“Little Doctor on the Black Horse” Post#17 – The Later Years –

Young Dr. Benedict did not establish a regular medical practice in Norwalk, but prescribed for patients from his drug store, Benedict and Burton, on the corner of W. Main St. and Whittlesey Ave, later in the place on the south side of Main St. where Berry’s restaurant now is. He also had an office at the rear of his house. In the drug store he trained apprentices in pharmacy. Little Aggie, after high school, (though she really wanted to study medicine) worked and studied as an apprentice, took the state exams and became a registered pharmacist.

Two more little girls, Ellen (Lil) and Suzan followed Fred. David delighted in the happy family life which had been denied him in childhood. His mother had died when he was quite young and had been succeeded by a very disagreeable stepmother.

By the seventies, the old home, a story & a half frame house, was bulging at the seams with Benedicts and assorted aunts and cousins. In ‘76, David built the big brick house, with 9 bedrooms, so that, as he said, “There will always be room for any of my family who want or need to come home.” The house was a great gathering place for the children’s friends, who called it “The Fortress.”

Besides the drug store, he was interested in various projects. He and his sister’s wealthy husband, Louis Severance of Cleveland, opened a new residential area on the old family pasture land, across the wide creek bottom from the home, and built a high level bridge to reach it. Near the town end of the bridge, he built a three story frame building, with the front door opening from the top floor onto the bridge. Here he made and bottled his patent headache remedy, “Rego.” A hired man farmed the lands in the creek bottoms, tended two cows and a carriage horse, and the big garden, until David’s retirement, about 1890, when he himself took over the chores. He also had a greenhouse on the east side of the house, and a woodworking shop at the rear of the garden, near the barn. He was also on the Vestry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a Loan Co. director.

To each daughter who married he gave a lot in the new addition, on which Hattie, Aggie, and, after her husband’s death in Colorado, Fanny built homes. On Sunday afternoons the daughters’ families gathered at the big house where they talked or played, and ate the weekly dishpan of popcorn and the walnuts, hickory nuts and butternuts which Grandpa had gathered and cracked. In 1885 came a staggering blow from which David never fully recovered. Fred, the beloved son, then a student at Kenyon and a DKE, like David, suddenly died of pneumonia. He had been a handsome, lively youth, loved by all, and his father’s pride and only hope for the continuation of the name, for David had been Platt’s only Benedict grandson.

In the early 1890’s, David, with Charles Wickham (my uncle and Cora’s grandfather) and Sam Wildman (Charles’s wife’s brother) bought a piece of land on Lake Eire which is now called Oak Bluff, for summer homes. David’s lot had an old cabin on it, which was used for eating, with a large 4 room tent for sleeping. In 1897, David, with the help of another man, built a new house, using the cabin as the kitchen part, which we now own and which is called the “Squirrel House.” I can well remember my grandfather, then a spry old man, sitting astride the ridgepole like a slim Santa Claus hunting a chimney, nailing on rafters and whistling the odd, short little tune which always told us where he was; or back of the cottage mixing white lead and oil for paint.

The next year he developed angina, and, on January 5, 1901, he died of a heart attack. It seemed very lonely, not to hear him whistling cheerfully in his office, in the hillside barn, or in the nearby workshop, at the end of the garden, where we children could always find shaving curls, and sometimes use an old hammer, saw or plane. Although he has many descendants, David was the last male ‘Benedict” in his line.

David Benedict’s case of instruments, used in the War, and the pistol mentioned in one of the letter, are in The Firelands Historical Museum. I have a pewter cup and coin silver spoon which he picked up on the battlefield after Chickamauga and carried to Libby Prison and throughout the rest of the War. The tag identifying these objects is in David’s handwriting. Also I have Hattie’s napkin ring and a button from his uniform, and David and Hattie’s wedding picture, a daguerreotype.

The above account was written from copies of the war letters and from memory by his granddaughter, Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton, in 1961.


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© 1961 by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton. All rights reserved.


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