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Bennett, Elmer


Posted By: mjv (email)
Date: 7/31/2020 at 16:09:33

Elmer Bennett was born in Fairfield Township, Cumberland Co., N. J., Nov. 27, 1805. He is the son of William and Esther (Elmer) Bennett. Nathan Bennett, an ancestor of our subject, was a son of Samuel Bennett, one of the first settlers of Western New Jersey, and the first to erect a saw and grist mill. He was a native of Holland, and reared a large family, among whom were Jonathan, and Samuel, the great-grandfather of our subject. Nathan married Sarah Bateman, who bore Nathan, Williard, Samuel, John, Josiah, Sarah, Abigail, Ruth and Rhoda, all married in New Jersey. Jonathon Elmer, the maternal grandfather, was a prominent man in that State, and for many years was a civil engineer in that country. He surveyed and made a deed from the State to Samuel Bennett of several sections of land in that State, at the nominal price of five cents per acre. After Bennett’s death the land was divided between his heirs, non of whom are present owners.

In the spring of 1836 the Bennett family moved to Shelbyville, Ind., and in 1838 came to the State of Iowa, locating on Brush Creek in Des Moines County. Our subject states that letter postage was then twenty-five cents, and that their mail was obtained at Burlington, then a little town which had not a frame building, and there were but two brick houses in it. The post-office was kept in a small log house on the river bank. The first land sale was held in Burlington, at which he was present, and at that date his father and Rufus both purchased an 80-acre tract in Des Moines County, and 120 acres besides. William Bennett and his wife were the parents of nine children, all born in New Jersey, and all came to Iowa. Our subject was the only one married at that time, his wife being Lucy A. Jaggers, born May 17, 1811, who was the mother of three children before they had located in Iowa. Emily was the wife of Alexander Neal, and Caroline, the wife of Charles Berg, born in New Jersey, and Rufus, husband of Mary F. Moore, was born in Shelbyville, Ind.

Our subject was a very poor man in a financial sense, and his first land was purchased not with money, but by splitting for Terry, 14,000 rails, for which he was given a deed to sixteen acres of timber land, which was afterward traded to his brother Rufus for forty acres on section 28, on Crooked Creek, Elmer also giving a yoke of steers. His brother Rufus had taken a claim of 160 acres now owned by our subject, but after a trial in the new and undeveloped country, traded the claim to Elmer for a trifle, and helped him build a log cabin, about 1840, and during that spring Elmer moved his family to their new home. The land was entered about 1843, he purchasing it from Hon. John H. Gear, of Burlington, for $110. The patent from the Government is still in his possession, and the land has never been owned by any other man. Every improvement on that farm has been made by Elmer Bennett. Mary, the wife of Thomas Maxwell, was the first child born to them in Iowa, followed by the births of Frank F., husband of Margaret H. Maxwell, who were both born in Des Moines County; Violetta, the wife of John A Alexander, and Robert, were born on the ancestral farm in this township. All are living except Robert. Thomas Maxwell was a soldier during the late war, and Jesse Berry, first husband of Caroline Bennett, was killed at the first assault before Petersburg. Both were brave soldiers and honorable men.

The Bennetts were Free-soilers in New Jersey, but were ardent members of the Republican party after coming to Iowa, being among the organizers of the party in this State. Elmer Bennett has grown from a very humble beginning to be one of the wealthy men of this township. Honest, energetic, a kind father and liberal neighbor, both himself and family have endeared themselves to the residents of their county in every way. Their children were all well educated, and Mary was a teacher of merit in the State of Ohio. Rufus, the eldest son, was for three years a soldier, and served in all the memorable battles of the war. The aged father and his wife celebrated their golden wedding in 1882, and take rank among the oldest, if not the very oldest, married couples in the county. After the death of Dr. George Pulsifer, first husband of Mary Bennett, their son Frank was adopted by our subject, and is as dearly loved by them as their own children. His father was a talented man, highly educated, a graduate in medicine and dental surgery, and an accomplished gentleman. Mr. Bennett has served as Justice of the Peace, and for many years was Supervisor. Both himself and his wife have been members of the Congregational Church for fifty years, but both were reared in the Presbyterian Church.

Elmer Bennett is perhaps the only man resided in the township who was personally acquainted with the noted Indian chief, Black Hawk. He is also an intimate friend of ex-Governor John H. Gear, present Member of Congress of this district, from whom his first land was purchased, and who, in his visits to this part of the country, never fails to call upon his old and honest friend. No family deserves more especial mention than that of Deacon Bennett, who for more than half a century has been a Deacon in the Congregational church. Two of his daughters have been contributors to several of the leading magazines and papers, and have shown more than ordinary ability in literature, and had they endeavored to make themselves known in the literary world, might have ranked among the most illustrious, especially the eldest and youngest daughters, Carrie and Lettie. “The Conflict is Over,” with many others of note, composed by Carrie, won meritorious praise throughout the State, and “Apple Blossoms,” composed by Lettie, is by many eminent critics ranked second only to “Gray’s Elegy,” showing the same style of expression, and is a rare production. Competent judges have decided that their poems rank even higher than those of the noted Cary sisters. In a series of articles written for an Eastern magazine, she displays a degree of humorous talent rarely equaled. In each and all of this family, no thought of self has been fostered; charity and love for all is the maxim that binds them together, and in possession of gifted intellects, they stand far above many who have become more widely known. Their household cares were not neglected while engaged in literary work, and while soothing to sleep their children, many of their brightest poetic gems were created. An excellent portrait of Mr. Bennett accompanies this sketch.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Washington County, Iowa (1887). Excerpt from Biographical Sketch of Elmer Bennett, pages 433-434. (Portrait found on page 432)


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