Maj. Willis Benham
1795 - 1875

The Cartersville American
Cartersville, Georgia
May 20, 1884, page 1
Transcribed by:  

Biographical Sketches.
No. 6.
Maj. Willis Benham
Born 1795 – Died 1875.

“There is history in the lives of all men,” wrote the immortal bard of Avon, and it holds good as applied to Maj. Willis Benham, for many years a noted citizen of Cass, but now Bartow county, Georgia.

Maj. Benham was born near Bristol, Connecticut, December 12, 1795, of intelligent, well-to-do parents. Being one of a household of seven children, his opportunity for a liberal education was limited, being confined to a few months during the winter season in a bitter cold climate, and when old field school houses did not have the modern appliances of the present cozy academies and schools. During the spring and summer months, he labored on the farm until he reached his majority, it being necessary to assist his father as the greater number of the household were females. But his was an energetic nature and he toiled with a hearty good will, and success as a practical farmer crowned his manly efforts.

In 1818, in the twenty-third year of his age, he exchanged his northern home for one in the balmy south, locating at Lawrenceville, South Carolina, in which place, in 1820, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Irby, a young lady lovely in person and richly endowed in mental strength. The union was a happy one, and continued harmonious and affectionate until death, in 1874, deprived him of his beloved companion, having lived happily together fifty four years.

In 1854 he removed from South Carolina and purchased a plantation in Cass county, three and one-half miles from Cartersville, the place on which his excellent son, Dr. W. I. Benham, now resides. Here he lived until his death, which occurred in 1875, in his eightieth year, and twenty-four years a resident of our county.

Maj. Benham was a remarkable man. His inadequate education in youth had been supplemented by studious years of application, assisted by a mind of extraordinary power. His was an analytical mind. What he read, he understood. His mental acumen was of a high order. No man in his sphere was better acquainted with the history of his country. From its discovery through its conflicts, he knew it all. No member of congress knew its political history better than Maj. Benham. He loved and honored his whole country; he was indeed a patriot; he could well adopt the triplicate lines of Sir Walter Scott:
“Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own – my native land.”

As a business for life, he chose that of farming and planting, and having a judgment rarely at fault, he was successful to a high degree, having up to the time of our unhappy war accumulated what most of us would now regard as an easy fortune. Socially, when well known, no man was ever more genial, none more true in friendship and sympathy; few wiser in counsel and advice. His strong mind easily grasped the nature and meaning of subjects brought before him, and his judgment –almost unerring – rarely failed him. The writer of this humble tribute to an honest and noble friend, had for years the benefit of his advice and ripe judgment, and gratefully records in this article his high appreciation of them, and cheerfully confesses that he is daily deriving benefits from them. Maj. Benham was the soul of truth. Never have I known a man who so utterly despised a falsehood. He could not brook prevarication in any shape; he scorned the appearance of untruth or ambiguity; his moral teaching was truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He was honest and equitable in his transactions with his fellowman. His word was his bond. It never entered into his mind to wrong any one, but to “mete out even-handed justice to all” governed him through his long life, and the world has been benefited by his life. His influence and example made their impress on all with whom he came in contact. His conduct and upright principles reappear in his offspring and will for generations to come, for as “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” so the life of an honest, sincerely good man will impress for good all who know him, especially the youth who are close observers of men’s examples. An upright man is a light shining all around him, and it is impossible to estimate the value of his precept and example. Bad men, on the contrary do an immense deal of evil in the neighborhood they reside in.

The Savior of mankind has said: “Let your light shine before men, that others seeing your good works may glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Some young persons will read this feeble tribute of a friend of Maj. Benham’s character and worth, and as he desires to see the youth of our land advanced in all the nobler traits of our nature, he urges them affectionately to take a high moral and religious stand that they may become worthy citizens of our noble country which will soon be under their control as legislators, ministers, teachers of youths, husbands and wives. See to it that you take a firm stand for virtue, morality, honesty, temperance, industry, and for the cause of Christ. Resolve never to drink strong drink, and never to do anything beneath the honor and dignity of a Christian gentleman or lady. None should be willing to live in the world without being a benefit to it, and that it be better for his noble acts. When it is known by proofs of Holy Writ that a man’s works will follow him to heaven or to perdition, it becomes every human being to look honestly into his or her conduct and see to it that they walk in the way of virtue and religion, that their record may stand the test of life and death eternal. Maj. Benham lived such a life. All who knew him will bear testimony to the fact that he never injured his fellowman, but that he treated all with integrity and kindness. He was a reader of the Holy Scriptures, and better – a full believer in their teachings. Still better than all, he believed in the Son of God as his, and the world’s Savior, for all who sought Him and found Him. As an evidence of this faith and trust, he gave himself into his Master’s hands and found that peace which insured eternal rest to his soul. Uniting himself to the Methodist church of Cartersville, Georgia, he lived in its communion until the day of his death, which was one of triumph, for he died full of faith in his Redeemer. One of his comforts and great consolations was in the words of the Lord: “The Lord will provide;” “Jehovah giveth.” It was his delight to hear that grand old hymn sung, embracing the idea above. On the night of his death he was greatly cheered and made happy by a vision – a glance into the upper kingdom. He looked up and saw a plain and shining way to heaven, and calling to Dr. Benham, his only son, informed him of what he saw, and proclaimed that all was well for him. The Lord had indeed provided for him and bid him enter into his everlasting rest.

Young man, as you read this sketch of a good man and dying Christian, resolve just here and just now that you will give the world a sober, honest man, and Christ your heart. Will you? It may be your turning point for life or death.

Maj. Benham, socially, was a pleasant companion to those who knew him intimately – as balmy as a May morning. In his own household he was a model husband and father – loving, kind, affectionate, firm, yet gentle in the government of his children, and no husband or father ever received in return from wife and children more love and reverence.

The beloved wife of his youth died a year or so before his own demise, which brought to his aged heart the profoundest grief of his life. Never did the writer witness a sorrow so poignant and heart-breaking as he saw when our dear friend gazed his last on the placid face of his wife as she lay in her coffin, soon to be buried out of his sight. Turning to the writer, with unutterable grief he said: “Oh, sir, the light of my house and my heart has gone out.” What could comfort him at that hour but the hope of a meeting in the bright world above, where death and separation are no more.


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