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.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Closing the Chapter on a Murder -- Obituary

Once again, a reader left a comment on a post of mine and her statement provided a wealth of information.

The three part story of Howard C. Benham, who was arrested for murdering his young, wealthy wife, sentenced to die, was about to be electrocuted, then had a second trial, subsequently acquitted, was one of my more popular posts. This case was discovered when I began researching a distant relative of mine, Delight Adams Benham. Recently, I received a very interesting comment about the sheriff responsible for transporting Howard, and felt it should be shared. I was absolutely thrilled with the comment, and you will see why.

“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 (Howard's father) 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.
By Candi Summers
(Comment left at  The Rest of the Story Part 3.   I have been unable to contact Candi, so I really hope she Googles her name.)*

*Like all of you, we love getting clues from readers, and I was delighted to hear from Candi. Immediately, I went to work to try and locate information about William H. Heal. It wasn't hard.

"Heal, William H., was born in Stafford, July 5, 1852. His father, Matthew W. Heal, was a native of England and came to the United States in 1836 with his parents, John and Mary Heal, who settled in Oakfield. M. W. Heal married Harriet, daughter of John March, and was a farmer and hotel keeper. William H. Heal was educated in the common schools and was engaged in farming for twenty years. In 1881 he began the produce and coal business in Le Roy, remaining there until 1896 when he was elected sheriff of Genesee county and removed to Batavia in 1897. The famous trial of Howard C. Benham for murder occurred during the first year of Mr. Heal's term as sheriff. The excellent order and perfect freedom from confusion which he maintained in the court room received the well merited commendation of court and counsel. In 1870 Mr. Heal married Emma D., daughter of Salma and Betsey White: they had three children: Homer S., Florence and Ethel."
From: Biography of William H. Heal
Source: Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Genesee County, New York
Edited by: F. W. Beers
J.W. Vose and Co., Publishers, Syracuse, N. Y. 1890

The Obituary below was located on RootsWeb:


"Death of Stafford Native Occurred in North Tonawanda Today.

William H. Heal 78, a native of Stafford and former Genesee County Sheriff, who was in office at the time of the Howard C. Benham murder trial, died at the home of his daughter Mrs. Edward Sullivan in North Tonawanda today. He suffered a stroke of apoplexy this morning and died soon afterward. Mr. Heal was born at Stafford July 5, 1852, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Matthew W. Heal, who came to this county from England in 1836. He was educated in the public schools and was later engaged in farming for twenty years. In 1881 he started a produce and coal business in Le Roy, remaining in that village until 1896, when he was elected sheriff. He moved to this city in 1897 when he took office and continued his residence for three years. Following the death of his wife who was Miss Emma D. White a daughter of Salma and Betsey White of Stafford, Mr. Heal moved to North Tonawanda, where he had since resided. He is survived by two daughters. Mrs Ethel McIntosh of No 11 Vine street and Mrs Sullivan.

I also have a clipping where my GGGrandmother Betsey White sued her son in law William Heal over a land deed and won the case. If anyone is interested in this. Let me know....Sharon"
From: (unable to locate her) From a 2002 posting.

Candi (see * above) sent me the following information on Henry Sidney Benham, the two-year old son, of the murdered wife and mother. "I just wanted to let you know I'd done some more research on Henry C. Benham, most notably his son Henry Sidney Benham, who was 2 when his mother was murdered.  It turns out he lived with his maternal grandparents, Peter and Mary Farrant, later taking their last name and going by his middle name Sidney. (I am sure we can both imagine why, when you consider that the case is well known by local historians even to this day in Genesee County).  He married a Puerto Rican woman named Amparo Rodriguez.  Sidney and Amparo retired to Puerto Rico (I have no idea how she got to New York and they met!) in the 50's... they had a son named James S (likely for Sidney) Farrent who moved to Puerto Rico from New York in the 50's as well but there the line stops."

I did a social security death index search on Sidney Farrant and found that he died September 1977 and his last benefit was sent to Bayamon, Bayamon, Puerto Rico.