The Man for Whom Bennettville was Named
by Leslie F. Coleman
Recently I was contacted by Leslie with the donation of this article. We "conversed" at length by email and from this I created the Introduction. Anything with [ ] are my comments/clarifications. Otherwise the text is exactly as provided by Leslie. I wish to thank Leslie for his generous donation. It is very interesting to find information about our Ohio, NY residents who moved on to make a life for themselves "out west", especially when so eloquently written! - Lisa K. Slaski
I was born and raised in a community called Bennettville in Aitkin County, Minn. In 1998 I conducted extensive research about the community and the early settlers and prepared a book that is sold at the county historical society. Bennettville was named for ASHAL BENNETT who became the first post master in 1898. I researched him quite extensively from the time he arrived in Minn. (about 1868) until he died in 1911. I identified information about his family in N.Y. through his military and pension records; learning that he was the son of Henry & Lavina Bennett, was born in Herkimer County, N.Y., married Anna Ashley who died on 3 Feb. 1867.
Also there was a close relationship among my father & grandfather and Ashal's family. The house I lived in as a child was built in 1905 by my grandparents and stood until 1991. Ashal, who apparently had a portable sawmill that he could take to the customer's site, (so my older brother tells me) produced all of the lumber that went into the building of that house.
HOW DID ASHAL BENNETT COME TO MOVE TO MINN
In the history of the 34th Regiment you will note reference to that regiment serving with the 1st Minnesota Regiment. In fact when the 34th disbanded in 1863 - and returned home - the 1st Minn. (along with another regiment) marched with the 34th to the train. Also, I found at the battle of "The Peach Orchard" near Richmond VA, on 29 June 1862, there were 6 units that made up the 2nd Division of the 1st Brigade of the 2nd Corp. Three of those units were thd 34th, the 1st Minn and the 2nd Co. of Minn Sharpshooters (which later became company L of the 1st Minn.)
It is obvious that Ashal became acquainted with men from Minnesota and that is why he came to this state. My grandfather's half brother Wilber was in the 2nd Co. of Minn. Sharpshooters along with a friend David Archibald. Ashal settled in the general area of Hennepin County Minn. where David Archibald and Wilber came from. I note when Ashal & his wife moved to Crow Wing Cty., Minn. (to a site just west of where he later settled in Aitkin Cty.) in 1883 he bought land adjacent to David Archibald.
This then is the apparent reason Ashal Bennett came to Minnesota.
Ashal Bennett's Death Certificate
This [death certificate] was a part of Ashal's and his wife Emma's veteran's pension file. Note that when it was typed by the state agency they errored in spelling his name as Axel. My source for the names of Ashal's parents was strictly this death certifcate. Note it shows the parents as Henry Bennett and Lavina - the mother's maiden name was "unknown". Surely the information about the mother's given name is correct as shown on the death cert. Quite likely it was his widow Emma who provided the information. However, it is possible the source of the information was a man who was listed as an "adopted son" who used the name of Charles Bennett. According to the 1900 census he was born in Minnesota in May 1889, his parents were born in Germany. This Charles was a buddy of my father during his teen years (1905 and later) and Charles worked for my grandfather around 1910. Even if this "adopted son" provided the information about Ashal's parents, it seems unlikely he would give the name "Lavina" unless it (or Lovina) was correct.
The [Ashal's] obit. and the other papers in the pension file do not provide any further proof of the identity of Ashal's parents. But there is some information of interest [which is provided verbatum in the writeup of Henry Bennett 2nd under his son Ashal in the indented paragraphs].
By the way - I find Ashal's name spelled many different ways but he always signed as ASHAL.
- Leslie F. Coleman, Fridley, Minnesota
The Man for Whom Bennettville was Named
Extracted from "THE BENNETTVILLE COMMUNITY 1898 - 1998" "a history of the Bennettville community located in Hazelton Township, Aitkin County, Minnesota," by Leslie F. Coleman, containing 179 pages and indexed. The book is for sale from the Aitkin County Historical Society, Aitkin, MN 56431 and a copy is in their library. Originally printed it in 1998 and reprinted in 2001 with an update of the list of those who had been buried in the Bennettville cemetery (included those buried since the original printing).
ASHAL BENNETT - THE MAN FOR WHOM BENNETTVILLE WAS NAMED
Though his given name can be found in various records, archives and newspapers with a variety of spellings, the correct name was Ashal. He was known to most of his acquaintances as "Asa" but some called him "Ace." He was born to Henry and Lavina Bennett in Herkimer County New York on August 3, 18431. Ashal enlisted after the outbreak of the Civil War and on May 1, 1861 was placed in Co. "C" of the 34th New York Regiment. He was discharged upon completion of his enlistment on June 30, 18632.
Soon after he married Anna Ashley. Anna died on February 3, 18673. There were no children by the marriage. He then moved to Minnesota where he met and married Emma Moody. They were married March 1, 1868 in Maple Plain4. In the story written when he died, it was stated that after moving to Minnesota "he was employed in building bridges on the Northern Pacific Railroad5." No additional facts are known about that employment.
In the late 1870's Ashal and his wife settled on property in the northeast quarter of section 22 in Independence Township, Hennepin County. The location was 1½ miles northwest of Maple Plain on the current day County Road #906. Pioneer Creek ran through his property and Ashal built a sawmill next to the creek. In addition to sawing logs, one author of Independence Township history states Ashal also manufactured some wood products such as broom handles. Ashal's name appeared periodically in the Delano (Minnesota) Eagle newspaper7. On April 12, 1883 the paper noted "A. Bennett sold sawmill."
In the 1880's several from western Hennepin County settled in Bay Lake Township in Crow Wing County. One of the reasons for the movement to the area was the formation of an organization called the Pioneer Cooperative which had intentions of establishing a manufacturing business in Bay Lake Township8. Some families moved to the Bay Lake area in anticipation of having employment as a result of this organization's planned development. Surely it was their acquaintance with one or more of these persons that caused Mr. & Mrs. Bennett to also move to that locale.
In 1883 Ashal commenced to operate a sawmill on the north shore of Bay Lake. The site was where the current day Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge is located9. On February 19, 1884 the Bay Lake post office was opened with Ashal as the postmaster10. For whatever reason, Ashal sold his sawmill near the end of 1885. Though not confirmed it seems likely it was the Pioneer Cooperative organization that purchased his sawmill. The post office was closed when Ashal and his wife left Bay Lake on November 16, 1885. The couple moved back to Independence Township11.
In 1883 Ashal Bennett and his wife moved to the property shown above located on the north shore of Bay Lake in Crow Wing County. He built a sawmill that was on the same site of what is the present day Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge. He was named the postmaster of the newly opened Bay Lake post office on February 19, 1884. He continued to operate the sawmill until late in 1885 when he sold it and returned to Hennepin County. When he left, on November 16, 1885, the post office was also closed. The above is from a survey map prepared by S. H. Relf dated November 19, 1883.
The Delano newspaper on January 7, 1886 had the notation "Asa Bennett's sawmill ready." If he had taken back the mill he sold in April 1883, which seems likely, or if he had acquired another is not known. The paper noted on June 17, 1886, "Asa Bennett furnished power for Wm. Dodge hooppole factory." On October 29, 1886 the paper noted "A. Bennett back from threshing." And on February 17, 1887 noted "A. Bennett sold farm and cattle to Dr. Fargo."
BENNETTS MOVE TO COLORADO - THEN TO HAZELTON TOWNSHIP
Because of medical problems that he indicated were related to his time in the military, Ashal submitted an application for a pension to the Federal Government in April 189212. At that time the couple was living in New Castle, Garfield County, Colorado. In 1897 they moved to Hazelton Township13. Here the Bennetts acquired the following property: The W. ½ of the N.E. ¼ and the N.E. ¼ of the N.W. ¼ of section 9. They also purchased an adjoining 1.75 acres in Government Lot #5 in section 414.
On the property, at a site on the south side of the current County Road #11, on the west side of the drive leading to the house that currently stands on the property in section 9, the Bennetts constructed a building. It housed their living quarters, a general store and, when he became the postmaster, the post office. Ashal also built a sawmill. As with his previously owned sawmills, his source of power was a steam engine. Area residents would cut trees on their property, transport the logs to Bennett's mill where he cut the logs into the size and type lumber requested by the customer15.
On May 21, 1898 Ashal became postmaster of the office that was assigned the name "Bennettville" and it was located in his residence. The exact period of time he served, as postmaster is not known but it quite likely was until 1907. Records of the Hazelton Township land, owned by the Bennetts, show that on February 2, 1904 Ashal and Emma sold their property for $2,000. to T. R. Foley16. However the story written when Ashal died stated the couple continued to reside in Bennettville until 1907 and, based on all that has been learned about the Bennetts, this appears to be an accurate date. At that time they moved to a house in Aitkin.
(Though no longer residing in Hazelton Township, on January 18, 1910 Ashal took possession, from C. P. DeLaittre, of the 40 acres in the N.E. 1/4th of the S.E. 1/4th of section 4 in the township. He owned it at the time of his death and on February 6, 1915, after the necessary legal steps, his widow Emma took title to the land. Three days later, on February 9, 1915, she turned over ownership of the land to Charles Bennett17.)
Exactly where in Aitkin the Bennetts resided is not known. A note in a July 1911 issue of the Aitkin Republican paper stated "Ace Bennett has the thanks of the Republican for a mess of fine new potatoes grown in his garden on the south side."
Ashal died at his Aitkin home on October 30, 1911. The death certificate prepared by Dr. H. C. Leonard stated the cause of death was cancer of the duodenum that had an onset six months previous. The newspaper story stated the "deceased leaves a widow, no children." The 190018 and 190519 Hazelton Township censuses show Charles Bennett, born in May of 1889, living with Mr. & Mrs. Bennett. He had come to live with them in 1899 and in the 1900 census was listed as an "adopted son." However no mention of Charles was made in the newspaper story written when Ashal died. Ashal was buried in the Lakeview Cemetery in a space set aside for veterans of the Civil War20. It is not known what became of his widow Emma.