07 Andrew Bennett

Andrew Bennett, (1883-1987) A True Pioneer in Andrew County



The following was written by Jessie Bennett Crawford in 1983.

Empire Prairie is a good place to live. In winter snow does not have to be scooped from the hollow, spring breezes breeze along with nothing to stop them, summer rains soak down with no swift runoff and autumn harvest machines have no hills to climb.

In 1867, to this prairie came Charles Bennett, an immigrant from Canada. The same year a young girl, Susannah Nugent, immigrated from another province of Canada. They married in 1881.

Their first child, born on February 11, 1883, was Andrew Bennett. His grandfather who died in Canada and admired uncle were also named Andrew Bennett.

Andrew was born on the farm which his father and grandmother Ann Abbott Bennett had bought in the spring of 1867. The home was a modest one and a half story frame house which his father and uncle Andrew built in August of 1867.

He was never one to spin a yarn and his family knew little of episodes in his life until after the age of ninety, when he could no longer be especially active, he sometimes related interesting things. He could recall, how, when very young his mother would have him along on a shopping trip to King City. They walked along the board sidewalks on main street near the town pump. Occasionally someone would stop them to have a word with the young boy. He was sturdy and stocky, with a head covered with a lot of curly red-brown hair. He had few serious childhood illnesses but sometimes had bouts with the croup.

He recalls that when he was old enough to pull a small wagon he, one day, found much enjoyment in pulling a weed which he could load on the wagon and throw into an enclosure to penned-up sows. The animals liking the green plant, encouraged him to haul load after load. His father noticing that his wagon was too small for such loads, stopped his work and made side boards for the wagon enabling Andrew to haul larger loads to the pigs.

There was a rather large stock watering tank in the Bennett barn yard supplied by an adjacent well. One season new dirt had been piled around the tank. Andrew got on a horse and drove the cows from a pasture to the tank. Coming to the water the horse slipped on the new dirt made mud by a recent rain. The horse fell and Andrew also, landing on his left foot, injuring it so that it became larger than the right foot. When he was ninety-nine years old the family often had to accommodate the left foot, as had always been the case, by slitting the top of a soft shoe to give him room.

Andrews father had a well dug and it has always produced unusually good water. Here, many of the community farmers watered their hogs as they drove them by foot to the market in King City.

He recalls that at the age of five he walked the road west and then north to his Uncle Jim Wildish's home to watch the barn raising. The sides of the barn were built on the ground and the neighbors gathered to upright the sides and help put them together.

He completed elementary school at Garfield country school along with his brother Joe, sisters Annie and Winnie, and half brother Roy McComb who was the son of his mother from her first marriage. The family grew with concern for their parents and one another.

The youngsters gathered hazel nuts, walnuts, and hickory nuts from the timbers close by, having a supply to last all winter. The Bennett parents planted many fruit and berries and it produced in abundance with much to spare. Andrew recalls digging into the outdoor pit which was dug in the fall, lined with straw and covered over, and reaching in latter to get a fresh apple to eat. Part of his remembrance was of the wonderful flavor these apples had.

Birds and wildlife were plentiful. The buffalo were gone but the plow had to contend with one buffalo wallow on the farm which will still gives difficulty to a plow share. It was common for the family to hear the drumming of prairie chickens on the back forty, which were prolific and unusually numerous and very "flighty" if approached. There were covered wagons on the road and the horses were often watered at the creek west of the Bennett home. The children understood the excitement when the "run" on Oklahoma territory was made.

On a pond one winter, Andrew nearly lost his life by ice skating alone and falling through a hole of thin ice. Luckily his mittens were warm enough they stuck to the surface of the ice when he went under enabling him to scramble out.

His father was an expert swimmer but Andrew never learned to swim. Onetime when he was old enough to drive the horses, he drove the girl who helped with the housework back to her home at Island City. An unusually heavy rain occurred while he was gone and the Wild Cat Creek was roaring full. His father fearing that he might try to cross the treacherous water with the horse and buggy, went to the Wild Cat bridge crossing, caught him returning and warned him not to cross. His father selected a log, shoved it through the water using it to help him float swam to the opposite side. The two of them drove to the Lafayette community where they could cross on safe bridges.

The story is that at the age of sixteen Andrew could be called fully grown. He attended singing schools. Along with other young people he attended church where the sanctuary was often crowed. He had an especial interest in box suppers at Blue school on South Empire perhaps because of a certain girl, Flora Inglis, who was apt to be there.

Andrews father, Charles, built a large barn 60 X 80 feet with an extension on the west side for additional shelter 40 X 120 feet, about 1882. When the weather was hot Andrew and some of the hired men slept on a hay-covered flooring in the barn. In 1912 lightening struck the barn and Andrew watched his aging father agonize over the dreadful loss. The house was near the barn and the only thing that saved it from burning also was a heavy rain and the wind blowing in the opposite direction. A small amount of insurance was held. Until very recently, the foundation rocks with iron pins in them could still be found north of the present barn.

In 1897, when he was fifteen years of age, he gave assistance in building a new house on the farm. It was full two a stories with eight large rooms, pantries, clothes closets etc. and a bath room with water lines carrying water out. There was also a parlor with a hanging chandelier and upholstered furniture. To keep the parlor nice it was kept closed. There were no rocks on the prairie to build the basement and foundation of the home. His father bought ten acres at Flag Springs-a rocky knoll--and Andrew helped to haul the rocks for the rocked-up basement and foundation of the house.

There is a fine piece of road reaching from Star Chapel Church to the Presbyterian Church on Empire. The early settlers who settled there remained on their farms and many descendants of these families are still on the land. There was a large population of vigorous sons and daughters of these families growing up as the Bennett children grew. Andrew and the neighborhood boys like to try out their horses on this fine stretch of road and their elders sometimes shook their heads and gave some kindly advice. Andrew said that his father always put his hand on the horse when he rode in home, to determine whether or not it was hot.

The community worked at general farming and raising live stock and Andrew assisted his father in this kind of farming. On one occasion he rode a train to Chicago with a load of cattle, traveling on a pass. On returning he reached the train station as the train was pulling out. Knowing he had no money to pay for the fare, he ran along beside the moving train, caught a box car and hung onto the door step while the train increased its speed making it dangerous to cling there. The door was locked but after a lot of banging and calling, a trainman finally opened the door and let him in.

Traveling by train with the hogs was also done by the farmers going to the market at St. Joseph. Andrew went down with a load once before the turn of the century. He went from the St. Joseph railroad station to the St. Charles hotel to get a nights lodging. However the hotel clerk reported that the rooms were all taken. This presented a dilemma late in the day. After some hesitation the clerk suggested that if he did not mind, there was a room with only one man in it and he would see if the gentleman would like a roommate. After contacting the man the clerk reported that it was all right for Andrew to share the room. When Andrew told the story he said, "Now who do you suppose was in that room? It was Sylvanus Hobson".

Sylvanus Hobson was a farmer from his own community, a very upright citizen, a few years older than Andrew. Next morning Andrew boarded a horse drawn street car to return to the stock yards. It was well loaded with people and having six or eight seats in it, there was not much room for an additional passenger, but a man moved over and asked the young farmer to sit beside him. This man said his name was Cole Younger, that he had just got out of prison in Minnesota and he wanted direction to a harness shop if there was one in that part of town (see section on outlaws).

Staying at Patee house in St. Joseph was often the case when stock was shipped in. Andrew vividly recalls staying at Patee House, the sleeping rooms, the big stairway to the second floor and to the astonishment of his children told of carrying a gold headed walking stick and wearing a gold brocaded vest (see article on St. Joseph and the Patee House).

In 1904 a serious case of appendicitis sent Andrew to the Sisters hospital in St. Joseph. An infection followed surgery and for six weeks he remained a patient. Returning home the common ailment of adhesions plagued him with much discomfort. A lively pig cured the adhesions. The farm men were trying to separate some pigs and one becoming very lively, ran and ran in the wrong direction. Andrew in desperation caught the pig by the hind leg. He fell but held on. The pig dragged him over the ground a few yards. He felt the adhesions tear loose and was never bothered again.

There were other farm accidents. A runaway team stopped long enough for the family to pull an unconscious Andrew from under the curving fingers of a sulky rake. A hay fork fell from the barn roof making a deep gash. Andrew still has the scars. A frightened horse tethered by a rope to Andrew's wrist by an unlucky knot was finally quieted from circular dashes about the barn lot after much lone persuasion by Andrew. He once turned to meet a charging bull with an ax, but the family dog dashed to the rescue and distracted the animal.

Andrew following his father's teaching was greatly interested in farming. While still unmarried he entered Missouri University where he took the six week course then given for farm boys. He said that one of the worst illnesses he ever had was home sickness.

In November of 1904 Andrew married Flora Inglis at the Methodist church parsonage in King City which stood on the present parking lot immediately south of the Hammer Memorial Church. An affair was held at the Bennett home with a lot of food prepared. The couple received treasured gifts, most of which are still with members of the family. They lived on a farm three miles north of the Bennett homestead. It was on his 98th birthday that Andrew recalled that the temperature was cold that winter, reaching 29 below zero at times.

On this farm four children were born--Curtis, Jessie, Dorothy and Bernadine. Bernadine was never strong and died at thirteen months.

Andrew along with his brother Joe continued to farm his father's land. Andrew being further away traveled the three miles with horse and wagon each night and morning as crop attention required periodic duty.

In 1914 the war in Europe got much comment from the people. In 1918 Andrew was registered in the draft as the United States entered the war. At this time the epidemic of influenza which caused death of young Empire men in army camps and the serious cases on Empire were of much concern. Andrew was among those who cared for the ill ones. The family kept formaldehyde burning on the stove as a precaution against the disease. As Andrew returned home from being in the home of a seriously ill sister-in-law, he removed his clothes in the carriage house and put on fresh ones in order to protect his wife and children. The sister-in-law died leaving a small baby. There were other similar cases, as the disease seemed especially fatal to young mothers. Funerals were held in the homes as it seemed best that people didn't gather in large groups. This was the winter his brother Joe died of appendicitis leaving a young family.

If there is a bright spot it is that Andrew was not drafted into the army. His father was aging and becoming quite blind. His mother, much younger, was in good health but they decided to retire to King City.

Andrew and his family then moved to the ancestral Bennett farm. He continued to follow his fathers practice of raising livestock and grains. He developed a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle but was conservative. He belonged to the Aberdeen Angus

Association and sometimes served on the Garfield school board and the Star Chapel church board. His children attended high school in King City. By careful planning Andrew and Flora gave each of their children some education beyond high school. By 1934 all three children were married. Curtis and his wife lived at the homestead for several years and farmed with Andrew. Here the oldest grandson was born making five generations of the family who had lived on the pioneered land.

Eventually a big furnace was placed in the basement of the house, the bathroom modernized, and air conditioning installed.

About 1950 Flora became ill. Despite the illness, Andrew and Flora celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in November l954. During the illness Andrew became cook, housekeeper, and nurse. He began having circulatory health problems and was on medication, continually going "down hill" and in very poor health.

After her death he reasoned that the only way to regain his health was to become more active in outdoor work on the farm and to keep himself occupied. The big hedges his father had planted needed trimming, there was mowing of the grass and weeds, he had planning to do with the renting of the farm land. The old house in which he was born was needing repair. Many days he could only work part time as his weakened body limited him.

After about two years, when memory of his wife was not quite so sharp, he began to regain his health. Still in his seventies he soon could swing a full days work as a retired farmer being able to plan and cook his meals and care for all personal needs.

In 1969 when the old home was 102 years old and Andrew was 86 he decided it would have to come down. A neighbor assisted him in pulling down the structure with machinery. For the most part Andrew picked up the old building himself, loaded it on a hay frame and hauled it to a pasture spot.

The land was always of great interest to him. He has always been a good conservationist, often expressing concern that the soil must be preserved for posterity. He also regretted that the sod when turned over just didn't "smell like it used to". When the churches and schools began to disappear from the country he felt that this might be detrimental to a good society within the rural communities.

In 1977, although in real good health, he decided that his legs were growing too weak to carry him much farther, to sell the farm and moved to King City Manor. There he found good friends and good care and has enjoyed his favorite meal, breakfast of slices of bacon, two eggs, toast, jelly, oatmeal, milk, and coffee. He enjoys playing pitch and viewing baseball and wrestling on TV. He is the caller at the weekly bingo games at the Manor. At this writing he has attained the age of 100. His brothers and sisters are all gone with the exception of one sister, Mrs. Winnie Spikings of King City.

Although he must use a wheel chair, he takes very little medication, has quite good eyesight and hears well enough. His three children and their spouses visit him, as well as four grandsons and eight grandchildren. His friends visit also and at times a visitor will be a gentleman who, when young, worked for him as a hired laborer on the farm.

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This story was told to grandson Wilton Bennett by Andrew Bennett in 1982 or 1983. Wilton had asked Andrew about Halloween customs when he was a youngster.

" I went Trick or Treating one time and never again," said Andrew. It must have been about 1893, Andrew went out with some of the boys for Halloween night. Andrew was one of the youngest in the group. The boys went down to the Empire Store (across the road from Star Chapel Church) when they stirred up some ruckus. The man who lived there fired a gun into the air. Everyone took off and Grandad said he didn't stop until he got to the road west of his house.

Since Grandad had not been able to get into any mischief yet, he stopped at the house on the corner (where the air strip is now). As it was Fall the potatoes had been dug up and a wagon load was sitting in the garden. Grandad said he opened the gate in the wagon and let the potatoes roll out on the ground and walked home.

The next morning as soon as he got up his dad, Charles Bennett, sent him back down to the neighbors to pick up the potatoes , before breakfast. "I never went Trick or Treating again."

The story did not end there. It seemed that the clapper was missing out of the Star Chapel church bell the following Sunday. Mr. Crouch, who lived N.E. of the church and had given the land for the church, was out raged and made certain threats if he ever caught the culprit. Grandad swore he never got to the church that night and no one ever knew who took the clapper. A few minutes latter when Wilton asked him who he suspected, he said "Wil Bulla." (See later article on Wil Bulla)

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ST. JOSEPH GAZETTE Monday, February 17, 1986

CENTENARIAN ENJOYS HEARTY BREAKFAST AND BINGO GAMES

What’s the secret to long life?

One person may say exercise and clean living, while another may suggest a shot of whiskey every day.

For Andrew Bennett, who turned 103 February 11, its the first meal of the day. "Give me my bacon and eggs for breakfast and I'll get along," says Bennett who has been a resident of King City Manor since 1977. He usually has oatmeal, two eggs, bacon, toast with jelly, milk and coffee each morning.

"In a way I guess I am kind of a celebrity. Not many people have the good health I've had," he says as he sits gazing out the window of his room.

His hearing isn't as good as it use to be, but he has a strong voice, which he puts to use as the caller for the Manor's weekly bingo games. He's been calling the games for eight or nine years he says.

Bennett uses a wheel chair now, because his legs have grown week.

The once reddish-brown hair curly-haired farmer has good eyesight and a sprightly mind. He noticed the left-handedness of this reporter and remarked he had several nieces and nephews that were southpaws.

His Missouri roots go back to the mid-1860's when his farmer father settled in this area. His father, Charles Bennett, came to this community at Empire Prairie from Canada in 1867. He married fellow Canadian, Susannah Nugent, in 1881. Their first child, Andrew was born two years later.

Bennett grew up, married Flora Inglis in 1904 and raised three children on the farm his father settled. Then nine years ago he decided the time had come to retire. He closed the farm and moved to the King City Manor.

Even though he is a man of few words, his memories of the King City area are vivid ones.

As a boy Bennett remembers coming into King City with his mother on shopping excursions. They would walk the broad sidewalks of Main Street and chat with friends they seldom saw on the farm. That street is called Vermont now.

"We'd come with our wagon," he says. "It was all we had." He remembers buying his first car, a Model-T, in 1912 or 1913. "I like a good horse," Bennett says about his experiences with cars. "Sometimes we would have terrible snows and traveling would be pretty hard on the horse."

One memory that brings a twinkle to his eye is recalling the day he walked to his Uncle Jim Wildish's home to watch a barn raising. He was only a small boy, but he remembers that the sides of the barn were constructed on the ground and then raised and finished by neighbors.

As he started to grow up, he began helping with the corn planting on the farm. "We used one of these old hand jobbers," he says about the plow he used.

In those days, farmers often rode the train from their communities to bring their hogs to market in St. Joseph. They stayed at the St. Charles Hotel or Patee House and would ride the horse-drawn street cars to the stock yards.

On one such trip to St. Joseph, Bennett recalls boarding a packed trolley. There was no room on the car, but one man managed to make room for the young man. They talked for a while and the man asked directions to a harness shop. He was new to the town, the man said. He introduced himself as Cole Younger and just explained he'd just gotten out of a Minnesota prison. "I didn't pay much attention to him. You never heard much about them (the Jessie James Gang)," says Bennett. "I saw Frank (James) once."

Bennett remembers events like the Spanish American War and World War I. I was notified to be ready," he says of the Great War. "But the war ended and I didn't have to go."

While the war in Europe was raging, the citizens of Empire Prairie and the nation were waging a battle of their own. Bennett was among those caring for the sick during the influenza epidemic of 1917 and 1918. Formaldehyde was kept burning on the kitchen stoves as a precaution against the disease. In addition those caring for the sick had to change their cloths before entering their own homes. Funerals became common place and were kept small.

Bennett likes to reminiscence about the good things too. Like the inventions and improvements over the years. Things that most of us take for granted, like the telephone. "That was wonderful. We got our first phone in 1911, I think," he says. "My grandson has that one now. I took it apart, smoothed and polished it and gave it to him."

Lighting the house could be tricky. "We had a terrible time with (transporting) the Kerosene cans," Bennett says. "Then a man started a Kerosene wagon and he'd come to the house."

He says the addition of refrigeration was a godsend. "When we got our ice box, we thought that was really something," he says with enthusiasm.

The old farm that saw five generations of the Bennett family come and go, has gone the way of many such home-steads. But the man who lived nearly century on that land, the memories of the land and people are still vivid.

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Article in MANOR REFLECTIONS the bi-monthly King City Manor Newsletter

February/March 1987

ANDREW BENNETT 104th BIRTHDAY

The Missouri Century Club, which recognizes those Missourians who have contributed to the State for one hundred years or more, awarded membership in the month of February, 1987, to Andrew Bennett. The certificate came from the division of aging and was signed by Governor Ashcroft and the chairman of the Governor's Advisory Archaiver. Andrew celebrated his 104th birthday on February 11th. His daughter Jessie and son-in-law Wayne, came to have dinner with him. A host of friends sent cards. He received well over the 104 goal we had set for his card shower. KQTV came and KFEQ Radio Station interviewed him over the phone. A special birthday cake was brought by Kathryn Guest, a church friend. He also received flowers and a lot of attention.

NOTE BY DAVID BENNETT- On 7 December 1987, two months shy of his 105th birthday, Andrew died in his sleep. For several months, Andrew had gradually become weaker and slept longer each day, although he still called the numbers at bingo at the nursing home, with some help. Up to the day he died, Andrew got up for each meal and insisted on feeding himself. Andrew died in his sleep on December 7th after breakfast, long known to be his favorite meal of the day.

Andrew was buried on the 11th of December at the Star Chapel Cemetery, less than a mile and a half from the Bennett ancestral home, his home for nearly a century.

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