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Family of
Alexander Robert "Alex" and Emmaline Williams Benge


Tennie Mae Benge and Vance C. Porter Family


Alexander Benge Family
By Bobbie Gaspard

Alexander Robert "Alex" Benge (1853) was born in Bonham, Fannin County, Texas, and Emmaline Williams Benge (1859) was born in Athens, Henderson County, Texas. They left Seymour, Baylor County, Texas, in 1895 to come to Bay City, Texas. Alex, a saddle maker, had been asked by the founders of Bay City to relocate because of the dire need for a leather craftsman in the county. Emmaline's frail health had become a real concern to the family, so, hoping that a change of climate would be helpful, it was decided to take advantage of the offer. The journey was made in a covered wagon and an accompanying chuck wagon.

During the several months of travel many memories were made for the children who were old enough to recall the arduous trip. Ten year old Robert Ware, eight year old Alvin Eric, and six year old Tennie Mae later shared their recollections with two little sisters, Johny Graham age three and Willie Dudley age one, and the only child born after their arrival in Bay City, Grace Winona. They remembered being allowed to run along beside the wagon for exercise, and the difficulty and fear encountered when the mules had to pull the wagons up the river embankments after the rivers had been forded. Alexander, Emmaline, and Robert shared the driving of the mule teams while the smaller children rode in the back of the wagon. Tennie recalled that all of the "little ones" arrived in Bay City with no hair on the backs of their heads, having rubbed it off as they stuck their heads between the canvas and the wagon to view the scenery. The Benge family settled in a house that had been built for them on the southwest corner of Avenue F. and Thirteenth Street.

The E. Benge Saddle Shop, owned by Emmaline Benge, was established on Avenue H and Seventh Street behind the mercantile store. Alex not only made and tooled saddles, but also used the thick pieces of solid oak in which leather was shipped to build furniture. One such piece was a pedestal that was placed in the Sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church. The matching stand was placed in the Heritage Room of the church. Many of the leather and furniture items, including his tools, were placed in the possession of his grandson, Vance Benge Porter. During those years Alex was a leader and active member of the lodge, Knights of Pythias. On September 3, 1898, he was elected to serve on the Bay City school board. Following a long illness he died on February 14, 1927, and was buried in Cedarvale Cemetery.

Emmaline, a member of the Methodist Church, devoted her time to the rearing of the family and assisting her friends in their times of need. She rented rooms to two young men, Harper Martin and Wes Mayfield, for several years. After she was widowed, she maintained the family home at 2500 Avenue E until 1930, at which time she made her home with Vance and Tennie Porter. She remained with them until her death in July, 1943. Her interment was in Cedarvale Cemetery.

Robert Ware Benge (1885-1974) was born in Seymour, Baylor County, Texas, grew to young adulthood in Bay City and attended the local schools. After completing a business course he went to work for A. H. Wadsworth as a bookkeeper. During that time he was a Knight Templar and was active in the Shrine. As a Shriner he played the tuba in the Shrine Band. The American Rice Grower's Association hired him to work in Houston. After that he was, for many years, actively engaged in farming rice in the Alvin-Pearland area. He returned to Bay City in 1945 where he resided until his death. He was a regular attendant of the Wesley Bible Class of the First United Methodist Church. Cedarvale Cemetery was the site of his burial.

A plasterer by trade and a musician by instinct, Alvin Eric, born in Seymour in 1883, spent his early childhood in Bay City. As a young man he was a member of the Bay City Shrine Band. The lure of circus life attracted him and he became a drummer for Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus. World War I interrupted that , but he still pursued music as a drummer in the United States Military Band. That venture took him to many parts of Europe. For several years following World War I, he resided and worked in Houston, but in the last 1930's he returned to Bay City. Having been an accomplished drummer, he assisted Mrs. Keye Ingram in training girls for the drum corps of Keye's Kadets. He died in Houston and was buried in Cedarvale Cemetery in Bay City.

Tennie Mae (1889-1971) was graduated from Bay City High School in 1907 after which she took a business course. While she was taking the business course, she had her first gainful employment at the I. Ditch Store. In 1910 she went to Corpus Christi to be employed as a legal secretary and court reporter. From there she moved to Alice, Texas to work in the Alice bank. In 1915 she went to work for the YMCA in San Antonio, but with the possibility of World War I looming, she moved back to Bay City to be with her parents. She worked for J. P. Keller Insurance Company until May 2, 1922, when she became the wife of Vance Coralton Porter.

Johnny Graham (1892-1978) attended Bay City Schools and married Earl Johnston. After living in Bay City for several years they moved to Newgulf, Texas, where Earl was employed by Texas Gulf Sulphur Company. The following six children were born to them: Frances Miller of Edna; Jack, deceased; Kathryn Hayes of Palacios; Evelyn Layne of Houston; Gene of Boling; and Mary Ann Melton of Edna. Earl and Johnny were both buried at Roselawn Memorial Park cemetery in Van Vleck.

Willie Dudley (1895-1950) attended the Bay City schools. She was married to Harry R. McRae, Sr., and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and had four children: Tony Mae Hatton of Maybank; H. R. McRea, Jr., Commander United States Navy (died 1951); Rex, deceased; and Marjorie Hukill of Fort Worth.

Grace Winona (1898) attended Bay City Schools and joined her sister Tennie to work in Corpus Christi. She married E. E. "Jack" Johnson and they resided in Mercedes, Texas. Their two children were Jacqueline Morava of Weslaco and Peggy Whitley of Weslaco.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume II, pages 34-35

Alexander Robert Benge

Mr. Alexander Robert Benge, 74 years of age, a long time honored citizen of Bay City, died at his home yesterday afternoon after an illness of several weeks, and was laid away in Cedarvale Cemetery this afternoon at 3:30 o'clock.

"Uncle Aleck," as he was affectionately called by everyone, came to Bay City in its earliest days and engaged in the saddlery and harness making business, and reared his family here. At the time his last illness overtook him he was in the harness department of the LeTulle Mercantile Co's store.

Mr. Benge was very unique in character, friendly and ever accommodating, a most likeable citizen and splendid in companionship. He never met a stranger nor had a foe. He knew them all and they knew him.

Besides his wife he is survived by two sons and four daughters. These are R. W. and Alvin Benge; Mrs. Vance Porter, Mrs. Earl J. Johnston, all of Bay City; Mrs. Dudley McRae of Fort Worth, and Mrs. E. E. Johnson of Mercedes.

The Tribune joins the large circle of Bay City friends in sympathy in the loss of husband and father.

Matagorda County Tribune, February 18, 1927

Photo courtesy of Betty Crosby

Mrs. Benge Resident of City Since City Founded in 1895

Mrs. Emmaline Benge, relict of the late A. R. Benge, died Saturday morning at 1:45, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Vance Porter. Death came following many years of illness.

A resident of Bay City since the founding of the town in 1895, Mrs. Benge reared a large family here in Bay City. A pioneer of the city, she had seen it grow, had taken an active part in its growth in her early years and was active in church and civic affairs in her more active days.

She was preceded in death by her husband, A. R. Benge, who was a business man in the city .

She is survived by four daughters, Mrs. Vance Porter of Bay City; Mrs. Earl Johnson of Newgulf; Mrs. E. E. Johnson of Mercedes; Mrs. H. R. McKay of Fort Worth; two sons, R. W. Benge of Houston and A. E. Benge of Bay City.

Funeral services, under the direction of Matchett-Newman, were held from the funeral home Sunday at 3:30. Rev. Marvin Vance officiated at the services. Burial was in Cedarvale Cemetery.

Active pallbearers were Messrs. Layton Moore, Frank Carr, Arthur Matthes, P. A. Bond, Johnnie Harmer and Harry Mosley

Matagorda County Tribune, July 15, 1943


Robert Ware Benge (seated at left) and
Stanley Gillette (seated at right)

Alvin Eric Benge was a drummer
in the Bay City Band.

Robert Ware Benge

Robert Ware Benge, 88, a resident of Bay City passed away March 11 at his residence. Survivors include: 2 sisters, Mrs. Grace B. Johnson of Mercedes and Mrs. Johnny B. Johnston of Edna; a number of nieces and nephews. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church and the Bay City Masonic Lodge No. 865. Funeral services will be held March 13 at 2:30 p. m. at Taylor Brothers Chapel with Rev. James Thompson officiating. Interment will be at the Cedarvale Cemetery with pallbearers being: Gene Johnston, Jimmy Hayes, Gregg Gaspard, Jack Huebner, Charles Haley and Frank Craft. Mr. Benge was a member of one of the pioneer families of Matagorda County having moved here in 1895. Taylor Brothers Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

Daily Tribune, March 11, 1974


Family photos courtesy of Bobby Gaspard          Marker photos courtesy of Betty Crosby


Copyright 2013 - Present by the Porter Family
All rights reserved

Jul. 31, 2013
May 7, 2016