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 33 – The Huron Reflector

Sufferers’ Land

The Huron Reflector

by Dave Barton

At the end of the 1820s, Samuel Preston and George Buckingham, son of Henry Buckingham, decided to start a newspaper in Norwalk. Samuel worked in the printing business for many years before coming to the Firelands, and George had learned the newspaper business at the Norwalk Reporter from his father’s partner John McArdle. That paper was failing and soon would cease publication.

Samuel and George incorporated as Preston & Buckingham, and invested in a new press, which they brought to Norwalk from Cincinnati in a two-horse wagon. They decided on the name Huron Reflector for the publication. Lucy’s father came up with the name when he noticed bright rays of light from a reflector behind an oil lamp at the village tavern.

Huron Reflector 1st Issue

First Issue of the Huron Reflector, which is today the Norwalk Reflector.

They published the first issue of the Huron Reflector on Tuesday, February 2, 1830. From the beginning, the paper was a strong promoter of the town. In the first issue, an article argued that a railroad be brought to Norwalk, in spite of the fact that no railroads yet existed west of the Appalachians. [1]

In addition to the ReflectorPreston & Buckingham also published commercial forms, bills, fliers and anything else needed by businesses and government offices in Huron County. In 1830, they printed a handbill for Hallet Gallup announcing that he had completed construction of a public building in the village.

The bill listed the public officers at different levels of government. Henry Buckingham was treasurer and Luke Keeler was Coroner of Huron County. Platt Benedict was a Justice of the Peace for Norwalk Township as was Lucy’s father Samuel Preston, who was also Township Clerk and the Recorder of Norwalk Village. Hallet Gallup was a Trustee of Norwalk Township. [2]

In 1831, George Buckingham retired from the newspaper business. Samuel continued to publish the paper by himself until 1834, when Lucy’s brother Charles joined their father in the business. [3]

* * *

Early in the 1830s, land speculators dropped the price of land around Norwalk, attracting a second flood of immigrants. Within a few years, the last of the forests were cleared and turned into productive farms. [4]

Because of this renewed growth in Huron County, a few villages, especially Sandusky and Milan, grew into good-sized towns. The inhabitants of the county welcomed the economic opportunities this growth brought to the area. However, this growth also spawned overcrowding in the larger towns. Aggravated by poor sanitation, this created conditions ripe for the spread of a horrible disease — Cholera.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The story of the establishment of the Huron Reflector which is still published today as the Norwalk Reflector, is from “The History of the Fire Lands Press,” by C.P. Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, Number 4; The Firelands Historical Society, Sept. 1861, pp. 9-11; “Norwalk, Its Men, Women, and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer,  New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918, p. 2135; “The Reflector-Herald Centenary,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXV; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1937, p. 203.

[2] “An Old Handbill,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXV; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1937; p. 15.

[3] “The History of the Fire Lands Press,” by C.P. Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, Number 4; The Firelands Historical Society; Sept. 1861; pp. 9-11.

[4] “Memoirs of Townships – Fitchville,” by J.C. Curtis, Esq., The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 4; The Firelands Historical Society; May 1859; p. 33.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 32 – The Entrepreneurs

Sufferers’ Land

The Entrepreneurs

by Dave Barton

The pioneers came to Norwalk to make their fortunes. They were entrepreneurs, willing to work hard and take risks to succeed. Platt Benedict was the most energetic businessman of all, engaging in the occupations of tavern keeper, postmaster, real estate investor, and farmer. As a farmer, he introduced new practices and stock to the village. He was the first to plant an orchard, first to introduce merino sheep, and the first to use advanced farming implements, such as an improved plow, wheat cultivator, corn planter and hay rake. In addition to farming, he invested in businesses that exploited the natural resources of the region. Along with Obadiah Jenney, he built the first sawmill in the township. [1]

Henry Buckingham was an active entrepreneur also. In 1827, he entered into a partnership with John P. McArdle, who had previous publishing experience, to establish the Norwalk Reporter. Henry’s son George also came into the business. [2]

Meux BreweryTwo years after establishing the Norwalk Reporter, the same year his daughter married Jonas Benedict, Henry, along with Platt Benedict and several other investors, founded The Norwalk Manufacturing Company to produce flour, paper and other commodities. The company built a factory on Medina Road. It was the first enterprise of its kind west of the Alleghenies. The company had problems from the beginning and was never a financial success. Soon after incorporation, all investors except Henry, Platt and one other man pulled out of the venture. [3]

The factory was three stories high and about one hundred and fifty feet long. The papermaking section took most of the space in the building because the paper had to be air-dried, there being no steam heat available. In addition to the paper making operation, a small machine shop made nails and a grist mill ground wheat and corn. [4]

Lucy Preston was aware of all these business dealings, even though she was busy with school, keeping house and taking care of her father Samuel and brother Charles. Through much of the 1820s, her father was in the construction trade, building houses and public buildings, no doubt working with William and Hallet Gallup. Soon he would start an enterprise that would engage his family for the next half century.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The history of early commercial enterprises in Norwalk are from “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer,  Old Series, Volume I, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, May 1859, pp. 20-21.

[2] The story of the founding of the Norwalk Recorder is from “History of the Fire Lands Press,” by C.P. Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, Sept. 1861. pp. 8-9.

[3] The story of the establishment of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Biography of Henry Buckingham,” by Levina Lindsley Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume I, The Firelands Historical Society, June 1882, p. 160.

[4] The physical description of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer,  New Series, Volume I, The Firelands Historical Society, December 1918, pp. 2106-2107

Image is of the Meux Brewery, London, 1830, from Edward Walford, Old and New London: Its History, Its People, and Its Places; Volume IV; Caswell & Co.; 1891; page 486.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 21 – Trial and Punishment

Sufferers’ Land

Trial and Punishment

by Dave Barton

The Huron County Court of Common Pleas convened on Tuesday, May 18 at the Court House in Norwalk. A Grand Jury met the same day. Two days later, they indicted the three Indians for first-degree murder.

The trial began the day after the indictment. A crowd assembled, so many that a large number had to stand outside in the yard. Being a prominent member of the community, Platt secured a seat inside, and later gave Sally a first hand account.

He seemed to have witnessed a fair trial. After hearing only a portion of the evidence, the prosecutor dropped the charge against the boy Negossum and released him, to the applause of the audience.

The evidence against the other two Indians was compelling, however, and after a short deliberation, the jury found them guilty. The judge asked if they had anything to say before he passed sentence, but they refused to speak. He sentenced them to be hanged on Friday, July first, and had them led back to jail to await execution.

Sally and the other settlers were curious how the Indians were taking their impending deaths. They learned that the two men were particularly concerned about hanging, which they considered an ignominious death. To discover what it felt like, they practiced choking each other until they almost passed out. The results disturbed them and they became so depressed that the sheriff, in sympathy, gave them whisky to dull their anguish.

The day of execution dawned warm and sultry. Early that morning, settlers from all over the county assembled around the gallows, erected on a knoll behind where St. Paul’s Episcopal Church now stands. Seven or eight Indians from the condemned men’s tribe arrived to witness the execution, including several who had assisted in recapturing the prisoners after their escape.

At the appointed time, the condemned men approached the knoll, escorted by a rifle company commanded by Captain Burt. They were dressed in shrouds and were intoxicated, having begged for whisky earlier that morning. After mounting the gallows and having nooses placed around their necks, the men were asked if they wished to say anything. Negosheek mumbled a few words. The men dropped to their deaths and several women turned away and began to cry.

After they were dead, the authorities took down their bodies, placed them in coffins, and buried them on the knoll. The Rifle Company and civil officials marched to Captain Boalt’s house. He treated them to a big dinner, and they listened to a funeral discourse, a rather macabre scene to us, but probably considered appropriate at the time.

For months afterwards, the settlers of the Firelands worried that friends of the executed Indians would exact revenge. Platt, not having a gun, kept a sharpened hoe hanging near his front door against such an eventuality. However, perhaps because the court had found the boy Negossum innocent, the Indians felt that justice had been done. They never attacked.

As time went on, settlers cleared the forests and farms replaced the Native American’s traditional hunting grounds. In 1843, the remaining tribes departed Ohio for reservations further west. Their time had passed. [1]

Goodbye to Old Hunting Grounds

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 137.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume VI, The Firelands Historical Society, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145. Platt Benedict’s reaction to this incident is described by him in “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, May 1859, p. 21.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 20 – Recapture

Sufferers’ Land

Recapture

by Dave Barton

A day or two after the return of Negonaba, Sally and the other townspeople were relieved when Captain Burt, accompanied by Constable Charles Tupper of Danbury Township and several other men, walked into town, leading Negosheek by a rope tied around him.

Before putting him back into custody, the men searched the Indian and found a small knife secreted in his clothes. Captain Burt told them he had searched the Indian at the time of his capture, but that Negosheek’s squaw must have slipped him the knife before they departed the Indian’s village.

Pioneers and Indians

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 139.

After returning Negosheek to the makeshift jail with the wounded Negonaba, Captain Burt told his story to the assembled populace of the village. Arriving on the Miami River, the three men went to the Indian camp where Negosheek and Negossum lived. John Flemmond introduced Captain Burt, who had dressed in an impressive military uniform, as Governor of Ohio, and demanded that the chief turn over Negosheek and Negossum to him.

This ruse worked, and the chief brought Negosheek to them. The chief promised that he would have the boy Negossum brought to Norwalk in a few days, but also told them that Negossum was not guilty. Through the interpreter, the two captains assured the chief that the boy would receive a fair trial, and if the court found him innocent, they would release him.

Leaving Captain Boalt and John Flemmond behind to wait for the boy Negossum, Captain Burt led Negosheek north toward Lake Erie accompanied by a party of Indians. The weather had turned rainy, and the men slogged through the wilderness, cold, wet and miserable. After a day’s travel, the party stopped for the night and Captain Burt tried unsuccessfully to start a fire. He used sign language to ask the Indians accompanying him to do it, promising them a quart of whisky if they did. An Indian poured gunpowder on the wood, and used flint and steel to try to start a fire. The powder ignited suddenly in the Indian’s face causing him to jump several feet into the air.

When they reached the shore of Lake Erie, the Indians accompanying him turned back, and Captain Burt continued alone through the forest with his captive. Once, Negosheek tried to break away, but Captain Burt, who was a large man, grabbed him and shook him harshly. After that, he had no more trouble with him.

After going nine or ten miles along the lakeshore, Captain Burt arrived at Constable Charles Tupper’s cabin at the mouth of the Portage River. Charles was relieved to see him and his prisoner, and after hearing Captain Burt’s story, agreed to accompany him the rest of the way to Norwalk.

A day or two after Captain Burt returned to Norwalk with Negosheek, Captain John Boalt and John Flemmond arrived with Negossum, whom the chief of the tribe had turned over to them as promised. They put the boy into jail with his companions to await trial. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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