Archive for September, 2021

Dr. Jesse Bennett-Known As The Doctor History Almost Missed

Historic marker on Route 42 just south of Edom. His name is on the web two ways: Jessee/ Jesse and Bennet/Bennett. Not sure which is correct but most seem to use Jesse Bennett.

My brother Ed recently asked me if I knew the first Caesarean Section was performed in Edom, a tiny, little, don’t blink, no stop light, blurb between Harrisonburg and Broadway, Virginia. Edom is not a town, it is just a “has been” area that 60 years ago had a filling station and tiny store, long gone, on the first floor of the McKay’s house (It is still standing-the burned out shell of a house). When we were young, we could safely ride our bikes the quarter of a mile to purchase penny and nickel candy from our hard-earned money. We would stand at the counter and gaze and gaze at the candy trying to decide how to spend those precious pennies. I had heard the story about Dr. Bennett sometime through the years, but would not have been able to recall it until Ed mentioned it.

It sparked my curiosity and I started digging for the story. I found several fascinating articles about Dr. Jesse Bennett on the internet. It is a story worth telling.

Bennett was born on July 10, 1769 in Frankford, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. Historians disagree about his medical education but after completing his studies, decided he wanted to go west. In 1771, he stopped in Rockingham Country and stayed. He built a little log cabin, hung his diploma on the wall and started his medical practice. In the spring of 1793, he married Elizabeth Hogg, the educated and talented daughter of Peter Hogg, a noted attorney in Rockingham County.

Within the first year, Elizabeth became pregnant and Bennett solicited the service of Dr. Humphrey of Staunton, VA to attend to Elizabeth during her delivery. To me this was amazing as Staunton today is a 45 minute drive by car going 70 mph on interstate from Edom. How did the doctor get there on time and how was word gotten to him when she started labor? Did he ride the train to Edom or his horse?

Her labor started January 14, 1794 and after a prolonged, difficult and agonizing labor the two doctors determined the only two options were a caesarian on Elizabeth or a craniotomy (a crushing of the skull) on the unborn infant. They had tried to deliver the baby vaginally with forceps but were unsuccessful. Dr. Humphrey refused to attempt anything else and left as he knew Elizabeth could not survive the operation. The situation was dire and probably meant death for either or both the mother and her infant. (References #5 and #6)

Desperate to save her baby even at the cost of her own life, Elizabeth pleaded for her husband to perform the caesarian. This surgery had been done successfully to save a baby but had never been successful in saving the mother. The twenty-four year old doctor, with only about three years of experience, was faced with a horrendous decision. Weighing the consequences, he remembered his resolution when he first hung out his shingle, “that he would attend the sick, in good or bad weather, night or day, rich or poor, and do all he could to relieve pain and aches.” In an instant, his decision was made, he would save both if possible, and he did. He assembled a crude operating table from two boards supported by barrels and gave his wife Laudanum (opiate drug) to make her sleepy. Her sister, Mrs. Nancy Hawkins, held a tallow candle to light the makeshift operating table and two slaves supported and held her down on the table. (Reference #5)

Using a knife from the kitchen he opened her uterus with one long swipe and extracted his precious infant daughter, Maria. (Source #3 says 2 cuts) He then removed both of her ovaries and placenta saying “he’d not be subjected to such an ordeal again.” Using stout linen thread, the kind used in frontier homes to sew heavy clothing, he sutured the wound closed. When Elizabeth learned he had taken her ovaries, she was not a happy wife. After a month she was able to be up on her feet and on March 1, 1794 Jesse declared his wife healed. He wrote notes on the title page and margins of one of his medical books but refused to publicize the details of the surgery during his life fearing repercussions from the medical world. He said other doctors would never believe a woman could survive such a hazardous operation done in the backwoods of Virginia. He was not going to give them the chance to call him a liar. Elizabeth died in 1836 after living another thirty-six years. (References #2, and #5)

Dr. A. L. Knight, a boyhood neighbor of the Bennetts, remembered hearing the story of Maria’s birth when he was a youth and collected eye-witness testimonies from Mrs. Nancy Hawkins and the surviving African-American slaves after Dr. Bennett’s death and published the story in The Southern Historical Magazine in 1892 as part of “The Life and Times of Dr. Jesse Bennett, M.D. (References #5 and #6)

Jesse Bennett Way is probably half a mile from where I grew up. Route 42 is the main road running north and south between Harrisonburg and Broadway. Some years ago, Route 42 was widen and a mile long stretch of road coming through Edom was cut off to become a side road. It was named Jesse Bennett Way after the doctor. There are only maybe a dozen or so homes on the road and two churches; one home is an old homestead with a small log cabin behind it at the corner where the road turns into the Lindale Mennonite Church parking lot.

I decided to to pay a visit! This past weekend when I was in Harrisonburg, my sister Evelyn and I went by the house and found the occupants at home. I will refer to them as the B’s. The B’s were gracious and let me take pictures. They knew the story but had never had it connected to their place. The current house where they live was built in 1851 (54 years after the Bennetts left the area) by John R. Wenger and he had a broom making shop in the log cabin. This was the history of their place as they knew it.

History records that in 1797, five years after the historic caesarian, Bennett moved his family to his father-in-law’s land in western Mason County, West Virginia. There, he established a large, well-known and popular medical practice. He got involved in politics and helped to establish Mason County‚Äôs government and served as their representative in the Virginia Assembly. It is recorded that Aaron Burr tried unsuccessfully to get him to join the Burr conspiracy. Fortunately, he did not as Burr was later convicted of treason When the US and Great Britain began the War of 1812, he served as army surgeon. (References #5 and #6)

Mr. B said that Route 42 was not a road at the time of the Bennetts, it wasn’t built until 1928. The main road going north and south was Route 11 several miles to the east. There were paths connecting the farms to Route 11. They traveled by horse at that time and had to go through the a series of neighboring farmers’ gates to get there. That would make sense with the info in some of the below articles that said the doctor’s log cabin was located in the back woods. In those days doctors usually traveled to homes rather than patients coming to the doctor’s office.

Another reason I found this story so fascinating was my great-great grandmother Lahman was born prematurely, also very close to Edom, just a mile or so down the road on December 2, 1855. Her face was the size of a silver dollar, a kernel of corn covered her hand and she reportedly weighed 1-1/2 lbs. The story is found on my blog post, A Family Story: An Amazing Birth Miracle I had to look to see if by chance Dr. Bennett could have been the doctor attending her birth, but it was 58 years after he had left the area.

I am posting a picture of the log cabin at the B’s house. Was it by chance Dr. Bennetts? I searched and searched the internet and could not connect the dots but it is the only log cabin on a mile long stretch of road named in his honor. It was built in the same era of time. To me it seems highly possible but I do not know. I do know the current house was not his. If anyone has any more insight on the cabin and/or location, I would love to know.

The cabin is currently being used as a dog house. Sometime through the years a concrete floor was poured. The cabin is still weatherproof and the steps going to the loft are sturdy. Regardless of who built the cabin or who it belonged to, it is a step back into time. You can almost feel the history when you stand in the darkened cabin and creep up the stairs to the loft. And to think that one time the successful “factory” of Mr. Wenger or possibly the office of Dr. Bennett.

Quick Reference Time Line From This Post:

  • 1769: July 10, Jesse Bennett was born.
  • 1791: Dr. Bennett moved to Rockingham County and started his medical practice in a log cabin at Edom.
  • 1793: April 8, married Elizabeth Hogg.
  • 1794: January 14, Dr. Bennett performed a successful caesarian on his wife, Elizabeth at the age of 24.
  • 1794: February 9, Elizabeth was out of bed and by the 15th could walk. March 1, he declared her healed.
  • 1797: The Bennetts moved to Mason County, West Virginia.
  • 1812: Dr. Bennett served as surgeon in the War of 1812 against Great Britain.
  • 1836: Elizabeth Bennett died.
  • 1842: July 22, Dr. Bennett died.
  • 1851: Wenger house was built.
  • 1855: December 2, Pat’s Great-great grandmother Lahman was born prematurely.
  • 1928: Route 42 was built.
  • 1956-1972 Pat lived at Edom.

References:

The Amazing Henry B. Ford Museum

This summer Obe and Jill (our daughter) took their family and two nieces on a trip around the Great Lakes. One of their early stops was the Ford F-150 Manufacturing Plant and Henry B. Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, on the outskirts of Detroit. They weren’t prepared for the depth and massiveness of the facility and had only allowed one day. After circling the lakes, they swung back to the museum for another day and decided that we needed to go!

This past weekend they took us to Dearborn. It was a great trip, a lot of fun and an incredible history lesson, parts of which we have lived!

Dearborn is an eight hour drive from Harrisonburg plus however many times you “need” to stop for gas, food and other essential needs. Interstate 81 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike takes you most of the way there.

FORD F-150 TRUCK MANUFACTURING PLANT

Friday morning we had tickets to tour the Ford plant that manufactures F150 pickup trucks. It was in full production and it was fascinating to view the process from the overhead catwalk. If I remember my facts correctly, they produce 600 trucks a day. It takes 93 minutes from start to finish for a truck to come off the assembly line. Right now they are having trouble getting some needed computer chips from China. For a while they shut down but are back building the trucks and will install the chips later. All over the area, there are parking lots full of trucks waiting for chips. It is incredible. We watched a video with the story of Henry Ford. He is well known for making the first car but his innovative skills, knowledge, passion for inventing went way beyond cars. We had no idea. He developed farm equipment, steam engines, worked with innovative ways to use soybeans, built a hospital, two churches, the first assembly manufacturing facility, and had a passion for collecting Americana history.

Ready for the day…here we go. Had to wear masks inside the plant.
Just about everything you see here is part of the Ford Manufacturing Plant. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the plant but this shows the “green” roof. It is a 10.4 acre garden planted with a perennial ground cover known as sedum. It lowers the temperature in the building by 10 degrees, absorbs up to 4 million gallons of rainwater and converts carbon dioxide into oxygen improving the air quality. There are also plants growing up the sides of the plant and the little buildings on top are to let in natural lighting. Ford was a leader in innovative ways save on energy.
Solar panels at the manufacturing plant, and notice the fruit orchard with bee hives. Ford loved his trees, especially fruit trees.
While we were looking out the windows these trucks went down the road. I thought they were so cool and took a picture of them.

HENRY B. FORD MUSEUM

The museum is a display of HIS collection and it is huge. It was hard to wrap your mind around the fact that this was almost all his stuff, his collection. any items that weren’t his were labeled. The whole complex sits on 250 acres. He collected everything; cars (not just Ford), farm equipment, steam engines, horse drawn equipment and stagecoaches, trains, trucks, buses, airplanes, the Weiner hotdog car, household items, violins, guns, houses, barns, full line of Presidential limousines, the bloodstained chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot, Thomas Edison’s light bulbs and production equipment, the famous bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and was arrested, telephones, George Washington’s cot he slept on when in the field with his troops, and the list goes on and on. You wondered, how did he acquire all these things? Where did he store them? How did he have the time and energy for his never ending mission? How was HE able to acquire the limousines and Lincoln’s chair?

Henry realized people were not interested in preserving their own American culture and history. They were passionate about Egyptian artifacts, Persian rugs, Victorian period furniture and style, imports from France and Britain and other far away places while he envisioned a museum full of Americana history. Before he died on April 7, 1947, he had realized his dream come true. His museum was attracting thousands of people. Ford’s impact on Dearborn and the surrounding area is evident. There are Ford signs everywhere; schools, a hospital, water towers, manufacturing plants, billboards, a restaurant and too many places to name. He was well-known around the world and one of the richest.

The pictures inside the museum are all things Henry collected. He did not manufacture them all-some items he did. I had to pick and choose my pictures, I couldn’t show you all of them but tried to give you a taste of what it was like.

Entering the Ford museum complex. Everything was done first class.
This was a 1949 car. Gene said it was just like his first car! Ford built this car after World War II and people loved the clean-cut new look and legendary V-8 engine. It sold between $1420-$1638
1949 Coup. 6-cylinder, 95 h.p, top speed was 100 mph and fuel consumption was 20 mph. Price tag: $1420-$1638. Doesn’t look like much as changed on specs except for the price tag!!!
This was an innovative idea for an affordable house kit. All you had to do was put it together. This was the only one that was sold and lived in. The idea never caught on.

A huge steam engine used in his plant. We are standing on top of it. I don’t remember which engine, but one of these was moved to the location and the museum literally built around it.
Thomas Edison’s light bulb producing machine. It was his whole factory!
George Washington’s fold up cot when he was in the fields with his troops. He camped like his men. It fit into the case under his pillow.
The blood stained chair that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated.
The bus made legendary by the defiance of Rosa Parks to the racial inequity of her time. She chose to be arrested then move to the back of the bus.. We were able to sit on her seat.
President Nixon and Reagan’s 1972 Lincoln Limousine. This was the car Reagan was getting into when he was shot by John Hinkley.
President Kennedy’s 1961 Lincoln
1961 Ford 100 pickup
Teddy Roosevelt’s 1902 Brougham limo! He was not fond of automobiles and preferred to use a horse drawn carriage. It was an elegant carriage for the rich and powerful.
I think this was a replica of the Wright brother’s first aircraft.
DC-3
This and the following three pictures show the progression of the home, especially the kitchen.

GREENFIELD VILLAGE

On Saturday we went to the village. You can easily spent a whole day there. The village encompassed 60 acres. It is huge and designed in an elongated oval. There is a lot of walking but not difficult walking. It is set up as a village with the houses and buildings he acquired; the house he grew up in, the two churches he built, the home of his favorite teacher, his doctor, the houses of Thomas Edison, Wright brothers, Firestone’s house, barn and out buildings, Robert Frost, Webster who wrote the dictionary, George Washington Carver and many more. Each were stocked with housewares, tools, equipment, animals, and information, most were the authentic belongings of each family. We peaked into basements, pantries, bedrooms and kitchens and barns. There was an orchard, gardens, and bee hives. There was a custard shop where they sold frozen custard using a recipe from England. It was so smooth and refreshing. There were working shops; pottery, weaving, glass blowing, printing, and a general store. There were display buildings; saw mill, grist mill, a spinning and cobbler shop, his soybean experiment, the shop where he built his first car, the Wright Brothers shop where they built their airplane, and Thomas Edison’s shop. These guys were all contemporaries and friends. Ford was especially fond of Edison who was older and a great encourager.

Circling the village were two trains; “Edison” is the oldest steam engine still working. Ford loved trains. Draft horses pulling stagecoaches and Model T cars were the only transportation in the village. At the gate you could purchase a ticket giving you access to ride as many times as you wanted. The train stopped at different locations and you could hop on and off or circle the entire village getting an overall view. The stagecoach and Model T’s left and returned at specific locations. The drivers gave a very informative running narrative. We were saving the stagecoach for the afternoon but because of the heat they were forced to discontinue them for the day. We did get to see them munching hay and swatting their tails under the shade trees in their pen. I was disappointed I didn’t get to ride one.

The first thing we did was ride the train around the perimeter of the village.
The Ford homeplace and farm. Henry’s father did not understand young Henry dislike of the farm and wanted him to eventually take it over. His mother recognized her son’s innovative spirit and became his encourager. It rocked his world when she died when he was twelve.


Ford House
Inside the Ford home.
Shop where Ford built his first car.
Wright Brothers House
If I remember correctly, this was the house of Firestone family.
Firestone’s barn.

Weaving
Model T’s waiting in line to pick up their passengers.
Passengers’ loaded!

Glass blowing
Extracting soybean oil.
Incredible. He truly had his fingers in many pots.
I loved the black cherry trees that were in the village. They were different than our cherries and not sure if they were edible.
The General Store. Jill said this would have been our store if we lived back then!

OLD FASHION BASEBALL GAME

We were fortunate that they had a live baseball game the day we were there. Gene especially enjoyed that. It was a beautiful setting, built like an oblong bowl with hillside seating under the trees for fans. The players marched down the street in a processional with a band playing to the field. The train track ran along one side and every 20 minutes a train puffed and chugged, blowing steam and whistled as it rolled by. The players would all pause, stand at attention and lift their hats as they waved to the iron horse as if it was the first time they had seen it. It was such an honoring and respectful sight to witness.

It was a brutally hot day but a gentle breeze was blowing. The players wore antique uniforms, no helmets or gloves, used wooden bats and pitched underhand. They played by the original rules which were somewhat different from today’s highly competitive version. There were no strikes, balls or umpire. If a ball was foul and you could get it on the first balance, it was an out. The announcer walked among the crowd and gave an interesting commentary during the nine inning game. It was a gentleman’s game, played to be fun versus competitive.

Lah-De-Dah Team parading to the field.
Our commentator for the game.
The train passing by and the outfielder saluting.
Pitching underhanded.

RESTAURANTS

In the evenings we ate at two very interesting restaurants; Ford’s Garage and Bone Yard.

The Bone Yard was a barbecue joint and the locals were out in full force. We became intrigued with the take-out line that went on and on and on. We have never seen the likes. It never stopped the entire time we were there. The platters were huge and the barbecue delicious. There was no way we could eat all the food.

Ford’s Garage was an experience, so unique and special. It was everything cars!

A tailgate used for the back of the waiting bench.
Hostess station
Gas nozzles were the handles on the entrance and bathroom doors.
The sinks in the bathrooms
Sign designating the location of the bathrooms.
Grease rags and stainless steel clamps for our napkin and holder.
Onion rings served on a funnel. We didn’t get any as they were out of stock for the evening!
Menu
Sign designating the kitchen
Food!

THE OSCAR MAYER WEINER HOTDOG CAR

The second evening when we came back to our hotel, parked in front was the Oscar Mayer Weiner Hotdog car. After we went up to our room I decided I wanted to see the car closeup and see if by chance I could get a ride!!! Gene and Jill were party poopers and laughed at me but Obe became my partner in crime and giggles. It was so cool. We laughed and laughed at ourselves acting like kids! We talked to the folks at the front desk of the hotel and found out that the car had been there all week, apparently participating in something around town. They said the guys had gone out somewhere for the evening and were not at the hotel. We got paper and pencil and I left a note taped to the windshield with my name and phone number asking it they gave rides.

Here is my proof!

I did not receive a call and the next morning the car was gone and my note was laying in the grass. I think the dew caused it to fall off and they probably did not even see it!! Bummer! But it was fun to just see and touch that iconic car!

LAKE ERIE

One afternoon we took a side jaunt over to Lake Erie. This is the dirtiest of the five freshwater lakes with the big cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Erie and Buffalo surrounding it and with that brings nuclear plants and manufacturing. It was neat to dip our toes in the warm water and enjoy the beauty of the lake.

Obe and Jill
Gene and I
Nuclear power plants in the background.

So folks, I hope you enjoyed a peak into our trip and it wet your appetite to go sometime. It was hard choosing pictures but decided against posting all the steam engines, farm equipment, cars and houses. This is a trip worth having on your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

%d bloggers like this: