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Ancestors of Bernard 'Ben' Charles Benson

 
Compiled and Submitted by Linda Benson Cox

 

Generation No. 1

 

        1.  Bernard 'Ben' Charles Benson, born 03 February 1899 in North Beaver Township, Lawrence County,  Pennsylvania; died 09 June 1949 in Lynwood,  Los Angeles County, California.  He was the son of 2. Benjamin John Benson and 3. Augusta Charlotte Anderson.  He married (1) Katherine 'Katie' Harriet Clark 31 January 1930 in Santa Barbara, California.  She was the daughter of James 'Frank' Clark and Maud T. Dumas.

 

Notes for Bernard 'Ben' Charles Benson:

        On May 11, 1915 Bernard C. Benson graduated from Mt. Jackson High School as Valedictorian. The principal, C.W. Cubbison said that Bernard was "the smartest student" he ever had, per Aunt Anna Benson, his older sister, who was an admired junior high teacher in New Castle for forty-four years. He then attended State College in Pennsylvania for two years studying agriculture.

        From 1914 to 1919, World War I, or The Great War raged; the United States joined in 1917. He then went into the Army Training Corps for one year at State College. Bernard Benson joined the Army Training Corps on October 7, 1918 and was honorably discharged April 30, 1919 due to demobilization of the Student Army Training Corps. He is listed on his discharge paper as being 19 years of age, 5 feet 10 and ½ inches tall, gray eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion, and a farmer.

        After Ben left home he worked on farms in Illinois and Ohio as a milk tester.  A milk tester tests milk and/or cream to determine milk fat content and must have licensure with the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and keep meticulous production records to track cow performance.  His parents raised "registered Hereford" cows for their milk production and their goal was to have the best registered Hereford 's in the state! Undoubtedly Dad remembered leading heifers around the farm and helping with feeding the cows, driving the tractor, making hay and silage, and harvesting the oats.  Marge Benson, his niece, grew up on the Benson farm and remembers a pet cow named Violet who lived 17 years.  The kids would ride her, but said a horse was more comfortable.

        He ended up in Alaska in the 1920's working for, it is assumed, a logging company. 

 

California Death Record:

http://vitals.rootsweb.com/ca/death/search.cgi

Last Name               First Name              Middle    Birth Date               Mother Maiden      Father Last              Sex           Birth Place              Death Place        Residence        Death Date              SSN         Age          Post-ems

BENSON                BERNARD             CHARLES              02/03/1899                                              M            PENNSYLVANIA                 LOS ANGELES(19)                       06/09/1949                              50 yrs      Add

 

More About Bernard 'Ben' Charles Benson:

Fact 1: 03 February 1899, Born in New Castle, PA.  Also known as Ben.

Fact 2: 12 May 1915, Graduated Valedictorian in 1916 from The Public Hi School of N. Beaver Township.

Fact 3: 1915-1917, Went to State College in PA for two years. (Farming).

Fact 4: 07 October 1918, Served in the Army Training Corps for one year.

Fact 5: 30 April 1919, Honorably Discharged.

Fact 6: Traveled to Ohio (farmed),  Alaska (logging camp), and CA.

Fact 7: Worked as a milk tester for the dairies.

Fact 8: 31 January 1930, Married Katherine Harriet Clark in Santa Barbara, CA.

Fact 9: 1934, Bought the house at 11148 Linden Street for $1500.

Fact 10: 1934, Bought the lot next door for $500.

Fact 11: He loved going to the symphonies.

Fact 12: Tall, fair build, very tan, blue-grey eyes, brown hair.

Cause of Death: Cerebral Thrombosis - Died at 50 years, is buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park, CA

Medical Information: Grey eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion, a farmer.

 

Notes for Katherine 'Katie' Harriet Clark:

KATHERINE BENSON        Request Information

        SSN 562-46-9792           Residence:              

        Born                21 Jul 1904             Last Benefit:             

        Died                9 Aug 1990             Issued:     CA (1952)

 

Bald Knob in Swedish is: Skallig Vred

 

California Death Record:

http://vitals.rootsweb.com/ca/death/search.cgi

BENSON               KATHERINE         HARRIET              07/21/1904              DUMAS                 CLARK F                ARKANSAS ALAMEDA(01)                              08/09/1990              562-46-9792           86 yrs     

 

More About Katherine 'Katie' Harriet Clark:

Fact 1: 21 July 1904, Born in Bald Knob, Arkansas. Also known as Katie.

Fact 2: Abt. 1918, Moved to West Texas & then Belen, NM & then Gallup, NM; Grandaddy was a railroad man.

Fact 3: 24 May 1923, Graduated from McKinley High School, Gallup, NM, as Kathrine Clarke.

Fact 4: 1924, Moved to California with Frankie and James Frank.

Fact 5: 31 January 1930, Married Bernard Charles Benson in Santa Barbara, CA. They had a son and a daugher.

Fact 6: 1940-1949, She played bridge, was president of the PTA.

Fact 7: 1949-1969, Worked as a Cafeteria Manager at Mark Twain Elementary School in Lynwood.

Fact 8: 1969-1979, She tutored English as a Second Language.

Fact 9: Abt. 1980, Moved from Lynwood to Hemet, CA.

Fact 10: Abt. 1988, Moved to Livermore, CA to be near daughter.

Fact 11: SSN# 562-46-9792  She went to the Methodist Church.

Fact 12: She was average in height and weight & had dark brown hair, blue eyes, was fair.

Cause of Death: 09 August 1990.  Died of metastatic breast cancer in Livermore, CA.

Medical Information: 13 August 1990 Cremated by Neptune Society.

                                                

 

Generation No. 2

 

        2.  Benjamin John Benson, born 29 December 1862 in Övre Ljungvik, Mjöbäck, Älvsborgs Iän, Svenljunga, Västra Götaland, Sweden; died 08 April 1937 in New Castle, Lawrence County,  Pennsylvania.  He was the son of 4. Bengt Karl Bengtsson and 5. Johanna Johansdotter.  He married 3. Augusta Charlotte Anderson 11 October 1889 in Tvååker, Sweden.

        3.  Augusta Charlotte Anderson, born 16 November 1864 in Åhs 2,  Tvååker, Varberg, Halland Iän, Sweden; died 16 November 1938 in New Castle, Lawrence County,  Pennsylvania.  She was the daughter of 6. Anders Larsson and 7. Beata Persdotter.

 

Notes for Benjamin John Benson:

Joanna and Bengt Carl Bengtsson lived after they were married in (Mossode, which means moss waste).  It was a a pile of rocks in a pretty forest, which had been fields a hundred years ago.  It was explained that basically they were squatting on someone else's land, which was permitted.  But they had nothing of their own and no hope for their two sons, John,  and Sven his younger brother.  John and Sven left home when they were 18 and 15 to be farmhands, which was common practice in those days (1882).  Parents couldn't afford to keep their children so they hired them out as farmhands.

 

Ljungvik Övre was where Bengt Cark Bengtsson was born 24 December 1826.  It too was a pile of stones and also has a marker.   The markers are cast metal signs with the name of the place, in this case, "Ljungvik Övre" embossed on them.  They stand eye height and are on wooden posts.  This sight was grown over with a tangle of wild flowering vines and was in a place hard to access, and one had to push through tall hedges to get there.  It apparently was at one time a farm and was situated not far from a bigger still-working farm.  It is thought that Joanna and Bengt may have lived here for a while and that there sons, Bengt and Sven Bengtsson were born there and they moved to Mossode later, when Bengt built Mossode for them.

 

New Castle, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania in Swedish is: Ny Borg Lawrence Grevskap, USA

 

Dairying by Linda Cox 2000

        Dairying was once a way of country life, privately owned and operated by small families, like the Benson family. It was the way of life for thousands of Americans in those days.  The typical family grew corn, oats and alfalfa hay to feed the herd of Holstein milking cows as well as the young stock of calves and heifers, as did the Benson's.  Back in the old days farming was a lot harder than it is today. In those days, the farmer with dairy cows separated milk and shipped his cream by truck or railroad in ten-gallon cans.  Hand milking has become a thing of the past, however it was the way to do it back then. After milking, milk was stored in 10-gallon cans and stored in a water-based cooler till it was picked up.  Feeding was also harder.  During the milking session, feed had to be brought in by hand carried buckets. The development of modern dairying began around 1850. People who came before us in the 19th and early 20th century helped establish the pattern of our farmsteads today.  In 1925 for instance - 10 cows "was a lot of work for one man!" 

        A typical Pennsylvania dairy farm had the original dairy barn and milk house, (called the milking center), and was usually surrounded by lean-tos, silos, outside yards and feed bunks, just as was the Benson farm.  One can read a lot of the history of the farm by looking at barn shapes, rooflines and building materials that have been attracted to this original milking center.  Milk truck drivers would perform their own version of "milk truck rodeo" as they maneuvered big trucks off of busy roads down and around narrow driveways, silos, and gateposts.  Why?  To get to the milking center, of course! 

        Dairying is the business of producing, processing, and distributing milk and milk products. Ninety percent of the world's milk is obtained from cows.  In the United States, dairy products account for nearly 16% of the food consumed annually.  Pennsylvania is among the leading states in milk production where dairy farming flourishes in eastern Pennsylvania.  Cattle graze on the rolling hills in the southeastern part of the state.  Most of Pennsylvania is made up of hills, plateaus, ridges, and valleys.  It was an awesome site to see doe-eyed, cloven-hoofed Holstein calves and their moms grazing contentedly in the verdant fields in the old days. 

        Corn and hay are the leading field crops.  Much of the corn and hay is used to feed the state's cattle. Other important field crops include oats, potatoes, soybeans, tomatoes, and wheat.  Farmland covers about a third of Pennsylvania's land area.  Coal is Pennsylvania's most important mined product, and the Benson farm was strip-mined in the 1980's. Among Pennsylvania's other mineral products, limestone and natural gas are most important. Limestone is used to make cement and roadbeds.  Grandfather Benson worked in the limestone quarries when he first came to America in Bessemer, Pennsylvania and the road in front of the farmhouse was paved with limestone.  Ernie Benson helped to lay the road in the 1930's; it was his first job.

 

The Benson Story by Linda Cox 2001

        In the first years after my grandparents arrived in America in October of 1889, they had two babies that died in infancy, Bertha and Carl. Bertha was born December 21, 1990 and lived two and 1/2 months. Carl was born August 19, 1897 and lived six and ½ months. Their first male child to survive was my father. He was born in Bessemer, Pennsylvania on February 3, 1899 and was named Bernard Charles Benson. His certificate of birth designates him as "Barney Benson," names being often misspelled, due to Swedish accents, no doubt. Had he been born in Sweden, his name would have been Barnhardt Charles Bengtsson. His father's name was Bengt Johan Bengtsson, which was translated to Benjamin John Benson at Castle Gardens, New York Harbor, at the southern end of Manhattan Island where the ship they arrived on, landed. Both men were called "Ben," and Granddad was also, more often, called "John," as well as "B.J."  

        John and Augusta had met in southern Sweden at the farm in Tvääker where 'Johan' was working as a farmhand.  They were married at Tvääker Church on October 11, 1889. They boarded a ship, the S.S. City of New York on the Inman Line, out of Pier #34, Gothenburg, Sweden on October 25, 1889 for America two weeks later. The "City of New York" was an iron built, 3,019 gross ton, screw propulsion steamer with a speed of 14 knots. The trip took six weeks and it cost them 200 Pounds to travel steerage. They were 27 and 25 years old. The State of New York had opened the very first examining and processing center for immigrants on an island off the southwest tip of Manhattan (Castle Garden), an immigrant landing depot, where they disembarked.

        Johan was born December 29, 1862 in Mjöbäck, Sweden. Augusta was born October 16, 1864 at Åhs 2, Tvååker, Sweden.  In 1880, Grandfather left his home in Alvsborg Province when he was 18, with his younger brother, Sven who was 15. The house they lived in was one tiny room with a hearth, a table and chairs, built-in beds and a spinning wheel.  They had a few acres to till and a cow and their parents had to work a few days a week at a neighboring farm to make ends meet.

        His mother was Johanna Johansdotter and had been born in a 'soldier's torp' or small farm that was awarded to her father for serving in the army.  They had a very small cottage and just a few acres of land and life was hard.  His father was Bengt Karl Bengtsson.  He built their cottage and he was a butcher for local farmers, especially the Christmas pig.  (He died in a household fire and Joanna died in an old people's home in Mjöbäck.)

        Times were very hard then, with people subsisting on pickled herring and rye bread, and the two boys left searching for work. John became a farm worker and Augusta was the daughter of a neighboring prosperous farmer. The Anderssons had a nice big farmhouse and several barns, many cattle, and fields full of tall wheat, barley, and rye.  Everyday she would go to the neighboring farm to see her sister Sofia, where John worked. Her sister was married to a farmer named Sven Bengtsson.  (Sofia had twelve children, and three died young.)  This caused no end of confusion to us genealogists.  We assumed that sisters had married brothers, when in reality Sven Bengtsson is a very common name.  (Johan's brother, Sven Bengtsson married a lady named Britta Andersdotter and he bought a farm in Munkagard, Tvååker.  They had two children.) It is thought that her parents did not approve of the match, and that she was marrying beneath herself. Her name in Swedish was Augusta Charlotta Andersdotter, which translated into English as Augusta Charlotte Anderson. 

        Large families and generations of divided inheritances led to the fragmenting of farms into tiny land holdings. Poor soil was laid under the plow, and the cottages of tenant farmers and landless laborers multiplied. The population of some parishes doubled three times over.   In the middle of the nineteenth century, Sweden was a land of poverty, want and social frustration.  Swedish emigration primarily had the same causes as the contemporary population surge from Northern and Western Europe: population pressure, economic and - above all - agricultural hardships, a profound social crisis, widespread political and religious discontent. 

        "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream."

-Mark Twain

        Many people followed other family members or friends who had already moved away. Originally John and Augusta were bound for Illinois, where two of her sisters, Anna and Emma, had settled, where there were great Swedish housing areas in Rockford County, Illinois.  Tales and promises of better living conditions, prosperity, or opportunity to start a new life were irresistible lures.

        The economic problems of an area can cause people to migrate.  The major part of Sweden's population lived in the country and by mid 1850s eighty per cent of the population was occupied in farming.  The emigration to America had started in the mid 1840s.  People left Sweden because of bad economic conditions, religious intolerance or political beliefs.  Statistically the emigration to America had three peaks: 1868-72, 1880-93 and 1901-10.  During 1850-1930 over a million people left Sweden with hopes of better lives for themselves and their descendants. Over 90 percent of the population lived in the countryside in the beginning and about 75 percent at the end of the nineteenth century.   A net of emigration agents co-operated with the shipping companies to organize the trips, which started out mostly from Gothenburg. The emigration divided the Swedish people into two branches, one in Sweden and one in America. About one fifth of all Swedes lived in America at the beginning of this century. It is an estimate that there are as many Americans of Swedish descent today as there are inhabitants in Sweden, or a little more than eight million.

        New York met the newcomers with a forest of masts. The impression created by the big city must have been overwhelming for the children of the soil. Strange tongues and the busy activities of the "runners" were nerve-racking and bewildering.  For most the seaport was only one step along the way, a place to change means of transportation for the journey inland.

        They traveled by train from New York and went through the area where the Johnstown Flood had occurred six months before.  There were still animal corpses lying about and household items hanging from trees. 

        When they got to Pennsylvania, after stopping in nearby Youngstown, Ohio, where Augusta's brother John Anderson lived, they stayed with friends and Granddad got a job in the limestone quarry in Hillsville. They moved to a row house in nearby Bessemer, when Grandmother grew frightened of the Black Hand. If a family disagreed with authority and they later found a cardboard "Black Hand" on their door, the worker would turn up "missing" permanently. Granddad worked 14 years in the quarries, from 1889 until 1903 and saved until they had enough money to sharecrop the Kirk Farm, which they sharecropped in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Bernard was four years old when they moved to the Kirk farm in lovely verdant, rolling hills.

        Sharecropping is an agricultural economic system in which the farm is worked by someone other than the landowner in return for a share of the crops. The details can vary but a common arrangement is that the landowner provides all equipment as well as the land and receives half of the crop. Sometimes the owner provides a portion of the seed too. When livestock is involved and the "crop" is meat or milk then the details vary as well, but the principle of a tenant farmer who works for a share of the proceeds rather than a wage remains the same.

        The Kirk Farm still stands today, being built 1835. Near the farmhouse is the 'corncrib house', a house that used to be a corncrib in Grandpa's day. The same old barn and outbuildings stand beneath spreading chestnut trees. A winding lane goes through the middle of the farm, which is down the road a piece from the Benson Farm. 

        During those years from 1893-1897, there was Financial Panic in the United States, causing a depression. It must have been a struggle for a young immigrant family. Somehow they scraped enough savings together to move. John was 39 when he moved the family to the Kirk Farm. Bernard had two older sisters at time they moved, Anna who was ten, and Alma who was eight. He also had one younger brother, Ernest who was two. This means that Anna and Alma were doing a lot of work on the farm and a lot of baby-sitting, as well. During their stay there, two more boys were born; John in 1904, and Ted in 1906.

        They stayed at the Kirk Farm until they had saved enough money to buy their own farm in New Castle in 1910. That is 21 years after they arrived in America and seven years after they had farmed the Kirk Farm. They bought the new farm from the Mr. and Mrs. John Louer for just under $1,000.00. The farmhouse had been built in 1835 and is still standing today. In the year 2000, that $1,000.00 would be $18,486.88, but the farm would really cost maybe $300,000.00 today. (So we have inflation plus the inflated cost of housing and land to think of.)

        In 1910 Grandpa was 46 years old and Bernard was eleven. Anna was 17 and ready to teach school. There was no college in those days, so she went from being a student one semester to being the teacher the next, in a two-room schoolhouse. Alma was 15 and stopped school to help on the farm. She raised chickens and sold eggs in addition to helping with chores and looking after the little ones. The three younger boys were nine, six and four. Everyone had their chores and was up at the crack of dawn.

        As a cousin said, 'that darn coal stove was the alarm clock on the farm! - Clump, Clump, Clump, down the stairs he would come. Then Grandfather would hook out a lid and slam it down, hook out the other lid and slam it down, hook up the divider and slam it down…rumba, rumba, rumba - shake all the ashes out, pull that thing out, slam it - throw in the wood, which was bang, bang - corn cobs with the kerosene smell on it - then get the coal bucket - and you couldn't shake it out like this - you had to slam the coal bucket against the side of the stove so the coal would slide in there - drop a match in it and start slamming the lids back on - the last slam, that meant he was turning around he was heading for the door and there was supposed to be a line right behind him - walk out on the porch and you grabbed up the milk cans and milk buckets and the strainer and you headed for the barn…"

        The Benson farm was a successful dairy farm. Over the years John rented extra land nearby to farm and raised the crops needed to feed the Hereford cows he raised. He had the top of the line farm equipment and he and his sons went around to neighboring farms with the threshers, the combines, and the horse drawn plows. All of the children helped with the work and learned to be thrifty.

        In 1910-15, big open-geared gas tractors came into use in areas of extensive farming; in 1915-20, enclosed gears were developed for tractors; and in 1918, a small prairie-type combine with auxiliary engine was introduced.  In 1926 a successful light tractor was developed; in the 1930's an all-purpose, rubber-tired tractor with complementary machinery came into wide use. In 1930 one farmer supplied 9.8 persons in the United States and abroad.

        On May 11, 1915 Bernard C. Benson graduated from Mt. Jackson High School as Valedictorian. The principal, C.W. Cubbison said that Bernard was "the smartest student" he ever had, per Aunt Anna Benson, his older sister, who was an admired junior high teacher in New Castle for forty-four years. He then attended State College in Pennsylvania for two years studying agriculture.

        From 1914 to 1919, World War I, or The Great War raged; the United States joined in 1917. He then went into the Army Training Corps for one year at State College. Bernard Benson joined the Army Training Corps on October 7, 1918 and was honorably discharged April 30, 1919 due to demobilization of the Student Army Training Corps. He is listed on his discharge paper as being 19 years of age, 5 feet 10 and ½ inches tall, gray eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion, and a farmer.

        After Ben left home he worked on farms in Illinois and Ohio as a milk tester.  A milk tester tests milk and/or cream to determine milk fat content and must have licensure with the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and keep meticulous production records to track cow performance.  His parents raised "registered Hereford" cows for their milk production and their goal was to have the best registered Hereford 's in the state! Undoubtedly Dad remembered leading heifers around the farm and helping with feeding the cows, driving the tractor, making hay and silage, and harvesting the oats.  Marge Benson, his niece, grew up on the Benson farm and remembers a pet cow named Violet who lived 17 years.  The kids would ride her, but said a horse was more comfortable.

        He ended up in Alaska in the 1920's working for, it is assumed, a logging company. 

 

 

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Compiled and Submitted by Linda Benson Cox


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