“Sufferers’ Land” Post #4 – Sally DeForest Benedict

During the five months of Platt’s absence, his wife Sally Benedict saw New England plunge into turmoil because of the previous summer’s cold weather. Many farmers could not even plant a crop that summer. They were desperate for a way out. Stories circulated throughout New England of the “rich soil and mild climate of Ohio.” By the time Platt returned home, many families were preparing to move to the wilderness. Some had already started. The Benedicts would have plenty of company on their journey. [1]

1023264171478om802_001Sally Benedict was thirty-nine years old; she would turn forty on the road to Ohio. Born in Wilton, Connecticut in 1777, Sally was the youngest child of David and Sarah De Forest. Her father was a soldier in the Revolution with the Ninth Regiment of the Connecticut Militia. He took part in the disastrous battles for New York in 1776, the year before Sally was born.

The De Forest family had been in America longer than the Benedicts. Isaac de Forest arrived in New Amsterdam, now New York City, from Holland in 1636, two years before Thomas Benedict arrived in New England. His son, Sally Benedict’s great-grandfather David De Forest, left New Amsterdam in 1694 and settled in Stratford, Connecticut, establishing the Connecticut branch of the family. [2]

Sally could not have remembered much about the Revolution, she was five when it ended. She must have been well educated, better than her husband judging from their writing. A photograph taken of her and Platt later in life shows a face with even, attractive features and a benign expression.

She and Platt were affectionate. In the photograph, Platt sits close, with his arm around her shoulder. They were partners. When describing the settlement of Norwalk, Platt often wrote that “my wife and I decided”, rather than just himself.

Sally and Platt had lived much of their married life in Danbury, but also moved to other towns. Their eldest child Clarissa was born in New Salem, New York in1796, their third son Jonas was born in Harlem, New York in 1806. [3]

While Platt was in Ohio preparing their new home, Sally got ready for the journey and said goodbye to friends and family. Many people she knew had already departed for the Firelands, or were about to go. In Norwalk, Connecticut, fifty miles to the south of Danbury, Luke and Jemima Keeler were preparing to go to Ohio and join Luke’s brother Lewis Keeler. The Keeler’s planned to travel with the Benedicts.

In early May, Platt returned, weak from bouts with dysentery on the road. However, he and Sally could not afford the luxury of waiting for him to recover. Together they finalized their preparations, loading three wagons with household goods and everything else they would need in their new home.

Others left before them. In mid-June, John and Ruth Boalt departed, but the Benedicts were not ready until several weeks later. Finally they started. Sally and her two daughters, Clarissa, age twenty and Eliza Ann, age six, rode in the horse-drawn wagon Platt had brought back from Norwalk. Platt and a hired man named Miller drove ox-drawn wagons and the boys, David, seventeen, Daniel, fourteen and Jonas, age eleven walked alongside.

It must have been hard for Sally to leave her comfortable home and her family and friends. She felt she needed something to remind her of the life she was leaving forever. A short distance down the road, she stopped the wagon, ran back and cut slips of ivy growing on the wall of the house. She planted this ivy when they arrived at their new home. Today, descendants of that ivy grow on buildings in Norwalk, Ohio. [4]

Please like this post and let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you.

GO TO THE NEXT POST: The Trek West

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Footnotes:
[1] The “Year without Summer” is described by Dr. F.E. Weeks in The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419.
[2] The DeForest family history is from Family History; Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 25-26.
[3] Location of Jonas Benedicts birthplace is from The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, by Henry Marvin, p. 382. Location of Clarissa Benedict’s birthplace is from her obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, July 1878, pp. 103-4.
[4] The story of Sarah taking the ivy from Danbury to Norwalk is from Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 57.

Sally DeForest Benedict is the namesake of the Sally De Forest Chapter of the Daughters’ of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) in Norwalk, Ohio. Her great-granddaughters were charter members.

Please see portraits of Platt and Sally Benedict at Images: Platt & Sally Benedict and Family and in Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 40.

 

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

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2 Responses

  1. Hi David,

    I’m enjoying reading your blog. I just discovered it and am reading it starting at the beginning.

    I live in CT and am a professional genealogist. I’m originally from Cincinnati but lived in the Cleveland area for 11 years and have been interested in the Western Reserve and Firelands for a while. I’m considering doing some research in the field. Coincidentally I had a gggaunt who lived in Norwalk Ohio about 1860-1880. Joseph Moore and his wife Bridget, both born in Ireland but married in Cincinnati, had at least 7 of their 10 children there. Joseph was a blacksmith.

    I’d like to make a correction to your estimate of the distance between Danbury and Norwalk. It’s really only about 25 miles, not 50. CT is a tiny state.

    Let me know if you need any research done in CT. There is a lot of information available in the state library.

    Nora

    Like

  2. Hello Nora,

    Thank you for your message and your kind words about my blog. I appreciate your correction of the distance between Danbury and Norwalk. Although it irks me to make such careless mistakes, I’m grateful to readers who point them out; that’s one of the reasons I’m posting this history, to get feedback. If you notice any other discrepancies in my story, I hope you’ll point them out to me.

    I checked out your website, “Aunt Lizzie‘s Trunk.” You have an interesting business that I’m sure is helpful to genealogists. If you don’t mind, I’d like to add a link to your site on the Firelands History Blog.

    I checked the index for The Firelands Pioneer and found an obituary for a Joseph Moore, but he was born in New Jersey and his wife was named Susan Wilcox. If I see anything else while researching, I’ll let you know.

    Thanks again for your kind comments. I hope you continue to enjoy reading my history of the Firelands and look forward to corresponding with you in the future.

    Dave Barton

    Like

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