At sixteen years old, Bennett Smith was a private in Company F of the 48th Ohio Infantry. Enlisting on December 16, 1861, he served until his discharge on August 28, 1862. Perhaps he would have fought longer if not for a gunshot wound in his hand which he reported on the 1890 Veterans Census. Considering the time period, the wound could have occurred at the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862, a particularly bloody battle that did not go well for the Union.
Bennett was German, born in August, 1846, and naturalized here in 1850 or 1851. The 1860 census of Richland Township, Defiance County, enumerated Bennett, 14, with his parents, John and Frances, and nine children, of which Bennett was second oldest.
In 1871, Bennett Smith married Cornelia Baker. The couple had four children: John, Mary Mae, Karl and Bertha. By 1880, they were settled into 250 Washington Street in Defiance, where Bennett worked as a carpenter, while Cornelia (who was born in Holland) minded the children and took care of their boarder, H. G. Baker, 22, a student at law and her brother.
The Defiance Democrat reported on December 14, 1882, that Bennett had his cousin (Potterf) from Germany into town. What a tragic story that cousin had!
It wasn't long before Bennett became more of an entrepreneur, opening first a butcher shop on East Second Street. Eventually, he expanded into other groceries, knickknacks, and even shoes. One newspaper noted:
"You can purchase genuine home rendered lard at fourteen cents a pound of Bennett Smith, at his butcher shop on Second Street in Fourth Ward. He also sells the best pork and beef steak at ten cents a pound. Call and see him"
|Advertisement from 1897|
By 1900, he was a well established merchant in Defiance at the age of 52. The census mentioned that two of his children, Karl, 15, and Mae, 22, worked as grocery salesmen - part of the family business. Bertha, 19, taught school, and perhaps John had already left home. The family lived in a home at 203 Auglaize Street .
In 1902, Bennett was severely injured in a runaway horse accident. Three newspapers - The Defiance Express, the Defiance Crescent News, and the Defiance Weekly Express - all covered the story.
|Defiance Express, August 9, 1902|
From the information provided in the stories above, it would appear that Bennett had given up his store and retired. He did recover from his accident and in 1910, at the age of 64, he and Cornelia, 58, continue to live at the Auglaize Street home. Two of their children lived with them: Mae, single and 30, was a shoe sales lady and Karl A., single and 25, was a civil engineer working out of the courthouse.
About 1919, Bennett and Cornelia and daughter, Mae, moved to Dustin, Hughes, Oklahoma. Their oldest son, John, lived there with his wife, Jennie, and three children - Hayward, Lela, and Marvin. John had a dry goods store there. Bennett's daughter, Bertha, also resided there. On January 6 1920, Bennett, 73, and Cornelia, 69, had their own home which they owned free of debt. Mae was 39 and single, and perhaps cared for her parents. She was not employed otherwise.
On May 24, 1920, Bennett Smith passed away in Dustin, Oklahoma, and it was there he was buried in the Fairview Dustin Cemetery. His obituary appeared in the Crescent News on May 26, 1920:
No photo was available of his tombstone. Eventually Cornelia and Mae went back north where they settled in Adrian, Michigan. Cornelia lived until May, 1934 when she died in Adrian. Her body was brought back to Riverside Cemetery in Defiance.
|Crescent News, May 21, 1934|
|Crescent News, May, 1946|
|Riverside Cemetery, Defiance, Ohio|
(This is part of a series on Civil War veterans of Defiance County who were part of the G.A.R., Bishop Post, that headquartered in the city. Formed in 1879, the post was named after a local man, Captain William Bishop, Company D, 100th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Army who died as a result of wounds received in battle. The veterans' photos are part of a composite photo of members that has survived. If you have other information or corrections to add to the soldiers' stories, please add to the comments!)