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Dr David DeForest Benedict


Lineage: David Benedict8, (Jonas Benedict7, Platt Benedict6, Jonas5, Daniel4, Daniel3, Daniel2, Thomas1)

Born Born 01 Aug 1833   Norwalk, OH
Married Married 14 Oct 1856 Harriott M Deaver Norwalk, OH
Died Died 05 Jan 1901   at Norwalk, OH



  • Harriot Melvina Deaver; born 4 May 1835 in Watertown, NY, daughter of James Deaver and Harriott Shaon; married David DeForest Benedict, 14 Oct 1856 in Norwalk, OH; died 25 Apr 1909 in Norwalk, OH.


  1. Mary Deaver Benedict: born 26 Jul 1857 in Norwalk, OH; died 12 Dec 1931 in Norwalk, OH.
  2. Harriott Melvina Benedict: born 6 Jan 1859; married (1) Henry W. Owen, 14 Oct 1881 in Norwalk, OH, (2) William B. Benhaue, 28 Sept 1897 in Norwalk, OH; died 6 June 1952 in Norwalk, OH.
  3. Agnes Caroline Benedict: born 11 Feb 1861 in Norwalk, OH; married Frank E. Wickham, 14 October 1886 in Norwalk, OH; died 8 Mar 1934 in Norwalk, OH.
  4. Fanny Buckingham Benedict: born 14 Jan 1863 in Norwalk, OH; married Andrew J. Hollet, 14 Oct 1889; died 4 Oct 1940 in Norwalk, OH.
  5. Frederick Platt Benedict: born 7 Apr 1866 in Norwalk, OH; died 11 March 1885 at Kenyon College, OH.
  6. Ellen Eliza Benedict: born 21 Jun 1868 in Norwalk, OH; married Louis Wildman Wickham, nephew of Frank Wickham, 9 Aug 1892 in Norwalk, OH; died 1 Jun 1942 in Mitiwanga, OH.
  7. Suzan Rose Benedict: born 29 Nov 1873 in Norwalk, OH; died 8 Mar 1942 at Smith College, MA.

Life of Dr. David DeForest Benedict

Early Years

David Benedict was born August 1, 1833 in Norwalk, Ohio, the second child of Jonas and Fanny Benedict. A month after his birth, David’s brother Platt Benedict, died of severe burns he received when an ember from a fireplace set his nightgown on fire. Although he was too young to remember this accident, stories of his brother’s death haunted David the rest of this life. Subsequently his parents had two daughters, Mary, born in 1836 and Fanny born in 1839.

When he was eight, his mother died, and two years later his father married Caroline Chapman. David disliked his stepmother. In later years, he said that she was good to his sister Mary, who was crippled, but disagreeable to his other sister Fanny and himself. [1]

In 1845, David and Fanny Benedict were living in their father’s house on Seminary Street. They had lost their mother five years before and their sister Mary the previous year, and had to cope with their stepmother Caroline, whom Jonas Benedict married in 1843. Caroline did not like Dave and Fanny and made their lives stressful.

Fanny & David Benedict A portrait from mid-1840 shows two attractive young people. Dave had the soft features and gentle expression of his father. Fanny had a pleasing almond shaped face and large expressive eyes. They sit close together. Fanny’s head rests on her brother’s shoulder.

Portrait of David and his sister Fanny Benedict, probably from the 1840s. Original oil painting is in the possession of Frank Harding. This image is from a print in the possession of Dave Barton.

Among David Benedict’s friends in the 1840’s was his cousin Caleb Gallup, known to his friends as “Caley.” They attended Norwalk Academy together, which at the time attracted boys and girls from around the Firelands.

Some of the boys attending the academy played pranks on unsuspecting teachers and passers-by. One evening, they caught an old horse and brought it to the school. They lowered the bell rope down from the cupola on the roof and attached it to the horse’s neck, fastening it so the bell rang when the horse dropped its head to eat from a bag of oats. Every time the bell rang, a teacher who slept in the building went to the cupola, but could not find what was causing it. On another occasion, a wood seller left his cart overnight near the academy. When he returned the following morning, he found it and its load of wood on the academy roof. [2]

David may or may not have been involved in those pranks, but he did have a wild streak, perhaps provoked by his stepmother’s treatment of him and his sister Fanny, or because of the lack of accomplishment of his father, or maybe just because he was a teenager. In any event, in 1846, he was a leader of a prank that caused him a lot of trouble.

On the Fourth of July, he and his friends fired a cannon shot down Main Street. The blast damaged a barbershop belonging to Robert Shipley, whose bad temper had made him an enemy of many village boys. Dave left town immediately. When his father learned that his son was behind the prank, he quietly paid Mr. Shipley for the damage, then sent word through a friend that the problem was taken care of, although he didn’t want David to know he was involved. [3]

By 1850, David Benedict was not living at home. Although only seventeen, he had left Norwalk and was living in Sandusky where he worked as a clerk. In April of 1851, he wrote a letter to his friend and cousin, Caley Gallup.

Sandusky City Apr/51

Friend C.

I received your letter and now take the opportunity to answer it. You spoke about selling the lead for a set of Lathe irons. You may do as you please about it, anything that you do will suite (sic) me. I have not much time to write. Tell Joe & Hank & Fred that I should like to hear from them. Write as often as possible. Give my best respects to all the Boys & Girls, especially the Girls. Excuse my poor writing, and I will remain your sincere Friend,

D.D. Benedict

Sandusky [4]

Four months later, David received bad news about his father. Jonas died on Tuesday, July 29, 1851 and left one-third of his estate to Dave. Now the young man had a chance to further himself.

College and Marriage

The following year, Dave used his inheritance to go to Kenyon College. Located near Mount Vernon, Ohio, northeast of Columbus, Kenyon was less than thirty years old when he matriculated. Founded in 1824 by an Episcopal bishop with the help of American and British benefactors, it was the first college established in Ohio. [5]

David Benedict as a Young Man

Photograph of David DeForest Benedict as a young man is from the collection of Dave Barton.

Dave was popular and very active on campus. He helped start a fraternity; founded and was the first editor of The Collegian, the college’s first monthly magazine; and started Kenyon’s annual, which was the third such publication in the country. [6]

His stepmother Caroline had remarried, and his sister Fanny Benedict lived with her and her new husband in Norwalk. Dave visited her and his relatives often, and it was probably during one of these visits that he met a young woman from New Haven Township, Harriott Melvina Deaver.

Harriott Deaver Benedict and family Harriott Deaver Benedict (top left) at the front entrance of her home in Norwalk, OH around 1880, surrounded by family and friends. From the collection of Dave Barton.

Harriott Deaver was born in Watertown, New York on May 4, 1835, the daughter of James and Harriott Deaver. Later in life, she told of seeing rafts of logs from the North Woods floating down the river and going end-over-end over the falls. She moved to New Haven Township in Huron County with her parents when she was five years old. At that time, New Haven was a busy town, a way station for wagons carrying grain to Milan. In later years, she remembered the wagons going past her house, drawn by horses with tinkling bells.

Harriott was educated in Cuyahoga Falls, where she learned French. She was a dignified woman, who stood erect and solidly on her heels, feet pointed straight ahead. That trait and her features made some wonder if she was descended from Native Americans. [7]

David graduated from Kenyon in 1856 and in October he and Harriott married. They moved to Cleveland, where he attended Case Medical College. While there, he and Harriott started a family. Mary Deaver was born in 1857 and Harriott Melvina in 1859. A third daughter, Agnes, was born in February 1861, less than a month before he graduated from Case.

Civil War Service

Although he would have preferred to begin a medical practice, the Civil War changed his plans. He entered the army January 14, 1862 and was commissioned February 5, 1863 as Assistant Surgeon in the 17th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Through the spring and summer of 1863 he served under Buell and Rosecrans as the Union Army of the Cumberland maneuvered through southeast Tennessee, northeast Alabama and into northwest Georgia. In letters written to his wife, he describes how he often traveled into the countryside to help the local people, already poor, whose lives were made even more desperate by the war. He was given the nickname, "Little Doctor on the Black Horse."

On September 19, 1863, the army met the Confederate Army at Chickamauga, Georgia. Doctor Benedict and other surgeons set up a hospital at Cloud’s Spring, behind the lines and began to work on the wounded that streamed in from the front. The work was horrific with many wounded requiring amputation. Piles of bloody limbs mounted high outside the tents where the doctors performed their grisly tasks without anesthetics. Screams of the men competed with the pounding of artillery and crack of musketry. Finally with darkness, the sounds of firing eased, but the surgeons' work continued.

The next day the battle resumed, and the Confederates advanced, leaving David’s medical unit behind enemy lines. The rebels saw the red flag of the hospital and opened fire. The other medical personnel ran away, leaving David and an orderly by the name of Solon Hyde behind. Years later Solon described how David grabbed a bed sheet and waved it in surrender to spare the wounded men. The Confederates swept in and took them all prisoner.

The Confederates who took David captive were from General Nathaniel Forrest’s cavalry. The next morning, General Forrest and General Cheatham rode into camp and had breakfast. Because of the number of Union and Confederate wounded at the hospital, David was paroled to remain there and take care of them until they could be evacuated. He then was sent to Atlanta and on to Libby Prison in Richmond.

Although the conditions at Libby Prison were in no way as bad as Andersonville and other prisons in the South, it was still a trying time. David wrote to Harriott asking that she send supplies, and in code asked for gold to be hidden in the butter. Apparently his ruse worked; according to family legend the money arrived safely. Because he was a doctor and a non-combatant, David was exchanged in November 1863 and returned home to spend time with his family before returning to his regiment in front of Atlanta.

David stayed with the Army of the Tennessee the remainder of the war, participating in the Battles for Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea, then north from there to North Carolina, where the war ended with General Johnson’s surrender near Raleigh. He was promoted Surgeon May 6, 1865, and was mustered out of the army on July 21, 1865.

David Benedict’s experiences in the war are well documented in the letters he sent home to Harriott, and in a description of the Battle of Chickamauga in Solon Hyde’s book, A Captive of War. In these narratives, we get a glimpse of the kind of human being he was.

He was a cheerful man on the greatest adventure of his life. In spite of the hardships he endured, his letters have a sense of fun about them. In a letter to Harriott, he described how he built a fence of split logs around where he was sleeping so he would not be trampled by horses, then set it afire when it became so cold he couldn’t sleep.

He also had an eye for the ladies. Often in his letters, he mentioned seeing pretty young women. Displaying his sense of humor in one of these letters, he told his wife that the dirty underclothes of an otherwise elegant young lady "spoiled the charm some." He was affectionate. His love for his wife and young daughters shines through in his letters. He missed them terribly, and was disappointed when Harriott’s letters did not arrive.

His courage is also evident, not only in his letters but also in the description of him by Solon Hyde, an enlisted Hospitalman in the 17th OVI. When a rebel brigade attacked their hospital during the Battle of Chickamauga, all the other medical personnel ran. Only Solon and Doctor Benedict stayed behind with the wounded. He was courageous not only in the face of the enemy but when he saw injustice in his own ranks. When the army was encamped outside of Savannah, a soldier was bound and gagged with a bayonet as punishment for being drunk. David had the man released, in spite of the opposition of the officer who had administered the punishment.

Through all the accounts, we see a compassionate man. When Confederate guards took Solon Hyde’s blanket, David Benedict shared his with him. Wherever he was, the young doctor spent his free time caring for the civilian population, both Union and Confederate. It was while doing this that he became known as "the little doctor on the black horse".

In his travels around the countryside, David befriended many people, including a farmer named Brown in Tennessee, who repaid his kindness with food and fodder for his horse. When Farmer Brown’s grandson took ill, Doctor Benedict sat with the boy through the night. In spite of his efforts, the boy died. In a letter home, he told his wife of his sadness, and of his concern for the safety of his own children. Ironically, he would one day experience a loss as heartrending himself. [8]

Post War Years

Benedict Pharmacy about 1880. The Benedict Pharmacy, Main Street, Norwalk, Ohio, in the 1880s. The young woman in the photo is Agnes Benedict, who was her father's assistant. From the collection of Dave Barton

After the war, Doctor Benedict did not establish a medical practice, as he had originally planned. The family story was that his experiences in the war deterred him. Instead he established a pharmacy. While he was away at war a fourth daughter had been born, and on April 7, 1866, Harriott finally bore him a son, whom they named Fred, in honor of a classmate at Kenyon, Fred Tennard, who had fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Two more daughters followed, Ellen and Suzan.

The Fortress "The Fortress" on Seminary Street. David Benedict stands by the Front Gate. From the collection of Dave Barton

By the seventies, the home on Seminary Street where David had been born was overflowing with his and Harriott’s children and assorted aunts and cousins. In 1876, he built a big brick house with nine bedrooms, so large it was nicknamed, “The Fortress.”

In addition to his pharmacy, Doctor Benedict became involved in several business ventures. With his brother-in-law, Louis Severance, he built a new residential area on the old family pasture. He also marketed a headache remedy he developed called “Rego”, and was a loan officer. He was active in the community, being a Vestryman at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and serving on the board of the Firelands Historical Society, both which had been founded by his grandfather.

The future seemed bright for David and Harriott, but in 1885, fate dealt them a staggering blow. Their son Fred, who was attending David’s alma mater, Kenyon, died of pneumonia. He was the only hope for the continuation of the Benedict name in Norwalk. His death was a terrible blow to David, and one from which he never fully recovered.

Final Years

In the early 1890’s, David and several relatives bought a piece of land on Lake Erie for summer homes. For several years the extended family spent the summers in a tent on the site. In 1897, David built a cottage, adding on to an old hunting cabin. Remembering his older brother’s death, he did not put in a fireplace.

Dr. David Benedict Doctor David Benedict. From The Firelands Pioneer, December 1902. Oak Bluff Oak Bluff around 1911. Note the fireplace which was added after Dr. Benedict's death.

The next year, he developed angina. The family worried about him greatly, and dispatched a granddaughter to keep an eye on him when he went for walks, to his great irritation. He died of a heart attack on January 5, 1901. Although he left many descendants, he was the last of the Benedict line in Norwalk. [8]


[1] Story of the marriage of Jonas Benedict and Caroline Chapman are from Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 6-7 & 17-18 & “Obituaries - Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, December 1902, pp. 920-921.
[2] Stories of pranks by students of the Norwalk Academy are from “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, p. 2129.
[3] The story of this prank gone awry is from The Firelands Pioneer, December 1902, p. 923-924 & an undated note by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton in the possession of the author.
[4] The original of this letter is in possession of the author, along with a note of explanation by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton.
[5] Information about Kenyon College is from the Kenyon College Website:
[6] Story of David Benedict’s life and accomplishments at Kenyon College are from Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 82
[7] The early life of Harriott Deaver is from Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 10.
[8] Descriptions of David Benedict’s experience in the Civil War and his life after the war are from Little Doctor on the Black Horse, by Harriott Barton, 1963 (unpublished)


1850 US Federal Census: Portland, Erie, Ohio; Roll: M432_676; Page: 44; Image: 289. * David Benedict; Age: 17; Estimated Birth Year: abt 1833; Birth Place: Ohio; Gender: Male; Home in 1850: Portland, Erie, Ohio; Occupation: Clerk; attended school in the past year.

Household Members:

  • David Benedict: age17
  • Phelix McQuire: age 26
  • Peter Pecoz; age 19
  • Dennis Soucy; age 22
  • Wesley Thornton; age 35
  • Catharine Van Valkinbury; age 21
  • Henry Van Valkinbury; age 23
NOTE: Portland was the original name of Sandusky, OH.

1850 US Federal Census: New Haven, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: M432_697; Page: 193; Image: 590. 31Oct1850

  • Deaver, James, age 65, male, cabin maker, value of real estate: 1600, b MD
  • Deaver, Harriet, age 55, female, b VA
  • Deaver, Caroline, age 26, female, b VA
  • Deaver, Eliza A, age 28, female, b NY
  • Deaver, Mary H, age 24, female, b NY
  • Deaver, Oscar L, age 23, male, b NY
  • Deaver, Rosa, age 21, female, b NY
  • Deaver, Frances E, age 17, female, b NY
  • Deaver, Harriet E, age 13, female, b NY (Hatty)
  • Linger, Margaret, age 16, female, b Germany

1860 US Federal Census: Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: M653_991; Page: 211; Image: 55. 5Jun1860

  • Gallups, Clarissa, age 63, female, value of real estate: 10,000, personal: 9000, b CT
  • Gallups, Catherine, age 39, female, dressmaker, value of personal: 1500, b OH
  • Gallups, Maria, age 36, female, value of personal: 1500, b OH
  • Gallups, Caleb, age 26, male, attorney at law, value of real estate: 1000, personal: 1000, b OH
  • Gallups, Lizzie, age 22, female, value of personal: 1500, b OH
  • Benedict, Platt, age 85, male, value of personal: 9500, b CT
  • Benedict, Lovina, age 65, female, value of personal: 700, b VT
  • 2 female servants
  • door.....
  • Benedict, David D, age 26, medical student, value of real estate: 9000, personal: 500, b OH
  • Benedict, Hattie M, age 24, female, b NY
  • Benedict, Mary D, age 3, female, b NY
  • Benedict, Hattie M, age 1, female, b NY
  • 2 servants

1870 US Federal Census: Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: M593_1225; Page: 428; Image: 379. 10Jun1870

  • Benedict, David, head, male, white, age 39, druggist, value of real estate: 20,000, personal: 5000, b OH
  • Benedict, Harriet L, wife, female, white, age 35, keeping house, b NY
  • Benedict, Mary R, dau, female, white, age 13, b OH
  • Benedict, Harriet, dau, female, white, age 11, b OH
  • Benedict, Agnes C, dau, female, white, age 9, b OH
  • Benedict, Fanny H, dau, female, white, age 7, b OH
  • Benedict, Frederick, son, male, white, age 4, b OH
  • Benedict, Ellen L, dau, female, white, age 2, b OH
  • 3 servants

1880 US Federal Census: Res: Seminary St, Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: T9_1035; Family History Film: 1255035; Page: 283.2000; Enumeration District: 159; Image: 0568. 2Jun1880

  • Benedict, D D, white, male, age 46, physician, b OH, father b NY, mother b PA
  • Benedict, Hattie M, wife, age 45, keeping house, b NY, father b MD, mother b VA
  • Benedict, Agnes C, dau, female, white, age 18, b OH, father b OH, mother b NY
  • Benedict, Fanny B, dau, female, white, age 16, b OH, father b OH, mother b NY
  • Benedict, Frederick P, son, male, white, age 14, b OH, father b OH, mother b NY
  • Benedict, Ellen E, dau, female, white, age 11, b OH, father b OH, mother b NY
  • Benedict, Susan R, dau, female, white, age 6, b OH, father b OH, mother b NY

1900 US Federal Census: Kenton Ward 2, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: T623 1288; Page: 10B; 11Jun1900

  • Benedict, David D, head, white, male, b Aug1833, age 66, m 43y, b OH, parents b CT, capitalist
  • Benedict, Harriett M, wife, white, female, b May1835, age 65, m 43y, mother of 7, 6 living, b NY, parents b VA
  • Benedict, Mary D, dau, white, female, b Jul1857, age 42, single, b OH, father b OH, mother b NY
  • Benedict, Susan R, dau, white, female, b Nov1873, age 26, single, b OH, father b OH, mother b NY, school teacher

1910 US Federal Census: Norwlk Ward 2, Huron, Ohio; Roll; T624 1200; Page: 9A; Enumeration District; 36; Image: 859.

  • Mary Benedict: age 52; birth abt 1858; birthplace Ohio; relation Head
  • Suzen Benedict: age 36; birth abt 1874; birthplace Ohio; relation Sister
  • William Benham: age 51; birthplace Indiana; relation Brother
  • Harriott Benham: age 51; birthplace Ohio; relation Sister

1920 US Federal Census: Norwalk Ward 2, Huron, Ohio; Roll: T625 1398; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 54; Image: 307

  • Mary Benedict: age 61; birth abt 1859; birthplace Ohio; relation Head
  • Susan Benedict: age 45; birth abt 1875; birthplace Ohio; relation Sister

1920 US Federal Census: Norwalk Ward 2, Huron, Ohio; Roll: T625 1398; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 54; Image: 307

  • William Benham: age 60; birthplace Indiana; relation Head
  • Harriott Benham: age 60; birthplace Ohio; relation Wife

1930 US Federal Census: Norwalk, Huron, Ohio; Roll: 1823; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 20; Image: 1014.0.

  • Mary D Benedict: age 72; birth abt 1858; birthplace Ohio; relation Head
  • Harrietee Benham: age 71; birthplace Ohio; relation Sister
  • Fannie B Hottel: age 57; birthplace Ohio; relation Sister
  • Eleanor S Wickham: age 42; birthplace Ohio; relation Niece
  • Alma Bishof: age 15; birthplace Ohio; relation Maid

Family Search Records (LDS)

LDS 444888, Reference: 35932: David De Forest Benedict; Male; Birth: 01 AUG 1833, Norwalk, Huron, Ohio; Parents: Father: Jonas Boughton Benedict; Mother: Fanny B. Buckingham; Marriages: Hatty M. Deaver; 14 OCT 1856.


  • The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, by Henry Marvin Benedict, Volume I, pp. 373-383.

  • Family, by Ian Frazier, Harper Collins, 1994

  • Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006,(unpublished)

  • Little Doctor on the Black Horse, by Harriott Barton, 1963 (unpublished)

  • The Firelands Pioneer, a historical journal published by the Firelands Historical Society, 1858-1939

-- SandeeToo - 24 Dec 2008

-- DaveBarton - 24 Mar 2009
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I Attachment sort Action Size Date Who Comment
DavidFannyBenedict.jpg manage 475.0 K 25 Apr 2009 - 15:42 DaveBarton David & Fanny Benedict
DavidDeForestBenedict.jpeg manage 52.4 K 25 Apr 2009 - 15:43 DaveBarton David Benedict as a young man
BenedictPharmacy.jpg manage 260.3 K 25 Apr 2009 - 15:44 DaveBarton  
80Seminary-1880.jpg manage 547.5 K 25 Apr 2009 - 15:45 DaveBarton Benedict Home
DavidBenedict-FirelandsPioneer.jpg manage 385.1 K 25 Apr 2009 - 15:46 DaveBarton David Benedict as middle age man
80ESeminaryFrontEntrance.jpg manage 380.5 K 25 Apr 2009 - 15:47 DaveBarton Benedict Home - Front Entrance
OakBluffc.19111912SusanOrsini.jpg manage 484.2 K 25 Apr 2009 - 15:48 DaveBarton Oak Bluff

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