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Platt Benedict

A pioneer of early Ohio, Platt Benedict founded the town of Norwalk in 1817 and raised his family there, living to the old age of 91.

Family reference: 521.53

Born Born   18 Mar 1775   Danbury, Fairfield County, CT
Married Married 1st 12 Nov 1795 Sarah DeForest Ridgebury, Fairfield County, CT
2nd 17 Jun 1856 Lavinia (Lovinia) Parker Benton Norwalk, Huron County, OH
Died Died   25 Oct 1866   Norwalk, Huron County, OH
Buried   28 Oct 1866   Woodlawn Cemetery, Norwalk, Huron County, OH

Photo Album - Family album of photos and documents.


  • Platt Benedict6, (Jonas5, Daniel4, Daniel3, Daniel2, Thomas1)



  1. Sarah (Sally) DeForest:, born 27 Aug 1777 in Wilton, CT, daughter of Daniel DeForest or David and Sarah DeForest; married Platt Benedict on 12 Nov 1795 in Ridgebury, CT; died 24 Jun 1852 in Norwalk,Ohio.
  2. Lavinia (Lovinia) Parker: born c. 1795 in VT; daughter of Reverend Eleazer Parker and Mary Royce; married William Benton (date and place unknown) and Platt Benedict on June 17, 1856 in Norwalk, Huron County, OH; died February 9, 1875.

Children: with Sarah DeForest

  1. Clarissa Benedict: born 4 Sept 1796 in North Salem, NY; married Hallet Gallup 9 April 1820 in Norwalk, OH; died 11 Jan 1878, in Norwalk, OH.
  2. David Mead Benedict: born 17 Aug 1801 in Danbury, CT; married Mary Booth Starr 24 Sept 1832 in Danbury CT; died 16 Jun 1843 in Danbury, CT.
  3. Daniel Bridgum Benedict: born 1 June 1803 in Danbury, CT; died 9 Sept 1827 in New Orleans, LA
  4. Jonas Boughton Benedict; born 23 Mar 1806 in Harlem, NY; married (1) Fanny Buckingham, 8 Oct 1829 in Norwalk, OH (2) Caroline Chapman, 26 May 1842 in Norwalk, OH; died 29 Jul 1851 in Norwalk, OH
  5. Eliza Ann Benedict: born 27 Oct 1812 in Danbury, CT: married William Brewster, 1 May 1832; died 17 Aug 1840 in Norwalk, OH

Portraits of Platt and Sally Benedict

Platt Benedict Sally Deforest
Platt BenedictSally DeForest

The original oil paintings of the above portraits hang in the The Firelands Historical Museum in Norwalk, Ohio and are presented here for reference only.

The Life of Platt Benedict

The "Sufferers' Land"

In his fortieth year, Platt Benedict left his home in Danbury, Connecticut and traveled to the Ohio wilderness in search of a new home for his family. It was September 1815, and the war with the British had ended a few months earlier, re-opening the frontier for settlement. [1]

Born in March 1775, only a month before the battles of Lexington and Concord ignited the Revolutionary War, Platt’s early experiences were of that war -- he was eight years old when it ended. He had an active public life in Danbury. From 1812 to 1813, he was collector of the port. He was a Mason, becoming associated with that fraternity in 1811. [2]

Although he had been a successful man in Danbury, Platt wanted more than what was available to him in New England. In the west lay the opportunity to begin a new life -- and establish a new town. No doubt, he considered the possibility for years, but the War of 1812 put a hiatus on westward emigration, stymieing his plans. At the war’s end, he took decisive action.

He was bound for the “Firelands” or “Sufferers’ Land,” a part of the Connecticut Western Reserve that had been set aside for nineteen-hundred residents of coastal Connecticut towns that lost their homes and property because of British raids during the Revolution. [3]


Platt did not go directly to the Firelands. He stopped first in Canfield, Ohio, a town founded by Connecticut Yankees years before. His cousin Eli Boughton introduced him to Elisha Whittlesey, a leader of the Canfield community who had moved there from Danbury, CT in 1806.

A leader in state politics, Elisha served as Prosecuting Attorney for the Court of Common Pleas in Warren. He also saw opportunity in the Firelands and had organized an expedition to investigate the possibilities. Recognizing Platt’s potential and desire, he invited him along. They traveled to Avery, OH, the county seat of newly founded Huron County, two miles north of where the town of Milan is today.

The first County Court convened soon after Platt and Elisha arrived, with about forty settlers attending. Many of the men voiced their dissatisfaction with Avery as County Seat. They favored a sand ridge south in Norwalk Township, but were concerned that water might be lacking. After the Court adjourned, Platt and Elisha went to the home of Abijah Comstock in Norwalk Township who guided them to the sand ridge. They were pleased to find sufficient water, and a large meadow where nearby residents grazed their cattle. An Indian trail and several wagon tracks crossed the ridge. [4] It was covered with a few oaks, being what was then termed an oak opening -- a sand ridge, with an undergrowth of whortleberry bushes. [5]

Elisha knew that the owners of the land -- Colonel Taylor and Polly Bull, both living in Connecticut -- were willing to sell. The men agreed that Platt should start immediately for Connecticut to make them an offer. Time was short. The opportunity was now and the men were determined not to lose it.

Platt traveled by horse, spending many hours each day in the saddle. He reached Danbury in eleven days, an amazing feat for that time, and immediately visited Colonel Taylor and Mrs. Bull, who sold him their land on and near the sand ridge. The following spring Elisha and Platt paid for a survey of a town with forty-eight lots. They named it Norwalk. [6]

Platt and his wife Sally prepared to move to the Firelands, arranging for the sale of his house and belongings and divesting himself of his businesses. However, something was about to happen in New England that would delay their plans and change the lives of many in the region.

Year Without Summer

In June, the weather turned cold and it snowed. The winter of 1815-1816 was normal, but that changed in late spring. The year 1816 became the Year without a Summer. Through June and July -- even into August -- cold temperatures and heavy snows were the norm. In most cases, farmers were not able to get a crop into the ground, let alone harvest. People became desperate. No one knew what to do.

Today, scientists believe the cold summer of 1816 was the result of the eruption the previous year of Mount Tamboro, in what is now Indonesia. This massive eruption, estimated by some scientists to be the largest in ten-thousand years, added to dust already in the atmosphere from two earlier volcanic eruptions, one in the West Indies in 1812 and another in the Philippines in 1814.

No matter what caused this abrupt climate change, many New Englanders began to look for a way out of their dire situation. Rumors circulated about the rich lands of Ohio, and people took notice. [7]

Preparing a New Home in the Wilderness

In January of 1817, Platt again started for the Firelands, traveling in a one-horse wagon. He stopped in New York, where his sister lived with her husband Samuel Darling. Samuel accompanied his brother-in-law west, driving a second wagon.

The two men traveled through driving snow to the Great Bend of the Susquehanna River, where they found a sleigh that belonged to a man by the name of Holley, who had left it there on his move to Florence Township in the Firelands. Leaving one wagon, they loaded the other on the sleigh and set out in extremely cold weather, traveling north and then west, bound for Erie, Pennsylvania. In Erie, they left the wagon and headed south in the sleigh to Meadville, Pennsylvania. They continued on to Canfield, Ohio in the sleigh, but upon arriving there decided to exchange it for another wagon.

They reached Norwalk Township in early March and boarded with the Gibbs and Lockwood families, who had arrived in the township in April of the previous year after a horrific journey, during which each family lost a son. Other settlers had arrived in the neighborhood the past couple years, and Platt set about recruiting them to help erect a cabin on the sand ridge.

On the appointed day, the settlers assembled on the ridge. Snow began to fall and Platt suggested postponing the work to another day. However, Levi Cole, who lived in Norwalk Township, said that the snow would not hurt them and the men pitched into their work. They finished building the cabin that evening. Although it was a rude structure, it would provide shelter for Platt’s family when they arrived. Satisfied with his progress so far, he made final preparations prior to returning to Connecticut to fetch them.

He hired a Mr. Stewart to stay in the cabin during his absence and clear and fence four acres of land on the flats south of the ridge for ten dollars per acre. Because Mr. Stewart had no provisions, Platt purchased a barrel of pork and a barrel of flour for him. He also arranged for Lewis Keeler to fence an acre of land around the cabin and plant potatoes, corn, and other vegetables so they would be ready to harvest when he returned with his family.

Saturday, the fourth of April, Platt started for Connecticut in the same wagon he had brought to Norwalk. En route he contracted dysentery, which made travel difficult. It took him a month to make the trip. As soon as he arrived in Danbury, he began preparations to move his family to their new home. [8]

Sally DeForest Benedict

Sally Benedict was thirty-nine years old; she would turn forty on the road to Ohio. Born in Wilton, Connecticut in 1777, Sally married Platt November 12, 1795 and bore him five children. Soon after they married, they moved to North Salem, NY, where they had their first child, Clarissa. Before moving back to Danbury, they lived for a time on Randall’s Island in the East River, where Platt engaged in market gardening.

The DeForest family had been in America longer than the Benedicts. Isaac deForest arrived in New Amsterdam, now New York City, from Holland in 1636, two years before Thomas Benedict came to New England. His son, Sally Benedict’s great-grandfather David DeForest, left New Amsterdam in 1694 and settled in Stratford, Connecticut, establishing the Connecticut branch of the family. [9]

Sally and Platt had lived much of their married life in Danbury, but also moved to other towns. Their eldest child Clarissa was born in North Salem, New York in 1796, their third son Jonas was born in Harlem, New York in 1806. [10]

While Platt was in Ohio preparing their new home, Sally got ready for the journey and said goodbye to friends and family. In early May, Platt returned, weak from bouts with dysentery on the road. However, he and Sally could not afford the luxury of waiting for him to recover. Together they finalized their preparations, loading three wagons with household goods and everything else they would need in their new home. They set out in July of 1817. Sally and her two daughters, Clarissa, age twenty and Eliza Ann, age six, rode in the horse-drawn wagon Platt had brought back from Norwalk. Platt and a hired man named Miller drove ox-drawn wagons and the boys, David, seventeen, Daniel, fourteen and Jonas, age eleven walked alongside.

It must have been hard for Sally to leave her comfortable home and her family and friends. She felt she needed something to remind her of the life she was leaving forever. A short distance down the road, she stopped the wagon, ran back and cut slips of ivy growing on the wall of the house. She planted this ivy when they arrived at their new home. Today, descendants of that ivy grow on buildings in Norwalk, Ohio.

The Trek West

They traveled first to Norwalk, Connecticut, where Luke and Jemima Keeler and their nine children joined them. In addition to the Keeler and Benedict families, three single men, Seth Jennings, Burwell Whitlock, and Henry Hurlbut, were in the party, making a total of twenty-two.

They continued on to New York City. On Sunday, July 20, they crossed the Hudson River to Jersey City and started west. Until now, Sally had been in familiar surroundings, having lived in New York City previously. Now, she would venture into unknown territory.

Passing through New Jersey, they crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania at Easton and continued through Harrisburg, Carlisle and Chambersburg. [11] Heavy traffic choked the road in both directions. Immigrants crowded westward, many of them destitute from the disastrous summer of 1816. Some persons went in covered wagons -- frequently a family consisting of father, mother and eight or nine small children, with perhaps one a babe at the breast -- some on foot and some crowded together under the cover with kettles, gridirons, feather beds, crockery and the family Bible, Watts’ Psalms and Hymn Book and Webster’s spelling book. Others started in ox carts and trudged on foot at the rate of ten miles a day. Many of them were in a state of poverty and begged their way as they went. Some of them died before they reached their destination. Broken wagons and discarded belongings littered the sides of the road.

Produce of Ohio came from the west, pork and whiskey bound for eastern markets. Pork traveled on the hoof, herds of hogs fattened on corn. Whiskey was another product of corn -- the staple crop of the day in the Old Northwest. In that time before canals and railroads, settlers could not transport commodities such as corn economically. However, corn fed to hogs or distilled into whiskey could be moved to markets in the East. [12]

Long before they reached Chambersburg, Sally and the others were worn out. All day they trudged on, usually making only ten miles. At night, they competed with throngs of other immigrants for space at the miserable sheds called taverns with scenes of mother frying, children crying, fathers swearing. Sally and Jemima would cook supper while the men took care of the animals. In the morning, they would rise, stiff from the previous day’s travel, and start again. The trip took a toll on the animals, also, especially the oxen. They were so footsore it took the men a half-hour to get them on their feet in the morning.

The hardest part of the journey lay ahead, the trip over the Allegheny Mountains, a road rude, steep and dangerous. They pushed on -- ever-climbing -- suffering mishaps common for travelers of that time, broken wheels and axles and balky animals.

After what must have seemed an eternity, they crested the Alleghenies and started down the western slope. Near the end of their descent, Seth Jennings, one of the single men, upset the wagon he drove. His personal chest broke open and he lost all his possessions, to include the last of his money. For the rest of the trip, he had to rely on Platt and Sally for everything.

The day after this mishap, they finally reached Pittsburgh, where they took a flatboat a short distance downriver to Beaver, and then continued on to enter the Western Reserve at Poland, Ohio, the first settlement by Connecticut pioneers and a long-time entry point into the Western Reserve.

They did not stop in Poland, but continued on to Canfield, where Platt and Sally had relatives and friends, among them Platt’s partner in this venture, Elisha Whittlesey. They rested in Canfield for several days, and then traveled to Hudson, Ohio, where they stayed in the home of Deacon and Mrs. Hudson, who had founded the town in 1799.

They journeyed north to Cleveland, at that time a settlement consisting of only a few houses, and then turned west, following a road that paralleled the lakeshore. Now there were no houses, only unbroken wilderness. It began to rain and the party slogged on through the mud. Sally looked forward to the end of their journey and the relative comfort of the cabin Platt had built in the spring. However, bad news soon dashed her hopes.

A New Home on the Frontier

A day or so from their destination, Platt and Sally received terrible news. Their cabin had burned down. Mr. Stewart, whom Platt had hired to clear and fence four acres of land on the flats south of the sand ridge, had gone out of the cabin one morning, leaving a fire to dry his clothes. When he returned at noon for dinner, he found the cabin ablaze. He immediately left the area, not forgetting to take the provisions Platt had bought for him.

The news devastated Platt and Sally. Footsore and weary, soaked and depressed by constant rain, they knew that they would have to get the family under shelter quickly before winter set in. They decided to stop at the home of the Gibbs and Lockwood families, located a mile and a half northeast of the sand ridge. At four o’clock, Tuesday afternoon, the ninth of September, they came upon a cleared area in the forest. A double cabin and ramshackle barn sat in the middle of the clearing. [13]

The Gibbses and Lockwoods lived in two one-room structures with a common roof and separated by a breezeway, one family in each cabin. David and Elizabeth Gibbs and their family had arrived in Ohio the previous year, accompanied by Elizabeth’s brother Henry Lockwood and his wife Fanny. The two families had a harder trip than the Benedicts and Keelers, and each lost a child on the road. Looking at her own children, Sally must have been thankful that they had all made the trip safely.

John and Ruth Boalt and their eleven children had arrived several weeks previously. They were sick with malaria, or ague, as the settlers called it and lay in the Lockwood cabin, burning with fever, Fanny nursing them as best she could. [14]

The travelers crowded into the Gibbs' cabin for supper. After eating, the unmarried men went to the barn to sleep and the families settled down in the cabin as best they could. As she lay in a makeshift bed on the floor of the crowded little cabin, Sally must have thought of her home in Connecticut and wished she were back there, safe and warm. During the night, a big storm blew through the clearing, rain and wind rattling the “shakes” that covered the roof of the cabin.

Dawn finally came and the single men dragged into the cabin, exhausted. The barn had provided scant protection against the storm. Rain came through the roof as if it was a sieve, soaking their beds and making for a miserable and sleepless night.

After breakfast, the men shouldered axes and saws and trudged down the trail on the sand ridge where the Benedict cabin had burned down. Sally helped Elizabeth take care of the children and prepare dinner for the men. Around noon, the women followed the men’s tracks down the sand ridge with their dinner. They found the work progressing well. Men had come in from the surrounding farms to help. Sally could see that by the end of the day they would finish erecting her new home.

The log house was only twenty feet square, with no doors, windows or fireplace, but it was good enough to provide shelter. The next day, Platt moved in, and Sally cooked breakfast for the men by a log next to the cabin. [15]

Over the next few days, the men continued to improve the cabin, building a fireplace and chimney with clay and sticks, chinking and mudding the cracks and cutting holes in the walls for two doors and two windows. They accomplished all this without a single nail or other ironwork. Platt had brought two sashes for the windows from Connecticut, but had no glass, so he used greased paper instead. The men finished five days later, and Sally and the children moved in. Conditions were primitive. There was no furniture and no floor.

Mud spoiled the mattresses Sally had brought from Connecticut, so Platt made two bedsteads, one for him and Sally and the other for their daughters. They were primitive -- frames attached to the walls of the cabin and webbed with basswood bark instead of cords. However, according to Platt, they were very comfortable, and after almost two months on the road, Sally probably agreed that they were a welcome relief from sleeping on the ground. [16]

Sally and Platt had established a new home on the frontier. Now they had to make it through their first winter.

First Winter in the Firelands

Over the previous year, almost all the townships in Huron County had at least a few New Englanders settle in them, and many of the new settlers were acquaintances of Platt and Sally. On Christmas Day, the Benedicts and other Connecticut settlers gathered at John and Ruth Boalt’s house for a “Yankee” Christmas dinner. Although the feast was spare, the settlers had to be thankful. They had survived a long arduous trip, and had established themselves in their new homes. Over the next few years, they would build on this beginning to establish a life similar to what they had in New England.

After Christmas, five to six inches of snow fell and the weather stayed cold for the next six weeks, making for good sleighing. Platt and Sally took advantage of these conditions to visit friends who had also moved from Connecticut to the Firelands. One day they visited nine different families.

During the winter, Platt took many logs to Major David Underhill’s sawmill in Ridgefield Township, dragging them one at a time behind a team of oxen. Occasionally, Sally accompanied him, riding on a log, in order to visit Mary Underhill. [17]

The first winter in their little cabin was hard, but also had its good times. Years later, Sally wrote, many pleasant evenings we spent beside that fireplace, cracking nuts, and eating -- not apples -- but turnips. You need not laugh, these raw turnips tasted good, when there was nothing else to eat, and as the flames grew brighter, our merry party would forget they were not in their eastern homes, but far away in the wilds of Ohio. [18]

Even with these good times, winter must have seemed long and depressing to Sally. Finally, spring arrived, bringing the promise of better times. Flowers carpeted the ground beneath the bare branches of the surrounding forest. [19]

So far, the results of their move had not been encouraging. No one else had settled on the sand ridge. Without a town, the venture Sally and Platt dreamed of would come to nothing. But with spring, news came that changed their prospects for the better, giving them hope that the future would be as bright as those flowers on the floor of the deep woods.

The Village of Norwalk

Platt Benedict moved to the frontier to establish a town. But in order to have a town, he needed people, and convincing people to settle on his land proved not to be easy. His best chance for success would be if Norwalk became the County Seat. The traffic created by the business of government would entice people to settle and start businesses in the town. This was the reason he and Elisha Whittlesey had bought land on the sand ridge. However, for their plans to bear fruit, they had to convince the state legislature to move the County Seat from its location at Avery.

A committee appointed to examine the matter considered several locations: Eldridge, Milan, Gibbs and Lockwood’s Corners, Norwalk, Monroe, a location on the west bank of the Huron River, and Sandusky. After several backroom machinations and a good deal of political intrigue, the committee decided in late spring of 1818 that the County Seat would be in Norwalk. With this problem solved, settlers could be persuaded to buy into the new town, and Platt could get down to business. [20]

That summer, Platt had a frame barn built near his cabin, and contracted to have bricks made for a house he planned to build the next year. Ezra Abbott bought a lot in Norwalk and started building a house for a tavern. Unfortunately, he died soon afterwards while on his way back to Norwalk from visiting Connecticut.

As preparations started for the convening of the court in Norwalk, a steady stream of people visited the sand ridge. In August, to meet the needs of these visitors and prepare for the arrival of the settlers he knew were coming, Platt obtained a license to operate a tavern, doing business in his home. [21]

That fall, Captain Enos Gilbert and his family arrived in Norwalk. They bought the unfinished house started by Ezra Abbott, and, until it was finished, lived in a shanty workers had constructed while making bricks for Platt. In October, a young woman passing through the village on her way to David and Mary Underhill’s homestead saw but a few buildings - one store, two or three dwelling houses, an unfinished court house, and a tavern, consisting of three or four rooms below, and a place to dance above. It was kept by Enos Gilbert. [22]

The rest of that year and early in 1819, new settlers moved onto the sand ridge, building houses and stores in the settlement. That summer, Platt built a two story house using the bricks he had had made the previous year. In July, he became Postmaster for Norwalk, and established the Post Office in his new home. The first mailbag he received contained only a single letter. [23]

Platt and Sally hosted the first Episcopal service in their cabin, consisting of the reading of the service, and a sermon by a layman. These lay meetings continued for years, first in private homes, and later in the Court House. Services continued every Sunday, with a Reverend Roger Searle occasionally attending to give Holy Communion and perform baptisms. The Bishop also visited the parish from time to time, so often that Sally’s son David ran away from home once because he was tired of polishing the bishop’s boots. During one visit, Sunday, February 17, 1822, Reverend Searle baptized Platt Benedict into the church. [24]

Around 1820, the first school in the village of Norwalk began in the shanty on Platt and Sally’s property, built two years before by the workers who made bricks for their new house. Eight or ten students attended, including Jonas and Eliza Ann Benedict. [25]

Norwalk had become a thriving village, but the level of growth Platt and Sally dreamed of had not materialized. After the initial burst of immigration, the flow of settlers dwindled as people bypassed the Firelands for lands further west. [26] The settlement on the sand ridge would not grow as fast as Platt and Sally had hoped, at least not yet. For the time being, they would continue to grow their businesses as best they could, adapting to life on the frontier, and turning the little village on the sand ridge into a civilized town.

Native Americans

When the Benedict family arrived in Norwalk, open warfare with Native Americans had ceased, but tension remained. Hunting parties of Indians visited the area frequently. Often they supplied the settlers, who for the most part did not hunt, with deer and other game. Sometimes these natives would wander into homes, scaring settlers half to death. In later years, Sally Benedict described a late night intrusion of her home.

One night the loud barking of our dog attracted our attention, followed by a knock at the door; on opening which, in stalked a large Indian, dressed in furs and blanket, and fully armed. The children huddled close to me, as he came near and asked for “Daddy.” He was evidently intoxicated, and I did not dare let him know that “Daddy” was not at home. I asked him to sit down, but he preferred to stretch himself before the fire, where he soon fell asleep. When he awoke, he was nearly sober, and quite inclined to be talkative. He told me of the many wrongs the Indians had suffered; that the white man had planted corn over his father’s bones, and the poor old Indian wept. Finally, he started up, exclaiming, “Daddy no come. You go sleep. I go to my brother’s,” and he went away.

Sleep was a stranger to our eyes that night. We kept ourselves in readiness for flight, for we expected the “red-face” would return with his brothers, and murder us all. The riches of a Kingdom would not repay me for another such night of anxiety. [27]

Sally’s concern about her late night visitor may seem humorous now. But only a few years previously, Indian raids during the War of 1812 had resulted in many deaths and the flight of settlers out of the Firelands. In 1819, Sally and the other residents of Norwalk were witness to the trial and execution of a pair of Indians who had murdered two trappers in the Firelands. For months afterwards, they worried that the Indians’ friends might exact revenge, but they never did. [28]

The Entrepreneur

The pioneers came to Norwalk to make their fortunes. They were entrepreneurs, willing to work hard and take risks to succeed. Platt Benedict was one of the most energetic businessman, engaging in the occupations of tavern keeper, postmaster, real estate investor, and farmer.

As a farmer, he introduced new practices and stock to the village. He was the first to plant an orchard, first to introduce merino sheep, and the first to use advanced farming implements, such as an improved plow, wheat cultivator, corn planter and hay rake. In addition to farming, he invested in businesses that exploited the natural resources of the region. Along with Obadiah Jenney, he built the first sawmill in the township. [29]

In 1831, Platt Benedict and several other investors, founded The Norwalk Manufacturing Company to produce flour, paper and other commodities. The company built a factory on Medina Road. It was the first enterprise of its kind west of the Alleghenies. The company had problems from the beginning and was never a financial success. Soon after incorporation, all investors except Platt and two other men pulled out of the venture. [30]

The factory was three stories high and about one hundred and fifty feet long. The papermaking section took most of the space in the building because the paper had to be air-dried, there being no steam heat available. In addition to the paper making operation, a small machine shop made nails and a grist mill ground wheat and corn. [31] In 1839, the factory burned to the ground, ending the venture. [32]

Public and Family Life

The destruction of The Norwalk Manufacturing Company in 1839 must have disappointed Platt, but still his financial position was secure. As a farmer, tavern keeper, manufacturer, and land speculator, he was doing well. In his political life, he was also successful.

In 1840, the citizens of Norwalk again elected him mayor of the village, a position he had held in 1835. The people would reelect him again in 1845 and 1856. He was a leading member of the Episcopal Church, President of the Huron Agricultural Society, and an active Mason. At the age of sixty-five, he was still robust and energetic, involving himself in every aspect of life in the community. [32]

However, in spite of his personal success, he must have been disappointed in how some of his children turned out. On the positive side, his eldest daughter Clarissa had married Hallet Gallup, a prominent citizen of the community who was involved in the construction of various public and private buildings in Norwalk. She had many children and lived in her home on the corner of Main and Foster.

Platt and Sally’s eldest son David had moved back to Danbury CT and married a woman named Mary Starr in 1832. She died two years later, six days before the death of the couple's only child. David never remarried and died in 1843. Platt’s second son Daniel had died over ten years before in New Orleans after running away from home with the circus. Besides Clarissa, this left only Jonas and Eliza Ann in Norwalk. Eliza Ann had married William Brewster in 1832. She had two children, but they died young. In August 1840, Eliza Ann died at the age of twenty-seven. [34]

Of Platt Benedict’s sons, only Jonas remained in the village. He was the only male descendant of Platt to have a son -- the only hope for the continuation of the Benedict name in Norwalk. Jonas had married Fanny Buckingham in 1829, and they had four children. Platt, born in 1830, was tragically burned in a fire in 1833, only a month after the birth of his brother, David DeForest Benedict. Two daughters followed. Mary, born September 29, 1836, was born healthy, but fell and broke her back while an infant, causing her to walk bent over, supporting her upper body with her hands on her knees. She died in 1844 at the age of eight. August, 14, 1839, Fanny gave birth to a baby girl, which she and Jonas named after her. But more tragedy followed. The next year, on Wednesday, March 4, Fanny passed away leaving her remaining two children without a mother.

Jonas grieved when Fanny died. However, he had children to care for and a house to keep up. He started looking for another wife and soon found one. On Thursday, May 26, 1842, he married Caroline Chapman. He lived for another nine years, dying on Tuesday, July 29, 1851, leaving Platt with only Jonas’s son, David Benedict, to carry on the family name. [35]

The Passing of Sally DeForest Benedict

A year after the death of his last surviving son, Platt lost his wife. Sally DeForest Benedict died in her home on Thursday, June 24, 1852. Platt grieved at her passing, and so did the rest of the village. Everyone remembered her as a good, religious woman.

Mrs. Gardiner, a friend of Sally, said of her, she was one of the first settlers in Norwalk and one of the sound women who came here at that early day. She was a very domestic woman; attended well to her household; a good wife and mother; a true friend; a help to all in time of need, a lover of her home and her church. When her strength would not permit her to walk to the two services (Episcopal), one in the forenoon, and the other, after a short intermission, she would take her lunch and remain in the church. She said to me, ‘I love to be here; there is no place that suits me as well.’ [36]

In 1856, Platt remarried, taking as his wife Mrs. Lavinia (Lovinia) Benton, a widow from Republic, Ohio. He was eighty-one years old, but possessed the vitality of a much younger man. He was still active in many societies, in business and in politics. The previous year, he had been elected Mayor of Norwalk, an office he had held three times previously. He had seen so much of the history of the Firelands -- he had made much of that history. It was inconceivable that anyone else could take the lead in preserving the heritage of the pioneers.

Pioneer Heritage

In the spring of 1857, Platt and other leaders of the community sent out a notice calling for a meeting of the Pioneers of the Firelands to take place at the Court House in Norwalk on May 20. The meeting convened as scheduled, and, as usual, Platt Benedict took the chair.

The attendees formed a committee to draft a constitution for a historical society and present it at the next meeting. They also appointed two prominent citizens from each township in the Firelands to collect and record the histories of the early settlement of the townships, and present them to the society for inclusion in its journal.

A proposal was made to hold a general reunion of the Pioneers of the Firelands in Norwalk -- a final chance for the survivors of those early days and their descendants to gather and share in the heritage of the early pioneers, those still living and those departed. This was held on the Fourth of July, 1857 and was a huge success. [37]

The Final Years

The Civil War followed several years later, and Platt saw his grandson David Benedict march off to war as a surgeon. He gave a pistol to David, but his grandson returned it a few months before being captured at the Battle of Chickamauga. This was fortunate, because it meant David was not considered a combatant, and was exchanged several months later. [38]

Throughout the war and afterwards, Platt continued to display a most remarkable vitality for one so advanced in years, it being a frequent occurrence for him to harness his horse when he wished to ride, and even the night before his death he was in his office, attending to matters of business. In the end, this active life style contributed to his death.

Platt Benedict in Masonic garb
This portrait of Platt Benedict in Masonic garb was painted in 1855 and hung in the Mount Vernon Masonic Lodge. The Firelands Historicial Society acquired it recently, restored it and now display it in the meeting room of their research center.

In September 1866, at a meeting of the Firelands Historical Society, he reminded his friends that their days on earth were almost finished and most of them would never meet again. [39] The next month, he attended the Grand Encampment of Masons at Toledo. Over exertion and a cold which he contracted at that time caused an illness from which he never recovered. He died October 25, 1866. [40]

People attended Platt’s funeral from all over the state. A special train was chartered from Cleveland to bring mourners to Norwalk. The Fire Lands Pioneer gave this account of his passing: Died at his residence, in Norwalk, Oct. 25, 1866, PLATT BENEDICT, the venerable President of the Fire Lands Historical Society, aged 91 years, 7 months and 7 days. The patriarch is gone! The intelligence will fall on many ears with a sad and mournful interest. The citizens of the Fire Lands have regarded with filial affection, and in his declining years almost with reverence, the venerable man, who, for half a century, has been the pioneer settler of Norwalk. Like a 'shock of corn fully ripe,' he has closed his eventful career, and as he sleeps amid the beautiful groves planted by his hands, may his memory be held in grateful remembrance by this whole community, who enjoys the fruits of his labors. [41]


  1. “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk”, by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 16. & “Addresses & Miscellaneous: Platt Benedict, The First Settler of Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, October 1896, p. 108.
  2. Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham; edited by David Barton, 2006, pp. 4-6 & The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, by Henry Marvin Benedict, 1870, p. 381
  3. A list of the towns burned by the British in the Revolution is in History of the Firelands, Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, by W.W. Williams, 1879, pp. 11-19.
  4. Story of Platt Benedict’s first trip to the Firelands is from “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk”, by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 16-17. Description of the sand ridge is from that source and “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk” by Samuel B. Lewis, The Firelands Pioneer, June 1858, p. 33. Elisha Whittlesey’s story is from “Elisha Whittlesey,” by A. Newton, The Firelands Pioneer, June 1864, pp. 10-18.
  5. This description of the sand ridge where Norwalk was founded is from “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk”, by Henry Lockwood, Esq., The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 27-28.
  6. Platt Benedict’s return to Connecticut, purchase of land on and near the sand ridge and the survey of the town of Norwalk are described in “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk”, by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 17 & History of the Firelands, Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, by W.W. Williams, 1879, p. 133
  7. Story of the cold summer of 1816 and the effects on New England are from “Year Without a Summer,” Wikipedia: & “Remarks by Dr. F.E. Weeks,” The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419
  8. Platt Benedict told of his second trip to the Firelands and his preparations for his family's arrival in “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 17-18
  9. DeForest family history is from Family History; Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by David Barton, 2006, pp. 25-26.
  10. Location of Jonas Benedict's birthplace is from The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, Volume I, by Henry Marvin Benedict, 1870, p. 382. Location of Clarissa Benedict’s birthplace is from her obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, July 1878, pp. 103-4
  11. Story of Platt’s return to Danbury and the Benedict family’s departure and travel through New York and into Pennsylvania are from “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18 & “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16. The story of Sally Benedict taking the ivy from Danbury to Norwalk is from Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 57.
  12. Description of the emigration from New England the summer of 1817 is from “Remarks by Dr. F.E. Weeks,” The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419. Description of commerce between Ohio and markets in the East is from The Ohio Frontier, by R. Douglas Hunt, pp. 213-214.
  13. The description of continuation of the Benedict family's trip west and arrival at the Gibbs and Lockwood cabins is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16 & “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 17-18.
  14. Story of the ordeals of the Gibbs, Lockwood and Boalt families is from “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk, by Henry Lockwood, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 25-28; & “Personal Memoirs” by Mrs. David Gibbs, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 29-31; “Incidents in the Life of Mrs. Elizabeth L. Gibbs,” The Firelands Pioneer, October 1874, pp. 83-84.
  15. The description of the first night at the Gibbs and Lockwood cabin and the raising of the Benedict cabin is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
  16. Description of the Benedict cabin is from “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
  17. The Benedicts' first winter in the Firelands is told in “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 18-19.
  18. Sarah Benedict’s description of early life in Norwalk is from History of the Firelands, Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, by W.W. Williams, 1879, p. 175.
  19. Spring flowers carpeting the forest floor is described in “Historical Sketches - Townsend,” by Benjamin Benson, The Firelands Pioneer, March, 1860, p. 4.
  20. Description of the difficulties getting people to settle in Norwalk are described in “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 19-20.
  21. A listing of licenses and permits for taverns and stores, of marriages, of justices sworn and churches incorporated are from “Official Records of the Firelands,” The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 22.
  22. Description of the settlement on the sand ridge in 1818 is from “Scattered Sheaves - No. 4, by Ruth - Maj. Underhill”, The Firelands Pioneer, September, 1860, p. 43.
  23. Descriptions of the first few years after the settlement of Norwalk are from “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 20. The story of Platt establishing the first post office in Norwalk Village is from the same source p. 22.
  24. First religious services in Norwalk and the early history of St. Paul’s Parish are described in “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 21 and by C.E. Newman in The Firelands Pioneer, Sept. 1876, pp. 45-47. The establishment of the Sabbath School is described in that article and in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1867, p. 84. Story of David Benedict running away from home is from the undated text of an address given by Eleanor Wickham to the Sally DeForest chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
  25. Establishment of the first school in Norwalk is described in “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 21.
  26. Reasons settlers bypassed the Firelands after the initial rush is explained in “Memoirs of Townships - Fitchville,” by J.C. Curtis, Esq., The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 33.
  27. Quote of Sarah Benedict’s description of a visit to her home by a Native American is from History of the Firelands, Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, by W.W. Williams, 1879, p. 175.
  28. The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop, and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52. Platt’s reaction is at “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 21.
  29. The history of Platt Benedict’s agricultural and commercial enterprises in Norwalk are from “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 20-21.
  30. The story of the establishment of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Biographies and Memoirs: Henry Buckingham,” by Levina Lindsley Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, 1882, p. 160 and “Biographies and Memoirs: Henry Buckingham,” The Firelands Pioneer, July 1888, pp. 121-122.
  31. The physical description of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, pp. 2105-2106.
  32. The account of the destruction of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Biographies and Memoirs: Henry Buckingham,” The Firelands Pioneer, July 1888, p. 122.
  33. Platt Benedict’s involvement in the political, commercial and social life of the community are described in “Memoirs of Townships - Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 20-23.
  34. History of the Benedict children is from Family History; Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by David Barton, 2006, p. 6 and “Obituaries, Huron County: Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, December 1902, pp. 920-921.
  35. Record of the life of Jonas Benedict, his wives and his children are from Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006 (unpublished), pp. 6-7, 17-18; and “Obituaries, Huron County: Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, December 1902, p. 921.
  36. Details of the death of Sally Benedict is from “Obituaries, Huron County: Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, December 1902, p. 920. Mrs. Gardiner‘s quote is from “Ancient Dames of Norwalk,” by Charlotte Wooster Boalt, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, p. 1998.
  37. Description of the formation of the Firelands Historical Society and the reunion of the Pioneers is from The Firelands Pioneer, June, 1858, pp. 29-30.
  38. Story of the Civil War years is from Little Doctor on the Black Horse, by Harriott Barton, 1963 (unpublished), p. 5.
  39. Description of this almost prophetic admonition is from “Obituary Notices: Platt Benedict” The Firelands Pioneer, June 1867, p. 85.
  40. Story of Platt’s death is from The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, by Henry Marvin Benedict, Volume I, 1870, p. 381.
  41. Description of Platt Benedict’s funeral is from “Obituary Notices: Platt Benedict” The Firelands Pioneer, June 1867, pp. 84-85

The Life Events of Platt Benedict

1812-1813- He was collector of the town of Danbury, Conn.
Jan 1817- Left Danbury to seek out Ohio opportunities
Jul 1917- Removed from Danbury with wife and children for their new home in Ohio
Sep 1917- Arrived Norwalk, Ohio to begin their new life
1818- Built a frame barn, the first frame building in the township
1818- The first religious meeting of Norwalk was held in his house
1818-1828 Post Master
1819- Built a brick house
1828- Elected Justice of the Peace
1831- Elected Justice of the Peace
1832- Planted the first apple orchard, and introduced Devon cattle and merino sheep
1835- Elected Mayor
1840- Elected Mayor
1845- Elected Mayor
1856- Elected Mayor
1857- Elected President of the Fire Lands Historical Society

Census Records

1810 US Federal Census: Danbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut; Roll: 1; Page: 203; Image: 202.00. Name: Platt Benedict Township: Danbury County: Fairfield State: Connecticut males under the age of 10y: 3, males 26-44: 1, females 10-15y: 1, females 26-44y: 1

1820 US Federal Census: Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: M33_88; Page: 70A; Image: 104.
Name: Platt Benedict Township: Norwalk County: Huron State: Ohio
10, ., 1, 1, 5, ., 1, 1, 1, ., 1, ., ., ., 3, ., 1
.....Next Door.....
Hallet Gallup
2, ., ., ., 1, ., ., ., ., 1, ., ., ., ., ., 1

1830 US Federal Census: Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: 133; Page: 327. Name: Platt Benedict Township: Norwalk County: Huron State: Ohio

1840 US Federal Census: Huron County, Ohio; Roll: 404; Page: 443.
Name: Platt Benedict Township: Norwalk County: Huron State: Ohio
males age 10-16: 1, males age 20-30: 1, males age 50-60: 1, females age 20-30: 1, females 50-60: 1

1850 US Federal Census: Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: M432_697; Page: 6; Image: 213. 14Jul1850

  • Benedict, Platt, age 75, male, farmer, b CT
  • Benedict, Sarah, age 72, female, b CT
  • Gallup, Clarissa, age 52. value of real estate: 8000, b CT
  • Gallup, Mariah, age 24, female, value of real estate: 50, b OH
  • Gallup, Elizabeth, age 13, female, b OH

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 (grandson)
  • 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

Family Search Records (LDS)

LDS 1435525, Danbury, Fairfield County, CT, Pg 146 Jonas Benedict m Mary, dau of Benjamin Boughton of Danbury 14Jan1767. Dau Elizabeth b 18Jan1771. son Jonas b 18Mar1773, he d 31May1776. son Platt b 18Mar1775. dau Sarah b 23Nov1780. son Daniel b 3Jan1783. dau Polly b 25Oct1785. son Eli b 9Jan1789.

LDS 442366, Reference: 35930; Platt Benedict: Male; Birth: 18 MAR 1775, Danbury, Fairfield, Connecticut; Death: 25 OCT 1866; Parents: Father: Jonas Benedict; Mother: Mercy Boughton; Marriages: Spouse: Sarah DeForest, 12 NOV 1790

LDS Pedigree Resource File, Compact Disc #97, Pin #87737: Platt Benedict: Sex: M; Birth: 11 Mar 1775, Danbury, Ct.; Death: 25 Dec 1866, Norwalk, Ohio; Parents: Father: Jonas Benedict; Mother: Mercy Boughton; Marriage(s): Spouse: Lavinia P. Benton, 7 Jun 1866; Spouse: Sarah DeForest:, 12 Nov 1795; Submitter Danielle NOLAN,191 St. Casimir St. Rochester, NY 14621

LDS Pedigree Resource File - Compact Disc #97; Sarah DeForest; Sex: F; Birth: 27 Aug 1777; Death: 24 Jun 1852, Norwalk,Ohio; Parents; Father: Daniel DeForest; Marriage(s); Platt Benedict, 12 Nov 1795; Submitter: Danielle NOLAN,191 St. Casimir St. Rochester, NY 14621

LDS Pedigree Resource File - Compact Disc #30, Pin #910011; Lavina Parker; Sex: F; Birth: VT; Death: 9 Feb 1875; Parents: Father: Eleazer Parker Rev. War Soldier; Disc #30, Pin #909956; Mother: Mary Royce; Disc #30; Pin #910010; Marriage(s) Spouse: Platt Benedict, 17 Jun 1856, Norwalk, Huron County, OH; Spouse: William Benton; Submitter: Ronald S. PURVIS,3415 Lakeside View Dr. Falls Church VA 22041-2454

LDS 1239557, Page 728, Reference 15275: David Mead Benedict, Male; Birth:16 AUG 1801, Danbury, Fairfield, Connecticut; Death16 JAN 1843;Parents:Father: Platt Benedict; Marriages: Spouse: Mary Booth Starr: 24 SEP 1832

LDS 458113, Clarrisa Benedict: Female; Birth:04 SEP 1796,North Sales, Westchester, New York; Parents: Father: Platt Benedict, Mother: :Sarah DeForest; Marriages: Spouse: Hallet Gallup 09 APR 1820,Norwalk, Huron, Ohio

LDS 442360, Reference: 98030; Daniel Bridgum Benedict; Male; Birth: 01 JUN 1803, Danbury, Fairfield, Connecticut; Death: 09 SEP 1827; Parents: Father: Platt Benedict; Mother: Sarah DeForest

LDS 442366, Reference: 35931; Jonas Boughton Benedict; Male; Birth: 23 MAR 1806, Harlem, New York, New York; Death: 29 JUL 1851; Parents: Father: Platt Benedict; Sarah DeForest; Marriages: Fanny B. Buckingham, 08 OCT 1829

LDS 442344, Reference: 28047; Eliza Ann Benedict; Female; Birth: 27 OCT 1812, Danbury, Fairfield, Connecticut; Death: 17 AUG 1840; Parents: Father: Platt Benedict; Mother: Sarah DeForest; Marriages: Spouse: William Brewster; 01 MAY 1832


  • Family, by Ian Frazier, Harper Collins, 1994

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

  • History of the Firelands: Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, by W.W. Williams, 1879

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

  • Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, Volume I, by Henry Marvin Benedict, 1870.

  • The Ohio Frontier, Crucible of the Old Northwest, by R. Douglas Hunt, Indiana University Press, 1998

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

  • Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection), Name: Platt Benedict, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 18 Mar 1775 , Birth Location: Danbury, Parent Name: Jonas, Parent Name: Mercy

  • Early Connecticut Marriages: Third Book, page 89, Ridgefield, New Haven Second Church, Platt Benedict & Sally D. Forest, both of Danbury, Ridgebury parish, Nov. 12, 1795

  • Worldwide Masonic Directory, 1860 Surname: Benedict, Post ID: 8096, Given: Platt, City: Danbury, State: CT, Country: U.S.A., Misc: Residing in Norwalk, Ohio

-- SandeeToo - 22 Dec 2008

-- DaveBarton - 25 Feb 2009
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sallydeforestbenedict.gif manage 25.2 K 29 Dec 2008 - 05:23 JimBenedict  
Ctwestclaims.gif manage 48.2 K 01 Jan 2009 - 20:15 JimBenedict Firelands
PlattBenedict-Masonic.jpg manage 537.8 K 05 May 2009 - 12:53 DaveBarton  

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