Timothy Nathaniel Bennet and Clinton County, Ohio

Timothy Nathaniel Bennet (1765-1826) was the father of Keziah Bennet  (1804-1876),  who was the mother of Charles Bright (1841-1931), who was the father of Clarence Eugene Bright (1882-1956), who was the father of Neil Bright (1919-2012), who was my grandfather.

This is an excerpt from the book, HISTORY OF CLINTON COUNTY.

Timothy Bennet was one of the most prominent, as well as one of the first settlers, of what is now Clinton County. He came to the Northwest Territory, now the State of Ohio, in the year 1800, and to his well-known home; about one and a half miles nearly east of where Wilmington now is, about the middle of March, 1801. He was a native of the State of New Jersey, born near the city of Philadelphia on the 27th of January, 1765. Of his early history little is known other than that he was reared on a farm and spent his boyhood like other boys brought up to agricultural pursuits. Soon after arriving at manhood, he left his native State, and took up his residence in Westmoreland County, in Western Pennsylvania. Here, early in the year 1789, the precise date not ascertained, he was married to Elizabeth Hoblitt, daughter of Michael Hoblitt, a native of Germany, and ancestor of the Hoblitts of Clinton and Greene Counties.

Stimulated by the reports which had reached him of the fertile lands of Kentucky, Mr. Bennet, in the fall of 1789, determined to remove there, and, in company with his wife’s father and family, he descended the Ohio River in boats to Limestone, now the town of Maysville, Ky. The Indians at that time were exceedingly troublesome on the river. Few boats were allowed to pass with impunity. If captured, as they frequently were, the entire party were slain in the most barbarous manner, or, what was little better, carried away into Indian captivity. Mr. Bennet and his party proper had the good fortune to pass through this cordon of savages without sustaining any disaster; but a boat in their convoy was not so lucky, for, being permitted to fall too far in the rear it was attacked with great fury by the Indians, and, though it escaped being captured, sustained a loss of two men killed. The party of emigrants to which Mr. Bennet belonged, before landing at Limestone, proceeded to the interior of the country by way of the Lower Blue Licks and Lexington. At the latter place, a halt of some weeks was made, for the purpose of examining the country for a suitable location. After a pretty thorough exploration in various directions, the party made choice of a point in what is now Woodford County, near the site of the present town of Versailles, and here Mr. Bennet resided for about ten years.

In the fall of 1790, Mr. Bennet joined the expedition of Gen. Harmar, which was sent by the Government to destroy the Indian towns near where the Rivers St. Mary and St. Joseph unite and form the Maumee. The forces collected for this purpose rendezvoused at Cincinnati, then a small village about two years old. From here, they marched nearly north for about fifteen or twenty miles, until the Ohio River hills had been overcome, when their course was changed to about northeast, which led across Muddy Creek and Turtle Creek to the Little Miami. They crossed the stream about one mile below the mouth of Caesar’s Creek, and continued up the river to the mouth of Glady Creek, near Spring Valley, then up Glady to near the point where Xenia now is, to Old Chillicothe, now called Old Town. Near this point, it is said that Mr. Bennet became too lame to travel, from a cancer in the leg, and was there fore honorably discharged and sent home. He thus escaped the disgrace of Harmar’s abortive campaign and the dangers of Hardin’s disastrous defeats. The route taken by the army led through a most beautiful and productive country. That Mr. Bonnet should have placed a high estimate on the lands through which he passed may well be assumed. A few years later, he is found acquiring land, supposed at the time to be near the line of his march, and soon after coming to settle upon it.

In the fall of 1799, he purchased about 200 acres of land from William S. Hawkins, one of his Kentucky neighbors, who was an extensive land-holder in the Virginia Military District, lying between the Little Miami and Scioto Rivers. The land purchased was a part of Survey No. 2,690, but the location of the survey was represented to Mr. Bennet to lie between the Little Miami and Caesar’s Creek, and so of course in the region of country through which he had marched nine or ten years previous, while in the army of Harmar. Confiding in this representation, he made his purchase. In 1799, a few settlers had established themselves between these streams, and many more on the west side of the Miami opposite to and in the neighborhood of where Mr. Bennet’s land was said to lie. Indeed, at that time, the country between the Great and Little Miamis, as far north at least as Dayton, was beginning to be well dotted with settlers’ cabins and improvements, and attracted the attention of emigrants far and near. Having, as he supposed, acquired valuable lands near new but thriving settlements, Mr. Bennet began at once to make arrangements to settle upon them. The land, however, turned out, as will hereafter appear, to lie in a very different locality from that supposed.

He removed from Kentucky in the spring of 1800, with his family, which at that time consisted of his wife and six children, two sons and four daughters. He regarded the removal as the best step to take, in order to advance the interests of himself and growing family. At the time of leaving Kentucky, the only means of transportation within the reach of Mr. Bennet was pack horses. a common one in that day. Accordingly, pack-horses were provided to carry Mrs. Bennet and the infant Nathaniel, the bedding, wearing apparel, provisions, agricultural tools, cooking utensils and such of the children as were not able to walk. The cows, calves and other stock were driven in the wake of the pack-horses by the older children. Mr. Bennet, with rifle on shoulder and shot-pouch and powder-horn slung to his side, and hunting knife in scabbard, sometimes led the van and sometimes brought up tho rear, according as his presence seemed to be most required. At times, he would quit the trace and march for hours on the right or left of the moving column, in pursuit of game, and, being it most successful hunter, he was generally able to keep the family supplied with the most palatable meats. He came north by the “Dry Ridge” road to Cincinnati, then but recently named. From Cincinnati, he took Harmar’s trace to a point near where Lebanon has since been laid out, and from there, nearly a north course to a point near where Centerville, Montgomery County, has grown up, distance from the Ohio River, forty-five miles. In what is now the Centerville neighborhood, he found his brother-in-law, Soboston Hoblitt, and a number of his old neighbors in New Jersey and his recent neighbors in Kentucky, as the Nutts, Robbins. Becks and Archers, who had settled there three years before. The town of Centerville, in Montgomery County, Ohio, was laid out afterward in the same neighborhood by one of his old New Jersey friends. From some of these Mr. Bennet expected pilotage to his land, but his friends had only been there a short time and ever since their arrival had been busy raising cabins for themselves or neighbors, or planting and raising something to live on. They had found no time to look much beyond the narrow circle of their own concerns, and really knew no more about Hawkins’ Survey, No. 2,690, in the Virginia Military District, than we of Clinton County in this day know of some Spanish Don’s land grant in Florida or New Mexico. And what made it worse, the records pertaining to the surveys in the Virginia Military District were kept in the Principal Surveyor’s office in Louisville, Ky. After an inpatient waiting for information in regard to the location of his land, he at last had the good fortune to learn of a Mr. McFarland, living on the Little Miami, near the mouth of Todd’s Fork, who, it was supposed, could give him the desired information. Without delay, Mr. Bennet called upon Mr. McFarland, and was conducted by him up Todd’s Fork, by the way of Smalley’s, near where Clarksville now is, to the Deserted Camp Corner, a well-known landmark from which the line of an intervening survey conducted them to a corner of Mr. Bennet’s land. This land is situated south of Todd’s Fork, about one and a half miles nearly northeast of the present town of Wilmington, and includes lands owned by James S. Garland, the tract included in the home farm of Samuel R. Glass, and about fifty acres on the Prairie road, late the residence of Miss Catharine McWhorter.

Mr. Bennet does not seem to have been transported with pleasure on beholding his possessions for the first time. They were part of an immense tract of woodland, and were covered with large forest trees of almost every kind growing in the country. In that day a considerable part was wet land. The only settler within ten miles of the land known to Mr. Bennet, was William Smalley, whose cabin he and Mr. McFarland had passed ten miles below on their way up Todd’s Fork. Smalley had in early life been taken prisoner by the Shawnee Indians, and had been brought up among them. His color was much like an Indian’s; his hair was straight and black; his eye had the wild piercing glance of a bird of prey, truly Indian. The rims of his ears had been cut from the cartilaginous parts, and hung down in strings as a sort of trimming, after the fashion of a ladies’ eardrop. His history up to this time was not calculated to make him desirable as a neighbor, even at a distance of ten miles off, for only eight years before he had been the interpreter for Col. Hardin, when sent by Gen. Washington on a peace mission to the Shawnee Indiana, and had suffered Hardin to be killed by an Indian man and boy while asleep in the night before the fire. If Mr. Bennet had other neighbors nearer than the banks of the Little Miami, he had not seen nor heard of them. The land being found, Mr. McFarland returned home as he came, by Todd’s Fork, and Mr. Bennet hired an Indian to pilot him to Waynesville, on the Little Miami, while he followed with a tomahawk and blazed the way so as to be able to find it again.

In the summer of 1800, Mr. Bennet raised a crop in the Centerville neighborhood, and, on the 30th day of January, 1801, at the same place, his daughter Amy was born. A few days later, Mr. Bennet, with his brother-in-law, John Hoblitt, and his four eldest children, came to erect a house and make an opening on his wilderness lands, taking with them cooking utensils, farming tools and provisions. They selected small trees for house logs, so that when cut to their proper length two men could place them in the walls of the house. Boards were made for roof, loft and door, and puncheons for the floor, and the house nicely prepared to receive Mrs. Bennet. Leaving Mr. Hoblitt and the children to keep house, Mr. Bennet returned to the Centerville neighborhood for his wife. On their way back, they found the Miami out of banks, and, there being neither bridges nor boats on the river in that day, the passage had to be effected by swimming their horses. Mr. Bennet led the way, carrying the infant Amy in his arms, and Mrs. Bennet followed at a proper distance, riding her horse for greater safety, after the fashion of a cavalier. Other streams, of large size when swollen, lay between the Miami and their home, as Caesar’s Creek and Todd’s Fork; but whether the horses were put to a swim or not has not been ascertained. The same evening, after a ride of twenty-five miles through a pathless wood and without a solitary house for fifteen miles, Mrs. Bennet was rewarded by seeing, for the first time, her home among the trees.

The spring and summer of 1801 was a busy season for the Bennet family. Land had to be prepared for a crop. To remove all the great oaks, elms, hickories and beech from any considerable number of acres of land, between the 1st of March and the time for planting, was too great a task to be for a moment seriously entertained. Mr. Bennet, therefore, cut away the trees of small growth, grubbed up the spice bushes, girdled the large trees and removed the down timber by cutting and burning. All was inclosed with a substantial fence. In this work all could engage. The seed was planted in the loose, rich ground without plowing, and the crops cultivated with the hoe and hand. It required unceasing vigilance to protect the corn from the squirrels by day and the raccoons by night, but enough was saved to keep famine from the door.

After Mr. Bennet made his settlement, for several years the Indians came in the fall season to make their annual hunt. They were generally divided into bands, numbering from three to fifty. The larger companies were attended by the women; children, ponies and dogs. In such cases, they invariably retired at the approach of winter to their towns farther to the north. A few stragglers not infrequently stayed in the country through the winter to trap. They were mostly Shawnees and Wyandots, with an occasional Delaware. A favorite place for camping for them was along Todd’s Fork, near Mr. Bennet’s residence, above and below where Starbucktown now is. Another was on Anderson’s Fork, extending up the creek from the Telfair farm to near the site of Centerville, Wayne Township. In the fall of 1811, the Indians seemed less friendly than usual, and at times created uneasiness among the settlers. About the beginning of November, all their young men disappeared. After an absence of about three weeks they were noticed as having returned. While they were gone the battle of Tippecanoe had been fought. They had brought the result of the fight several days in advance of the Cincinnati and Chillicothe newspapers. William Smalley was a frequent visitor at their camps, staying for several days together, and no doubt eating with unfeigned gusto their dirty cookery.

 

The first child born to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, after their removal to what is now the Wilmington neighborhood, was their daughter Margaret. She was born November 19, 1802, on what has since been known as the farm of Judge Hinkson, on the north side of Anderson’s Fork, near where the Radcliffe road now runs, at the house of James Mills, father of James R. Mills. Mr. Mills and his brother-in.-law, Amos Wilson, from whom Wilson Township has been named, were, at the time spoken of, living in the same dooryard, but each having a separate dwelling. Mrs. Bennet had been taken to Mr. Mills’ house some days before, in anticipation of her accouchement, that she might have the aid and attention of Mr. Wilson’s mother, the wife of Hon. John Wilson. a member of the first Constitutional Convention of Ohio. who had come over from between the Miamis to be at hand to perform the same part for her daughter-in-law as necessary in the case of Mrs. Bennet. The only white women in that day within what are now the limits of Clinton County are believed to have been Mrs. Mary Van Meter, wife of Morgan Van Meter; Mrs. Miller, wife of the late Esquire Samuel Miller, Mrs. Amos Wilson, Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Bennet.

Mr. Bennet was a most successful hunter. He killed a great many deer on what is now the original town plat of Wilmington, at the licks along the branch south of the residence of Richard and Mary Peirce. It is said by early settlers that, after his health became enfeebled, his wife was in the habit of often bringing him on a horse to these licks. He would climb up into one of the old beech trees above the lick, situated upon what is now known as the old hill residence of the late Robert B. Harlan, and remain there through the day, watching for the deer to come to the lick, when he would shoot them. In the evening, the horse was brought for him to return home with his game. Other early settlers speak of having often hunted over this same ground. It was then covered with an undergrowth of spice and hazel bushes and was a noted hunting-ground. Michael, Mr. Bennet’s eldest son, at the age of twelve years, is said to have killed a large bear, near where the present residence of Mrs. Margaret Treusdell, in Wilmington, is situated. Mr. Bennet is believed to have been twice elected to the office of County Commissioner of Clinton County; he ceased to be a Commissioner in 1815. He was in feeble health for many years prior to his death. He made his will in 1823, and died early in the year 1827.

Mr. Bennet had thirteen children, four sons and nine daughters-Michael, named from his grandfather, Michael Hoblitt, was born December 20, 1789. He married Ann Dillon, a daughter of Jesse Dillon, Sr. He went to Illinois about fifty years ago, and there died. Phebe, born December 4, 1791, married Elisha Doan, of Wilson’s Branch. Her husband died June 22, 1848. She removed to Missouri in 1870. Mary was born April 16, 1793, and married Daniel Mills, of the Sabina neighborhood, in 1815. The husband died and the wife removed to Illinois. Catharine, born March 15, 1795, was married to Joseph Doan, Jr., September 23, 1813. He dying, she afterwards married Elkanah Jacks, of the Sabina neighborhood, May 17, 1829. Sarah, born April 1, 1797, married William Roberds. Nathaniel, born February 25, 1799, went to Illinois. Amy, born January 30, 1801, married James Fisher, May 8, 1818, and removed to Tazewell County, Ill. Margaret, born November 19,102, married Isaac Fisher. Keziah, born January 4, 1804, married Caleb Bright, October 20, 1825, and went to Tazewell County, Ill. Eunice, born February 7, 1809, married Isaac Fisher, January 24, 1828, Margaret, his first wife, having died. They removed to Illinois. Jamima, burn November 3, 1811, married William Custis, March 1, 1833. Timothy, born April 19, 1813, married Elizabeth Russell, August 10, 1831, and went to Bureau County, Ill. All of Timothy Bennet’s children are dead, as far as we have been able to learn.

With Mr. Bennet came John Hoblitt, his brother-in-law, who purchased of him fifty acres. which was surveyed for Mr. Hoblitt by Nathan Linton, in October, 1805.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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