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                                                                Bender Cemetery
                                                                                             Aka "Old" Hopewell
                                                              Forest Township, Richland County, Wisconsin  USA

Tales The Tombstones Tell - Republican Observer - February 9, 1956

                                                     The First Cemetery In Forest

    Out on the brow of a hill in the town of Forest is located the old Bender Cemetery overlooking what is now known as Bender Hollow. The cemetery is at the head of the hollow not far from the Hopewell cemetery and church.

    In the Bender cemetery, some now call it the old Hopewell cemetery, is buried Mrs. Daniel Bender, one of the very first settlers of the town of Forest and her passing marked the first death of a white person in that township. It took place in May, 1854, and so thinly settled was that area that only ten persons were present at the burial which was May 24, 1854. She was 45 years of age. It is stated that "near" neighbors residing some four miles distant, went to Readstown, secured a rough box to use as a coffin and the body was laid to rest with members of the family and the near neighbors standing around the open grave.

    Mrs. Bender was the wife of Daniel Bender, who with his brother William and the two families, came to Richland county in April 1854. Daniel and William, natives of Pennsylvania, moved to Indiana in 1842.

    "Westward Ho!" was in their blood and their hearts longed for the wilds of Wisconsin. By ox teams, trains and boats they traveled toward the setting sun, landing at Muscoda they took the ferry boat to Richmond, rented a house for the two families until a rough log cabin could be built in what is now the town of Forest. It was the first house erected in the township, had no floor, and a quilt was used as a door. Into this cabin the families moved and there in the new home Mrs. Margaret Bender sickened and it was there May 24th she breathed her last and was gathered to a home on high.

    A monument for her stands today in the little country cemetery. Around her sleep many of the pioneers of the area. Names upon the tombstones are of the early settlers. Familiar names in that locality such as Reeve, Ambrose, Kanable, Shaffer, Taylor, Matthes, Van Fleet, Austin, Fall, Gochenaur and many, many of them bear the name of Bender. Margaret Bender was the third wife of Daniel and in 1855 he was again married, his wife being Mary Fall. They resided in the old log house until 1959 when a new home was erected and on New Years day, 1860, the family moved into the house, which still stands and is worth a visit.

    It was built big and strong, and bids fair to weather a hundred or more years. In this fine home Daniel Bender and family lived for many years. Mr. Bender answered the final summons on October 21, 1890, and his body was taken to the hilltop cemetery and buried beside his wife, Margaret, who passed on 36 years previous. A week later, October 28, 1890, his wife Mary, closed her eyes and she too was laid to rest upon the Bender lot; her name appearing upon the stone along with Margaret and Daniel.

    The stones in the cemetery are for the most part old fashioned ones, slabs of marble, weather beaten to some extent, but stand as silent memorials to those who have gone on before. Granite stones are few in the burying ground, a dozen or less. One of these granite markers is for Betty Bender, daughter of Daniel, who was born on the old farm in 1868.; another is for her brother William. One stone marks the grave of John Smelcer, one time resident of Richland Center. He died, according to the stone, in 1940. In Richland Center there are many monuments for Mr. Smelcer. They are not of marble or granite, but monuments nevertheless. A large number of these towering toward the sky, can be found in Krouskop park - they are the trees which line the driveways and dot the picnic areas. John Smelcer planted back in the days when the park was being laid out for future generations to enjoy. John did a good
 job for not over one or two failed to grow after being set out.  While a resident of the city Mr. Smelcer resided in what is now the park; his home stood a bit east of the present Allain greenhouse.

    Daniel and William Bender were no doubt pleased with their new homes in the wilderness and wrote letters back to relatives in Pennsylvania telling them of the wonders in Wisconsin and more particular that area where the brothers settled, for in the fall of 1854, Peter Bender and wife, parents of Daniel and William, came, together with other sons and daughters; Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bender; Elias Bender and family; Mrs. Elizabeth Shaffer and family; Jonas Bender and Hannah and Susanna Bender. There were 22 in the party. Next year Emanuel P. Bender arrived as did others; all settled in the town of Forest.

    William Bender had in the mean time built a house for himself and family down the valley. In 1865 he enlisted in the Eleventh Regiment Wisconsin Infantry, entering service in February, and was mustered out in September. David Austin, who married Mary Bender, daughter of Daniel, also served in the Civil War; he was a member of Co. H 46th Wisconsin Infantry, of which Amasa Hoskins, Richland Center, was captain, and many Richland county men were members, one of them being Emmett Jaquish, the young lad from Ithaca, whose monument stands in the Neptune    cemetery. Emmett died in Chicago of disease and his body was not returned home for burial This was told in a previous article concerning the Neptune cemetery. Mr. Austin and Mr. William Bender are buried in the Bender cemetery.

    We were up to the Bender cemetery some time ago; along was David Bender and Frank C. Poynter both of Richland Center. Mr. Bender was born in Bender Hollow 83 years ago on December 29, 1872. His father was Jonas Bender, who came to Richland county and the town of Forest in the fall of 1854, with other members of the Bender family, some 22 in number. Jonas settled in Bender Hollow, his house being down the valley a bit below the Daniel Bender house. It was on this farm that David spent his early days, attended the old school and that old church. His mother died in 1885 and she was buried in the Bender cemetery by the side of a little daughter, Genevieve. The father of David went back to the east where he passed away in 1901 and was buried in Pennsylvania.

    In the little cemetery there are the grandparents of Mr. Bender, numerous uncles, aunts and cousins, friends, and early day playmates. One of the pioneers to be buried in the Bender cemetery is Susanna Fall.  Mrs. Fall, it may be said, never cooked upon a stove; all her cooking was done at the fireplace in the pioneer cabins.

    In 1857, Adam Shambaugh, an early day minister, organized the Bender class and the first place of meeting was in the Bender log school house, and Rev. D. K. Young was the first resident pastor. In 1890 a new church was dedicated on February 2nd. This church remained in use until about 1953 when services were discontinued, pews and furnishings being taken to the Viola church and placed in use. The bell for the new church was given by Joseph Bender who owned a bell foundry in Pennsylvania. Across the highway from the church is the Hopewell cemetery, now used instead of the old Bender cemetery, a quarter of a mile away. In the new cemetery are a number of the Bender families and early settlers of the area.

                                                                          Time Passes

    A number of years ago we made a call at the old Bender home at the head of Bender Hollow. It as locust blossom time and the air was filled with the sweet fragrance of thousands upon thousands of locust blossoms as the hollow is filled with locust trees. On the farm were Mr. and Mrs. Emmett Fazel and their daughter Dorothy, a miss of nine or ten years of age. Dorothy acted as guide on a trip up to the hilltop cemetery and the old sheep shed nearby and other places of interest about the historical home. Miss Dorothy was an able guide for Mrs. Fogo and myself and we enjoyed visiting her mother, father and of course herself. On our recent visit to the Bender cemetery we went to the old house down in the hollow. The farm is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. George Mullendore and their two fine children, Vicki 7, and Kathy 4. Mrs. Mullendore proved to be Dorothy, the little girl who showed us about the farm years previous. Up to our visit at the farm with David Bender, we had not seen Dorothy since the day she was our guide about the farm. Also at the Mullendore home the day we were there was Mrs. Emmett Fazel, Dorothy's mother.

    One odd fact we learned was that Vicki and Kathy, children of Mr. and Mrs. Mullendore, are the seventh generation of the Bender family to live in the old house, yet they are the first children to make it their home in 70 years. Believe it or not.

    We are going again to the cemetery and old home next spring out Bender Hollow way in locust blossom time.

S. F.

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