DANKS, BENONI, army officer and officeholder; b. c. 1716 in Northampton, Massachusetts, son of Robert Danks and Rebecca Rust; m. first, 28 Nov. 1745, Mary Morris, and they had three surviving children; m. secondly, before May 1768, Lucy – ; d. 1776 at Windsor, Nova Scotia.
Nothing is known about the career of Benoni Danks before he came to Nova Scotia. He may have participated in the siege of Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.) in 1755 and been recruited into the ranger companies by George Scott* in the spring of 1756. The “Company of Rangers commanded by Benoni Danks Esq.” was serving in the Chignecto area in 1756, 1757, and 1758 and was active in guerrilla warfare against the French and their Indian allies. An officer skilled in forest fighting, in June 1758 Danks commanded a force of rangers and regulars in a successful action against an enemy raiding party near the present city of Moncton; he returned to Fort Cumberland (formerly Beauséjour) “with all his party, prisoners, and plunder; and had not a man of his whole detachment killed or wounded.” Tradition relates that “Capt Danks, who ever rode to the Extreme of his Commission in every barbarous Proceeding,” allowed his men to bring in scalps of Acadians, pretending that they were Indian to claim the bounty of £50.
After the capture of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), in 1758, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Monckton sent Captain Silvanus Cobb* to Fort Cumberland to bring Danks’s rangers to the Saint John River for an expedition against the French settlements. In November Danks’s company formed part of George Scott’s detachment which raided and burned French villages on the Petitcodiac, and in 1759 it was with James Wolfe*’s forces at the siege of Quebec, providing valuable services in reconnoitering the countryside. Sent with Scott on a mission of destruction along the St Lawrence, the rangers were not present at the battle on the Plains of Abraham.
Danks decided to return to Nova Scotia to settle on former Acadian lands. In 1761 he was granted 25 acres near Fort Cumberland, and five years later he received an additional six shares in Cumberland Township. In September 1761 he was established on his land with seven in his household and 51 head of livestock. He was a member of the committee to admit settlers to the township, and he may have been operating a small store or acting as a sutler to the troops at the fort. Over the years he received large grants of land “for service formerly done by him in a military capacity,” including 10,000 acres in the vicinity of Quaco Bay (N.B.).
Danks was present at the siege of Havana in 1762, serving under Joseph Goreham; while there he sold his commission in the rangers. On 17 July 1764 Governor Montagu Wilmot* appointed him justice of the peace and major commandant of the militia for Cumberland County. The following year he was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant and also granted a licence “to Traffick with the Tribe of Argimaux and other Indians inhabiting on the Coast of the Bay of Vert.” On 28 May 1765 Danks was listed on the rolls of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. He represented Cumberland County until 2 April 1770 but was not an active member. His appointment on 30 July 1767 as collector in Cumberland County for duties on wine, beer, rum, tea, coffee, and playing cards appears to have brought him trouble, for on 13 July 1775 the committee of the assembly investigating accounts found that he owed over £87. The difficulties of collection had been increased by the scarcity of cash in the province. In 1770 he had written to the provincial treasurer, Benjamin Green Jr, suggesting that the government accept grindstones, an important item in Nova Scotia’s trade with the American colonies, in lieu of money. “I never have taken five Pound in money for the hole year Past,” he stated. “I am Bringing Down some fat oxen and horses to Pay the Ballance as their is no money to be had here.”
In the early years of the American revolution, Danks was one of the justices of the peace appointed by the governor and Council to administer the oath of allegiance to all persons coming into the province, and he was still in command of the militia in November 1775. He apparently sympathized with the revolution, however, and seems to have participated in the rebellion led by Jonathan Eddy*. He was taken prisoner by Goreham late in 1776 and sent to Halifax. He died on the way at Windsor from the effects of “a spent Ball in his thigh, which he conceal’d until a Mortification ensued.”
BL, Add. mss 19071, f.243 (transcript in PANS, RG 1, 363, f.31, p.12). Cumberland County Registry of Deeds (Amherst, N.S.), Book B, pp.37–40. Forbes Library (Northampton, Mass.), J. R. Trumbull, “History of Northampton: Northampton genealogies, v.3, pt.1” (typescript), pp.158, 160. Halifax County Court of Probate (Halifax), D32 (will of Benoni Danks, proved 12 Sept. 1777). PANS, RG 1, 136, pp.176, 230–31, 246, 257; 164/2, pp.60, 284, 314; 165, p.367; 167, pp.49–50; 204, 3 Aug. 1761; 210, 14 May 1756; 211, 25 July 1764, 8 Aug. 1766; 222, f.4; 286, f.63; RG 37, Halifax County, 21A; ms file, Nova Scotia militia, Danks’ Rangers, “Capt. Scott’s bill for the rangers of Capt. Danks’s company [7 July 1756–4 Aug. 1757].”. Cinco diarios del sitio de La Habana, ed. A. A. Rodriguez (Havana, 1963), 200. Knox, Hist. journal (Doughty). N.S., House of Assembly, Journal, 1765–75, especially 28 May 1765; 17 June 1766; 18, 21, 23, 29 July 1767; 24 Oct. 1769; 13 July 1775. PAC, The Northcliffe collection . . . (Ottawa, 1926). Directory of N.S. MLAs. W. B. Kerr, The maritime provinces of British North America and the American revolution (Sackville, N.B., [1941?]; repr. New York, ), 36–39, 69. Murdoch, History of N.S. J. C. Webster, The forts of Chignecto: a study of the eighteenth century conflict between France and Great Britain in Acadia ([Shediac, N.B.], 1930), 72–78. W. C. Milner, “Records of Chignecto,” N.S. Hist. Soc., Coll., XV (1911).