Annie Benton recounts exploits of pioneer husband

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

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The United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812,  The war lasted until 1815.  Several laws were passed after the end of the war which allowed for veterans and later widows to receive a pension from the government.   Widows could receive half of their husband’s pay for seven years from the time of his death. 

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

In 1908, the Messenger ran  this story about Mrs. Annie Benton, whose husband fought in the War of 1812.

Mrs. Annie Benton, of Troy, Ala., is one of the very few surviving pensioners of the war of 1812.

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The links which connect the present with that thrilling period have nearly all passed with its history.  Like all things rare the few yet remaining are made dear through their association.

She was the second wife of John Lamb Benton, brother of Thomas and Jesse Benton, who were conspicuous in Tennessee history during the Andrew Jackson regime.  He was in Miles Mill, S.C., on a visit when President Madison called for troops in 1812, and enlisted with Reedy’s company, organized there and served under Andrew Jackson throughout the war.  He was one of the few Americans wounded at the battle of New Orleans.

During this campaign, while doing scouting service, he with seven comrades, was cut from their command and was surrounded in the Cotomah swamps by Indians and tories for eight days.  Their only food was whortle berries.

Mr. Benton was also among the number who cut the three notches along the route, which marked the famous “Three Notches Trace” road.  The impression has prevailed that this road was thus opened by Jackson as he went to New Orleans.  But Mrs. Benton by authority of her husband says, “it was on their return and  that they were guided by an Indian trail.”  The term of service, for which many under his command enlisted, had expired.  To guide them in different directions these Indian trails were marked.  The road extends through Andalusia, Troy and Union Springs in Alabama.  Each of these places has a street on this road named “Three Notch” or “Three Notches.”

It also winds by Ft. Deposit, which was near a cave that Andrew Jackson used for storing his supplies.  Bedford Forest used the cave for the same purpose during the Civil War.

At the close of this war, Mr. Benton settled in Coffee County, Ala., where his strong character made him at once a forceful leader of men and affairs.  He built up the town of Bentonville, which was named for him.  It is now called Elba.  He acknowledged no standard but success.  He possessed some eccentricities, however.  An amusing story is told of him:

He sold his large interest in Bentonville, and reinvested in Wilburn, of the same county, and had the courthouse placed there.  This brought on a feud between Elba and Wilburn for the possession of the courthouse.  Incidentally, the Democrats and Know nothing party were contending factions in the county at the same time.  Mr. Benton bitterly opposed the later.

The courthouse at Wilburn was secretly burned.  Mr. Benton promptly offered the court, which was in session, the use of a room in his hotel.  It was presided over by Judge John Gill Shorter, afterwards the war governor of Alabama.

After the court adjourned the Know nothing party, supposing this room to be still public property, held a political meeting in it, with a Mr. McGhee acting chairman.  Mr. Benton entered soon after and learning of the proceedings, because furious.  Taking up the chair which Mr. McGhee had occupied, he held it up and addressed it:

“You are disgraced by having been occupied by the chairman of the Know nothing committee, and are no longer worthy to remain a member of my family.”

With this he placed the chair on a bright fire which was blazing in an open fireplace, greatly to the amusement of Judge Shorter and others present.

Mrs. Benton is a daughter of Eli Peacock, who lived at the time of her birth at Mariana, Fla.  Her maternal grandfather, Samuel Fowler, was a resident there and built the first house in that county.  Mr. Peacock removed later to Wilburn, Ala., where Mrs. Benton met her illustrious husband.

Mrs. Benton is a worthy type of the gentlewoman of her day.  She has great strength of character with a modest, gentle manner.  Mr. Benton’s death left her with five children and two by his first marriage.  She met her duties bravely, and with frugal industry, clear judgment and prudence has won the goal of praiseworthy honors and success in their lives.

She lives with her oldest son, Columbus Benton, in Troy, and though nearly 80 years of age, is still able to direct her housekeeping.  She never uses her glasses except in ready or in doing fine needle work.  She enjoys good health, and is preserved, is a devoted Baptist and tells many interesting reminiscences.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.