Benjamin F. Blount, a pioneer settler of Bartow, was a Confederate soldier, farmer, and civic leader.
Benjamin Franklin Blount was born September 14, 1845, Columbia County, Florida where his parents, Riley Readding Blount (1824-87) and Jane (Varn) Knight Blount (1824-78), had migrated from Beaufort District, South Carolina in 1835. In 1851, Riley was a planter with four slaves. That same year the Blounts moved to present-day Bartow in then Hillsborough (now Polk) County, Fla. In 1908, Benjamin contributed to the Bartow Courier-Informant this reminiscences of the event:
"In October, 1851, my grandfather Readding Blount [and wife Elizabeth Varn], and four sons, viz., Riley R., wife and four children; Owen R., wife and two children; Nathan S., unmarried; Jehu J., not grown; Streaty Parker (his son-in-law), wife and two children; John Davidson, wife and one child (later Mrs. Solomon Page); making twenty-one white persons and about a dozen Negro slaves, constituted our colony that came from near Alligator, now Lake City, in this state, and located about one mile west of the present Court House in Bartow.
"My father purchased a small improvement from the noted Capt. James Green, and paid him $40 for it, and later laid a preemption claim upon it, embracing the 160 acres which was the land sold to Mr. Summerlin, and which now constitutes a part of the present site of Bartow.
"The country was absolutely new, as there were not more than a dozen families in what is now Polk County. Silas McClelland and a Mr. Hill lived near the present site of Medulla. Rigdon Brown and his son, William, lived three miles northwest, and N. R. Raulerson (Uncle Rabe), three and one-half miles northeast of Bartow, where he settled in 1849.
"Two or three families lived in that section known as Socrum, and a few in the neighborhood of Fort Meade. These, with our colony and a garrison of United States soldiers, and a hundred or so Indians belonging to the Seminole tribe, comprised the population of present Polk County."
During the Third Seminole War, Riley Blount's home site at Peas Creek became Fort Blount when a log blockhouse was constructed for the protection of area settlers. In 1858 Riley resettled about one mile south of the present courthouse. In August 1858, he opened a general supply store and also built a cabin for use as a school and church. Benjamin was one of the thirty-four students taught by Daniel Waldron. In 1861 Riley was a planter, owning 320 acres and five slaves. In his latter years he owned the Orange Grove Hotel and a hack line between Bartow and Tampa.
During the Civil War, Benjamin F. Blount enlisted as a private in the spring of 1864 in Capt. Francis A. Hendry's Company, C. S. A. In February 1865, he participated in the attack on Fort Myers, which was occupied by U. S. troops. At the close of the war, he was at Tallahassee as a witness for a court martial for prisoners he had helped capture during the war. He was discharged with the balance of his company at war's end.
The couple lived in the southwestern section of Bartow. Benjamin, commonly known as Ben or Uncle Ben, was a fruit grower and nurseryman. Briefly he was also a teacher, being in 1873 one of two teachers at Summerlin Institute, of which he was instrumental in founding. A civic leader, Ben served as a justice of the peace, county judge, and on the City Council, being chairman in 1892. In 1882 Judge Blount was an unsuccessful candidate for the Florida House. He also was the author of numerous historical articles.
Benjamin and Lydia were of the Baptist faith. He had served as clerk of Peas Creek Baptist Church and was one of ten founders of the First Baptist Church in Bartow, first called the Concord Church of Christ, organized September 1, 1875. He was a deacon of the church and was known for his temperate, moral and religious character. He was a supporter of prohibition. Lydia had been baptized by Rev. J. M. Hayman at Bartow August 7, 1864, and she remained a consistent member of the Baptist Church.
On July 1, 1907, Benjamin F. Blount applied for a pension from service in Capt. Hendry's Company. He gave his address as Eagle Lake, Polk County. Supporting affidavits were given by Stephen R. Clark, George W. Hendry, and B. F. Holland. Mr. Holland (father of Spessard L. Holland) was adjutant of Francis S. Bartow Camp # 284 of the United Confederate Veterans, of which Mr. Blount was a member in good standing. His claim was approved at the rate of $100 per annum, certificate no. 6281.
Reapplying under the Act of 1909 on October 29, 1909, Benjamin listed assets of $3,400, which included a horse and 139 acres. On June 6, 1921, he continued his claim under the Amended Acts of 1921. Appearing before Spessard L. Holland, Polk County Judge, he now gave his address as Bartow. His pension was continued at $300 per annum.
Judge Benjamin Franklin Blount died October 30, 1922.
On November 28, 1922, Mrs. Lydia Oregon Blount applied for a widow's Confederate pension based upon her late husband's service. She gave her residence as Bartow. Her claim was approved as pensioner no. 2424, with pay from October 30, 1922 at the rate of $300 per annum.
In 1931 Lydia Blount was proclaimed the "Ideal Florida Mother." Tribute was paid both to her own experiences as a real pioneer and as a mother who had contributed outstanding children to the development of the State of Florida. In middle-age she had become an invalid and was confined to a wheelchair for thirty years. Lydia Blount died November 12, 1933.
Benjamin F. and Lydia O. (Hendry) Blount had the following children, of whom only five lived to adulthood:
1. Bertha A. Blount, born December 18, 1866; died October 28, 1870.
2. Emma C. Blount, born October 19, 1868; died March 3, 1949; married on November 17, 1887, Joseph H. Humphries.
3. Jane Blount, born & died August 26, 1870.
4. Lydia Blount, twin of Jane, born & died August 26, 1870.
5. Gertrude Oregon Blount, born December 12, 1871; died 1935; married on August 20, 1890, Newton M. Wever.
6. Hendry B. Blount, born May 3, 1873; died October 22, 1925; married April 18, 1898, Julia Ann Page.
7. Charles E. Blount, born August 17, 1875; died 1878.
8. Walter Wallace Blount, born August 20, 1877; died July 14, 1959; married December 10, 1901, Rose Maidee Taylor.
9. Katie Blount, born November 17, 1879; died in August 1960, married on September 13, 1899, George Ballard Prime.
10. Marvin Blount, born October 2, 1884; died on February 14, 1889.
References: George W. Hendry, Lydia Moody Nee Hendry Nee Carlton,1900; Kyle S. VanLandingham and Virginia Westergard, Parker and Blount in Florida, pp. 220-223, 229-234, 1983; M. F. Hetherington, History of Polk County, 1928; pension applications of Benjamin and Lydia Blount, Florida Archives; Spessard Stone, John and William, Sons of Robert Hendry, 1989.
This profile is adapted from the author's profiles in The Herald-Advocate of August 15, 1991 and the Polk County Historical Quarterly of March, 1996.