Transcribed from "An Illustrated History of The Big Bend Country, embracing
Lincoln, Douglas, Adams and Franklin counties, State of Washington",
published by Western Historical Publishing Co., 1904.
BENJAMIN F. DOWNING, son of Harrison
and Betsey E. (Briggs) Downing, is a farmer residing six miles northwest
of Egypt, Washington. Mr. Downing was born in Yates county, New York,
May 6, 1847. His father was born in the same county, as was also
the subject's grandfather and great-grandfather. His great-great-grandfather
was one of the first settlers in New York, coming from England; and the
subject's grandfather was a soldier in the War of 18l2. Harrison
Downing was a wagon master in the Civil war. He enlisted in 1861
in a company under General McClellan, and with that general was in several
prominent battles, among which was Bull Run. He had two sons who
served in the same company with him, Hamilton and Edwin. Edwin is
now dead, and Hamilton lives in Iowa. Betsy (Briggs) Downing was
born in New York and her father also was a soldier in the War of 1812.
Both parents of our subject died in Iowa, the father aged sixty-five, and
the mother eighty-six.
The boyhood of Benjamin Downing was spent
on a farm with his parents, and in the fall of 1864 he enlisted in Company
E, One Hundred and Forty-fourth New York Infantry, with which command he
remained for one year, all of which time he was stationed in New York state.
After this he went to a lumber camp north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where
he worked at lumbering.
On January 1, 1868, Benjamin Downing was married
in Newaygo county, Michigan, to Josephine Heath, a native of Ashtabula
county, Ohio, and the daughter of Albert and Lucy (Cook) Heath. Albert
Heath was born in Massachusetts, where he learned the trade of millwright,
and was an early pioneer in Ashtabula county. He made that county
his continuous home from the time of his settling there until his death,
with the exception of seven years spent in Michigan. He died in Ashtabula
county, in 1899, aged ninety years, two months and nine days. The
Heath family emanated from England, Sir Robert Heath, the founder of the
American family of Heaths, coming to America as early as 1616. At
a grand re-union of Heaths at Ross Park, New York, in 1903, there were
three hundred and fifty present. Some of the family were soldiers
in the Revolution, among whom was General William Heath.
Lucy (Cook) Heath was a native of New Hampshire,
spent her life in that state, New York, Vermont, and Ohio, and died in
Ashtabula county in 1896, in her ninetieth year. The brothers and
sisters of Mrs. Downing were, Mrs. Clara French, deceased, Mrs. Betsy Butler,
Herman L., Adoniram J., a veteran of the Civil War under Sherman; William
H. and Chauncy A. All of those living are in the state of Ohio, except
the last named, who is in Grass Valley, Oregon. Mrs. Downing is a
direct descendant of the noted Governor Winslow, one of the colonial governors
Benjamin F. Downing was a pioneer settler
in Clay county, Nebraska, where he took a homestead in 1872. In the
spring of 1883 he came to Sherman county, Oregon, and engaged in the stock
business. In the fall of 1889 he came with his family to Lincoln
county, bringing with him a drove of cattle and some horses. This
stock Mr. Downing endeavored to winter on Hawk creek, but owing to the
exceptional severity of the winter, the greater portion of them died, thus
badly crippling the owner financially. However, he went to work again,
and has gradually gained in wealth until now he is one of the well-to-do
residents of Lincoln county. He owns six hundred and forty acres
of land, four hundred of which are under cultivation, where he resides,
a large herd of cattle, some horses and smaller domestic animals.
He has a handsome home, a productive orchard and everything about his farm
betokens thrift and prosperity. All that he has, he has made since
coming to Lincoln county.