Alonzo H. Bennett

Alonzo H. Bennett was born 1830 in Orleans County, New York, the son of Matthew (b. 1798).

In 1830 there was one Matthew Bennett living in Barre, Orleans County, New York. In any case, Matthew eventually took his family and left New York, settling in western Michigan. By 1850 Alonzo was attending school and working as a laborer and living in Hastings, Barry County, with his father who worked as a laborer and one Ester Bennett (b. 1828) and six-month-old Henry Bennett.

Alonzo married New York native Alma Sheldon (1837-1922), on February 6, 1853, at her family’s home in Hastings, and they had at least two children: Clarence (1855-1940) and Frank L. (b. 1857).

The relationship between Alonzo and Alma was a rough one, at least for her. Apparently Alonzo was a chronic alcoholic and on numerous occasions threatened his wife and children. According to a statement Alma made in 1864, not long after they were married, in the winter of 1855 he

turned her out of doors calling her all the vile names he could seemingly think of such as whore, and other terms by which he could most deeply injure and wound the feelings of [his wife], that at this time [she] was compelled to seek shelter and lodgings at the home of her mother who resided in the village of Hastings, that she at that time remained with her mother for several week and finally returned to the house of her husband upon his promising to treat her better in the future. . . . Some time after Alonzo came one evening in a state of intoxication and demanded of [his wife] five dollars in money, being the money he had given her before that time, he told [her] that if she did not give it to him he would take her life and seized [her] in a violent manner and treated her so cruelly and threatened her in such a manner that [she] was compelled to leave her house and again seek safety from him with her mother, at which time [she] remained some eight weeks, when . . . Alonzo by his promises and persuasion again induced her to return with him, but [she] had not been back with him three days before he again commenced his ill-treatment and abuse of [her] calling her a whore and seeking opportunities to do it in a public manner, and accusing [Alma] of being improperly with and having improper intercourse with different men, among whom he named his own brother Luther Bennett.

By 1860 Alonzo was working as a shoemaker and living with his wife and two children in Hastings; next door lived a plow maker named Washington Bellows who may have been the the same George W. Bellows who also served in the Old Third from Hastings.
Alonzo was 33 years old and residing in Hastings when he enlisted as a Private in Company F, Eighth Michigan infantry on August 30, 1861, and was mustered on September 23. He was discharged for disability on February 13, 1863, at Detroit.

Alonzo returned to his home in Michigan and resumed his previous bad habits. Finally in September of 1863 Alma took her children and left Alonzo for good. And in November she sued for divorce on the grounds that he was habitually and chronically drunk and neglected and abused his wife and children and was an adulterer. During the divorce hearing on January 13, 1864, according to one Mortimer Buck, who had known Alonzo for some fifteen or sixteen years, during the last three or four years or more Alonzo was seen “frequently and habitually intoxicated.”

Furthermore, he stated that Alonzo “during this time had pretended to live with his wife. Sometime in September last or thereabouts I was standing on the steps of Hadley’s mill in the village of Hastings” when he saw Alonzo

pass along the road going east and some ten or fifteen minutes afterwards I saw Mrs. Ellen Low passing up the road after him, This was sometime in the afternoon. Seeing the defendant pass, followed by Mrs. Low I had some suspicions and Mr. John Buckle with whom I was in company and myself concluded to follow them: we passed on up the road and saw her in conversation with the Bellevue mail carrier who was then coming in from Bellevue with the mail to Hastings. While she remained in conversation with him we stopped and were concealed from her sight about ten or twelve rods back. After she got through talking with the mail carrier she pass on east out of town and the mail carrier came into the village. She passed on out of the village and turned into the brush on the right hand side of the road on Mr. Renfield’s premises. I turned into the woods where she had turned off from the road and looked in the bushes on the south side of the road for them and in about five minutes I came right on them. When I first saw her she was on her feet and leaving somewhat hastily. I think they had discovered me. [Alonzo] was lying on the ground [and] on discovering me asked me what I would have. I replied “not anything.” I only wanted to satisfy myself. He said “what are you going to do about it?” I replied that I was satisfied and turned and left him lying on the ground. The place where I saw them was about ten rods from the road in the thick brush. I regard [Alonzo] as a disreputable character and a person not fit to have the care and custody of a family of children. I had heard stories about Mrs. Low that she was a bad character and she was in the habit of calling at my house. I wanted to satisfy myself if those stories were true, if she was a bad character and therefore I followed them having seen Bennett pass that way which was unusual for him and followed soon after by her.

In his sworn testimony Mr. Buckle affirmed Mr. Buck’s statement, adding that for some seven years Alonzo “has spent pretty much all his time lounging at groceries and saloons drinking liquor. He is a low disreputable character and I think is not a fit person to have the care of children.”

Alonzo and Alma were divorced on January 25, 1864 and Alma was awarded custody of their three children.

Alonzo was 34 years old and probably living in Maple Grove, Barry County when he enlisted in Company E on February 8, 1864, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Maple Grove, and was mustered the same day. (His father was living in Hastings in 1864.) Alonzo was admitted to Third Division hospital in Alexandria, Virginia on February 27, 1864, suffering from chronic alcoholism and returned to duty on May 2.

He was listed as missing in action on May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania, Virginia, and in fact had been taken prisoner. He was transferred as a prisoner-of-war to Company E, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and was eventually exchanged at either Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina. By the end of the year he was at Annapolis, Maryland, where he was furloughed from Camp Parole, Maryland on January 16, 1865.

In February Alonzo was home in Hastings, and then reported to Detroit Barracks on March 3, and on March 29 was sent back to Camp Parole, Maryland where he was discharged on May 30, 1865, by general order no. 77.

It seems that Alonzo eventually returned to his home in Barry County. By 1870 he was working as a shoemaker for and/or living with a boot and shoe dealer named William Darling and his family in Hastings. Next door lived Edwin Mallory who had also served in the Old Third; in 1870 his son Clarence was working as a farm laborer for the Phillips family in Rutland, Barry County.

Alonzo died on April 4, 1875, presumably in Hastings and according to one source Alonzo is buried in Barry County.

By 1880 Clarence was working as a servant for the Seth Stone in Hastings and Frank was working as a laborer and living with the Ezra Fifield family in Hastings; no mention is noted in 1880 for either Alma or Alonzo. (Curiously, there is one Alma Bennett, 1838-1922, buried in Riverside cemetery in Hastings; Clarence too is buried in Riverside. Note that Evaline Fifeld was a witness at the wedding of Alma and Alonzo in 1864)

In 1890 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 376970). She was living at 800 Jefferson Street in Grand Ledge, Eaton County, in 1917. Alma was buried in Riverside cemetery, Hastings: 2-I west, NW 1/4-1; both sons are also buried in Riverside Cemetery as well.