Platt Benedict and Henry Buckingham founded The Norwalk Manufacturing Company in 1829, but it was never a great success. By the end of the 1830s, the company’s machinery was obsolete and it had lost business to its competition. Platt and Henry needed to do something to save their company.
Late in 1837, they decided to upgrade the paper-making machinery in the plant. Over the next year, they bought and installed new machines to make the operation more efficient. Now the work was almost complete and the partners were anxious to get the plant back in operation. A little over a month after Henry’s granddaughter Fanny Benedict was born, the factory was ready to go. They finished installation on Saturday, September 21, and planned to re-start the plant on Monday. Henry went to bed that night full of anticipation.
Then disaster struck.
At two o’clock Sunday morning, Henry woke to cries of alarm. A fire at the factory! Volunteers hustled the water-pumper out of its barn and rushed to the site. They were too late. Flames had engulfed the building and soon it burned to the ground. 
The loss of his factory was a crushing blow to Henry. However, his keen disappointment at the ruin of his business was soon followed by terrible grief from a more serious and personal loss.
On Wednesday, October 9, only a few weeks after the disaster at The Norwalk Manufacturing Company, his wife Harriet died. Perhaps the specter of financial ruin was too much for her to take. No matter what the cause of her death, she was gone. Henry had to face the future without his life partner.
More tragedy followed. The next year, on Wednesday, March 4, Henry’s daughter Fanny passed away. The death of his daughter so soon after the loss of his wife and business were a terrible blow, from which he never fully recovered. 
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 The account of the destruction of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Biographies and Memories”, The Firelands Pioneer, July 1888, p. 122.
 Record of the deaths of Henry Buckingham’s wife and daughter are from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 17 & p. 21.
© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved