serve on the county board of education for twelve years, be the vice president of the Modesto Teacher's Institute in 1880, and in the last name year wrote an extensive history of the Stanislaus County public school system for inclusion in the 1881 History of Stanislaus County. Bangs would also be a contributor to the "California Teacher" and other educational periodicals well into the early 20th century.
In addition to his long career in education, Bangs was also heavily involved in the Stanislaus County Grange, being a charter member and master (1877-1878) of that organization, as well as its first secretary, serving from 1873-1876. Bangs had further involvement in area agriculture with his service as assessor for the Modesto Irrigation District and also was named as the director for California's 28th agricultural district by Governor Henry H. Markham in the early 1890s.
Vital E. Bangs' first foray into California political life came with his election to the state assembly in 1887 as a representative from Modesto. Serving in the session of 1888-89, Bangs was named to the committees on County and Township Governments, Crimes and Penalties, Education, and Water Rights and Drainage. Bangs would win a second term in 1902, and was unopposed in that year's election, garnering 3,745 votes and "receiving the votes of both parties and polling the largest vote of any man in the assembly." Bang's second term commenced in January 1903 and during that session sat on the committees on Education, Immigration, Irrigation, and Public Health and Quarantine.
Following his final term in the assembly, Vital Bangs continued residence in Modesto, residing on a nearly five hundred acre ranch near the city, where he grew alfalfa and raised dairy cattle. Bangs died in Modesto on November 15, 1913, at age 79 and was survived by his wife Mary. Both are buried at the Modesto Citizens Cemetery.
Vital E. Bangs, from the 1903 California Blue Book.