Surprise – 52 Ancestors – Week 6 (2019)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered my paternal great-grandfather, Philander Bennett, was a political figure. I had no idea that any of my ancestors were interested in, much less involved in, politics at any level.

A search on https://books.google.com for “’Philander Bennett’ Coalton” resulted in Annual Report of the Secretary of State to the Governor of the State of Ohio for the Year Ending November 15, 1894 [Columbus, Ohio: The Westbote Co., State Printers, 1895], and also the same report for the years ending in November 15, 1895, November 15, 1896, and November 15, 1897.

SecofStateOhio1894-CoalTwnshipTrustees-Philander Bennett-p165

Annual Report of the Secretary of State to the Governor of the State of Ohio, for the Year Ending November 15, 1894. (Columbus, Ohio: Westbote Co., State Printers, 1895), page 165; digital images, GoogleBooks (https://books.google.com: acccessed 11 February 2019).

SecofStateOhio1897-CoalTwnshipTrustees-Philander Bennett-p171

Annual Report of the Secretary of State to the Governor of the State of Ohio, for the Year Ending November 15, 1897. (Norwalk, Ohio: The Laning Printing Company Press, 1898), page 171; digital images, GoogleBooks (https://books.google.com: acccessed 11 February 2019).

Philander Bennett, resident of Coalton, Jackson County, Ohio, was a Republican trustee for Coal township. He actually served two successive terms, the first ending in April 1896,1 and the second ending in April 1899.2 This discovery was surprising because Philander was a coal miner – not a prestigious occupation or profession that would suggest to me a public servant as a township trustee.

During his tenure as trustee, Philander and his fellow trustees faced several serious local issues as found in newspapers of the time.

  • Scarlet fever epidemic – December 18933
  • Wind, rain, hailstorm that flooded the streets and carried away all in front of the flood – June 18944
  • Cloud outburst that caused a flash flood that swept many houses away and left other homes uninhabitable – July 18965
  • Diphtheria outbreak of 40 cases that required a quarantine of the entire town – August 18966
  • Typhoid fever was contracted by seven of the nine Coalton baseball club members who drank from a contaminated well. The team had won the county championship that season. – September 18977

Several coal miners’ strikes occurred and were ended. The most harrowing of the strikes lasted from around November 1896 until the end of January 1897. The following appeal was made for help for the families of the miners.8

Then I found an article dated 1908, the dread of every genealogist. “[A] fire Tuesday at Coalton, a mining village of 1,000 inhabitants, destroyed the police station, the fire apparatus building and several other business structures, including the mayor’s office. All records of the village government were burned.”9 All my hopes of finding township minutes which might have given more clues to the man Philander Bennett were dashed after reading this article.

I received two obituaries for Philander Bennett by email. Although I have never seen a photograph of Philander, these obituaries shed a little more light on the man and his public service.10

1909 Nov 13 - Jackson Herald - Jackson Co OH - Philander Bennett - received in email on 5-17-20131909 Nov 24 - Standard-Journal - Jackson Co Oh - Philander Bennett - received in email on 5-17-2013

Although there is much more to the life of Philander Bennett, including his service in the Civil War, his role in politics was the biggest surprise to me.

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  1. Annual Report of the Secretary of State to the Governor of the State of Ohio, for the Year Ending November 15, 1894. (Columbus, Ohio: Westbote Co., State Printers, 1895), page 165; digital images, GoogleBooks (https://books.google.com: acccessed 11 February 2019).
  2. Annual Report of the Secretary of State to the Governor of the State of Ohio, for the Year Ending November 15, 1897. (Norwalk, Ohio: The Laning Printing Company Press, 1898), page 171; digital images, GoogleBooks (https://books.google.com: acccessed 11 February 2019).
  3. “Scarlet Fever Epidemic,” Democratic Northwest (Napoleon, Ohio), 21 December 1893, p.1, col.7; digital images, ChroniclingAmerica (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 11 February 2019).
  4. “The Storm at Coalton, O.,” The News-Herald (Hillsboro, Ohio), 5 July 1894, p.3, col.4; digital images, ChroniclingAmerica (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 11 February 2019).
  5. “Terrible Results of  a Cloudburst at Glenroy, Coalton and Other Points,” Marietta Daily Leader (Marietta, Ohio), 8 June 1896, p.1, col.5; digital images, ChroniclingAmerica (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 11 February 2019).
  6. “Quarantined,” Marietta Daily Leader (Marietta, Ohio), 4 August 1896, p.1, col.5; digital images, ChroniclingAmerica (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 11 February 2019).
  7. “Seven Cases of Typhoid Fever,” Marietta Daily Leader (Marietta, Ohio), 13 September 1897, p.1, col.4; digital images, ChroniclingAmerica (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 11 February 2019).
  8. J. M. Ervin, et.al, “An Appeal on Behalf of the Miners of Jackson County, O.,” broadside, 1897; digital image, OhioMemory (https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll32/id/20715/rec/1 : accessed 11 February 2019).
  9. “Disastrous Fire at Coalton,” Marion Daily Mirror (Marion, Ohio), 6 May 1908, p.2, col.1; digital images, ChroniclingAmerica (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 11 February 2019).
  10. “Sudden Death,” Jackson Herald (Jackson, Ohio), 13 November 1909, unknown page and column;  “Another War Veteran Mustered Out,” Jackson Standard-Journal (Jackson, Ohio), 24 November 1909, unknown page and column; digital images received by email from Donna Scurlock, 17 May 2013.
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