If you’ve followed me long enough you know I have an obsession with collections. Taxidermy, dolls, tarot cards, books, pulp fiction, art, Hagen-Renakers, buttons, and more. Victor collects books and Japanese swords, and we both collect comics but I collect them to read them over and over until they fall apart and Victor collects them to seal them hermetically away from the world. Our latest favorite thing is having a drink while watching Facebook live auctions because it’s all the fun of going antiquing while never leaving your house, but we’ve sort of become those people watching QVC at midnight except instead of buying gold coins of Presidents we’re buying Victorian funeral paraphernalia and skeleton keys and, recently a giant collection of coverless comic books that I had to have because they were so cheap and because vodka exists.
Apparently when comics didn’t sell the shop could just mail back the cover to get credit so I guess this is all the unpopular stock from a shop that closed in 50+ years ago. I currently have 5 full long boxes of basically the same 15 coverless comics and I plan on wallpapering the entire bathroom of Nowhere Bookshop with a box of campy romance comics and leaving all the rest on a table outside for fellow hoarders, comic lovers, crafters. (I’ll keep you posted.)
But for every possible miss there is a glorious hit like the one I got this week.
I collect B&W vintage photos and create books with them. Some are artistic. Some are sad. One entire book is just vintage snaps victor and I have been captioning for our own amusement since we met in the 90s:
So when a giant collection of photography was being auctioned I bid on this enormous tintype (like 6 times bigger than the normal tintype) that had this glittery background because it was beautiful and I’d never seen anything like it. And I won! And then another 3 giant tintypes of people from the same family came up and I was like, “That’s a lot” but the other bidders were like, “THIS FAMILY HAS BEEN TOGETHER FOR 150 YEARS AND THAT CAN’T END NOW” so I adopted the entire family. Most of the time tintypes aren’t labeled because they’re printed on black metal you can’t write on but two of these had some identifying info and my favorite thing is to try to identify the people so that I can find their descendants and send copies of the the images. (More than once I’ve been gifted with this myself and it is magical. Genealogists are angels.) And I was especially interested because this lot came from a larger set labeled “MURDER VICTIMS”.
Tintypes and murder? Yes, please.
(Don’t judge me. This is not me saying I like murder. I just like old stories. Especially the murdery ones. Okay, you can judge me a little.)
The two daughters had their maiden names and “Kent, Connecticut” written in yellowed paper taped to the back. The parents only had the tape, but between Ancestry, Newspapers.com, The Kent Historical Association, genealogy death records, and Find-a-grave, I was able to find them, their history, their fascinating past and their (now long gone) possibly haunted house.
Why would you want to hear a story about perfect strangers who I adopted from photographs? If you are asking yourself that you should stop here because you probably wouldn’t. If you are saying, “SHUT UP AND GET TO THE MURDER” then I am here for you and let’s do this.
(Marge, curator of the Kent Historical is verifying my work so I may update things but I think this is all accurate.)
The Benedict Family of Kent Connecticut – pictures from 1880s, probably
This is German Benedict, the father, who died not long after this photo was taken (can’t find a cause of death).
And this is Flora Louise Benedict, his wife.
Flora had a daughter (Frankie) when she was 19 but didn’t marry German until she was 25 so Frankie was either born out of wedlock or to a previous husband. When Frankie died at age 12 (can’t find causes) her gravestone only listed her as the “daughter of Flora”, so it could be the first although that’s really unusual for the time. Frankie died before these photos were taken.
This is their daughter, Sarah Belle Benedict Bigelow, who got married but didn’t have children and died at 49. (This is the picture I originally bid on.)
And this is youngest daughter, Cora Elnora Benedict Page, who also married but had no children so the family line will die out with her.
This is usually about as far as I can take things and I’ll publish them to Ancestry so people can find them but then I came across this story:
Here is that story. So basically Flora was widowed and then Sarah died, and then Cora was widowed and Flora’s sister was widowed too so Flora, Cora and the sister decided they’d just live together with girl power in their old age and run their farm with the help of two hired hands, until one of them, Sidney Ward, ruined everything.
This is Sidney Ward, total dick.
Sidney was constantly getting drunk and acting the fool so Flora and Cora fired him and he got mad and started shooting his pistol into their window and was like, “Are you ready to die?” and they were like, “Uh, no” but the cops apparently didn’t take it seriously I guess because they were women and their hysterical wombs made them unreliable or something so he came back again with a rifle this time and waited until Flora went out to feed the chickens and killed her. Cora woke up as Sidney barged into her bedroom but Cora was like, “NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER” and beat the shit out of him and pushed him down the stairs and when she screamed for help he left, but turns out he was just lying in wait outside where he’d staged Flora’s body (creepily crossing her arms like you did to bodies back then) and when Cora and the other hired hand found her he shot Cora (but just in the arm) and shot at the other guy but missed. Then he went to their neighbors house with his rifle to ask for tobacco and was like, “I killed two this morning and there’ll be more soon” and the neighbor was like, “Okay, drunkie” and assumed he meant deer or something and shrugged it off. Then he took off into the woods and a bunch of people were like, “Oh, that bastard’s gonna kill me too,” including his brother, and that same brother’s son spotted Sidney out in the woods at the house of the lady who sold everyone moonshine, who was known only as (I shit you not) “old one-eyed John’s wife”. So the nephew tells the posse that are out looking for him and when they find him he tries to grab his gun but they shoot him in the foot and he gives up and is like, “Ow. My foot. Y’all want some moonshine?” and they share a “quart” which seems like a lot of alcohol to share with a wanna-be serial killer but you do you, I guess.
Sidney is taken to jail and a Harvard “alienist” (what shrinks were before they were shrinks) comes to see him because Sidney wants to plead insanity but the alienist is like, “Nah, you’re just a dick” and so Sidney is all, “Fuck it. I did it. No regrets, mother fucker.” (I’m paraphrasing all this, btw.) And the judge sentences him to life in prison and cuts his leg off. (The judge didn’t cut his leg off but when he got to prison they were like, “This leg is gross” and that’s pretty much the only treatment for medically gross legs 100 years ago, but they did say they were going to make him a wooden leg and that seems pretty progressive at the time. But then it gets weird because he’s sentenced to life in jail at Wethersfield State Prison but according to their records he never went there and then he just disappears.
Cora lives on, relatively alone it seems, for another 50 years at the same house where she dies age 99. She was known for sitting on her porch and after she died children would bring sleeping bags and camp in her abandoned house (ah, the 80s) and hear ghosts (that their parents told them were probably just loose cattle) until finally the house was demolished.
And that is the story of the Benedict family.