My blog has been changed to make it more appealing for those who have New England ancestors and want to see the area through photos. Things I’ll include are typical white New England churches, libraries showing their genealogical collection, historical societies, cemeteries, war memorials, in general, anything to do with history.

For four years I’ve blogged mostly about my personal genealogy in New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire), New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. I still will, can’t forget my own roots.

Please check out the labels on the right side for articles. The header tabs at the top are a work in progress.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Delight Adams Benham and The Rest of the Story

This is the conclusion of the high profile murder in the family of my 2nd great-grandaunt, Delight Adams Benham. The first post begin with my explaining my love of the name of Delight, and how I wanted to write a story about her. I was very curious as to why her step-sons were not mentioned in the will. So with a little time on my hands, and before I knew it, I was reading about a murder in the family of her deceased husband, Franklin Benham of Batavia, New York. Not just any murder, but one that happened to a very wealthy newly wed 20 year old and everybody in the state was reading and talking about it.

If you have not read any of the posts, they are provided below.

Part 1   Delight Adams Benham and is there a Story?
Part 11 Delight Adams Benham and There is a Story (I hope you will read the comments, among the best I've ever had.)

Follow-up for Howard C. Benham and his family:

“As for the motive for the crime, it was said that (Howard) Benham desired to be free from his wife, not only that he might inherit $30,000 that she possessed, but that he might marry a young woman with whom he was said to be desperately in love.”

Howard was found not guilty in June, 1900, and tried to put his life in order. He desperately wanted to be in vaudeville and had signed a contract. The show was cancelled because there were too many protests in Buffalo against him. Other headlines state, he moved to Cleveland, tried to recover control of wife’s property from his step-father-in-law. In January 1901, Howard “reported married in Indianapolis to millionaire, Esther (Estelle) Crum.” The new Mrs. Benham says she fell in love with Howard from a picture during the trial. On June 27, 1901 a paper reported he (Howard) was ill in Ohio with Typhoid fever, and it was reported two weeks later that he died in Columbus, Ohio, and was buried back home in Byron, New York.

The story continues to be sad, for his (Howard's) property went to the lawyers, not to his very young orphaned son.

Martin C. Benham (Howard's father):

Howard’s father, Martin C. Benham had his own problems. And headlines as well.  Martin moved in with the young couple, Florence and Howard, and was hired to handle their finances and to be the guardian of Florence. Everything seems to be fine, until after the murder and the arrest of his son in January 1897.

Per the New York Times, March 20, 1897, “Batavia, N.Y., March 19.—Martin C. Benham, father of Howard, the alleged wife murder, made three attempts to take his own life yesterday. Mr. Benham has been gradually breaking down mentally since his son’s arrest.”

Per the Democrat and Chronicle, Sept. 29, 1897 of Rochester, NY. – The headline: “Contest Over the Account of Martin C. Benham as Guardian.” He was in court because of possible misuse of the money, as there was a shortage in his accounts of $2,449.12.

The headlines from March 1897 to January 1901 ran from, “Mind said Failing,” “Condition improved,” “Not insane,” “Health now excellent,” “Mentally confused,” “Declared insane,” “Home,” “Ill,” “in Jail on Contempt, then released on health reasons,” “Worse – Confined to bed,” “To be Freed Today,” “Has pneumonia – now at home,” and four days later “Died.” 

Other Family Members:

Howard’s second wife eloped with a Cincinnati lawyer, per paper dated 12-7-1903.

Mrs. Martin C. Benham (Howard’s mother) died December 1911.

All of Howard’s sisters died young, all three under 35 years of age.

The murder, trials, and all deaths had to have affected everybody in the family. Delight Benham was only alive for a year and a half after the murder, and I believe she was well aware of what was going on.


Susan Petersen said...

This is a fascinating tale, Barbara. I think you should write a much longer (book?) version of the entire saga! Thanks for sharing your family stories with us.

imagespast said...

My goodness - what a lot to go on in such a short space of time, and so many people suffering. Thanks for the series, it was a brilliant read! Jo

Carol said...

That is a lot of tragedy. Great series Barbara!

Marian Pierre-Louis said...

What an amazing story!

Greta Koehl said...

So interesting - that vaudeville connection gives it a bit of a modern tabloid flavor. And the father's mental health problems are reminding me of some things I have learned from cousins on my VT/NY Floyds (also involve a murder). I agree with Susan - you could write a book on this!

Lori said...

Barbara, I agree with all the other ladies. This is a book in the making! You should absolutely write it.

Barbara Poole said...

Thank you for your wonderful comments. I think this was the best piece I've written, so I appreciate the fact that you took the time to read such long post, at Christmas time!

dee-burris said...

I agree with the commenters who say a book is in order...

I'd certainly read it.

What great detective work...

Katie said...

You've been given the Ancestor Approved award - please go to to get it

Anonymous said...

Barb, Great story but I have a couple of questions and that is probably another blog AND a chapter in the book. (Good suggestion ladies) Do you know what happened to the step-sons?? You said that they came to Colorado - do you know what part?? Knowing you, you have already looked into it. Let us all know Joyce

Barbara Poole said...

Dee, Thank you very much, Katie too for the award, and Joyce, Jay Benham is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Deer Trail, Arapahoe Co., Colorado. No information about his brother. Is that your county?

Nolichucky Roots said...

Such tragedies. The father's mental breakdown raises all sorts of questions. Was he involved, reacting to his son's situation, or exhibiting symptoms from a pre-existing mental health condition? I doubt there's any way to find out (even with your research skills).

I love the way you used the headlines to convey so much information. Very effective. I may borrow that strategy.

This was a superb series, Barb!

Barbara Poole said...

Thanks Susan, and I look forward in reading your headlines. It was the only way I could get a lot said with few words.

Candi Summers said...

My 3rd great grandfather was the Sheriff of Genesee county who had Howard in his care at the Genesee County jail during his trial, was in charge of transporting him to Auburn State prison, and was one of only a handful of people allowed to visit him while in State prison. Sheriff William H. Heal seemed to believe Howard was innocent, treated him fairly and was noted in his obituary in 1932 for having conducted the trail with calm and order. I was very curious as to what happened to Howard after he was acquitted, and i am so glad to read your story. I am very sorry to hear how it so negatively impacted the whole family. I have seen headlines as far away as San Francisco. This story was nation-wide sensationalism, imagine trying to move on after being released. Sheriff Heal was called out to Martin's house several times as he was mentally declining. I read a newspaper story where he had chased everyone out of the house at night threatening them and Sheriff Heal posted a deputy there overnight to make sure he didn't hurt himself. Please feel free to contact me if you would like copies of newspaper clippings I have if you need them.

Barbara Poole said...

Hi Candi, I'd love to write you, but can't find an email. Perhaps you could write me at: Thanks so much for writing.