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 16, 2010

Delight Adams Benham and There is a Story

I begin with little background. This story began with my writing about Delight Adams Benham, my 2nd great-grandaunt. Her name was sweet, and because of that I was curious about her. Armed with quite a few documents, and then a will, I decided to try and find additional information. I previously posted:
Part 1   Delight Adams Benham and is there a Story?
Part 11 Delight Adams Benham and There is a Story 
Soon I indeed discovered there was a story. It unfolds below, minutes after I saw the first newspaper article.

The headline, "Alleged Wife-Poisoning" really caught my eye, and I thought there could be a connection to my Delight Benham. At least the "murderer" and Delight shared the same surname of Benham and they lived in the same county of Genesee in New York. I hadn't come across the name of Florence Tout Benham, the poisoned wife, but I ultimately learned everything about her.

The story begins with the elopement of a orphaned 16 year old, wealthy girl, Florence Tout, and Howard C. Benham, both of Byron, New York in 1892.  Her wealthy father died years before, and left $30,000 to Florence, once she reached 16. After a honeymoon to the Thousand Islands in New York, they settled into married life. Howard was about seven years older than his bride, and had worked as a cashier and bookkeeper. Howard's father, Martin, was appointed to care for her estate. The young couple moved to Batavia, New York.  They had plenty of money and should have had a happy life. But something went terribly wrong on December 26,  1896. The young wife died after a number of days of being very ill. Some said she died of a heart failure, and then the rumors floated around that the death was due to unnatural causes. The autopsy failed to reveal a case of poisoning, but when a drug clerk claimed that Howard had purchased prussic acid twice, and that that clerk failed to record the sale, was he telling the truth? Soon, nobody could agree on the cause, including doctors. On January 9, 1897, Howard was arrested at 4:30 in the morning. The case soon created great excitement in the town, then the county and state, and details were reported in the New York Times as events occurred.

To move the story along, I'll use the New York Times captions of their almost daily recaps of the trial of Mr. Benham.
June, 21, 1897: Opening of trial (continual daily front page reports);
July 29, 1897: Sentenced to chair;
July 30, 1897: To appeal;
Sept. 11, 1897: Request for new trial denied;
May, 16, 1899: Date fixed for second trial;
June, 13, 1899: Case in High Court - whole front page;
Sept. 22, 1899: To have new trial;
Oct. 24, 1899: To be electrocuted;
Dec. 29, 1899: Gov. Roosevelt grants stay to Feb. 12; New trial approved; 
May 31, 1900: Trial now on;
June 21, 1900: Found Not Guilty!

I can only wonder how my 2nd great-grandaunt dealt with this tragic event. Delight's husband, then deceased, was a brother to Howard's grandfather. Delight was the wife of the granduncle of Howard, and I believe they met at some point, after all, they lived in the same area and shared the same surname. However, Delight died 1 1/2 years after the murder / death of Florence T. Benham. 

I'm not sure why Delight chose not to leave any of her estate to her Benham step-sons, who had removed to Colorado, many years prior. It was because of the will and her not naming the step-sons that I decided to investigate and learn why. I found a whole new story.

There is so much more to tell; such as Howard's death, his father's death, the insurance problems, the 2nd wife's problem. These may be addressed in another blog.

Sources Used:

Ruth McEvoy Collection  Pgs. 27-32  Listing of all the New York Times articles for the Benham Family. (This was a unbelievable find, and proved very valuable in my research. I am unable to find any information on Ruth McEvoy.)  Note: On April 22, 2011, I was unable to open this link.

American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, Volume 30  Page 57 (Google Books) First sentences below. To read more, click on above link.
"Buffalo, N. Y.. Jan. 18.— The sensation in this vicinity, in drug circles as well as out, is the Batavia poisoning case. Howard C. BenhPublish Postam of that town is in jail accused of murdering his young wife with prussic acid after attempting her life with morphine."

Fulton History (For newspaper articles)