The following article appeared in the Trenton Nebraska, Republican Leader circa 1 October 1935. The paper was published as TRENTON’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION. The writer of the article, then in his 87th year, was George W. Benjamin father of Willie Hinkle and grandfather to Frances M. Hinkle. Frances was born Trenton Nebraska 27 December 1910. She later married Robert F. Prest of Trenton Nebraska. Most of their married life was spent as residents of McCook Nebraska. The goal here is to preserve this small piece of the history of our family as it was recounted in the first person and provides a few of the life and character of our forebearers.
The writer as born in 1848 in White county, Indiana and lived on a farm until the age of fifteen. I entered the Civil war on December 1, 1863 and was mustered out of the service April 26, 1866. My father had been killed at the battle of Champion Hills, Miss on May 16,1863. He belonged to the 46th Indiana regiment; I belonged to the 129th Indiana volunteers and participated in all of the battles of the Atlanta campaign from Chattanooga to Jonesburrough, Ga., then followed the rebel general Hood to Tennessee. I fought in the battles of Columbia, Springhill, Franklin, and Nashville.
I was then transferred round to North Carolina and fought in the Battle of Kingston on March 10 and 11, 1865. Made a junction with Sherman’s army on March 22 and participated in the surrender of Joseph E Johnson on April 26. My regiment was retained in North Carolina until April 1866.
I arrived home May 1, 1866 and went to the farm in New York, Indiana the next day. I stayed with the farm until November 1, 1868 then started to Nebraska with a team and covered wagon. Crossed the Missouri river on December 1, 1868 on the steam ferry, “The Belle of Brownville.” My sweetheart and her folks were waiting for us when the boat landed. They had preceded me in April as I could not get away then.
Tabitha Ann Hickman and I were married on December 10, 1868 and I went to work the next day for my brother-in-law, J. W. Cullen, who had taken a contract to grade Sixth street in Brownville. After this job was finished we both moved out on farms.
My wife and I spent eighteen years of our early life in Nemaha county among the best people on earth. Then we decided to come to Trenton as some of our friends had located there. From Nemaha county I came here on January 1, 1897. I located on the east half section of 22, township 1, range 33. I bought James Widdemans relinquishment paying him $1,600.00 for same and I still own the old ranch.
I went back to Nemaha county and moved the family out, getting here March 1. Got busy and built a house. Had plenty to do when I got here as settlers (I might say pioneers) had organized what they called “The Farmers Protective Association”. I hadn’t been here two weeks until I was a member. Headquarters was at Cornell.
Sometime in March my brother-in-law, Albert Hickman, lost twelve head of horses. He and I spent several days hunting for them and finally, (I won’t mention names in this case), we heard of them in a big pasture near where Beardsley, Kansas is now. The Association detailed two men to go and get the horses. It was night when the men got to where the horses were, the horses were all there and they settled with the parties, who claimed the horses were strays, paying what they demanded. But when morning came the horses were gone. The men hunted all that day but never found them and came back and reported. Then the organization sent Hickman and myself down with instructions what to do. We went to Atwood and started suit against the party, and about the third morning after this the horses were all home in the lot, so all we could do was to stop the suit and pay the costs.
Then next came up the school question. A few of the settlers called at my house and talked over school matters. I had some old school meeting blanks that I had brought with me from Nemaha county, so we filled those out, called a school meeting and elected a school board and made a levy, but we had no money.
C. H. Paddock was elected treasurer, Will Sydow as moderator and myself as director. Miss Ada English had a homestead near the center of the district and wanted to prove up on her claim. To do this she had to live on the land six months before she could make final proof. Mr. Paddock met Miss English in Trenton one day, She said to him “I will teach a three month’s school for you for $20.00 a month and board myself.” Mr. Paddock came up to see me and we gave her the school.
The night of June 16th, 1988 Mr. Simeon Skinner had his team of horses, a small colt and a new set of harness stolen. The Farmers Association got busy and by 9 a. m. the next day, thirty men were in the chase. About sundown two men, one named Huston, and a big Swede, named Youson, came up with a man and the horses, and in the melee, the man was shot four times by Huston. The coroner’s inquest turned us all loose and the thief was buried at a place called Hawkeye. The killing took place four miles northwest of Rexford, Ks.
The people of Hitchcock county made me treasurer in the fall of 1889 and reelected me in 1891. I was treasurer four years and moved back to the farm. In the fall of 1898 I was elected to the legislature. Myself and Mr. Anderson from Fillmore county were unseated. The Republicans wanted to elect a US. Senator, and after they had unseated us, they voted us full pay for that session.
In 1905, I was elected county commissioner for a three year term.
On September 24, 1906 I lost my wife, the mother of all my children. I kept the home going several years, then married Mrs. S. C. Nation of Bedford, Ia., on November 17. We moved to Trenton where I have lived since. My wife passed away in 1926.
For the past nine years I have lived in Trenton. I came to Nebraska when there were no railroads west of the Missouri river. The state had just been admitted to the union and had a population of 127,000. I have seen the state grow to 1,130,000 population and the best citizens in the whole United States.
Sixty-seven years of my life have been spent in Nebraska, forty-eight in Hitchcock county. I have seen the good years and all the bad years in that time, but I have always had faith in my country and in Nebraska. I have made a living. I have raised my family and no man ever heard me say I was going to leave Nebraska. I have served my country; I have served my state and my county. My home is in Trenton and here I expect to spend the balance of my days. I sometimes wonder, “Has my life been lived in vain?”