|Barbecued Charles City Bacon Advertisement - Richmond Dispatch April 25, 1885|
According to an article in the Richmond Dispatch from August 04, 1886 Bannister was shot in the arm during a late night scuffle that occurred after he visited a bar where gambling was taking place. In his court testimony, Bannister admitted to gambling that evening. We learn from the January 25, 1887 edition of The Daily Times that Bannister lost the lawsuit against his assailant and it was dismissed. He was also accused several times of selling liquor on Sundays. While most of those cases were dismissed from court due to a lack of witnesses, he was fined $50.00 at least once for the offense.According to a report in The Times January 27, 1901 Bannister bought a building at the corner of Ross and Governor's streets that he planned to convert into a hotel called "Bannister's Place."
|Richmond Dispatch of December 26, 1893|
In spite of his gambling and other issues, George Bannister was apparently a very good employer and was respected by his employees. We are told from a report in the Richmond Dispatch of December 26, 1893 that George Bannister was presented with a Knights of Pythias badge as a token of his employees' appreciation.
|Times Dispatch, February 1, 1903|
Further investigation revealed the report "State of our Bay: Return of the Giant" where it states: "By 1890 or so, they noticed that the typical size of sturgeon, historically 10 to 12 feet, was now more like 8 to 10 feet, so they began ordering nets with 10-inch mesh, instead of 13-inch. But before long the average fish size was closer to six feet. At the time, of course, nobody knew that females didn't reach sexual maturity until they were about six feet. So, without realizing it, they had now begun to eat the seed corn--that is, they were harvesting the last of the spawning stock. At the turn of the 20th century, the inevitable happened: The sturgeon population crashed, up and down the coast, and watermen turned to other species. In 1926, the last sturgeon fishing operation on the Potomac closed down. Gradually, most people forgot about the fish."
|Alexandria Gazette, February 23, 1900|
|Charles City Bacon is Plentiful|
and Everybody is Happy
The Times Dispatch dated June 5, 1904
So, why learn so much about George Bannister? The reason is, there are so many unnamed Virginia barbecue cooks. History has been so far fairly silent on the names and stories behind the people that cooked Virginia barbecue in the 18th and 19th centuries. I am going to do all I can to discover as much as I can about those folks and publish their stories.
There was a time before marketing consultants and lazy authors molded our opinions of where the "great regions of American barbecue" are located. In those days and without any organized marketing, Virginia was nationally famous for its barbecue. Over the course of time, I intend to show that Virginia's old time barbecue cooks rivaled men like Henry Perry of Kansas City and were cooking excellent barbecue many decades before Henry opened his barbecue stand in 1908. In fact, Henry Perry was just ten years old when George Bannister advertised his barbecued Charles City bacon.
And, to those who think you can't barbecue fish, all I can say is Native Americans in Virginia were doing it for hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived in Jamestown in 1607. In 1705 Robert Beverly wrote about Native American cooking in The History and Present State of Virginia "They have two ways of Broyling, viz. one by laying the Meat itself upon the Coals, the other by laying it upon Sticks rais'd upon Forks at some distance above the live Coals, which heats more gently, and drys up the Gravy; this they, and we also from them, call Barbacueing."