BENJAMIN CARPENTER

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 95-97

BENJAMIN CARPENTER was a pioneer Chicago business man, and came of a long line of New England ancestry.  He fully exemplified the hardy, enterprising character for which the people of that region have always been famous.

His family in this country began with William Carpenter, who was born in Whirwell, England, in 1605, and came in 1638, with his wife, Abigail, and four children, to Weymouth, Massachusetts, his father, William, born in 1576, coming with him.  In 1645 they removed to Rehoboth, Massachusetts.  Four more children were born to them.  The second son, John, went to Jamaica, Long Island, and had a son, grandson and great-grandson who received the same baptismal name.  The last of these in the line herein traced was born and lived most of his life at Goshen, New York, where he carried on an extensive mercantile business.  He had four stores, located at Goshen, Troy and Salina, New York, and Detroit, Michigan, and served as a member of the State Legislature of New York.  In 1779 he married Abigail Moore, cousin of Benjamin Moore, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church.  John Carpenter died at West Troy, New York, in February, 1800, at the age of fifty-six years.

Benjamin, son of John Carpenter, inherited his father’s business capacity, and had charge of the Detroit store when but seventeen years of age.  He became interested in the development of the salt works at Salina, New York (now a part of the city of Syracuse), and was prominent in business circles of central New York, where most of his life was passed.  He was married at Aurora, Cayuga County, New York, July 23, 1807, to Charlotte Bartlett Alden, daughter of Jonathan Alden, a lineal descendant of John Alden, of Plymouth Colony.

Benjamin Carpenter, the distinguished Chicagoan, was born in Manlius, Onondaga County, New York, December 4, 1809, and died at his home in Chicago April 9, 1881, having completed more than one-fourth of his seventy-second year.  His early boyhood days were passed in his native county, and when fourteen years old he went to Hartford, Trumbull County, Ohio, where he enjoyed the benefit of an academic education.  He later entered the store of Col. Richard Hayes, and for several years followed mercantile business.  From an early age he had cherished an ambition to become a lawyer, and diligently pursued the study of the law in every leisure hour.  In 1837 he removed to Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio, and entered the law office of Judge S. F. Taylor, being shortly thereafter admitted to the Bar.  When Judge Taylor moved away, a year later, Mr. Carpenter succeeded to his business, and continued successfully for nine years in the active practice of the profession.  He formed a partnership with Zaphna Lake, under the style of Lake & Carpenter, which proved a strong and successful combination.  They operated a general store at Conneaut, and carried on a large trade with owners and captains of lake craft.  They also built several large vessels, and in 1847 launched what was then the largest craft on the Great Lakes–the brig “Banner,”–and were ridiculed by their neighbors for what was considered a venturesome enterprise.

In 1850 Mr. Carpenter became a resident of the thriving young city of Chicago, which was thence-forth his home, and which was in no small degree benefited by his resolute and fearless action in the management of its municipal affairs.  Sylvester Marsh, a pioneer in the packing industry of Chicago, induced Mr. Carpenter to join him in business.   The packing house of Marsh & Carpenter was located at the foot of North State Street, and was the scene of an active and profitable industry.  At the end of two years Mr. Carpenter purchased the interest of his partner, and continued to operate it alone for five years, his plant being located on the site now occupied by James S. Kirk & Sons’ factory on North Water Street.  In 1857 he was elected member of the City Council from the then Ninth Ward, and from that date devoted most of his attention to public interests.  He was the first President of the Board of Public Works.  He was an upright man, and did not hesitate to express himself clearly and forcibly, and to act upon his convictions in both private and public life.

There was probably not a schoolhouse in Ashtabula County, Ohio, in which his voice was not heard in denunciation of slavery during the exciting times of his early manhood, and he was equally active in sustaining the cause of temperance.  He was one of the founders of Plymouth Congregational Church, and also of the New England Congregational Church of Chicago.

Being a man of most vigorous physique, he enjoyed continuous good health until 1878, when he suffered a shock of paralysis, which eventually ended his life.

He was married, September 20, 1832, to Abigail, daughter of Col. Richard Hayes, who earned his title in the War of 1812, in which he took a conspicuous part.  Colonel Hayes’ father, Sergeant Titus Hayes, was a soldier in the Connecticut line, and was with Washington at Valley Forge.

Two sons and four daughters blessed the home of Benjamin Carpenter, two of the latter dying unmarried.  His eldest son, George Benjamin Carpenter, is a prominent business man, being the senior partner in the firm of George B. Carpenter & Company, one of the oldest houses in Chicago. His second son, Clinton Bartlett Carpenter, is associated with his brother in business.  The daughters are Mary Ellen, wife of Richard I. Field; and Cornelia, wife of Philip B. Bradley, both residing in Chicago.

The grandchildren of Benjamin Carpenter, are Benjamin, George Albert, Hubbard Foster and John Alden, sons of George B. Carpenter and Elizabeth Curtis Green, his wife; Clinton Arthur, son of Clinton B. Carpenter; George Walter and Arthur Carpenter, sons of Richard I. Field; and Philip H., son of Philip B. Bradley.

Mr. Carpenter’s first wife, Abigail, died November 15, 1873, and on the 4th of February, 1875, he married Mrs. Maria Hayes Whitmore.

The character of Mr. Carpenter was most faithfully and touchingly described by his pastor, Rev. Arthur Little, a portion of whose memorial remarks is here given:

“We are here to pay the last well-deserved honors to a veteran whose life has been parallel with the most thrilling years of the most thrilling century of the world.  When he was born, this nation was young, just contending for a recognition of its rights upon the high seas and in other lands.  When he reached the age of twenty-one years, great moral and political issues were just coming into the horizon. There were before him and other young men thirty terrific, memorable years in the history of our Republic–years which should determine its life or its untimely death.  He had the insight and courage to put himself on the right side of the great question then in debate.   He became an advocate and defender of the temperance cause, when drinking habits were universal among the better classes, and when it cost something to make a stand in that behalf.  But he was born for leadership, for a place in the forefront of the battle.   Living, as he had from his youth, on the border line between freedom and slavery, his young blood was stirred in behalf of the enslaved, and he threw himself with all his youthful enthusiasm into the anti-slavery movement–then feeble and hopeless, excepting to men of faith and courage.  He became a prominent Abolitionist from principle, in a day when it was unpopular and almost odious to take such a stand.  With Giddings and Wade and Chase (who were his personal friends), and others of like spirit, he threw himself into the thickest of the fight–cast in his lot with the despised minority. * * * We can imagine the delight and satisfaction with which such a man would aid the poor fugitive who had the courage to escape from bondage across the line into the land of freedom.  It is one of the many compensations of such a service, that he who performed it should live to see all his fondest dreams and hopes realized in an enfranchised country, North and South, white and black. * * * If we inquire for the cause of this long, honored and faithful life, for the forces that made him so serviceable in his day and generation, we shall readily perceive that–first, he possessed strong native endowments.  He was a man of great physical vigor, active temperament, good judgment and sense. He was a man of affairs, such as others would look to for help, counsel, guidance, leadership.  Second–the potential force was his religious character.  This came as the result of Christian parentage and early Christian teaching.  The good counsel and benedictions bestowed upon him by a loving mother when he left the old home, while yet a boy, were remembered and heeded to his dying day. * * * He leaves, as the best legacy to his children, a good name, precious memories, a helpful example.”

                                -- Submitted on 11/29/99 by Sherri Hessick ( shessick@flash.net )