“Sufferers’ Land” Post #30 – Jonas Benedict –

After moving to Norwalk, Lucy Preston became involved in the social life of the town. With her friend Mary Ann Morse and other young people, she traveled around the Firelands to parties and other events.

One Fourth of July, Lucy, Mary Ann and other young people of Norwalk traveled to Milan to attend a party and spend the night at a house belonging to a Mr. Minuse. They started in beautiful weather, but on the way encountered rain. By the time they arrived at the farm where the party was to take place, the girls’ white dresses were wet and they presented a forlorn appearance. However, being young, the girls did not let this interfere with their fun.

Sometimes, Lucy, Mary Ann and their friends would go to Milan or Huron and stay in a hotel, coming back to Norwalk the next day. Once they went to Sandusky and took a sail across the bay to the islands, enjoying a moonlit night on the way back.

Jonas Benedict often drove a four-horse wagon on these outings. According to Mary Ann, he was a skillful driver, and although the roads were rough and dangerous he never had a mishap. [1]

Jonas was attractive and popular. An early portrait shows a handsome, clean-shaven young man with even features and large expressive eyes. As the son of the most prominent man in the village, Jonas had a bright future. His position in the Benedict family and in the community improved greatly when his two older brothers left Norwalk. In 1822, David Mead Benedict, his eldest brother, moved back to Danbury and wed Mary Booth Starr on September 24, 1832. They had one daughter, Mary Boughton Benedict the next year. His wife died on June 27, 1834 and their daughter followed six days later

Jonas’s second oldest brother, Daniel Benedict, ran away with the circus and went down the Mississippi. He died in New Orleans in 1827 at the age of twenty-four.

That left Jonas as the only son of Platt and Sally Benedict still living in Norwalk. With an eye to the future, his father took steps to involve him in the public life of the village and prepare him to be a leader of the community. [2]

Platt held many offices in the town, including Postmaster. First appointed on July 25, 1819, he held the office until 1828, when he lost it during a purge of government officials after the election of Andrew Jackson as president. Platt later said that the election of General Jackson “was when the nation was to date its downfall.” [3]

At first, Platt ran the Post Office out of his home, but later moved it to a building on West Main Street. Being busy with other affairs, Platt put Jonas in charge of the day-to-day operations.

Being responsible for the mail gave Jonas an excellent position to further his career. He met the inhabitants of the village regularly and stayed current on events in the outside world, not to mention every detail of life in the village. [4] However, these advantages never bore fruit. Unlike his father, he never gained prominence in the community. Unlike the children of other early settlers, he did not participate in the political and business life of the village and county. The offspring of the first settlers were now coming into their own. Charles Preston, George Buckingham, Gilpen and Benjamin Taylor and others were all engaged in the business and political life of the community. But not Jonas.

Perhaps the curse of alcoholism lay upon him. Many people of that day drank to excess to ease the pain of hard living on the frontier. According to later stories, Jonas’ lack of ambition was the result of alcohol. Mary Ann alluded to that in her description of Jonas squiring the young folk around in his four-horse wagon. “In those days,” she wrote, “he was a good companion.” [5]

On Thursday, October 8, 1829, Jonas married Fanny Buckingham, daughter of Henry and Harriet Buckingham. This union strengthened the ties of the two families and improved their standing in the community. In May of the following year, Jonas and Fanny had a son, whom they named Platt. A new baby is always a happy event, and Jonas’ father was especially pleased. This grandson would carry on the Benedict name in Norwalk, benefit from his work and justify the risks he and Sally took coming to the frontier.

Jonas and Fanny set up housekeeping in a one-and-a-half story house on Seminary Street, across the street from the Norwalk Academy. On Thursday, August 1, 1833, they had another son, and named him David DeForest Benedict. It was another joyous occasion for the Benedict clan, but one soon overshadowed by a terrible tragedy. [6]

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GO TO NEXT POST – A Terrible Tragedy

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[1] Description of entertainments young people enjoyed at this time are described in “Recollections of Northern Ohio”, by Lucy Preston’s childhood friend, Mrs. John Kennan, The Firelands Pioneer, 1896, pp. 87-88

[2] The history of David M. and Daniel B. Benedict is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 6; and The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, p. 382.

[3] “Address of Rev. S.A. Bronson, D.D.” The Firelands Pioneer, November 1859, p. 1.

[4] Information about Platt Benedict’s career as Postmaster and the delegation of this office to Jonas Benedict are from “Local History,” The Firelands Pioneer, June 1937, p. 38.

[5] “Recollections of Northern Ohio”, by Mrs. John Kennan, The Firelands Pioneer, 1896, p. 87

[6] The stories of the marriage of Jonas & Fanny Benedict, and their early married life is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 6-7 & 17-18.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

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