Illustrated Atlas Map of Menard County, Illinois 1874|
Published by W.R. Brink & Co., of Illinois
JOHN BENNETT, eldest son of Richard E. and Ann Carter Bennett, was born in Halifax County, Virginia, December 12th, 1805. His early ancestry is of English extraction, and emigrated from England to Ireland during the reign of William the Third. Walter Bennett, grandsire of Mr. Bennett, came from Ireland to the United States, landing in Maryland March 12, 1766, and removed thence to Virginia in 1768 where he was married to Miss Jennie Wyatt, a lady of an old English family, a short time prior to the Revolutionary War. From this union, in 1779, sprang Richard E., paternal ancestor of Mr. Bennett, a gentleman of great integrity and intelligence, who held numerous places of trust and honor in his native State.
Walter Bennett served with honor and distinction during the entire bloody and protracted struggle for Independence, participating in many of the severest battles that marked the Revolution. He was engaged in the memorable winter campaign under Washington which terminated in the brilliant and decisive victory at Trenton. He was also engaged in the terrible battle of Guilford Court-House in 1778. In this battle, while charging the enemy he had the good fortune to capture a turkey, which he carried through the hottest of the fight, escaping unharmed though the turkey was shot. Mr. Bennett's mother, Ann Carter, daughter of Theodric and Judith Cunningham Carter, was born in Virginia, but after the death of her husband came to Petersburg, Illinois, where she resided till the time of her death, which occurred in 1844.
The subject of this memoir passed his boyhood and early manhood at the old homestead in Virginia, receiving such an education as the common schools of that period afforded. At the age of fourteen he entered his father's store as clerk, in which capacity he continued till the death of his father in 1828, after which he continued business on his own account till 1835, when he removed to Sangamon County, Illinois, settling near Rochester. Here he remained till January, 1836, when he came to Petersburg, Menard County, and opened a dry goods establishment in that then small village. Here Mr. Bennett continued very successfully to merchandise until 1858, when by his energy, industry, and assiduous attention to business, having amassed a handsome competence, he wisely resigned the toils and cares of active life to enjoy in his beautiful home - perhaps the most pleasant in Petersburg - that peace and quiet which his early life of activity so amply earned.
On the first of December, 1829, Mr. Bennett was united in marriage to Miss Mary Amistead Boyd, an amiable and accomplished lady, daughter of Alexander and Matilda (Burwell) Boyd, by whom he had ten children, six of whom died at an early age. Those who still survive are John Thomas, Harry A., Anna E., and Mary M., all of whom are well known to the people of Menard, and are valued members of the society in which they move. In May, 1849, Mr. Bennett was bereaved in the death of the companion of his early manhood, the mother of his children, the beloved wife whose love, tenderness and devotion for twenty years gladdened his heart and beautified his home.
Mr. Bennett was again married September 10th, 1850, to his present wife, Miss Mary J. Cabanias, a very excellent lady, descended from the Huguenots of France, whose ancestors, fleeing from religious persecution, sought an asylum in America.
During the winter of 1840-41, Mr. Bennett represented Menard County in the State Legislature, having been elected to that place as an Old Line Whig, and although he represented the interests of the County to the entire satisfaction of his constituents, he was not returned to the Legislature, having seen enough of political life during one session. Mr. Bennett was one of the original directors of Tonica and Petersburg Railroad, which was then a part of what is now the Jacksonville Division of the Chicago and Alton Railroad, which position he occupied for a period of four years. Nearly fifty years ago Mr. Bennett joined the order of Free Masons. In 1842, being one of the charter members, he assisted in the organization of Clinton Lodge, No. 19, at Petersburg, Illinois. At present he holds the position of District Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. His life has been conspicuous for his devotion to the order and his zealous practice of its tenets. He has performed a prominent part in the history of Masonry in the State, organizing many lodges, participating in the general councils of the brotherhood, and bestowing much labor and thought in the field of Masonic jurisprudence.
For almost forty years has the subject of this biography been intimately associated with the interests of Menard County, in both a public and private capacity; and now, at the mature age of threescore and ten years, he enjoys the legitimate fruits of a well-spent life. Always prompt and honorable in his business transactions, conspicuous for his liberality, enterprise, and charity, he has won the respect and esteem of his fellows. But his modesty is only equalled by his worth. He desires no eulogy, and needs none.