Community spirit 1910

Posted on February 25, 2010


Bill Bennett has been in touch.  Back when this blog began he sent some reminiscences about his Bennett and Dawson ancestors that inspired the “Ourstory” page. Now he has sent some photos, and I thought you’d like to see them.

Wiltse barn-raising, 1910

Wiltse barn-raising on Bennett Hill Road, Antrim County Michigan, 1910. Man 8th from the left (just left of the arrow) is Wil Bennett. Man 10th from the left, in the center of the photo with his hands in the pockets of his overalls, is Stewart Bennett, Wil’s younger brother.

In 1910 the neighbors gathered to raise a barn at the Wiltse farm.  Bill identified his grandfather Wil and his great-uncle Stewart, but he doesn’t know who the other men are.  He wrote:  The Wiltse farm is located at the northeast corner of Bennett Hill Road and Mitchell Road.I don’t think the barn is standing anymore as it burned some years ago. . . .  My dad had told me that Wil, my grandfather, was a very strong man and they had contests of strength at these barn raisings, he was highly recognized for his feats of strength,and, dad said he had very large hands. . . . Wil Bennett only lived three more years after this was taken and died at fifty years of age.

Bill and I hope that some readers might be able to put names to some of the other faces.  (If you click on the photo you will get a larger version.)  Personally, I want to know more about the fellow on the far left with the pipe and the smile.  And that rascal in the center with his arms folded and his longjohns sticking out of his sleeves–the one who looks a little like Paul Newman–I want to know more about him, too.  And the one second from the right, hands behind his back, legs spread in a seaman’s stance–who is he?  Doesn’t he look familiar?  Oh, I want to know all about all of them!  Honestly, every single one reminds me of someone who comes into the market.

Barn-raisings are an iconic part of our history, and the spirit lingers on.  The whole community raised the funds for the first fire engine, the first firehouse, the first ambulance.  Community volunteers staffed those services, too.  More recently neighbors flocked to Mark White’s farm to help deal with the Great Barn-Falling of 2008.  I love these stories.

Bennett Hill Farm, 1911

Of the next photos Bill wrote:  These were taken in 1911 at the Bennett Hill farm on Bennett Hill Road Also known as Town line Road.  The one of the Horse and buggy has my aunt Rachel in front of my grandmother Lizzie Dawson Bennett and my grandfather Wil Bennett standing to the left. The boy holding the horse is uncle Arthur Bennett and other boy is unknown.  (I used my rudimentary photo-editing software to crop and brighten the photo for the closeups.)

Wil Bennett, daughter Rachel Bennett, wife Lizzie Dawson Bennett, son Arthur Bennett and unknown boy

Wil Bennett, daughter Rachel Bennett, and wife Lizzie Dawson Bennett

Wil Bennett’s son Arthur Bennett and another boy

The other picture, Bill says, . . . is of the Bennett homestead with the barn in the distance, also taken in 1911.  It was noted on the back of this old post card that it was ten acres of wheat and 43 bushels per acre yield.  (This one I cropped quite a bit in an effort to show you the house clearly.)

The Bennett house with the barn in the distance

Bill’s grandmother, Lizzie Dawson Bennett, was a niece of George Dawson, who built the Yellow Brick House we were all admiring earlier this month. Now, don’t you feel like you know everybody a whole lot better? Welcome to small town life.