“The basic fiber of the South is built of three dissimilar threads. First are the old slave-holdering families, the landed gentry, and the governing class; though they have gone, they were not sterile; they have their descendants, whose evaluation of life approximates theirs. Second were the poor whites, who owned no slaves, whose manual labor lost its dignity from being in competition with slave labor, who worked their small unproductive holdings ignored by the gentry, despised by the slaves. Third were the Negroes. The poor whites of the South: a nice study in heredity and environment. Some say their forefathers served terms in English prisons for debt and were released on condition that they migrate from the mother country to the southern colonies. The story continues that they congregated in the colony of Georgia. The story may or may not be true; it is unpopular today. This much, however, it is safe to assert: they were not blest with worldly goods or mental attainments. The richer coast and tidewater country of the southern colonies was not for them; their efforts at tilling the soil had to be among the unfertile hills of the upcountry. Further and further west they were pushed by an unequal competition until they lodged in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, and the Ozarks Mountains of northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri, and in the red clay hills of Alabama and Mississippi. Pure English stock. If it was ever good, the virus of poverty, malnutrition, and interbreeding has done its degenerative work. They are responsible for the only American ballads, for evangelic religion, and great Southern literature.” - Lanterns on the Levee by William Alexander Percy
Chapter 1 Source
James Morris Benton, Sr., and his wife, Sarah Davis, moved their family to Robertson County, Tennessee, from Caswell County, North Carolina, before 1800. Their son, James Morris Benton, Jr., was born in 1782 in North Carolina, and married Elizabeth Johnson in Robertson County about 1801 when she was 16 years old. One of their earliest births was William D. Benton, who was born about 1804. By the fall of 1822 the land in central Mississippi, which had been purchased from the Choctaw Indians by the government in accordance to the 1820 Treaty of Doak’s Stand, had been surveyed and placed on the market. Shortly after William arrived in Mississippi he married Susannah Powell (b. 1810), the daughter of Rev. James and Patience Powell from South Carolina. Susannah was only 14 years old in 1823 when she married. The Powells were appalled.
Also in about 1822, Meredith Gowan set out alone from South Carolina to Mississippi and made his way to the settlement of Westville in Simpson County. There he met Nancy Powell (b. 1811), daughter of James Powell and Patience Powell. When he came calling, the Powells disapproved. When he asked for her hand in marriage in 1825, the Powells were again appalled—she also was only 14 years old. By the time of the 1830 census Nancy Powell Gowan, the mother of five, was still under 20 years old. By 1838 she was a widow with five children and 27 years of age.
By the 1830 census William D. Benton and Susannah Powell Benton had four children. By 1832 Susannah Benton was a widow with four children and 23 years old. Her parents, Rev. James and Patience Powell, took her and her children into their home for the next ten years. By 1851 all of the children of William D. Benton and Susan Powell were married and farming in Dabbs’ Creek and Vaughn’s Creek in Simpson County.
Chapter 2 The Powell Family
Not enough can be said about James and Patience Powell and their affection for their grandchildren as well as all who came into contact with them. James Powell planted his life and fortune at Vaughn's Creek in Southeastern Simpson County. James Powell became am influential leader in the early years of the county. James Powell was pastor of Strong River Baptist Church from 1830 to 1846, making the trip by horseback over fifteen miles through woodlands, hills and hollows. James Powell was a mighty influence for righteousness during the early years of Baptist work in the region. He served as pastor of both Strong River and Bethlehem Churches, which were about ten miles apart, depending on the weather and what they called roads in those days. Considering that there is no mention of salary for the pastor at Strong River Church until 1833 and that at $30.00 per year, it is no wonder James Powell was employed elsewhere as well. At thirty dollars per year a man would have to pastor for three years to make enough for the price of a mule and a lifetime to make as much as the price of a slave. James Powell and his wife Patience served faithfully at their churches and in the community. In 1832 the 450 registered voters of Simpson County sent James Powell off to Jackson for three months a year to be their representative in the state legislature. That only lasted two terms as James Powell had more than one man could do in minding his family, farm, and churches. Through all of these trials, James Powell proved an able and faithful shepherd to the people of God at Strong River and Bethlehem. He was born two years before the signing of The Declaration of Independence and left this earth in 1849.
The Powell’s four grandchildren of their daughter, Susannah (a.k.a Susan), were all married by 1851.
1. Elizabeth Ann Benton: born 1/12/1825, died 5/1/1885, married John Allbritton about 1842.
2. Nancy Benton: born 4/15/1825, died 5/16/1925, married James May, Jr., on 5 August 1841.
3. James W. Benton: born 14 Jan 1827, died 12 Jan 1897, married Alice Layton about 1847.
4. William D. Benton: born about 1830, died after 1880, and married Margaret Layton about 1851.
Chapter 3 Subsequent Migration from Robertson County
Just before 1840 two bothers and a sister of William D. Benton moved to Hinds County, Mississippi. The brotyhers were Joseph Henry Benton (1809 – 1875), Thomas Benton (or George Benton), and the sister Louisa M. Benton (1828 – 1897), who later married Henry Warren Powell in 1844 and subsequently moved to Texas.
After 1850 another sister of William D. Benton named Mary E Benton (1818 – 1900) moved to Hinds County with her husband, Solomon Price, and their children. In about 1845 the last brother of William D. Benton named Lemuel C. Benton (1825 – 1865) also moved to Hinds County and subsequently married Martha Allbritton in 1846. In 1861 Lemuel joined the CSA and fought in numerous campaigns. On returning home in 1865 to Trinity County, Texas, he either fell or was pushed overboard during the night and drowned. Only his hat was found in the morning.
Martha Allbritton, who was married to Lemuel Benton, was the niece of Elizabeth Ann Benton, who was married to John Allbritton. The children of William D. Benton and Susan Powell were double first cousins of the children of Henry W. Powell and Louisa Benton.
Chapter 4 Pioneering
The first of the Benton brothers from Robertson County, Tennessee that moved to Mississippi were William D. Benton and Joseph H. Benton in 1822 and 1839, respectfully. They would have walked the Natchez Trace from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. Also, they could have joined the crew of a log raft on the Cumberland River at Nashville for the dangerous trip down the Mississippi River to Natchez. The Benton family history claimed that all the Bentons in southern part of the state of Mississippi were descendent from these two brothers. This is a true statement except they didn’t move to Mississippi at the same time. It is not difficult to believe that William came to Copiah County, Mississippi in 1822 accompanied by others from Robertson County.
William D. Benton, Harmon Powell, and James Powell appeared in the 1924 Tax List for Copiah County. There is one land transaction by William where he bought 80 acres for $100 in Copiah County from his father-in-law, James Powell, on August 4, 1826. The deed was witnessed by Harmon Powell, the son of James Powell, who on October 9, 1826 appeared before the Justice of the Peace to attest to the signing of the deed. The deed was not received for record until February 27, 1832, when it was recognized that because of the death of William D. Benton the land transaction should have been legitimized in the county’s land deeds.
Joseph H. Benton appears to have moved to Hinds County, Mississippi, probably about 1839. Either George Washington Benton or Thomas Jefferson Benton accompanied him. The accompaning brother died soon after moving to Hinds County. Since Joseph H. Benton purchased 166.76 acres of land from the government land office on 25 June 1841, and since there were no other purchases by either a George or a Thomas Benton; it is safe to assume that thisaccompaning brother was dead. Additionally, the Mississippi state censuses foe 1840, 1841, and 1845 only lists Joseph H. Benton.
Chapter 5 Cousins
Joseph Henry Benton married Evaline Day Allen on 2 April 1841 in Hinds County about three months before he purchased the land. By 1850 he and his wife had three children: William (b. 1842), Althar (b. 1846), and Jo Ann (b. 1848). In 1860 in Lawrence County he and his wife had additional children: Elizabeth (b. 1852), Joseph (b. 1854), Martha (b. 1856), and Alice (b. 1860). In 1870 in Copiah County he and wife had one additional child, Eugenia (b. 1863). Their son Joseph M. Benton became a doctor in Copiah County when he died in Beauregard. He was only 32. He had married Delilah Adelina Hamilton
of Copiah County. They had two children: Joe Benton (1881-1965) and Mary Benton (1885-1968).
In 1860 Joseph H. Benton’s mother, Elizabeth Johnson Benton (1785 - 1865), was living with his family. Also, Elizabeth was the mother of William D. Benton (d. 1832), Lemuel C. Benton (d. 1865), Mary Benton Price (d. 1900), and Louisa Benton Powell (d. 1897). Her husband, James Morris Benton, Jr. had died in 1856 in Robertson County, Tennessee. On 1 April 1875 Joseph H. Benton died and was buried in Beauregard Cemetery, Copiah County, Mississippi.
Joseph’s son, William H. Benton, and family were living in Lawrence County in 1870. He had married his first wife Phoebe Jett about 1864 by which he had eight children. He married his second wife, Emma Martha Sarrett (Mrs. Newsom) in 1884 by whom he had at least three children. In 1920 William was an inmate of the Jefferson Davis Beauavior Soldier’s Home. Mrs. Varina Davis, the widow of Jefferson Davis, sold much of the property to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1902 for use as a memorial to her husband and as the location of home for Confederate veterans and widows. A dozen barracks buildings, a hospital, and a chapel were built behind the home and approximately 2,000 veterans and their families lived in the home at one time or another during its existence from 1903 to 1957.
Chapter 6 The Cyclone
On Sunday morning, 27 April 1883, a wind storm struck the Mississippi towns of Beauregard and Wesson and continued but slightly abated fury until afternoon. About three o’clock a dull heavy roar seemed to fill the air with but an instants warning, all was midnight darkness. Those who saw the cyclone say it seemed like a dense volume of smoke. The town of Beauregard was totally destroyed. There was not a single house left standing. The dead and wounded were taken to Wesson. Nine plantations were damaged in the surrounding counties of Claiborne and Copiah. The death toll that day and the following days reached 55 souls.
In Beauregard Miss Eula Benton was found dead at the house of Elam T. Robertson. Miss Alice M. Benton was injured and died later from her injuries in November. Dr. Joseph M. Benton suffered a contusion and a scalp wound. His wife Deliah Hamilton Benton suffered a painful fracture of the knee. Mrs. Eveline Day Benton, widow of the Joseph H. Benton, escaped injury. Miss Eugenia “Jenny” Benton was slightly injured. Dr. Joseph M. Benton’s home and his mother’s home were blown down. Mrs. Eveline Day Benton’s grandson, Earnest Bahr, received an extensive lacerated wound, a contusion, and a fractured leg. He died the next day and was about three years old. Mrs. Eveline Benton’s granddaughter, Agnes Bahr, received an incised scalp wound and a fractured thigh, which recovered without shortening. Mrs. Eveline Benton’s son-in-law, Albert Earnest Bahr., suffered general brusing with an injury to his elbow, and her daughter, Mrs. Mary Jane Benton Bahr, suffered only contusions.
The following report was made to Ledger Newspaper by Mr. H. Shoaf:
“Mr. H. Shoafe, so badly hurt, and taken to Brookhaven, has recovered sufficiently to return here today. This gentleman was blown from Wesson to Beauregard, a distance of one mile. Mr. Simpson was taken up by the storm in West Lincoln, carried past Wesson and Beauregard at the rate of a mile a minute and sloshed down into the middle of Pearl River at Rockport. He then swam down the Pearl to Monticello, and crawled from that place to Brookhaven, reaching here last Thursday…He said that his house had been swept away and carried beyond where he himself was spilt from the laps of the storm…”
Chapter 6 Death
In 1875 Joseph H. Benton died leaving his wife Eveline D. Benton and nine children. The 1880s were a sad decade for the family of Eveline D. Benton. Her daughter Alice died in the cyclone of 1883. Her granddaughter Eulah also died in 1883, seven months after having received injuries from the cyclone. Her daughter-in-law Phoebe Benton died in 1884, leaving a husband and eight children. Her son Dr. Joseph M. Benton died suddenly in 1886 leaving a wife and two children. He was only 32 years old. Her grandson, Dudley Benton died in 1887 having lived only nine months.
There were no shortage of descendants of Joseph and Eveline Benton. There son William H. Benton was married twice and fathered by 1890 fourteen children – ten boys and four girls. Some of the senior members of Benton family lived into the 1900s: Eveline (1909), William H. (1920), Wm. Homer (1924), Margie H. (1955), Emma (1915), Martha Jane (1939), and Deliah Adeline (1924).
New Orleans, Louisiana
Benton - On Monday January 21, 1924 at 10:30 o’clock p. m. Delilah Hamilton, widow of Dr. Joseph M. Benton of Mississippi, a native of Edgefield S. C., and a resident of this city for the past nineteen years, age 72 years. Remains will be taken from the residence of her son, J. L. Benton and daughter, Mrs. J. K. McCollum, 2520 General Pershing Street to Beauregard, Mississippi on Wednesday, January 22, 1924, for interment.