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Porter Benson, A Tragic Ending

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Catalog Information

Porter Benson, A Tragic Ending
Accession Number
Date Added
9/9/2020 5:42:01 PM
Historical People
Gift of
Robert Underhill
Collection Title
Collection Description
Phil Mandolare
Format Description
Search Engine Type
This account is from:

History of Rutland County, Vermont
Edited by: H. P. Smith and W. S. Rann
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Syracuse, N. Y. 1886

BENSON, PORTER, the subject of this sketch, was born in Clarendon on the 22d of September, 1833. His father was M. D. Benson, who came into this State from Massachusetts. The boy Porter obtained a good English education in the common schools and at the Black River Academy, at Ludlow. Aside from the time thus spent his years until he reached his majority were spent in hard labor upon his father's farm.

When he reached twenty years of age his father died, leaving a considerable estate, the principal part of which consisted of two farms in the town of Clarendon, one of them being on the hill near Clarendon Springs. The son was deemed the best person to settle the estate and accordingly he was appointed administrator. His father's family consisted of his wife (who was Laura Spring before her marriage, daughter of Amos Spring, of Clarendon), and four children: the eldest was Elizabeth, who married Moses W. Kelly, a farmer of Clarendon; next was Porter; the third, Willis, who now lives in Wallingford; and Eliza, married A. Jay Newton, a farmer of Clarendon. The settlement of the estate was executed by the son Porter in the best and most satisfactory manner, the farm near Clarendon coming into his own hands, through the purchase of the interest of one of his sisters. On the 1st of January, 1855, he was married to Maria Ripley, daughter of Eleazer Ripley, of Bennington. They resided five years on the hill farm, mentioned, when he sold it and purchased a farm in the Otter Creek valley, where he spent the remainder of his life and where his widow and her children now reside.

This merely indicates that Porter Benson was one of the great body of successful farmers of Vermont; but he was much more than this. He was possessed of much more than common business and executive capacity, and soon extended his work far beyond the limits of his agricultural pursuits. He began dealing in farm machinery, in which he was unusually successful, and held many of the most valuable general agencies, appointing sub agents throughout the county; in this way he did a large and successful business, and always to the eminent satisfaction of those with whom he became connected. He thus enjoyed an extended acquaintance in all parts of the county; indeed, there were few men who were better known. The men with whom he dealt came to look upon him as a sort of leader and general counselor in all matters of importance. For example, when the project of sending a milk train from this county to New York was developed, Mr. Benson was sent by his constituents to the metropolis on several occasions, to make all necessary arrangements; and numerous similar instances might be enumerated, showing the confidence reposed in him. Public office was also tendered him until he had held nearly all positions in the gift of his townsmen, He was collector a number of years including the war period, when the duties of that office were peculiarly onorous and responsible, and held the place until he declined further election. He was also constable for a long period; was selectman at the time of his death, and overseer of the poor. In 1866-67 he was sent to the Legislature, where he was efficient in sustaining the war measures of that period. Republican in politics, he entered with his usual energy into all the necessary labors of recruiting the town's quotas of soldiers, and had more to do, perhaps, in this respect than any other citizen. In short, he was in all respects a popular and successful man. This is further shown by the following brief extract from an editorial in the Rutland Globe published on the occasion of his untimely death:-

"Porter Benson was widely known and esteemed as a man and a citizen. A man of more than ordinary business tact and capacity, his relations to society and the public have been of a prominent character. As a citizen, he was public spirited and energetic in the promotion of all that pertained to the welfare and prosperity of the town of his residence; in fact, also of our town and the county and State. In his own immediate community he may be said to have been a leader."

On the 13th of December, 1876, Mr. Benson started from his home to carry his daughter to school in Rutland. In crossing the railroad track at Freight street, his horse became frightened at an approaching engine, shied from the road and the wheels of the carriage struck a pile of earth and snow, throwing the daughter to the ground. As he turned in his seat to see how she had fallen, he deemed for a moment to lose control of the animal, and in another instant he was precipitated to the hard roadway. He was rendered unconscious and continued partly so for three days; and although everything that human skill could do was done for him, he died on the loth, without ever having spoken after the casualty. His funeral was attended at his home on the 23d, when his remains were followed by a large concourse of his former friends and acquaintances. The funeral sermon was delivered by Rev. Mr. Morse, who paid the deceased the following tribute:-

"I address a large number who have known him in the business and social relations; you know how worthily he walked, and what honor guided his life in all his transactions; a, reputation any man has reason to be proud of. He has held many positions of honor and trust and has always served his fellow citizens faithfully. He has received the homage of the poor and the homage of gratitude from his fellow men."

Mr. Benson was the father of five children, as follow: Amelia L., born December 16, 1856, married Charles Holden, now of Proctor. Hannibal P., born May 20, 1860, married Jessie Webb, of Clarendon, and lives on the homestead with his mother, Elizabeth M., born April 9, 1862. Sarah M., born April 22, 1865, lives at home. Frank M., born August 16, 1874, and living at home.

He was a well regarded an important person as can be seen in the press coverage his accident and subsequent death garnered.  The newspaper articles below in sequence are:

Dec. 19, 1876 Rutland Daily Globe reporting the initial accident.
Dec. 20, 1876 Rutland Daily herald giving an update on his condition.
Dec. 21, 1876 Rutland Daily Herald reporting his death.
Dec. 25, 1876 Rutland Daily Herald reporting on his funeral.

A home owned by Porter's mother can be seen at the Laura Benson House entry in the Homes collection. 

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