BENOIT, N. E.

1st Biography of Nelson Eugene BENOIT
Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, p 431

N. E. BENOIT, a successful jewelry merchant of Rockford [Winnebago County, IL], located at No. 310 West State Street, has for almost a quarter century made his home in this city, and during much of this time has been engaged in commerical pursuits.  He carries a large and complete stock of goods in his line, having one of the best houses in the city, and in connection with his jewelry trade has for the past five years also sold organs and pianos.

Mr. BENOIT is a native of the province of Quebec, Canada.  There the days of his childhood and youth were passed, and in part he there learned his trade.  His parents were Oliver and Mary (MOSIER) BENOIT, also natives of Canada, the lady of English descent.   The BENOITs are of French descent, and both families came to America about the time LaFayette crossed the water to aid the Colonies in their struggle for independence.   The parents of our subject are still residing at the old home in Canada, the father at the age of  80 years, the mother now 75 years of age.  The father has been a carriage manufacturer and is well known in his locality.

Under the parental roof our subject was reared to manhood, and before leaving home he had become familiar with the trade of carriage making and undertaking in all the details of the business.  In 1869 he came to Rockford, and soon afterward began business as a jeweler, which trade he has since followed.  He was married in VT to Miss Julia P. CHAFFIE, who was born and reared in Berkshire, Franklin County, VT, and is descended from an old New England family.  She died at their home in Rockford, 20 Jan 1871, at the age of 32 years, on the birth of their only child, who also died.  For his second wife Mr. BENOIT chose Mrs. Martha A. (HOBART) THAYER [her name should have been given here as Mrs. Martha A. (THAYER) HOBART; it is correct in the second biography, which follows], who was born in Havana [Montour Falls, Schuyler County], NY, and when a maiden of six summers came to Rockford with her parents, John and Maria THAYER, who for many years were residents of this city, but now reside in Alexandria [Hanson County], SD, where they have lived for the past eight years.

Mr. and Mrs. BENOIT are both members of the Christian Union Church, take an active part in its work, and also in public interests calculated to benefit the community or promote the general welfare.  Mr. BENOIT has led a busy and useful life, giving strict attention to his business interests, and his efforts have been blessed with prosperity.  He now not only has a good business, but is also a stockholder in the Forest City Insurance Company.  In politics he is a stalwart supporter of Republican principles.  He belongs to the Blue Lodge, the Chapter and Commandery of Rockford, and is also a member of the Elks Lodge.

2nd Biography of Nelson Eugene BENOIT
Past and Present of the City of Rockford & Winnebago County, IL, C. A. Church.   Chicago: Clarke, 1905, pp 607-608

On Sunday, 23 Mar 1902, there occurred an event which caused general mourning in the city of Rockford [Winnebago County, IL], the death of Nelson E. BENOIT, who at 2:30 departed this life.  He was a remarkable man in many respects.  He achieved splendid success in business, and in him were embodies many virtues, including a steadfast purpose, unimpeachable integrity, and devotion to the general good.  Morever he possessed a nature which enabled him to shed around him much of the sunshine of life.  This was perhaps his most distinguishing characteristic, as all who knew him were familiar with his intense good nature, his ready reply and his quick wit, but those who came within the closer circle of his friendship knew more of a kindly, generous spirit, a philanthropic purpose, and a serious and philosophic insight into life, its duties and its possibilities.  He was known in business circles of Rockford for many years as one of its leading merchants, first taking up his abode here in 1868.

Mr. BENOIT was a native of Frelighsburg, Quebec, Canada, born 06 Mar 1841.  His parents always lived in Quebec, where his father was a carriage maker by trade.  The son pursued his education in the public schools of his native county, and then became his father's assistant in the shop, there learning the trade, which, however, he followed for only a brief time.  He afterward learned the art of photography in Canada, and followed it as a business pursuit until he came to Rockford in 1868.  Here he secured a position in the paint shop of N. C. THOMPSON Company, but when he had been thus employed for about two years he turned his attention to the jewelry business, securing a position in the store of Mr. MANNING, with whom he worked for a few years.  He afteward clerked for Mr. FREIDMAN in his jewelry store for about a year, and in 1880 he purchased a stock of goods and began business on his own account at No. 310 West State Street, where he carried a complete line in jewelry, watches, clocks, silverware and fine optical goods.   At the beginning of the new enterprise he was attended with success.  The safe, conservative policy which he inaugurated commended itself to all, and the public knew that it would receive fair and honorable treatment at his hands.  He continued in the jewelry trade with constantly growing success until 1900, when he sold out to C. E. AXT, who still conducts the store.

Mr. BENOIT was married twice.  He first wedded Miss Julia P. CHAFFEE, who was born in Berkshire [Franklin County], VT, and died in Rockford in 1871.  Seven years later, in 1878, Mr. BENOIT married Mrs. Martha (THAYER) HOBART, the widow of Randolph E. HOBART, who came to Rockford and was employed in the shops of the city until his health failed him, when he returned to Plymouth [Luzerne County], PA, where he died.  Mrs. BENOIT was a daughter of John and Maria THAYER, both natives of the State of NY.  They came to Rockford in 1857, and Mrs. THAYER, who was a carpenter by trade, assisted in the erection of many of the fine buildings of this city, including the Westminster Presbyterian Church.   He afterward engaged in the pump manufacturing business under the firm name of SPRINGER & THAYER, conducting that enterprise with success for several years.  He next removed to Dakota, and afterward visited CA, and while on a return trip to Rockford he was taken ill, dying before he reached his destination.  He was well known in this city, and many friends entertained for him warm regard.  His widow, now aged 87 years, makes her home in Rockford with her two daughters, Mrs. BENOIT and Mrs. TYMESEN, at No. 1003 Haskell Avenue.  Unto Mr. and Mrs. THAYER were born five children, of whom four are four are yet living, Mrs. BENOIT being the third in order of birth.  The others are Clara W., the wife of Harvey L. TYMESEN, who is engaged in the express business in Rockford; Mrs. Frank JOHNSON, who is residing in Los Angeles, CA; and Mrs. A. I. MANNY, who was formerly a prominent business man of Rockford and now resides in Chicago.

Mr. BENOIT disposed of his business interests in Rockford on account of ill health, and then went to CA, where he spent about nine months.  On the expiration of that period he returned to Rockford with the intention of going again to CA and make that state his home, but while here he entered into partnership with W. H. ALLEN in the organization and control of the business of the Rockford Glass Company,  Mr. BENOIT managing the store, while Mr. ALLEN traveled upon the road selling their goods.  In Jan 1902, however, Mr. BENOIT was taken ill.  He somewhat recovered his health, but again became worse, and on 23 Mar 1902 he passed away.

In his political relations he was a republican, and fraternally he was a 32nd degree and Knight Templar Mason.  He was also a member of the Odd Fellows, the Elks, and other fraternal societies.  He and his wife attended the Christian Union church, and it was there that his funeral services were held.  There were few men better known in Rockford and certainly none more popular.  He was called "Benny," a term of good fellowship, popularity and affection.  It is said that none ever heard an ill work spoken of him.  He was to every one who came in contact with him a merry soul, brimming over with good nature and kindness and scattering sunshine wherever he went.  

A local paper said of him:  "His kindess of heart, his tolerance of the views of others, his sympathy for the weak and unfortunate were qualities which always abided with him, not ostentatiously, for it was only upon close acquaintance that his true nature became revealed.  He was a lifelong republican in politics and was happy in his fidelity to his party's principles, though he was generous to a fault with those who held opposing views.  The passing throng knew him best as a wit, and in this regard he was unique.  His sallies into the grotesque and ridiculous were always free from bitterness or malediction.  His sayings and characteristic descriptions of places and incidents which came into his daily life never failed to arouse wholesome laughter.   Had he placed his genius as a humorist more into the public eye, thousands would now mourn for one who had brought sunshine into their lives.  He will never be forgotten by scores of friends on whom his bright sayings were bestowed so prodigally.   His genial ways made warm friendships among people of all ages and all classes of men.  He was one of the best known business men in the city, and was respected by all for his rectitude in his dealings.  He was a type of merchant which the new order of things will not produce, for with him trade was a pleasant experience not only of merchandise, but of good fellowship.  A French-Canadian by birth, he was intensely loyal to his adopted country.  He loved America, its progress, its catholicity of opinion and its its democracy.  The death of President McKinley was a great shock to him, for he idolized the martyred President.  To those who knew him well the deep sincerity and philosophic mood which lay under his most excellent humor rounded out his nature into an ideal worthy of any man's affinities, and a treasure for those who learned to appreciate his true worth."

Among the numerous tributes to Mr. BENOIT's life and condolences received by Mrs. BENOIT is the following from one of his most intimate acquaintances, Frank C. LANDER:   "Dear Friend:  Sympathy is but an empty name in the depths of a sorrow like yours, but I cannot refrain from giving expression to the profound grief which is mine through the great loss you have sustained.  I know as could few others the rare nobility of character, the loyalty in friendship, the almost womanly tenderness, the unselfish generosity, the charity for the weaknesses of others and the willingness to forgive and forget the blows received in the strife we call life which belonged to the departed one, and I loved him as I have loved no other man save my father.  In lightening the burdens of others and increasing the happiness of all who came within the circle of his genial influence he found for himself the only enduring joy which earth affords.  None knew him but to hold him in the highest esteem, and in all the years I have been privileged to call him my friend I have never heard an ill word spoken of him in any connection.  Rest and peace are his; while the rich heritage of his spotless name and honorable career are yours.  I do not believe that ever man stood before the great white throne of eternal justice with cleaner hands or a purer heart than Nelson E. BENOIT."

Mrs. BENOIT is now residing with her sister and mother at No. 209 South West Street, but has spent much of her time since her husband's death in traveling, mostly in the west, spending much time with her sisters in CA and CO, and she intends soon to take up her permanent abode in CA.

Submitted by Cathy Kubly.