INTIMATE GLIMPSE OF A PROSPEROUS PLANTER (August 29/03)

I find it unusual that one of the most influential and industrious Planters settling here in the 1760s is ignored in Eaton’s Kings County history.

In 1760, reads the Benjamin family genealogy, Obadiah Benjamin of Connecticut received a grant of 500 acres in the original township of Hortonville (Horton). Before he died some 45 years later, Benjamin had amassed a large estate and was by far one of the most successful of the New England Planters.

Eaton includes Obadiah in his list of original Horton grantees (giving the grant date as 1761) and this is the only mention of this illustrious gentleman. Surely Eaton was aware of Obadiah’s accomplishments since some of the enterprises he started were still in operation when the history was compiled.

What were Obadiah Benjamin’s accomplishments and why name him as one of the most successful Planters?

Obadiah Benjamin apparently was a miller by trade; shortly after settling here he traded some of his Horton Township grant for property on the Gaspereau River where he built a couple of mills. Benjamin parlayed these mills into a sizeable estate and when he died about 45 years after settling in Kings County he was a wealthy man. The evidence that he was indeed a man of affluence is found in the Benjamin family genealogy, which can be found at the Kings County Museum.

“When Obadiah Benjamin died… he had a considerable estate,” reads the section of the genealogy devoted to him. “He established a grist mill and saw mill on the Gaspereau River and gave a farm to each of his four sons.” The genealogy continues with its sketch of Obadiah by quoting from his will, thus providing an intimate glimpse of this Planter pioneer’s wealth.

“His will dated November 6, 1806, leaves to the eldest sons Stephen and Caleb, 20 shillings each, having provided both of them on farms with marshlands. To son Abel the lot of land where his house stands together with the Grist Mill and sawmill together with the water privileges next to Jacob Benjamin’s land.

“To the fourth son Obed, the sum of 160 pounds by sons Abel and Jacob (and) already received marshland. Fifth son Jacob, all farmland (and) buildings where I now live. To daughters Lydia Parker and Elizabeth Kinnie (besides what I have already given them) all household furniture of any kind, plus 20 pounds to be paid by my sons, Abel and Jacob, and one cow each.

“To his wife Deborah Strong (his first wife, Mary Hurd, had died in 1786) one half of a house, namely kitchen and east parlour with household furniture; also a good riding horse and saddle and two-year-old red heifer.”

A postscript: The Benjamin genealogy records that Obadiah and Mary Hurd are buried in the “old cemetery on Highland Avenue, Wolfville.” There is no old cemetery on Highland Avenue. Obadiah and Mary Benjamin are buried in the old Horton-Wolfville Burying Ground on Main Street, facing Highland Avenue. James Doyle Davison’s book on the burial ground, What Mean These Stones, contain a brief sketch of Obadiah. It’s interesting to find that Benjamin once owned the land that’s now centre square in Kentville.

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