Forgotton Gravestones in Clinton County Field Help Unfold Story of Early Tragedy
(From the Clinton Herald Sat. October 18, 1941. There are two photos, one of the gravestones and the location of Warren's Inn but they did not photo copy very well.)
Broken gravestones and tumbled piles of rocks in a lonely sector of the Arthur Dearborn farm, north of Calamus, are mute reminders of a tragic incident in the early history of Clinton county -- the hanging of Bennett Warren on a charge of harboring horsethieves.
Many old timers claim that the incident is a "black mark" on the county's record of justice, contending Warren was innocent of the charge and that he was a victim of a group of "hot-headed" men who were determined to wipe out the practice of horse stealing in the county.
The markers were moved from the field some time ago to make way for plows and now are lying side by side along a fence as shown in the top photo. The inscription on the stone on the far left indicates that Warren, whose entire life was stalked by tragedy, buried his first wife, Caroline, in 1855 at the age of 35 years. Then their six-months-old daughter, Mary E., was buried Nov. 15, 1855. The stone third from the left apparently was erected over the grave of a neighbor's child, Emma J., daughter of F. and C. J. Durflinger who died Dec. 15, 1855. The fourth, Hester Ann, wife of C. Chambers, died Dec. 15, 1854.
The lower photo touches on the life of Warren himself, showing in the foreground a part of the original foundation of the inn which he operated as a lodging place for travelers. The inn was constructed of logs, the foundation of handhewn rocks, some of which are seen in the photo.
Warren's life was filled with hardships, according to accounts of grandchildren of pioneers, now living in the western part of the county.
Horsethieves were numerous at this period and a band of "regulators" (vigilantes) was tipped off that Warren was suspected of harboring a group in his inn. On the night of June 24, 1857, the ''regulators" crossed over from Big Rock into Clinton county.
Warren was dragged from the house and give a "trial" before 12 men. The jury returned a "guilty" verdict but did not recommend a sentence. The mob of 200 men then was called upon for expressions concerning what the punishment should be.
At first the majority was in favor of a whipping, but later joined the minority who advocated hanging.
Warren protested that he was innocent, but his plea went unheeded. When the noose had been slipped around his neck they gave him an opportunity to say a few last words.
If his executioners expected any confession or appeal for mercy, they were disappointed for the man was brave and died unflinchingly. His only comment was, "I am an old man and you can't cheat me out of many years."
After he was hanged the vigilantes dug a grave close by and threw in the old man's body. Then they rode away into the night. The unmarked grave is believed to be somewhere between the foundation of the old inn and a grove of trees, the edge of which can be seen in the far right of the lower photo.
According to accounts by various remaining descendants of pioneers, the settlers were united in their opinion that Warren was a good man and that he died unjustly. They say he often gave free board and lodging to those without funds and did not pry into his lodger's personal affairs.
But it must remain a mystery, for the gravestones and old foundation are only mute reminders of more tumultous days in western Clinton county.