Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tom Keyser's Letter from 1994

Here is a fascinating bit of information I would like to share with you. I used to correspond with Mr. Keyser, another avid Bennight Family researcher, many years ago. Below is the letter he sent to me in 1994 with a possible explanation for our difficulty finding our Bennight Family on the 1850 Census.

Dear Mrs. Nielsen:

After our discussion of the birth date of William Miller Bennight, I think I have a lead on the father and mother and family members of William.

If you have access to the 1850 US Census for Arkansas, Hempstead County, Canuse Township recorded on Nov. 11, 1850, page 46, family 48. It lists as follows:

Wm. Bennett             54                     Farmer                         Born S/C
Sarah  "                     46                                                                 S/C
James J.                    21                     Laborer                                 Tenn
Joseph                       19                                                                  MO (Tom's g-g-grandfather)
Andrew J.                 14                     Twin Brother                          MO
Elizabeth                   14                      Twin Sister                            MO
Mary A.                    17                                                                   MO
William                        8                                                                  MO (Loraine's G-grandfather?)

The name is not spelled correctly, but I have followed this family for many generations and I know this is the Bennight Family.

The US Census for Arkansas Sevier County, Monroe Township 1860, page 63, lists as follows:
(Tom's comments are highlighted. These are his opinions, not part of the census record.)

William Bennight         65                S/C
Sarah                         56                S/C
James J.                     30                Tenn
Mary A.                     25                 MO
William M.                 18                  MO
John W.                     34                 Tenn     older son to William and Sarah
Lafayette                   11                 MO      John W.'s son
Sarah                          9                 Ark       John W.'s daughter
George                       22                 MO
Jackson                      24                 MO
Manerva                    20                 Ark      probably Jackson's wife
William                      1/12               Ark      probably Jackson's son

This family according to the census records is quite wealthy because of the amount of real and personal property held by the old man and some of his sons.

The US Census for 18770 Freestone County, Fairfield PO, page 71 lists the following information:

Family 15    Joseph Bennight                    38
                  Sarah                                    22
                  Carey A.                                4
                  John A.                                 12
                  Mary                                     16
                  James J.                                 9

Family 16    William Bennight                   28    Owns $200 in real estate
                   Mary                                   24     Born in Arkansas

The 1880 Texas Census indicates that Joseph Bennight is still in Freestone County, but William and his wife, Mary, are not shown.

According to these census records, if this William M. Bennight is your guy (and I think he is), then he was born abt 1842 and his wife, Mary, was born abt. 1846. I will check deed records from Freestone County as soon as I can. I have much more information on the Bennight Family, and if you are interested I will gladly share it with you.

One other side note. In 1863 at the height of the Civil War in Ark. the older William Bennight deeds to William M. Bennight and Morgan Bennight (I do not recognize the latter name) for love and affection 360 acres. This information can be found in Sevier Co. deed records 1853-1861 Book 9 Page 487 Film # 1009442 and 43 from LDS archives, Salt Lake, Utah.

This might have been at the end of the old man's life and he was giving his property away before he died. He would have been 68 years old. The deed records do specifically call out the middle initial as M. so this recipient is William M. Bennight. The deed was witnessed by John W. Bennight. As you can imagine, there is a lot of guess work in putting together the family after so many years, but the evidence does show without too much of a doubt that this is probably your William and Mary.

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