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THE BINGHAM HERITAGE

By Robert Jay Bingham
Taylors, Sourth Carolina
1988


“Genealogy” --- perhaps to some, a boring subject, but to me an exciting adventure.  The journey into the past to find my roots has been an inspiration and a challenge.  We all know from history how our country was settled by courageous bands of dedicated pioneers who were willing to leave family and friends and brave the dangerous crossing of an uncharted ocean to establish a home in an undeveloped land.  They came seeking religious and political freedom; they were met by hostile Indians who also wished to maintain their freedom and way of life.  To discover that some of these bold and brave souls were MY ancestors has indeed been exciting.

When I was a young man living at home with my parents, I became curious about my forbearers.  I asked questions about each of their family backgrounds and recorded in a notebook what I learned. This notebook was the beginning of
our now extensive genealogical records.  Little did I think that one day I would be able to trace down and travel to the places my great, great, great, great grandparents lived and died and were buried.

We have done some research but most of our material has come from others.  To the following we are extremely grateful:  my cousin Helen A.Bingham Larimore for records on the Bingham’s which she obtained from the Morman
library;  to distant cousin Lila Kenyon Battterman for records on the Kenyon’s and the Crandall’s;  to cousin Nedra Bingham Ambrose for material on the Ford’s and Miller’s;  to my niece Laura Mae Bingham Robertson for what we have on the Burrow's line.  Let me briefly relate to you the story of each of these ancestral lines.

From Connecticut, the Bingham’s moved to New York state.  My grandfather, John James Bingham, was born there, but moved west to Bloomington, Illinois.  He married a girl from Roseville, Ohio named Hulda Miller.  They were married in Ohio but farmed near Bloomington.  Between the years of 1862 and 1880, eight children were born to them.  In 1883, they decided to move west to Dakota Territory.  The railroad went west almost as far as the location of the claim they filed, so they moved by emigrant car.

Dakota Territory was undeveloped and sparsely settled.  They first lived in a dugout, which was an excavation at the side of a dry creek bed.  After raising their first crop, they were able to buy lumber and build a house.  Most of their children were teenagers or older so were able to help in the farming operations.  The main power was by oxen.  They broke the sod, plowed, planted and raised crops and garden produce.  My father, George B. Bingham, was thirteen years old when his family moved to Dakota, so no doubt he helped.  When he was old enough, he worked out for other farmers and later went to Montana with a crew of men to build the railroad out there. 

A country store, with a post office set up in connection with it, was soon built near their home.  This community was called Burdette.

The
ancestors of my Grandmother on her mother’s side were the Ford's and the Hurlburt's.  Both of these families also came from Connecticut.  The Hurlburts came to Ohio by way of Vermont, and the Fords to Ohio by way of Illiois.  They were pioneers in this new land where the Indians were a great threat.  My great-great-great grandfather, Benoni Hurlburt, was scalped by the Indians as he was out getting food for the settlement.  His daughter, Mary Hurlburt, married Chauncey Ford.  Their daughter, Mary Ford, married John Miller, and to this union was born my grandmother Hulda Abigail Miller.  We don’t know how Hulda Miller from Ohio met John James Bingham from Illinois, but somehow they got together and were married.

My mother’s ancestry goes back to the 1600’s in two different lines, and to the early 1700’s in two others.  I shall begin her story with the earliest date that we have.

Robert Burrows came to America from England on the flagship of the Winthrop fleet, the Arabella.  This was in 1630 when Robert was a young man.  Aboard was Governor John Winthrop, Sr. and a company of Puritans.  His motivation for braving the perils of the sea and the rigors of a new land must have been the discontent with the political and religious climate of his homeland.  He settled in the Hartford, Connecticut area and married widow Mary Ireland.  Two sons were born to them, but only one, John Burrows, survived to marry and carry on the Burrows’ name. 

Several generations later,
Elisha Burrows’ daughter Susanna married Avery Brown.  They made their home in Connecticut.  Their daughter Mary Brown married Elijah B. Dixon II who was born in Hartford, New York.  Again, we don’t know how Mary Brown from Connecticut got together with Elijah Dixon from New York.  Perhaps Mary’s parents moved there after Mary was born.  They had five children, all born in Hartford.  My grandmother, Mary Dixon Kenyon, was their second child.

Elder
John Crandall was born in England in 1612 and came to America when he was about thirty years old.  He landed on the coast of Rhode Island at Newport.  He settled at Westerly and raised his family there.  He was active in
organizing the State of Rhode Island, working with Roger Williams and others.  He was also active in establishing the Baptist movement in the new land.  He, along with others, were persecuted for this and put in prison.  Elder John died at Westerly and is buried in a plot near the homestead where he lived.  The homestead still stands and his grave, along with others of his family, is still visibly marked with field stones.  While on a trip to New England, we made a journey to Rhode Island to locate this place.  What a thrill it was to find the old house and the graves out in a field nearby.  One of the Crandall family still owns and lives at the place.

The Crandall’s remained in the Rhode Island area for several more generations.  Then in 1792, Charity Crandall, the daughter of Joseph and a direct decendant of Elder John, met my great-great grandfather Zebulon Kenyon.

The Kenyon line, as far back as we have it, begins with James Kenyon, born in England in 1633.  His son John was the first Kenyon to come to America, settling in Westerly, Rhode Island.  For several generations they remained in Rhode Island, and so it was there that Zebulon met Charity Crandall.  They were married in 1792 and moved the same month to New York state where they settled at Argyle.  In 1801 they moved to Granville in the same county.  Here they raised their family.  Their son, Zebulon Jr., married Anna Woodard, and to this union was born Robert Qua Kenyon, my grandfather.

In the town of
Hartford, New York, which is near Granville, there is a Baptist church and cemetery. In the old part of the cemetery we found the graves of many of the Kenyon and Dixon families, among them Elijah and Mary Brown Dixon, my great-grandparents.  The old church records list many of these two families.  In the town there is an old brick building that was built by Elijah in 1810 as a tavern but was not long used for this purpose.  It still stands.

ROBERT QUA KENYON and Mary Amelia Dixon were married in New York State in 1870 but soon after moved to Ripon, Wisconsin.  Others of Roberts’s family moved there also.  In an old cemetery there, you will find many Kenyon names.  Robert and Mary buried their twins who died at birth there.  In 1883, Robert went to Dakota Territory and filed ona claim.  One year later he moved his family there, including Harry Rea, thirteen years old, my mother Mary Edna, eleven years old, Susan Belle, nine and Anelbert, six.

Life on the prairie was not easy.  There were hot days and windy days with no trees for shade or to break the fury of the wind.  Iit was severely cold in the winter, and often blizzards blew across the prairie, resulting in high drifts and
snowbound residents.  Prairie fires in the summer time were a fearful thing.  The fires would rage across the prairies, out of control and destroying everything in their path.

The government required that those who filed on claims were to live on and improve their claim for five years.  A certain number of acres must be broken and planted with crops.  Tree claims were also planted at the expense of the
government and with the labor of the claim holder.  These added to the value of the property.  As young people came of age they married, filed on a claim, and started their home.  Thus the country was settled. 
In 1889 the Dakota Territory was divided into two states, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Churches were organized and built to meet the spiritual needs of the people.  Literary societies were formed and met during the months when the farm work would permit.  The program at these meetings would be readings, debates,
singing, plays and instrumental music.  Some families had square dances in their homes or in the hay loft.  Card parties and games were also part of the social life of the community.  Romances were the natural result of these get-togethers,
and so another marriage and another claim staked would be the result.

My parents, George B. and Mary E. Kenyon Bingham, were one of those young couples.  Their families, John J. and Hulda A. (Miller) Bingham and Robert Q. and Mary A. (Dixon) Kenyon),  lived about three miles apart, so they enjoyed the same social functions.  They married in 1895 and set up housekeeping on a claim of their own. [Burdette Twp. 114 N-066 W-Sec. 33].  They purchased a house from a neighbor and moved it onto their land.  This house was about 14’x20’.  Downstairs there were two rooms;  a very small one which was my folk’s bedroom;  the other serving as a kitchen, parlor and dining room.  A cook stove dominated this room and was the only source of heat.  Coal was used in the winter.  In the summer, corn cobs were used to cook with.  That was a chore for the children.  Picking up corn cobs from the pig pen wasn’t much fun.  There were times when corn cobs were not to be had, so cow chips were picked up from the pastures…an even less appealing job!  They didn’t make very good fuel, but were better than nothing.

The upstairs bedrooms were reached by a steep,narrow stairway.  There were two attic-type sleeping rooms up there. The outside walls were only about three feet high.  A bed was along each wall.  The smaller bedroom was large enough
for only one single bed.  The only heat was from what came up the stairway from the cook stove below.  Feather beds made sleeping comfortable.

Seven children were born and raised in this house;
Paul R., G.Wayne,  John A. Robert J., Ross Q., Mary A., and Helen L. Bingham.  My Grandmother Hulda Bingham was a midwife and attended the births of the first five boys.  Another midwife delivered the last two girls.

My dad was a good farmer and livestock man.  He was good at training horses and was a self-taught veterinarian from the books and magazines we had on the subject.  He was often called to doctor the neighbors’ livestock.  He was
particular about having neat fields and a nearly weed-free garden.  He was interested in trying new kinds of seed grain and also planted various kinds of trees.  Because of the drought and weather conditions, the results were very
disappointing.  As time passed, he added new outside building and increased his livestock.

The laundry was done on a washboard.  Drying the clothes in the winter was especially burdensome.  Most days it never got above the freezing  point, so clothes hung on the line would be brought back into the house stiff as boards.  Lines would have to be strung around the inside of the house to hang them to dry.

You may question, “What did the kids do for entertainment or excitement?”  With five boys born in a ten-year period, you know that things were not dull.  It was necessary to make our own toys of various kinds.  We made kites, stilts, sling shots, play horses and whistles.  We used the branches of the willow tree to make our whistles.  We were taught to work and be responsible for our part of the family operation.  Our work responsibilities probably kept us out of a lot of mischief.

We seldom went to town.  Just before school started in the fall, we would go to buy clothes and school supplies.  Just before Christmas would be another time we might make the trip to town.  Many of our needs were ordered from Sears
and Montgomery Ward.

In the summertime, there was the Old Settlers’ Picnic, and organized affair held in a grove in the community.  There was a ball game, refreshment stands where pop, ice cream and candy were sold, and a program with music and a speaker. 
The refreshment stands were a special treat to the younger members of the family.  The speaker was usually a politician from Miller or another nearby town.

The need for a burial ground became apparent, so the people organized a board to measure off a plot of ground for a cemetery.  One such plot was laid out near the Burdette store. 
Many pioneers are buried in the Burdette Cemetery,  among them my parents and my Kenyon grandparents.  My Bingham grandparents are buried in the Sunbeam Cemetery in Holden Township, not far away.

The government surveyed the land and measured it into square miles.  Each square mile contained 640 acres, or a section.  Each section was subdivided into quarter sections of 160 acres each.  A roadway went around each square
mile.  A township was six miles square and given a name.  My father’s claim was in Burdette Township. 

The government retained two sections of each township to rent out to those who wanted to harvest the hay.  The rent was put into a school fund.  Each township was organized with a board elected by the people, and also an elected
school board.  Four schools were built in each township a certain distance from each corner of the township so that no child would have to go too far to school.  A County Superintendent of Schools was elected to supervise these schools. 
They were all one-room country schools with one teacher each.

The
county seat was at Miller, about twenty miles southwest of our farm.  That was where we went to pay taxes, take care of business and to see the doctor or dentist.  The means of transportation during the early days was a team of horses hitched to a buggy or a spring wagon.  It was called a spring wagon because the front seat was set on springs which made for a more comfortable ride.   The wagon would accommodate a whole family, whereas a buggy was just a one-seated conveyance.  A lumber wagon was used for hauling lumber, grain or livestock.  It was a full day’s journey to go to town and back in any of these conveyances.

In 1910, when I was six, my father purchased his first car, a two-year-old Maxwll/Briscol.  He was one of the first in the community to buy one.  At first, autos caused horses to become frightened and run away with wagon or machine to which they were hitched.  The only roads were rutted tracks left from the wagons and buggies, but later, graded roadways were constructed.

That same year, a telephone line was put in, and we were connected to it.  Many others along the line were also connected to it, so when your neighbor’s number rang, you heard it could listen in on the conversation.  That was called
“rubbering” and not the nice thing to do, but a common practice.  The telephone line was great to keep in touch with the community, but not too good to call to town.

I was sixteen in
1920 when my folks had an auction sale and moved to Benson, Minnesota.  They bought a piece of land near the town and had a nice, large house built on it.  They rented out the half-section of land which they owned in South Dakota and sold their adjoining eighty acres to the renter.  Six years later they returned to South Dakota.  They had lost their nice home and the land near Benson because of a crooked land man there. 

They moved back onto their small homestead again and farmed the land.  The basement for a future home was dug and finished, so they could live in it temporarily.  However, crops were poor, prices fell, and farming became a losing battle.  The basement never became a house for them.  Grasshoppers and dust storms devastated the land.  Loans had to be made to buy seed for planting and grain to feed the livestock.  Since there was no harvest year after year, there was no way to pay back the loans.  The land was mortgaged, so the land banks foreclosed and all was lost.  I can remember my dad saying, “I didn’t bring anything into this world, and I can’t take anything out.”

During those bad years, I did the farming for my folks and sold suits in my spare time in order to have a little spending money.

In 1934, I married Muriel Darlene Bowman, a young school teacher from nearby Gilbert Township, and moved into the old homestead.  My folks were living in the basement at that time, but moved to northern Minnesota soon after.  My dad worked at odd jobs to make a bare living.  At this time, the banks had not yet foreclosed on our farm, so I continued to fight the elements, but to no avail. Year after year there were no crops to be harvested.  We too moved to the greener pastures of northern Minnesota.

In the
spring of 1938, my folks moved back to South Dakota and back in the basement.  One year later, my dad suffered a stroke and died there at home at the age of sixty-nine.

Thus ended one man’s life, but his progeny carries on the heritage he left to them…the heritage of those ancestors who braved the crossing of an ocean to conquer an unexplored wilderness.

- RJB -
Carolyn S. (Bingham) Rosemore
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