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John E. Benge


Posted By: Pat Hochstetler (email)
Date: 3/12/2006 at 18:09:16

Winterset Madisonian
Winterset, Iowa
May 1916

Kills Wife and Suicides

A deep gloom was cast over our little city last Thursday when the news was circulated that Jno. E. Benge had killed his wife and then killed himself. The tragedy occurred about 11 o'clock Wednesday night. Mrs. Benge had retired and was, in all probability, shot while she was asleep, as her body in her night clothes was found lying upon the bed with a bullet wound through her right eye. Her husband's body was found lying on the floor, also a bullet hole near his right eye with a 32-caliber revolver grasped in his left hand.

There bodies were found at noon Thursday by their son, Albert, who went to the home to find out why his father had not come to the store.

The murder and suicide shocked Winterset as nothing has for years. Mr. and Mrs. Benge have been prominent in business and social life here for many years. In 1882 Mr Benge, with his brother, A. M., established their hardware store, the largest and best stocked store in Madison county. In 1904 A. M. retired from the business and it has since been operated by J. E. and his son, Albert.

The direct cause of the double tragedy will probably never be known. Some are prone to ascribe it to family troubles, while others, however, believe that Mr. Benge's health had caused him to become dispondent, as he was afflicted with kidney trouble and had been for some years.

Mr. and Mrs. Benge had been married about forty years. He was in his 65th year and she was about 58 years of age.

Mr. Benge was a democrat and for two years served as member of the city council. He was also a member of the Odd Fellows lodge of Winterset.

To no small degree Mr. Benge's business is due to the resourceful economy and self sacrificing sympathy of his devoted wife. For even after success had made possible the more luxurious comforts of our modern life, the frugal habits of years but slowly yielded their supremacy over her life.

Many shall miss these familiar faces whose lives had been built into the structure of the commonwealth they had been united to and whose simple life, sturdy independence and rational economy constitute an enduring contribution to the generation following.

John E. Benge was born in Madison county, Indiana, Sept. 3, 1851, his parents being Alfred and Margaret (Banks) Benge. Mr. Benge came to Madison county with his parents in 1855 and settled in what is now Scott township, where he spent his youthful days. At the age of twenty he began working in a tin shop, which position he held for ten years. He then embarked in the hardware business with his brother, A. M., which business he has successfully managed ever since.

On May 23, 1877 he was united in marriage to Miss Mahala Needs, a native of Wales, and a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Arden) Needs, who came to Madison county in 1873, spending their remaining days here. Mrs. Benge was reared and educated in this county.

Mr. and Mrs. Benge were the parents of three children: Mrs. Nina Paisly, of Spokane, Wash.; Albert, who works in the hardware store, and Faith, the wife of Roy King, of Winterset.

The funeral occurred from the home Sunday afternoon at 2:30, conducted by Rev. Frederick Donovan, and the bodies laid to rest in the Rock City cemetery, where the Odd Fellows lodge conducted services.

The Winterset Madisonian
Winterset, Iowa
Wednesday, May 17, 1916
Page 8, Column 1


Last Thursday Winterset lost from among its pioneer citizens, by death, John E. Benge and wife. The funeral service was conducted at the home by Rev. Frederick Donovan and at the grave by the Odd Fellows lodge, of which Mr. Benge had been a member for some time. Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Paisley came from Spokane, Wash., to attend the services held last Sunday. Interment was made at Rock City cemetery.

John E. Benge was born in Madison county Indiana, Sept. 3, 1851. His ancestors were of the sturdiest American stock, having early settled in North Carolina. Migrating later to Indiana, another move was made by the parents of Mr. Benge to Madison county of this state. Here among the most rigorous conditions of pioneer life, the lad grew to manhood, schooled to those habits of thrift and industry which enabled him to gain a foremost place among the business concerns of this county.

At the age of 30, Mr. Benge left the farm and entered the hardware business with his brother. In 1904 Mr. Benge bought out his brotherís interest and continued to develop the business until his death. No man can achieve pronounced success in a small community, where everyone is a neighbor, without honesty in dealing, a shrewd knowledge of human nature and a practical sympathy for his fellowmen. A successful man must be a neighbor in business as well as on his own street. A man of dishonest character and of a disagreeable disposition cannot succeed in anything. Mr. Benge had learned the fine art of getting on with his fellowmen, and at a place where getting on takes a manís utmost ability.

In addition to these qualities, Mr. Benge exhibited to a few only of his most immediate circle a fine and discriminating generosity. No deserving appeal failed of substantial response. His many friends could have wished that this pioneer could have lived to enjoy to extreme old age the fruits of his commendable industry, but an infirmity cut him off in the fullest of mature powers.

Link to Gravestone Photo

Madison Obituaries maintained by Kent Transier.
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