Tuesday, March 13, 2012

John Benge's Wagon Train, the Benge School, and his free Cemetery

Benges on "Wagonmaster" John Benge's Wagon Train on the Trail of Tears

by Jim Hicks, 2000
John "Wagonmaster" Benge was the leader, "Conductor", for detachment number four of thirteen detachments [wagon trains] on the forced removal. John's detachment was organized on 09/28/1838 and they departed 10/01/1838 with 60 wagons, 600 horses, and 1132 personnel with 1079 persons reaching the western territory on 01/11/1839 (counts per John Ross; muster rolls).
There were two Wagonmasters in John's Detachment; Jesse Mayfield and Robert Benge, there were four Assistant Wagonmasters; Richard Guess, George W Campbell, John Young and Thomas Campbell, and there were seventeen Wagoners that I've found on the payroll receipts for the expenses incured by John's Detachment. The muster rolls account for 35 Benge family members in this detachment with the heads of household being John Benge (13 Cherokee and 4 slaves), Martin Benge (7 Cherokee and 2 slaves), Rebecca Benge (4 Cherokee), Richard Benge (4 Cherokee), and Robert Benge (7 Cherokee).

by Oleta E. Benge Kite, Great Granddaughter
On September 28, 1838 a wagon train left Old Cherokee Nation East headed for Indian Territory. This particular wagon, one of thirteen, was commanded by John Benge ("Wagonmaster John"). Wagonmaster John was the mixed blood Cherokee son of (Chief) Robert Benge ("The Bench") and grandson of "Old Trader" John Benge, a Scot, and Wurteh, Old Trader's second wife. On this wagon were...
  • Robert H. Benge, also a grandson of Old Trader and Elizabeth Lewis Benge (Old Trader's first wife who was English and white),
  • his wife Jennie (also called Jane) Lowrey Benge, a Cherokee, and
  • their five children,
  • his brother Martin and
  • his wife Eliza Lowrey Benge and
  • their children, as well as
  • George Lowrey and
  • his wife Lucy Benge Lowrey (Lucy was an aunt of Wagonmaster John) and
  • their children.
Robert H. Benge settled in the Old Skin Bayou District of the Cherokee Nation. On March 10, 1840 his son John Riddle Benge was born in Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. Riddle, as he was always called, married in 1867 Caroline Takey Gordon, daughter of John Gordon and Lucy McPherson. John and Takey were the parents of four boys, Robert Lowrey Benge (born 7 September 1868) who married Rebecca Elizabeth Reser, Pickens (born 10 September 1870) who married Versa Belle Wilson , Louie Ross Benge (born 29 August 1879) who married Ella White and Jack Walker Benge  (born 26 December 1880) who married Bessie Larson.

Riddle was a member of the Indian Police, a Sheriff and also a Deputy US Marshall in the 1860s. He gave a part of his allotment land for a school known as the Benge School, and gave land for the Cemetery known as the Citizens Cemetery. He made the stipulation that no one was to be charged to be buried there. At a later date the Town of Fort Gibson deeded this over to the Cherokee Nation.
Riddle died on July 7, 1903 and Takey died on March 10, 1910. Many of their descendants lived there for years and Louie Ross Benge still has descendants living in the area.

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