|1855 first edition of Colton's map of Nebraska and Kansas Territories (image from Wikipedia)|
This is the same year Henry Bennett & his family moved to Kansas Territory
The First Settlers of Allen County
Few white settlers reached this county before the Bennett family. Richard Fuqua and his family arrived in January of 1855. They started a trading post and dealt extensively with the Sac and Fox Indians. Another small settlement started in March of that year by the Cowden and Parsons families. They built near a camp of nearly 400 Osage Indians. Parsons' family had dealt with the Osage before and the settlers lived temporarily with the Indians while they built their homes. [Source: "History of the State of Kansas" by Cutler]
Henry Bennett, arriving in May, was one of the first of a wave of about twenty families who arrived in the late spring and summer. Most settled along the Neosho River with its timber for building and fertile lands for growing crops and raising livestock.
In Watson Stewart's memoirs of his immigration trip to Kansas, he writes of camping near the Bennett's property a year later in May of 1856. "We... passed on down the Neosho river that evening reaching a point just a little south of where Humboldt now is, and near a settler by the name of Henry Bennett, where we camped for the night. Mr. Bennett was the only settler near there, and we passed two or three during the day, outside of those in the village of Cofachiqui. Mr. Bennett had come from Tennessee and was a strong "Free-State" man." [Source: "Personal Memoirs of Watson Stewart"] [Note: The Bennett's had actually just come from Missouri, but had lived in Tennessee before Missouri.]
|1861 Land Document for Henry Bennett in Allen Co, KS|
Kansas didn't become a state until 1861, so I believe that
was the first year for land registration
The Slavery Issue in Allen County
Besides creating Kansas, the Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854 had also allowed for a vote of residents to determine if each state was "Free" or "Slave." A "bogus legislature" that was pro-slavery was set up and declared Kansas to be a Slave state. But, Kansas became "Bloody Kansas" as, during the pre-Civil War years, people fought over whether Kansas would be "Free" or "Slave."
In Allen County, there were only a handful of slaves during that first year, but the free-state settlers pressured the pro-slavery settlers into either freeing their slaves or leaving the area. Although 1855-56 were known as the "Border Ruffian war" where the pro-slavery and anti-slavery people clashed, this was primarily in the North and along the Missouri border. There are no known incidences of violence within Allen County or among its citizens during this 'war.' [Source: "Histories of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas" by Duncan and Scott]
The 1860 Drought in Allen County
The next few years brought more settlers and prosperity to the area. Henry and his wife had two more children during this time. But, the age of "Kansas Territory" was almost over as Kansas would become a state in 1861. The year of 1860 proved to be tough. Why? Drought.
A rain fell in September of 1859, and then there wasn't any rain for eighteen months. But, of course the Bennetts and other families in the area didn't realize it was the start of a drought. They plowed and planted as usual.
The 1860 Agricultural federal census gives us a clear picture of the contents of Henry Bennett's farm in 1860. We can only imagine what these figures would have looked like in the summer of 1861...
- 160 acres of land of which 100 acres were improved with a cash value of $1000
- value of farming implements and machinery: $75
- 3 horses
- 7 milch cows
- 10 working oxen
- 13 other cattle
- 32 bovine
- value of livestock: $784
- 125 bushels of wheat (produced during the year ending June 1, 1860)
- 2,500 bushels of Indian corn
- 50 bushels of Indian potatoes
- 6 tons of hay
- value of animals slaughtered: $175
From "The Histories of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas" compiled by Duncan and Scott we read: "As spring passed on and ripened into summer there was still no rain, the dust in which the seed had been planted remained dust. The burning sun glared fiercely all day, and no dew descended at night... It was a heart-breaking experience, and those who passed through it cannot speak of it even now without a shudder. It is no wonder that many of the settlers, perhaps a majority of them, went back to their former homes, and that few of those who went ever returned. Those who remained suffered the extremest privation, and many of them were rescued from actual starvation only by the timely arrival of supplies sent out by the numerous 'Kansas Aid' societies which were organized throughout the East. There have been hard times in Kansas since then, but compared with 1860 there has never been a year that was not one of abundance and good cheer."
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, nearly every able-bodied man from Allen County enlisted including Henry's four oldest sons. One son, William H Bennett, became a corporal. Another, the youngest of these four, Joseph, who was about 21 years old, died of disease in Missouri in 1863. [The service records of all four brothers needs to be looked into further.]
Evidently, the U.S. Army "visited" Bennett's farm during the war. In 1894, he filed a claim against the U.S. government "for compensations for timber, firewood and other personal property to them from the [Henry's] land near Humboldt, Kansas, by the officers and Soldiers of the U. S. Army, during the Civil War, and for the use and occupation of, and injury to said land and premises..."
In a document from 1900, Henry (now 85), because of his "age and physical infirmities," agreed to give half of a settlement to Barton M Turner, his son-in-law, if or when he collected money on a claim against the U. S. government. More records need to be found to determine if Henry ever received compensation. [Typewritten transcription in Beulah Brewer's genealogy papers titled "Henry Bennett, Intestate Will" at top. Sticky note on it also says "Book L, 184[blank]-Mar 27[or 29], 1894. State of Missouri vs. Henry Bennett, Delinquent taxes: Dismissed. These in Webster Co, MO.]
Leaving Allen County
Kansas took a state census right after the war in July of 1865. Henry and his wife, Ellender, are still in Allen County along with their youngest seven children ages 3 to 15. Sometime between July 1865 and the 1870 federal census, Henry and his family moved back to Missouri, this time settling in Newton County.
In less than fifteen years, Henry had settled on the newly formed Kansas Territory and watched it become the 32nd state; he had probably dealt with Indians and slavery; he had sent four of his sons to fight to preserve the Union and abolish slavery and learned that one of them had died of disease; he had seen U.S. soldiers use his timber and land; and he had survived an eighteen month drought. All of this while raising and providing for a family on the Kansas prairie.
While much has been learned about Henry Bennett and his life in Kansas, his time in both Tennessee and Missouri need to be explored further.
Timeline of Henry Bennett's life
- Feb 1815 - born in NC or TN
- abt 1836 - married Ellender Bookout in TN
- by 1840 - living with wife & 3 young children in Fentress Co, TN
- bet 1843-1848 moved to Greene Co, MO
- May 1855 - arrived in Allen Co, Kansas Territory
- bet 1865-1870 - moved to Newton Co, MO
- bet 1880-1900 - moved to Webster Co, MO
- Oct 1903 - died in Webster Co, MO
My Line of Descent
- Henry Bennett (1815-1903) m. Ellender Bookout (1817-1905)
- Elizabeth Bennett (1849-1914) m. Josiah Randolph Coppenbarger (1844-1934)
- Myrtle Mae Coppenbarger (1880-1970) m. Emil Wilhelm Peters (1877-1955)
- Hazel Lucille Peters (1910-1975) m. James Edward Stewart (1910-1972) (my paternal grandparents
Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org