(Benton Family Letters)
Group of Incoming Letters to Politician and Insurance Executive, Everett Chamberlin Benton, of Boston and Waverly, Massachusetts, written by his parents Charles E. and Adda C. Benton, and brother Jay B. Benton, all of Guildhall, Essex County, Vermont, 1882-1893

94 letters, 219 manuscript pages, (with 52 retained mailing envelopes), plus 3 telegrams and 1 receipt, all dated from 1882 to 1893, as follows: 41 letters, 60 pages, (with 10 mailing envelopes), written by Charles Emerson Benton to his son Everett, plus 3 telegrams, and 1 receipt, all dated 1882-1888, all of the letters are posted from Guildhall, Vermont, to Everett in Boston, or Waverly, Massachusetts. One of the letters by Charles is actually a copy written to his nephew, J. H. Benton, Esq. 13 letters, 33 pages (with 10 mailing envelopes), written by Adda Chamberlin Benton to her son Everett, dated 1884-1893, these letters are posted from Guildhall, Vermont to Everett either in Boston, or Waverly, Massachusetts. 40 letters, 126 pages (with 32 mailing envelopes), written by Jay Bayard Benton to his brother Everett, dated between the years 1882-1889, Jay Bayard Benton writes from Guildhall, Vermont and from Northumberland, New Hampshire. The later correspondence to his brother Everett was sent from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where Jay was attending St. Johnsbury Academy. The bulk of Jay’s letters are addressed to Everett in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Everett Chamberlin Benton (1862 - 1924)

 

      Everett C. Benton, of Belmont, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, was born 25 September 1862 at Guildhall, Essex County, Vermont, son of Judge Charles E. and Adda C. Benton. His father was one of the prominent men of Essex County and for many years held the office of county clerk, and was at the time of his death judge of probate. The Benton family came from old revolutionary stock, Benton's paternal great grandfather was a captain in the Continental Army under Gen. Washington, at Valley Forge, and his maternal great grandfather was a member of Capt. Johnson's Minute Men and was present at the capture of Fort Ticonderoga.

 

    In early youth Everett C. Benton attended the public schools of his native town and the Colbrook and Lancaster Academies in New Hampshire. At the age of fourteen he was appointed a page in the Vermont senate and his political career began at that time. He was next clerk to the secretary of state for two years and was then deputy county clerk of Essex County for four years. Moving to Boston in 1882 he entered the insurance business, connected with the firm of John C. Paige. At the death of the founder of the firm, he became a part of its organization. In 1910 Benton organized the Massachusetts Fire and Marine Insurance Company of Boston, Massachusetts, becoming its first president. He was also the author of "The History of Guildhall, Vermont," a valuable and authentic authority, supplying much of the early history of the county as well as the town. 

 

    Benton took an active interest in politics during his time in Massachusetts and held various political offices. For a number of years he was a member of the town Republican committee of Belmont; in 1890 he was elected a member of the Republican congressional district committee, in 1891 a member of the Republican state committee, in 1892 chairman of committee on towns in the state committee, and in 1893-1895 he was chairman of the executive committee of the Republican state committee. Benton was a delegate to three national conventions and in the Republican National Convention of 1904 was a delegate at large from Massachusetts. He was the Republican candidate for Massachusetts governor in 1912.

 

      During the state campaign of 1893 Benton distinguished himself as one of the hardest workers on the Republican state committee and when Governor Greenhalge selected his military staff he recognized Benton's excellent work for the party by appointing him an aide-de-camp on his staff with the title of colonel. Benton remained on the staff of Gov. Greenhalge from 1895-1897. He also served in Company I, Third Regiment New Hampshire National Guard, and was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston, and was its commander in 1911-1912.

 

   Col. Benton was a member of the Republican Club of Massachusetts and of the Norfolk Club. He was also a member of the Masonic fraternity, serving as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts in 1912 and 1913. Under his administration as Grand Master, Massachusetts chartered its first lodges in the Canal Zone. He was also a member of the Metropolitan Park Commission.

 

    On 24 January 1885, Benton was married to Willena Rogers, and of the six children born to them, at least four lived to adulthood: Jay R., Charles E., Blanche A., and Dorothy D.  Everett was a Universalist and chairman of the board of trustees of the Second Society Universalists of Boston, and was a member of other social, beneficial, and charitable organizations.

 

      Charles Emerson Benton (1825-1892) and Adda Chamberlin (1835-1901)

   Charles Emerson Benton was born in Waterford, Caledonia County, Vermont, the son of farmer Samuel Slade Benton (1777-1857) and Esther Prouty Benton (1772-1860). He was county clerk and judge of probate. Charles married Adda Chamberlin in the year 1856.  She was born at Newbury, Orange County, Vermont, the daughter of Abner Chamberlin (1804-1884) and Mary Hazeltine (1808-1877). Charles E. Benton died at the age of 66 and was buried at Nellie Smart Cemetery, at Guildhall, Vermont. Adda Chamberlin died at Winchester, Massachusetts on 10 September 1901.

Jay Bayard Benton (1870-?)

Jay B. Benton, of Winchester, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, was born 10 April 1870 in Guildhall, Vermont, the son of Judge Charles E. and Adda C. Benton, of Guildhall. He was educated in Lancaster, New Hampshire, and at the St. Johnsbury Academy, St. Johnsbury, Vermont, from which he graduated with high honors in 1885, the youngest member of the class. After leaving St. Johnsbury, Jay taught school for a term or two at Maidstone, Vermont and then went to New York City, where for a year he filled the office of librarian in the Young Men's Institute. In 1886 he entered Dartmouth College, graduating with honors four years later. While in college Jay was editor of "The Dartmouth" for two years, president of the Handel Society, chorister in his senior year and assistant librarian of the college for three years. He also became a member of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity and of the Phi Beta Kappa society.

    From Dartmouth he went to Boston and in the fall of 1890 joined the staff of the "Evening Transcript," he had represented the paper as Dartmouth correspondent. For a while he did reportorial work and was then promoted to the office of assistant city editor, where he distinguished himself as an untiring worker and a man of ideas and originality. He remained with the "Transcript" until June 1894, when he accepted the position of assistant managing editor of the "Boston Journal." In this capacity he was largely responsible for the Sunday edition. He was the Boston correspondent of the "New York Dramatic Mirror", a popular member of the Press Club, the Newspaper Club, and the Papyrus Club, an organization of literary men. Jay does not appear to have married and resided in his mother's home in Winchester, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

Description and Samples of Letters:

The letters were written by Benton family members from Guildhall, Vermont, while Everett C. Benton was living in Boston, Massachusetts, and active in Republican Party politics. The mother (Adda) writes about family and domestic matters, and local gossip.  The father (Charles) writes about business, personal economy, and family matters, the earlier letters deal in large part with Charles’ thoughts on his son's future, his possibilities and prospects on entering the insurance business, etc. The letters from Everett's brother Jay concern Jay's studies (while studying at St. Johnsbury Academy), as well as social, family and home matters. The letters offered here were written during the period of 1882-1893 when Everett C. Benton first left home to live in Boston to pursue a career in politics and the insurance industry.

"Guildhall Sept 18, 1882

Dear son Everett,

I did not send your watch charm as the valise came and your mother will have it ready to send back soon and I thought I would send it in the valise. We are all well and hope you are - Court sits tomorrow and I expect a very short term, as usual, for the reason that the lawyers are mad with Hartshorn and won't stay to hold a Court.

Yours in Haste Truly,

Charles E. Benton

P.S. Your mother is the owner of the James B. Brown store on the other side of the River and wants $300.00 Insurance on it. It is used for a country store and Post Office. You know how it is situated and if you can get it insured at a reasonable rate, I want it done, otherwise let it go."

"Guildhall January 15, 1883

My dear son Everett,

Your long letter and also other came duly and I should have answered the first one before only that I was up at the Brown Mill on Paul Stream four days last week for you uncle Jacob, he has rented the mill to T. G. Beattie for 5 years and sold him the personal property and I was up there attending to the appraisal for him and for a wonder he has up to this time found no fault with what I did - Now to your case. My advice is now what it has been, for you to stay your year out and perform your duties faithfully, then if the business of Mr. Paige is not lucrative enough so that he can afford to pay you such wages as you can live on, my advice, my advice in that case would be to quit, and if there is no other chance, I can when you are of age give up the Clerk's Office to you, and I will step out and try my luck. If Mr. Paige and Mr. Halt like you they will want to keep you, if not, then they will make you such terms as will be quite likely to be a notice to you that they can get along without your services.

Jacob Benton and Chase are expecting you to come to Lancaster and the last time I saw them I told them I thought it was a little doubtful.

Enclose I send you a check for $15.00 so that you may not be obliged to borrow of any body, which is one of the meanest habits in my judgment a young man can get into and in the end will be likely to make a dishonest scamp of whoever practices it....With Love, Charles E. Benton"

"[Winter 1882]

Dear Everett,

There is not a single bit of news but I will try and write you a short letter. I am well and am attending to my school like a good fellow. You would think that I was by the good lessons that I have. There is one more week of school and then a week's vacation. The examinations come a week from today and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday). I am to be examined in Latin, Arithmetic, Physics, and English History. I shall rank high in all. Those from the Graded School are to be examined Saturday. We have finished our Arithmetic. I don't think that I shall take anything its place next term unless it is Geometry...

There has been just one case tried at the Colebrook Court and that is not finished yet. It is Harlan Cross vs "Dr" Grant. I don't think that the "Dr" explained the "Philosophy of Dreams" to the jury. It is for seducing and alienating the affections of Mrs. Cross. ["De faces de case am"]  as I understand. Mrs. Cross went to Lancaster to be doctored by Grant. While there he did as the above says and tried to get her to elope with him. She wouldn't but said that she would get a divorce and marry him. Before she could this case was started. All Lancaster have been up to testify...

There is a great nuisance in jail in the person of Charles Morrison. He is in for rape and he had ought to be sent to state prison right away without a trial. He calls to every person that passes. The most of his time is spent in chewing and smoking borrowed tobacco....J.B.B."

"[23 May 1883]

Dear Everett,

...School has finished. We had an exhibition the last day and it was quite a success. I sang the duet "What are the Wild Waves Saying" with Hattie Johnson and everyone said we did it splendidly. I played the accompaniment for tow other pieces. I also read a piece. Miss Johnson is engaged to teach the summer school, I'm not going. I am taking music lessons at Lancaster of Prof. C. M. Kumlan. You remember that he is the one that played so long at Island Pond at the convention. He is an elegant player and is a very thorough teacher. Flora Johnson and I go to Lancaster and take a lesson twice a week...Prof. Kumlan has engaged the room that Fred William's barber shop was in for a music room and I take my lessons there...Small Boy" [Jay B. Benton]

"Guildhall Nov 25 [1888],

My dear Everett,

When I sent off the package to you I wrote only a little line in my haste - I wanted to tell you that I knit and colored the stockings myself and was afraid they might crock your feet at first - I washed and rewashed them over and over again hoping to get them clear but if they do crock a little do not cut your feet off but take heart that time and good washing will cure the trouble in both cases - feet and hose.

Your kind letter more than paid for all the work. You must not blame me if I am selfish and often wish I had you back in your own room at home - Caring for you and your clothes the few years that I had you makes me miss the work. I remember well how clean you always kept your bed - and often when I put your shirt in the wash, the crease ironed into the back was there as if it had not been worn - I think you can tell how much a woman loves you by the care she takes of your clothes.

Another Thanksgiving is almost here again. Jay is coming just for a day or two. He has not been home since he went to Hanover directly after his return from Europe. I feel as if I had almost lost him. He stays so long away...Take good care of the babies. One thing I wanted to speak to you about when you was here but did not, see to it that their heads are kept clean. I mean of the scuz on the scalp. It will be notice by your neighbors if you, in you busy work days do not think of it. With much love, Mother"