Benedict Genealogy

platt-benedict-masonic

Platt Benedict in Masonic Garb

My last blog post featured a recent article in the Norwalk Reflector by Norwalk author and historian Henry Timman about  Platt Benedict and the founding of Norwalk in 1817. Platt and his wife Sally and their descendants were prominent in the community and the region for the next hundred years. Their story is told in the Sufferers’ Land series of posts on this site.

The current series of posts on this site are about Platt and Sally’s great-great granddaughter, Harriott Wickham, and her schoolmates in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. We know all about Harriott’s heritage, but what about her great-grandfather’s?

Platt Benedict came from a long line of Benedicts in America. His forefather, Thomas Benedict (1617-1689) arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637. Today, his descendants in this country number in the tens of thousands.

As is common with most families of Colonial settlers, descendants of Thomas Benedict have published various genealogies over the years. The most recent addition to this collection is on-line as the Benedict Generations Wiki. If your heritage includes Benedicts, I encourage you to check it out. I am confident you will find it well worth your time.

 

 

Norwalk Reflector Today

The Norwalk Daily Reflector has been a major resource for the stories I’ve posted to this site, especially since I began covering the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. But did you know that that newspaper, founded in 1830, is still published today as the Norwalk Reflector? That’s 187 years! 20 years longer than The New York Times, and 46 years longer than the Washington Post!

norwalk-reflectorThe Norwalk Reflector today still reports on international, national, and local news of the day, as it did in 1907 and throughout its long history. But that’s not all. In his weekly column “Just Like Old Times” author and local historian Henry Timman spins tales of Norwalk in days gone by.

An email from my sister yesterday reminded me of Mr. Timman’s column. She sent me a link to his latest column (thanks, Laura), “Home of Norwalk’s First Settlers Burns Down,” a report on the founding of Norwalk in 1817 by Platt and Sally Benedict. (In 2008, I posted about this very incident on this site in “A Home in the Wilderness.”).

Henry Timman is a talented and entertaining author, writing in the Literary Non-Fiction genre that I have tried–with limited success, I’m afraid–to emulate in this blog. His latest article does not disappoint. Please check it out.

 

The Firelands Historical Society Museum

On this date, one hundred and ten year ago, Caleb Gallup, grandson of Norwalk founder Platt and Sally Benedict, ran an article in the Norwalk Daily Reflector, requesting donations for the-firelands-pioneerthe new museum of the Firelands Historical Society. The society was the second oldest in Ohio, founded in 1857. Since then, the organization had held annual meetings and published the Firelands Pioneer to record stories of the settlement of the Firelands. Now they had established the first historical museum in the state to preserve the relics of those times.

The museum had been established in “fireproof rooms” in the Norwalk Public Library, and its display cases were waiting to be filled. Mr. Gallup, in his role as Custodian of Relics for the society, requested that descendants of the early pioneers comb their attics, basements and store rooms for portraits, papers, old furniture and anything else that harked back to those early days.

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The Firelands Historical Society Museum

The Firelands Historical Society Museum is still going strong. It is now quartered in the old Wickham home at 4 Case Avenue, directly behind library. The museum’s collection has grown in the last one hundred ten years, and contains many relics of the pioneer days, to include one of the most extensive collections of old firearms you will ever see.

Just down the street, at 9 Case Avenue, it the Laning-Young Research Center. With over 4,000 historical volumes, this is the go-to place to research about the history of the Firelands.

The next time you are in Norwalk, Ohio, be sure to visit this great museum and research center. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Source: “Historical Museum,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector,” February 5, 1907, page 2, column 3.

What to do on a Sunday in 1907?

Today is Friday the 13th.

Boo!

One hundred and ten years ago, this date fell on a Sunday. No newspapers were published in Norwalk, Ohio on Sunday, January 13, 1907. It wasn’t a bad luck day. It was a holy day. So, what did the citizens of Norwalk do?

Why, they went to church.

norwalk-church-announcements

The Norwalk Daily Reflector on the previous day, Saturday, January 12, 1907, ran an article announcing fifteen Sunday church services around town. In today’s post, we’ll look at a few of these announcements, with comments from you faithful reporter (blogger).

First on the list of announcements in the Daily Reflector were “Evangelistic Services” on Cline Street for the American Methodist Episcopalian Church.

ame-services

Now I must say, I was surprised to see this announcement. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina for many years, so I am familiar with the A.M.E., and I passed many times the Emanuael A.M.E. church where that horrific mass shooting occurred last year. What surprises me, is that there were enough African-American’s in Norwalk, Ohio in 1907 to support a church. I’m also a bit proud that the Daily Reflector reported their services, especially since my great-grandfather, Frank Wickham, was city editor for the paper.

Next up: the Presbyterians.

presbyterian-servicses

I am not a Presbyterian, nor have I ever been one. But my great-great grandmother, Lucy Wickham was. I mentioned her often in the Sufferers’ Land series of posts on this site. Lucy was a staunch churchgoer, and insistent that her twelve children (my great-grandfather Frank Wickham, mentioned above, was her youngest) attend Sunday School “and that they went properly attired. They each carried two handkerchiefs, one a “shower” and the other a “blower.” [1]

Also notice the address by Reverend Doctor Sanford of the Anti-Saloon league. Lucy Wickham was definitely “anti-saloon.” According to family lore, one day, Lucy was passing a saloon when a drunkard stumbled out the door and collapsed at her feet. She marched into the establishment, and informed the proprietor, “your sign just fell down.”

Two other another announcements for church services evoke my ancestry: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Universalist Church.

episcopal-and-universalist-services

I was baptized in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. My god-mother was Eleanor Wickham, daughter of Frank and Agnes Wickham. It also was the first church established in Norwalk, in 1818, when Platt and Sarah Benedict (also my ancestors), held the first services in their cabin.

I also have connections to the “Universalist” church. Lucy Wickham’s husband Fredrick, was brought up an Episcopalian, but fell away from that church at an early age. He never could bring himself to join his wife as a Presbyterian, instead becoming a Universalist. As he later explained it to his granddaughter, Harriott Wickham (member of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907), he “could not condemn one of his children to Hell, and he didn’t believe the Lord could either.”

[1] See Sufferers’ Land Post #47 – The Wickhams in the 1850s

 

Litany of Death in the Sufferers Land

In my last post, It was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run, I wrote about two baby boys, who in 1817 were buried in the forest on the banks of Mud Run north of Village House where the Woodruff and Lawrence families had taken up residence. The remains of these two infants were soon joined by the Dickinson twins: two boys who were the first children born to settlers in Norwich Township. They came into the world on October 24, 1817. One boy was stillborn, the other lived but a few hours. Both were buried on the banks of Mud Run.

gravestone-in-forestThe final burial in that place, according to the records, was in the fall of 1819, Richard Moon, a widower, left his children in New York and came to Norwich Township. He was taken ill with “the lung fever” and died soon after he arrived. His was the first funeral in the township. Richard Moon and the four little boys are not recorded as being interred in Boughton Cemetery, so it is likely that their remains are still buried along the banks of Mud Run. [1]

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Clearing the land in the Firelands was a generational task. Often, the first generation did not live to see the fruits of their labor. Such was the case with Chauncey Woodruff.

In order to make ends meet until they cleared enough acres on their land to be profitable, the first pioneers had to find work elsewhere. As I described in Sufferers’ Land Post #7 on this site, Platt Benedict, in his first winter on the frontier, earned sixty  dollars working on a crew that cut a road from Norwalk to Milan to buy enough pork to feed his family until spring.

snowy-woodsChauncey Woodruff faced the same dilemma. In 1818, he took a job grinding grain at a grist mill located between Sandusky and Venice and owned by a Doctor Carpenter. While there, he fell ill and was taken home to Norwich Township. His condition worsened, and he was moved to the more established community of New Haven Township, [2] where presumably, he could receive better care. But he was too far gone, and died a few days later. Were his remains brought home and buried along the banks of Mud Run, or was he buried in New Haven? I have found not found the answer to this question. [3]

Now George Woodruff had to shoulder the entire burden of supporting his family. We’ll continue his story, and of his descendants down to his great granddaughter Myrtle Woodruff, of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in my next post.

Notes

[1]  The three sources I consulted for information about these deaths were: John Niles, “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-39; Huron County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions, by the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, 1997, page 714;  W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

[2] New Haven Township was one of the oldest in the Firelands. Although the township was not established until 1815, it was first settled in 1811 by Caleb Palmer and was a place of refuge during the War of 1812 for settlers along the shores of Lake Erie. Reference: A.G. Stewart, Esq., “Memoirs of Townships – New Haven,” The Firelands Pioneer, Volume I, Number 3, March 1859, The Firelands Historical Society; page 8-16; and W.W. Williams, History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 295-308.

[3] Story of the death of Chauney Woodruff is from “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, page 38.

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Norwalk, Ohio High School, 1906-1907

Do you have old photos knocking around of your ancestors–and you have no idea who they are–or even if they are your ancestors?

Well I thought I had both problems when I found the photo below at my mother’s house a decade ago. I knew that one of the students was my grandmother. But which one? Then I turned the photo over and found what every genealogist and historian dreams of–my grandmother, Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton (descendant of Firelands Pioneers Platt Benedict and Frederick Wickham) had identified not just herself, but every one of her classmates.

Norwalk High School - Junior, Senior Study Hall

Junior, Senior Study Hall, Norwalk High School, 1906.

I was thrilled, of course, to identify my grandmother (tenth back in the far right column). But then I began to wonder: who are the rest of these people? Where did they live? What were their families like and when did they come to the Firelands?

So I began to research them,focusing on the Class of 1907: on Ancestry, in back issues of the  Firelands Pioneer, and any other source I could find. This was a homogeneous group, compared to schools today, but had their distinctions. And they grew up to have varied careers: some successful, some not–and some just seemed to disappear. Some of the men went off to war, others did not. Most of the women married and had families, others had careers. One of the men became a soldier-statesman: becoming a U.S. Senator, and not only serving in both world wars, but also on General Pershing’s expedition against Pancho Villa.

I’ve only scratched the surface in my research of the Class of 1907. But on this, the 110th anniversary of their senior year, I have decided to share what I’ve learned so far with you, visitors to this blog, and solicit you help in filling in blanks where you can.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

 

 

Summer in the Firelands

As we approach Labor Day, we look back on a summer of outdoor activities and vacation trips. But how did people in the Firelands spend that period between June and September? In those days before the advent of air conditioning, whole families (less fathers who stayed in town to work) would decamp from hot towns and cities to cottages on lakes, at the seashore, or in the mountains. In some parts of the country, this tradition continues, albeit, now only for weekends.

Growing up, I spent part of my summers at “the cottage” in the Firelands, on the shores of Lake Erie, about an hour and a half west of our home in Cleveland. I remember “the cottage” as a musty old building with wide porches set between a cemetery and the lake. I loved the air of family history that permeated the place.

Squirrel House 1972

The Cottage at Oak Bluff in 1972 – as I remember it.

At the time, I was aware that it had been in our family for generations, but had scant knowledge of how it came into the family. Decades later, I found at my mother’s house a story written by my grandmother. Titled, “The Squirrel House,” it filled in the gaps in my knowledge and gave me a glimpse of a time when many families in the Firelands, and across America, would spend their summers at the beach.

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The Squirrel House

by Harriott Barton [1]

About 1892, Judge Charles Wickham [2], Judge Samuel Wildman [3], brother’s-in-law, and Dr. David DeForest Benedict [4]  bought from Mr. Douglas, father of Will Douglas, the property which they named Oak Bluff, because of the huge old oaks that grew along the hilltop. Each of the three owned a front lot upon which he planned to erect a summer cottage. The remainder of the land to the west of the cemetery and south and west of the cottages was held in common. Later they sold the west lot to Captain John Adams [5], brother-in-law of Wickham and Wildman. He built a fourth cottage.

David Benedict - Firelands Pioneer

As this was in the “Horse and Buggy” age, it was necessary to have a stable. So a long, narrow shed was erected facing west, just beyond the south-west corner of the cemetery, close to the entrance from Lake Road. A partition separated the Benedict part from the larger Wickham-Wildman part. There was a wide door on the west side of each room. Between the road and the lake was Common Property — an old peach orchard, neglected, and no longer very productive. Later it was fenced for a pasture. Then it was used for a tennis court.

The Wickham and Wildman cottages were built, I believe, in 1893. On the Benedict lot, overlooking Cranberry Creek, was the old cabin, its floor mostly rotted away; the door sill a good three feet above the badly eroded ground. On my first visit someone lifted me up to look inside. What floor still remained in place was covered with heaps of chewed hickory nuts and acorns. Back in town I chattered about the squirrel’s house, and that became its name.

Harriott Wickham 1893

Harriott at age 3 in 1893, about the time when she named the cottage “Squirrel House”

 

That winter Grandpa and old Bill Mears (uncle of Mrs. George Harkness) cleaned and repaired the old cabin. They put in a new roof and floor . . . Grandpa loved to work with wood. In Norwalk he had a workshop above the chicken house on the slope of the hill behind the garden on Bank Street. They built two partitions in the cabin for a dining room on the west, with the east part cut into two small rooms, the kitchen to the south and a bedroom on the north.

In the front yard they made a large wooden platform about a foot above the ground for a floor for the big four room tent which housed the rest of the family in the summer. Each room held a bed and a wash stand with bowl and pitcher. Wash water was carried up from the lake; drinking water from the Ruggles or the old stone trough south of Ceylon.

The cabin bedroom was reserved for Grandpa and Grandma [6] when she was there. They usually took their vacation in early fall, when there were usually fishing boats on the shore. I now suspect they found more peace and quiet at that time.

Through the summer the place was always full of family! Although Aunt Fannie [7] was till in Colorado, there were still Aunt Lil [8], Mame [9] and my mother [10], also Cousin May [11], our grandmother’s orphaned niece from Canada who married Fred Christian [12], my father’s nephew. May had been a part of the Benedict family for several years.

As the years passed and Grandpa’s tribe increased, he saw the need for larger quarters, so by 1896 he was involved in a new project; bedrooms to complete his house. He personally chose the boards he wanted to use – many for their knots, which he found interesting for their varied designs.

The actual building, I believe, started in the fall of 1896 and finished in the spring of 1897. Again Bill Mears assisted. They erected the frame and fitted the perpendicular siding boards, using sawhorses made during the winter in Grandpa’s workshop. The only clear memory I have of the actual building is it standing back of the house about 30 feet (there was no fence at that time). Grandpa was sitting astride the ridgepole with his snowy hair and beard — he looked just like the Santa Claus on a Christmas card!

Finally, the house was finished! A living room and two bedrooms on the ground floor; upstairs four bedrooms opening onto a narrow hall. The bedrooms’ inner walls were really just partitions, seven feet high. No ceilings up there — to allow for better ventilation. A porch (roofed) ran across the front of the living room along its east side to join a porch in front of the dining-kitchen part, and around the east side, where the steps led down to the back yard and the privy. No doorway was cut between the new part and the kitchen-dining area, in order to keep flies out of the front part of the house.

Oak Bluff c. 1911, 1912 (Susan Orsini)

The Squirrel House, 1911

There was no fireplace, as in other cottages. Grandpa had grown up in a family haunted by the memory of his older brother who, at the age of three, got up too early one morning, caught his night clothes afire, and was burned to death. Some years later my mother had one built in the living room.

Having finished the house and furnished it — largely from the attic at 80 E. — a number of surplus things from the dismantled Deaver home in New Haven [14] were stored there. The little ash stands were the property of Uncle Will Benham [14], who had had a rooming house in Chicago during The Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892-3.

Having finished the house and furnished it, Grandpa decided that, to protect it from dripping bathers, there should be a bathhouse; so he proceeded to build one! — on the slope of the bluff just west of the steps down to the beach. The south side of the shed-like building rested on a shelf-like cut in the slope up from the beach (the south part of which was higher and much drier than now). The north part of the shed-like building rested on tall posts resting on stones set into the beach. A north-south partition divided it into rooms — ladies to the east, with a door onto the stairway; the men’s room (to the west) going onto a plank walk between the building and the hillside. Each room had a window, a table and hooks on the wall. It saved many a wet trail in the house!

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At the beach – 1908

It was at about this time that Aunt Fannie, her husband [15] having died very suddenly, returned to Norwalk with her three children, Benedict [16], Mary [17] and Agnes [18] and became part of the summer household in the cottage. I’ve often wondered how our three mothers put up with us!

Eleanor, Harriott, Ben Hottel 1

Harriott (bottom left) her cousin Ben and sister Eleanor

By this time Grandpa’s angina had become much more severe. The last year he came to the lake he began having very sudden and severe attacks of pain in his chest. As he insisted upon being quite active, I was assigned the task of keeping an eye on him.

I was nine years old by then and had been very devoted to Grandpa. The problem was that he did not want to be considered an invalid and kept telling me not to follow him. One day he collapsed in the drive back of the Wildman cottage. I came running up and he was a bit cross about it, saying he was just tired and was resting! and he wished I would stop following him.

I was, of course, old enough to understand that he as in great pain, but determined to keep going. And he did until the next January when, overnight, he died suddenly at the age of 68.

If he could look in on Oak Bluff now, more than seventy years later, I’m sure that he would be happy that some of his family are still enjoying, as he did, The Place on the Lake.

 

Genealogical Notes

When reading old stories like “The Squirrel House,” do you often wonder who all these people the author mentions are? Who are “Aunt Lil,” and “Grandma,” and “Judge Charles Wickham” and all the rest of these people Harriott Barton mentions in passing?

Well, I have the answers to those questions for you. Below are the full names of everyone mentioned in “The Squirrel House,” along with their relationship to Harriott. Click on the links for a WeRelate Wiki article that describes their lives. Let me know if you have additional information about any of these people, and I’ll update their article. Or you can  join WeRelate Wiki and update it yourself! That’s the beauty of Wikis–collaboration!

[1] Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton (1890-1981). Author of “The Squirrel House.” Daughter of Agnes and Frank Wickham.

[2] Charles Preston Wickham (1836-1925). Eldest brother of Frank Wickham. Civil War veteran, judge, and U.S. Congressman.

[3] Samuel A Wildman (1846-1934). Brother of Charles Wickham’s wife Emma. Civil War veteran and judge.

[4] David DeForrest Benedict (1833-1901). Harriott Wickham Barton’s grandfather. Surgeon in the Civil War where he was captured at the Battle of Chickamauga.

[5] John Adams (1843-1927). Civil War veteran. Husband of Mary Wildman, Samuel Wildman’s sister.

[6] Harriott Deaver Benedict (1835-1909). Harriott Wickham Barton’s grandmother. David Benedict’s wife.

[7] Fannie Buckingham Benedict Hottel (1863-1940). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.

[8] Ellen Eliza Benedict Wickham (1868-1942). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.

[9] Mary Deaver Benedict (1857-1931). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.

[10] Agnes Caroline Benedict Wickham (1861-1934). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s mother.

[11] Mabel (May) Curtis Christian (1868-1911). Ward of David and Harriott Benedict. Married Fred Christian.

[12] Fred Christian (1866-1935). Son of Katherine Wickham Christian, sister of Charles Preston Wickham. Married May Curtis.

[13] Homestead of James Deaver and Harriott Shaon Deaver in North Fairfield, Ohio. Parents of Harriott Deaver Benedict and Harriot Wickham Barton’s grandparents.

[14] William Benham (1858-1923). Second husband of Harriott Benedict Benham, eldest daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.

[15] Andrew Hottel (1852-1899). Husband of Fanny Benedict Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s uncle.

[16] David Benjamin Hottel (1890-1955). Son of Andrew and Fanny Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s cousin.

[18] Mary Hottel (1895-1981). Daughter of Andrew and Fanny Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s cousin.

[19] Agnes Hottel (1897-1983). Daughter of Andrew and Fanny Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s cousin.

 

For additional information about Oak Bluff and the Benedict and Wickham families, check out Family, by Ian Frazier.

 

 

 

 

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