I started with Owen Bennett and grabbed dates, newspaper articles, Enumerator names, and built a story that is about as factual as can be with the information provided. Using deduction and clues about the time, I introduce opinions and local history to create a fuller picture of the lives of my ancestors. I hope you enjoy my stories.
PART I: Owen Evans Bennett
PART 2: Franklin Evan Bennett
PART 3: Maude Lenore WIlliams
Maude’s mother had the exotic name of Lida Chalfont, sometimes spelled Lide or Lyda, but went on to marry a man with a very stable name. Charles Milton Williams was from Kentucky where Lida’s mother and father were also from. The Williams' family soon grew and Maude was joined by a little sister Fannie in 1865 and a little brother, Ralph, in 1874 when Maude was 12 years old. The first we hear about the Williams’ family is not up in bustling college town of Bloomington. Rather, we find them about 55 miles southwest of Bloomington next to a small industrial town named Shoals in Martin County, Indiana. The town was named Shoals because the town straddles the East Fork of the White River that eventually flowed into the Wabash River on the Indiana / Illinois border and then south into the mighty Ohio River. Some folks in the area who moved here from Tennessee referred to Shoals as Memphis because of a crook in the river that looks just like a bend in the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee. One historian said they even tried to grow cotton in the area like they did around Memphis, Tennessee but the Indiana weather wasn’t right for growing cotton. Every town is known for something and Shoals was no exception. Shoals was always unique because of the White River which was a low, shallow, slow-moving river, certainly bigger than a creek, but not a white-water rapid by any stretch of the imagination. In the 20th century, Shoals was known for its gypsum mines and two large gypsum plants that operate there to this day. Pottery ovens were around town and gathering mussels was also popular in the river. Local historian Bill Whorral noted, “Musseling was once a huge industry in Martin County. Shells of the mussels were used for pearl buttons beginning in 1915 by Fabius Gwin, and became an astonishing industry as time passed. Gwin was known as the “king of the button industry” in the state, and his factories paid extremely well and employed over 300 people during the peak seasons as diggers. The shells from the White River are superior to Tennessee River shells, which is the major shell producing river in the United States. Gwin kept his company afloat until his death in 1947. However, when zippers and elastics were introduced to the market, buttons dramatically lost their popularity and the industry in Martin County took a severe blow. These buttons could still be produced today as the River has a bountiful supply of mussels but they have been protected” (Whorral, n.d.) Just outside Shoals was a small shanty town called Irontown (also called Ironton) which was home to the families who worked the pottery furnaces in the Shoals. “Upton Stuckey realized the clay from the hills of his farm could be molded and finished by firing. Ovens were built, and the venture later became the first pottery in Martin County, and perhaps one of the very first in the state of Indiana. Containers by Stuckey had a blue and blue-green glaze design that resembles a bird. Devol and Catterson operated two pottery kilns at Shoals and made 92,000 gallons of common stoneware annually, from 1870-1892. The land in and around Shoals and Loogootee was ideal for pottery, and probably still is. John H. Folks made stoneware, flower pots, etc., from a bed of light gray potters’ clay located on the Joseph Cannon farm beginning in 1878. The stratum of potter’s clay used by Mr. Folks is nearly five feet thick and underlies a vein of coal. The area is extant with a variety of yellow-loess potter’s clays and shale and is ideal for this industry” (Whorral, n.d.).
Furnace work was hot and dirty and not for the weak or faint of heart but often the work drew young men who wanted a day job away from the farm. What drew young Andy McBride away from his home in Tennessee we don’t know, but it’s possible he was lured by the prospect of “city work” that was available that paid cash money at the furnace and didn’t involve standing behind a plow for days and years in the hot Tennessee summer. What it did involve was long hot hours at the furnaces, row houses cramped with other furnaces, and everyone living just above the poverty level. In the row houses in the Irontown area were people living almost on top of one another in the small cramped residences. It was common to see unmarried men and women stuffed into the same living areas out of necessity. It took everyone’s collective moral courage to keep decency and the rule of law in place in these conditions. People always do what they must to survive and some young ladies would accept room and board in return for work. Just a few states south, these young ladies would be deemed slaves if they were black, but in free Indiana, there was no slavery in name and whites would never be called by that name but the term servant was respectable and used for white indentured servants. Young ladies were known to marry early in those days and Maude was no exception. Chances are, 24 year old Andy McBride (b. 1853) worked with an older furnace worker they called Charlie who was in his 40’s and was from Kentucky. Charlie Williams and his wife Lida had spilt up and Charlie went his own way but Andy couldn’t help but notice Charlie and Lida’s daughter and soon, Andy began courting 15 year-old Maude. Andy married young Maude about 1877 and Andy moved into the Williams home which Charlie recently vacated. The home already had three other furnace workers living there and the family would need a man as a provider and protector. Andy and 16 year old Maude had their first daughter the following year (1878) in the row house and gave her Maude’s middle name, Lenor. The 4th of June 1880 was a typical warm summer day in southern Indiana. It was a Friday morning and Mr. J. Wright Gladish made his way down the road east of Shoals toward Irontown. Mr. Gladish was a census-taker but he preferred the fancy title of Enumerator. He lived comfortably over in Petersburg, Indiana in Pike County but was paid to do the census here in the smaller and poorer Martin County. He had attended Indiana University up in Bloomington as a Law Student three years before but didn’t graduate. His handwriting was very good and the Enumeration manager was happy to have a stable of college students to draw from to ensure the census was properly conducted. By using college students, he was assured they could read and write properly and their penmanship was adequate. Before the University was in Bloomington, they often had to use the town Postmaster or they would scour the churches to find a man who could read and write properly. Of course, sending a woman from door-to-door was so unheard of, it would never even be considered regardless of a woman’s education or penmanship. Mr. Gladish did not like going into Irontown as it was cramped and poor but he didn’t get to choose which households to visit; he went where he was told. Ironton was set up to serve the needs of the pottery furnace workers and most of the men in the little village were furnace workers, wood cutters, or coal miners and, of course, there were many farmers in the surrounding area as well. Gladish was coming to the end of this part of the census just as he was coming to the end of the week. Most people worked six, or even seven days a week and Gladish would be doing Census-taking this year until it was done. It was a great source of quick income and required his educated and his steady hand and good penmanship. Gladish walked his horse from house to house because the houses were so close to one another. There were 83 households in Irontown and the next one was number 74, the McBride home. This home was very full, as most were in this industrial area, and the postal records said it housed about ten people. Living in this home was Andy McBride, a 27 year old white man who, like most others in this area, was working in the furnaces. Unfortunately, this young man could neither read nor write and Gladish marked the appropriate box on the census form. Perhaps it was because McBride was from Tennessee as were both of McBride’s parents. McBride was married to a pretty-enough 19 year old young woman, Maude, who said she was keeping the house and they had a little baby, a two year old… what was her name? Something like Lenore? Lenor? Lenoa? Unsure, Gladish wrote “Lenoa” on the census form. Was that baby a boy or girl? Looks like a boy so Gladish wrote a large “M” until he corrected himself and wrote over the letter with an “F” for female and then wrote “daughter” just to be sure the supervisor had the correct information. Gladish noticed the older women, Maude’s mother, also lived here; she said her name was Lide Williams, and Gladish wrote it as “Lyda” Williams. Mrs. Williams quietly whispered that she was divorced from Mr. Williams when Gladish asked her if she was married. Lide had married Charles Williams when she was 19, a respectable age, but it didn’t seem to work out; but at least she was here where there was some work, surrounded by her children, Maude, and her two other children, 15 year old Fannie Williams, and 5 year old Ralph Williams. Also sharing the home were three other furnace workers, 23 year old Pete Ambuster from Ohio, 27 year old Jackson Young from Ohio, and 21 year old Tice Robbins who was born in Indiana. Finally, 18 year old Jane Allen was the live-in housekeeper who was either paid with her room and board or with some cash as well. Since she was a paid, live-in housekeeper, Gladish listed the young white girl as a “servant”. Gladish bade them all a good day and moved on to the next housing unit, number 75, where he met another family of Williams’ and wondered if they were related to the Williams’ in the McBride home, but he didn’t press for an answer. His job was simply to record who lived in each housing unit. In this home, he recorded the widow Amanda Williams who was 41 years old and was born in Indiana but her mother and father were Kentuckians. Amanda’s four children included 19 year old Mary, who was born in Illinois, 13 year old Ella, 10 year old John, and 3 year old who were all born in Indiana. The deceased Mr. Williams was from New York and seems to have died in the past couple of years. Also in the home were some more furnace workers, 46 year old John Ables and 20 year old William Wickles. Gladish finished his work at this home and moved on the rest of the day and finished the sad little camp called Irontown. Maybe he would go back and finish Law School he thought as he walked his horse down the dirt roads of southern Indiana. Although Maude was very young when she got married, it seems Andy and Maude spaced out their children over the next few years as Andy was able to make a bit more money. Benjamin McBride (b. 1883) was born five years after Lenor and they waited another three years for little Rosie McBride (b. 1886), four more years for Charles McBride (b. 1890), and two more years for Ruth McBride (b. 1892). Of course it is possible that she lost children along the way. In 1894, we find Mrs. Maude McBride 1110 Wabash Avenue in Bloomington, Indiana but there is no Wabash Avenue in Bloomington; however, there is a Wabash Avenue in Worthington, (Greene County), IN, so we aren’t really sure where the family was. 24 February 1895 was a cold Sunday morning and Andy was 42 years old when he died. Perhaps he was hurt in the furnaces, we don’t know, but he left behind a desperate Maude and five McBride children, ages (17, 12, 9, 5, and 3) to fend for themselves. The only thing Maude had going for her was that her mother, Lide, was still alive. Maude was still only 33 years old and probably still had her looks but, who in the world would want a widow with five children? Perhaps their legacy lives on; about five miles upstream from Shoals is a cliff known today as McBride’s bluff. We can only imagine that Maude and Andy walked with their children along the White River and noticed that cliff up above them. Perhaps the children loved finding interesting shells in the riverbed as their dad did a little fishing. Perhaps the kids liked to run to the top of the bluff while their parents had a picnic below. Perhaps the family all holds hands and walk the river to this day.
About a year and a half later, Maud marries a widower named Frank Evan Bennett. 38 year old Frank had lost his wife, Mandy, about 6 years before and he had 4 children to add to the 5 children that Maude had. The house consisted of 18 year-old Lenor McBride, 17 year old Fred Bennett, 15 year-old Scott Bennett, 14 year-old Daisey Bennett, 13 year old Benjamin McBride, 10 year old Emma H. Bennett, 10 year old Rosie McBride, 6 year-old Charles McBride, and 4 year old Ruth McBride.
But apparently, 9 was not enough. Frank and Maude had a son, Kelley Carlyle Bennett in 1897. They had the twins, Ruby and Ralph Bennett in 1900, and then they had Dorothy Bennett in 1903. The grand total seems to be 13 children between the two of them.
There are worse places to live in this world than Bloomington, Indiana.
Set in southwest Indiana, Bloomington is the county seat and lies in some
of the most beautiful country in Indiana. Whereas the northern half of
Indiana is flat and somewhat bare, southern Indiana is forested and hilly.
This part of the state is known today because of an abundance of State Parks set in the natural rolling hills, untamed creeks, rivers and streams, and entire counties of natural forest.
When this part of Indiana was just a territory, the territorial capitol was in Vincennes, southwest of Bloomington, over on the Illinois state line. But in 1816, Indiana became the 19th state in the Union and the new State Capitol was established down south by the Ohio River in Corydon. Indiana University was founded four years later (1820) in Bloomington and all the children around the area knew about the University because it drew students in from all over Indiana for a higher education and separated Bloomington from the hundreds of other farm towns around it. Bloomington was now the home of the state’s own namesake University and that was saying something. In 1825, the state capitol was moved from little Corydon up to a more geographically centric location in the state and they named it a Greek name for “City of the Indians” or Indianapolis. Abraham Lincoln moved from Illinois to Washington D.C. to become president in 1861 and a year later, Maude Lenore Williams was born (12 Sep 1862). She was probably born in southern Monroe County or in neighboring Martin County, just a few counties north of Spencer County, Indiana where Mr. Lincoln spent a quarter of his life and got his fame as a young rail-splitter.