Robert Benham (politician)

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Captain Robert Benham (November 17, 1750 – February 6, 1809), was a frontier pioneer, served in local government and was a member of the first elected legislature for the State in Ohio, 1799 & 1800.


Benham was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey - the son of Peter Benham (1724-1780) and Ann James (d. 1758).[1] He is descended from Winifred King, his Great Great Grandmother, who along with her daughter (also Winifred), was brought up on charges of witchcraft in 1697 in Wallingford, Connecticut.[2][3] In 1692, Winifred's mother also appeared at a preliminary trial infamously known as the Salem Witch Trials. The charges, in all three cases, were fortunately dismissed. Benham and his wife, Elizabeth, had ten children who were born in Ohio and Kentucky.


His service in connection with the military made him well-known to Colonel David Rogers[disambiguation needed], General Harmar, General Arthur St. Clair and Mad Anthony Wayne.

After leaving the military, he continued to be addressed as Captain. People who knew him included Simon Kenton, William Henry Harrison, James O'Hara[disambiguation needed], Judge Jacob Burnet and William McMillen. His constant companion once he moved to Ohio was his nephew Benjamin Van Cleve who established the first library in Dayton, Ohio, was Dayton's first postmaster and a member of the Board of Trustees for Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He died in Warren County, Ohio.

His Life[edit]

His adventures were written about by many, including Henry Howe, President Teddy Roosevelt and the Boy Scouts of America. His son, Joseph Benham, continued to serve in the tradition of his father.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote in The Winning of the West, Volume Two – From the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, 1777-1783; Page 54; “A still more remarkable event had occurred a couple summers previously (October 4, 1779). Some keel boats, manned by a hundred men under (Colonel) Lieutenant(David) Rogers, and carrying arms and provisions procured from the Spaniards at New Orleans (from Governor Galvez and American Agent Oliver Pollock ), were set upon by an Indian war party under (Simon) Girty and Elliot while drawn upon a sand beach of the Ohio (later known as Manhattan Beach, Dayton, Kentucky.) The boats were captured and plundered, most of the men were killed; several escaped, two under very extraordinary circumstances. One had both his arms, the other both legs, broken. For weeks the two crippled beings lived in the lonely spot where the battle had been fought, unable to leave it, each supplementing what the other could do. The man who could walk (Basil Brown) kicked wood to him who could not (Captain Benham), that he might make a fire, making long circuits, chase the game toward him to shoot it. At last they were taken off a passing flat boat (and returned to the fort opposite the Falls of the Ohio. Among those captured by the war party and carried away was Colonel John Campbell who had joined the Americans only a few days before.)