Sufferers’ Land – Post 41 – The Benedict Family

Sufferers’ Land

The Benedict Family

by Dave Barton

Platt Benedict was not in as bad a situation as Henry Buckingham although the failure of The Norwalk Manufacturing Company must have disappointed him. Platt’s financial position was secure. As a farmer, tavern keeper, manufacturer, and land speculator, he was doing well. In his political life, he was also successful.

In 1840, the citizens of Norwalk again elected him mayor of the village, a position he had held in 1835. He was a leading member of the Episcopal Church and an active Mason. At the age of sixty-five, he was still robust and energetic, involving himself in every aspect of life in the community.

Platt and Sally Benedict

Platt and Sally Benedict

However, in spite of his personal success, he and Sally must have been disappointed in most of their children. His eldest daughter Clarissa had married Hallet Gallup, a prominent citizen of the community who was involved in the construction of various public and private buildings in Norwalk, and they had many children. But their marriage was a rocky one.

Platt and Sally’s eldest son David had married in Danbury Connecticut in 1832, but his only child, a daughter named Mary Boughton Benedict had died in 1834, less than a week after her mother. Platt’s second son Daniel had died over ten years before in New Orleans.

Besides Clarissa, this left only Jonas and Eliza Ann in Norwalk. Eliza Ann had married in 1832 to William Brewster. She had two children, but they died young. In August 1840, less than six months after the death of her sister-in-law Fanny Benedict, Eliza Ann died at the age of twenty-seven. [1]

jonas-benedict-firelands-pioneer-001

Jonas Benedict

Of Platt Benedict’s sons, only Jonas remained in the village. He was the only male descendant of Platt to have a son — the only hope for the continuation of the Benedict name in Norwalk.

Jonas had every advantage in life, but while other men of his generation were active in the village, he was not. George Buckingham, Charles Preston, Gilpin Taylor, Frederick Wickham and Hallet Gallup were involved in the political and business activities of the town, but not Jonas. The records of the times rarely mention his name. By this time, it is possible he had succumbed to alcoholism. In any event, he never lived up to his potential.

Jonas grieved when his wife Fanny died. However, he had children to care for and a house to keep up. He started looking for another wife and soon found one. On Thursday, May 26, 1842, he married Caroline Chapman.

At the time of Jonas and Caroline’s marriage, Dave Benedict was eight years old, his sister Mary was six and Fanny was only three. Dave disliked his stepmother. In later years, he said that she was good to his sister Mary, who was crippled, but disagreeable to Fanny and himself. [2]

 

Footnotes:

[1] History of the Benedict children is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 6, and “Obituaries – Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIV; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1902; pp. 920-921.

[2] Story of the marriage of Jonas Benedict and Caroline Chapman are from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 6-7 & 17-18 & “Obituaries – Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIV; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1902, pp. 920-921.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 40 – Disappointment and Despair

Sufferers’ Land

Disappointment and Despair

by Dave Barton

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’cloBuilding Fireck 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. [1]

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. [2]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The account of the destruction of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Biographies and Memories”, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888; p. 122.

[2] Record of the deaths of Henry Buckingham’s wife and daughter are from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, (Unpublished) by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 17 & p. 21.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 39 – High Hopes for a Bright Future

Sufferers’ Land

High Hopes for a Bright Future

by Dave Barton

For Henry Buckingham, August 1839 was a time of promise and anticipation. He looked forward to again becoming a grandfather, and to finally achieving success in business.

Since coming to Norwalk almost twenty years before, Henry had become a respected member of the community. For many years, he was Treasurer of Huron County. He was also an active member of the Presbyterian Church and the Masons and a leader of the American Bible Association.

Norwalk Ohio 1846

Henry and Harriet Buckingham lived in a house on East Main Street with their son George and his family. Henry’s brother John Buckingham lived on a farm outside the village. Their daughter Fanny was married to Jonas Benedict, son of the most prominent man in Norwalk, Platt Benedict. She was pregnant and due to deliver any day. This birth, although looked for with hope, was also a cause of concern.

Jonas and Fanny had not always had good fortune when it came to children. Their first child, Platt, named for Jonas’s father, burned to death from an accident at the age of two. Their second son, young Dave Benedict, about to turn six, was a bright and healthy boy. However, their third child, a daughter named Mary Starr Benedict, had been the victim of a terrible accident that crippled her. She was born healthy, but had fallen and broke her back while an infant. Now she walked bent over, supporting her upper body with her hands on her knees.

In late August, Fanny gave birth to a baby girl, which she and Jonas named after her — Fanny Boughton Benedict. [1] The Buckingham’s were happy to see this new arrival, and hoped that the couple’s luck had changed. Henry perhaps saw this birth as a good omen, promising success to a business venture that he expected would make his fortune at last.

Henry had not achieved all he had hoped for when he arrived in the village. Although he had started many ventures, none had been a great success. He had not rebuilt the fortune he had lost in Pennsylvania because of the War of 1812. Now he felt his luck was about to change. His hope for the future rested on the reopening of a company that had so far been a disappointment — The Norwalk Manufacturing Company.

 

 

Footnote:

[1] From the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, (unpublished), by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 17-18.

Image of 1846 Norwalk is from Howe, Henry (1907). Historical Collections of Ohio, The Ohio Centennial Edition. 2. The State of Ohio. , page 229. As treasurer, Henry Buckingham would have worked in the Courthouse and his home would have been down the street to the east (left of the courthouse).

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 38 – A Newlywed’s Life

Sufferers’ Land

A Newlywed’s Life

by Dave Barton

Lucy Wickham returned to Norwalk in October 1835, and she and Frederick set up housekeeping at 61 West Main Street, owned by the firm Wickham, Ailing and Christian. Her father and brother moved in with them. The following year, her father, Samuel Preston, built a house at 38 West Main Street, and presented it to Frederick and Lucy as a wedding present. This house is now located on Case Street, and is occupied by the Firelands Museum. [1]

Jerome Buckinngham

Firelands Museum – Built in 1836 by Samuel Preston as a wedding present for his daughter and son-in-law.

Frederick wanted to continue his life as a sailor, but Lucy, perhaps emboldened by her mother-in-law’s story of how she had convinced Frederick’s father to give up the sea, disagreed strongly. Frederick agreed to leave the maritime trade, but the question then became what he should do instead. His family had a store in Norwalk, and his brother John had a thriving business as a shipbuilder and merchant in Huron. However, neither of these careers appealed to Frederick. Instead, he decided to go into the newspaper business with his father-in-law and brother-in-law Charles Preston at the Huron Reflector.

Frederick was an unlikely candidate to be a newspaperman. Raised in the wilderness of upstate New York, from an early age he spent much of his time on the Great Lakes, as a fisherman and later as a merchant seaman. His experience was in the rough and tumble world of seamen and ships, not in a newspaper office.

Frederick Wickham, Publisher

Frederick Wickham setting type in the offices of the Huron Reflector in the 1880s.

However, he was diligent, and threw himself into the task of learning the skills needed to get out a newspaper in a rural Ohio town. He often worked late into the night to meet deadlines, and developed the ability to compose articles and editorials at the case, composing in his head as he set the type. He rarely wrote out his copy. [2] About this time, the Reflector started to have competition. Samuel Hatch and Joseph Farr began publication of the Norwalk Experiment in August of 1835. Their paper was the exact opposite in philosophy and political leanings of the conservative Reflector. [3]

Lucy’s family, and her responsibilities running the Wickham household, increased quickly. Already her father and brother lived with her and Frederick. On Thursday, September 15, 1836, she had her first child, Charles Preston Wickham, named for her brother. A girl, Catherine Wickham, followed two years later.

In addition to the children, more relatives arrived in her home. In July 1839, her brother Charles married and brought his bride to live in Lucy’s house. In the summer of 1841, Lucy’s grandparents moved in with her as well. With cousins and other relatives, there were always a dozen or so people living under Lucy’s roof. [4] Space was scarce, especially since the offices of the Huron Reflector were on the second floor of the house. [5]

Lucy and Frederick had successfully established themselves in Norwalk. In addition to the paper, Lucy’s husband and her brother started a general store. The Wickham family became prominent in the community, working in close partnership with the Buckingham, Gallup and Benedict families.

The future in Norwalk looked bright for these families. But that would soon change. The last years of the 1830’s and the beginning of the following decade would bring tragedy and disappointment to all.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The story of Lucy’s return to Norwalk and housekeeping arrangements is from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2400.

[2] The story of how Frederick Wickham came to work at the Norwalk Reflector is from his obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; p. 2202.

[3] The story of the Norwalk Experiment is from “Experiment’s 100th Anniversary,” The Firelands Pioneer, 1937 New Series, Volume XXIV; The Firelands Historical Society; pp. 205-6.

[4] Account of Lucy Wickham’s household is from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2400.

[5] From “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society;  December 1918, p. 2135.

 

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

2017 was the best year yet for the Firelands History Website. I expect 2018 to be even better.

What will I be posting this year?

Pioneer FireplaceFirst up, I’ll finish re-posting the Sufferers’ Land series, which will take me to the end of February. In March, I’ll begin posting new stories based on research from The Firelands Pioneer, the journal of the Firelands Historical Society, and from W.W. William’s book History of the Firelands. For the past couple months, I’ve been reading the nineteen journals that make up the  Old Series of The Firelands Pioneer, looking for stories that I think will interest you.

Here are some of the topics I’ll be posting:

  • The trek to the Firelands by Henry and Amelia Lockwood and David and Elizabeth Gibbs. These two couples played a huge role in the early posts of the Sufferers’ Land series. But I have not yet told the harrowing story of their trek to the Firelands. It’s a heartrending tale of suffering and tragedy,  but ultimately an uplifting story of perseverance.
  • The life of the pioneers on the frontier: how they lived, cleared the land, and the hardships they endured, focusing on stories of the first settlers of the Firelands, from 1808 to 1812.
  • The War of 1812 in the Firelands, how those early pioneers fared in what became a no-man’s land between British and American forces.
  • The history of the Civil War, especially the story of the  55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Norwalk’s own regiment.

I appreciate everyone who has stopped by this site over the past year, and look forward to sharing more tales of the Firelands with you in 2018.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Dave Barton

 

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2017 Most Viewed Posts – Top 10 List

Norwalk Hitchhiking Map

2018 has been a good year for the Firelands History Website. Today, we’ll take stock of the year’s most viewed posts. With apologies to David Letterman, here is my top 10 list.

#10 – Sufferers’ Land – Post 10 – Women’s Life on the FrontierFrontier women endured a life of constant work, with no respite from dawn to dusk — and usually continuing after dark.

Cup and Spoon#9 – Battle of Chickamauga III – A Cup and a SpoonSomewhere on the fought-over ground, David found and carried away with him a coin silver spoon and a gracefully shaped pewter cup, lightly engraved with the Masonic emblem. On the back of the spoon is “Dr. Wm. R. Lemon, 82nd Regt., Ind. Vol.”

#8 – Norwalk Basketball Champions 1907: Who Were They? Who were these boys? Was the bespectacled young man sitting center front row a player, or the coach. And what’s with the teddy bear sitting on the basketball in his lap?

#7- A Wasted LifeI confess that my image of reformatory schools in the early 19th century was Dickensian: miserable inmates enduring harsh treatment inflicted by cruel guards and matrons.

#6 – Norwalk, Ohio in the Civil WarDavid Benedict had been with the Union army since the beginning of the war. Captured at Chickamauga, he was held prisoner at Libby Prison for a few months before being exchanged. He returned to his regiment before the Battle of Atlanta, then, after the fall of that city, participated in Sherman’s March to the Sea.

#5 – Temporary DerangementLaura’s mother dangled from the rafter, a noose tight around her neck.

#4 – Battle of Chickamauga I – Muskets and MedicineSuddenly, from beyond the road sounded the blood-curdling Rebel yell, and a group of horsemen burst from the woods. Hyde seized the sheet from the amputating table and waved a bloody flag of truce.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest

#3 – Battle of Chickamauga II – General Nathan Bedford Forrest Comes to BreakfastAt sunrise on Monday, two Confederate generals, Forrest and Cheatham, rode into camp, tied their horses and remarked casually that they had come to breakfast.

#2 – A Home in the Wilderness RevisitedTwo hundred years ago today, September 9, 1817, Platt and Sally Benedict and their family arrived in the Sufferers’ Land of northern Ohio, ending a two month trek from their home in Connecticut.

#1 – One Night in Norwalk, Ohio – A Hitchhiker’s TaleTo my knowledge I have spent only one night in Norwalk, Ohio: Thursday, September 27, 1973, forty-four years ago today. How do I know that, you may ask? I’ll tell you. 

 

That’s it. Thanks to everyone who visited this past year. Please return often in 2018 to learn more about the Firelands of northern Ohio.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 36 – Lucy Visits Her In-laws

Sufferers’ Land

Lucy Visits Her In-laws

by Dave Barton

Frederick Wickham and Lucy Preston married in January 1835. That summer, Frederick went back to the lake and the schooner DeWitt Clinton. With her husband away, Lucy decided to visit his family in Sodus Point, New York.

The voyage was long and arduous, although not anything like her journeys to the Firelands as a child. She went by boat from Huron to Cleveland, where she met her husband and his ship. They traveled together from there on the DeWitt Clinton to Buffalo, New York. Being in that town brought back memories for Lucy of her voyages as a child to the Ohio wilderness. No doubt, she noted many changes, both in the town and in the means of transportation.

From Buffalo, she continued alone by canal boat along the Erie Canal to Lyons, New York, where she met the wife of her husband’s cousin Mrs. Rachel Christian, and her son Thomas. Together, they traveled overland north to Lucy’s in-law’s house on Sodus Bay.

Canal Boat

William Wickham, then 57 years old, and his wife Catherine Christian Wickham greeted their daughter-in-law and welcomed her into their home. Lucy stayed with them until October, and during this time learned much about her husband’s family and their heritage. [1]

 

 

Footnote:

[1] The story of Lucy’s trip to Sodus, New York is from “Memoir of Lucy Preston Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society, January 1920; pp. 2399-2400, and the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, pp. 32-33.

Image of Canal Boat is from Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 332.

 

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