The Benjamin Story
In 1835, Daniel Benjamin, a native of Jamestown, New York, came to Brunswick to look over the land. Daniel was part of a proud American family, already established. His father, Martin, was a soldier in the War of 1812.
Daniel liked what he was and purchased 160 acres of land on what is now known as West 130th Street between Route 303 and Grafton Road. It cost $2.50 an acre from the Connecticut Land Company. He returned to New York where he wed Eliza Halbeit on January 20, 1836, and then proceeded to the new land by covered wagon.
Exactly 99 years, 365 days later, his great-grandson, Elmer Benjamin, married his wife Theora and settled on the same land as his forefathers, where in 1987, they still remain.
The first home on the site was a log cabin north of the present Benjamin home. Elmer's son Clayton lived there in a modern home for awhile and there was always a basement water problem. They found the modern building was atop of the spring used at the first cabin site.
A frame building was built next on about the same site as the current Benjamin home. It was later turned into a horse barn when the "Big Home" was completed. That home, where Elmer was born, took two years to build. All of it was built by hand including doors and window frames. Daniel took two huge trees to Brooks' sawmill at Bennett's Corners. He traded one tree for the plants made from the other. All the beams are hand hewn and the wood shed, which is now a part of the home, was almost as big as the house - and as solid. It acted as both a wood storage building and a creamery in the summer.
Daniel died at age 55, but Eliza, raising eight children, ran the farm and made a go of it. Daniel was more outgoing and fun-loving while Eliza was a strict churchwoman. One night, it's said, Daniel took his four daughters, the oldest of the eight children, to a dance in Hinckley. Eliza was so outraged at the frivolity that the next day she walked to a prayer meeting in Strongsville - many months pregnant. Eliza lived till almost the turn of the century.
Eliza brought with her from New York, a clock which was built into a niche in the wall of the big house. It's said that the clock stopped running at the exact moment of her death, and hasn't run since. The Benjamins now own the clock which has wooden gears.
On the maternal side of the family, it was great-grandfather Horatio Chidsey who was the "character." At the age of 75, Horatio decided to remarry. His first wife, Jeanette Greenwood, a former schoolteacher, had died. So Horatio took as his bride 25 year-old Alice Crumpler who was related to a former mayor of Strongsville.
Horatio worked in Cleveland and became acquainted with John D. Rockefeller, who at one time lived in Strongsville. Horatio described John D. Rockefeller as the most homely man he'd ever met, in addition to being parsimonious. It's reported he ate only crackers and milk. John D. used to visit the Chidsey household, taking only a meal of graham crackers and milk, but always left a generous tip for the missus.
Mrs. Chidsey was a teacher at Sherman's Corners School where she successfully succeeded three male teachers who had been bodily ejected by the students. Her approach was to ask the biggest, meanest young man in the school to be her helper. And she never had any trouble while be became a model student.
Maternal grandfather J.T. Geckler was president of the Brunswick phone company. As president, he had to haul poles, dig holes, set the poles and wire them up. According to Elmer, Marie Fasoli was one of the last operators of the old system which only operated from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. unless there was an emergency. The operator used to sleep on a couch near the switchboard in the off hours. Dennis Johnson was the only employee of the system other than the operators. He had to maintain the lines, install phones and even collect bills.
Elmer's paternal grandparents were Edgar and Mary (Chidsey) Benjamin. Edgar was the seventh child of Daniel and Eliza and was the one who remained to work on the farm. Edgar and Mary had three sons, the middle of which, Clifford, was the one who stayed on the farm. He was Elmer's father.
"My father was very upset when we encouraged our son Clayton to go on to school and leave the farm," Elmer recalled. "But we realized that times had changed and the land couldn't support a family any more."
Theora came from the Lytle family who moved to Granger from their pioneer home in Geauga County. Her father was a blacksmith who had lost his wife. Her mother, seeking employment after her own widowhood, came to work as a housekeeper and ended up as Mrs. Lytle. They had three children of their own.
In 1933, Theora graduated from high school and came to work in Brunswick at Zimmerman's store. Her sister is Mrs. Carl Zimmerman. Elmer paid the utility bills there and attended the same church. And that's how they met. 50 years ago they moved into the home in which they now live. Son Clayton was born in 1939 (the hospital bill was $43 for 10 days and another $50 for doctor's pre- and post-natal care). Nola was born in 1947.
Times weren't always easy for the newlyweds. Theora remembers they went to the Berea Fair for an evening in 1938 - and didn't financially recover until after the winter had passed. The Benjamins worked the farm and raised chickens. Elmer had an egg route.
Over the years, the Benjamins have found it necessary to sell most of the land, retaining just their property with one of the six homes built on the original land. The workload became too heavy for Theora who is afflicted with arthritis. Elmer couldn't be gone so much, so they sold the chickens (collected ceramic ones instead) and Elmer became an insurance agent and since retired. He and Theora are also notary publics.
Elmer has a terrific memory for all sorts of things. Like how electricity came to his part of town:
The owners of property there established the Bennett's Corners Illuminating Company in 1920. They hauled and placed poles and installed lines and then turned it all over to the Cleveland Southwestern Company, which was subsidizing the Interurban with its electrical business. It was the only way to gain electrical service. Finally, Ohio Edison was formed to take over the service.
He also remembers that West 130th Street was surfaced after his father, Clair Wyman, and Lloyd Harris bugged the county commissioners. They purposely went 41 times to meetings (and who knows how many times they accidentally dropped in?). The last meeting went on until 9:00 p.m. It is said that Commissioner Charlie Scanlon finally said, "We'd better give 'em a road - those s.o.b.'s will come here till doomsday if we don't."
Elmer has been active in the community throughout his life, serving on the Medina County Fair Board, as an election official and as secretary of the Kiwanis Club among other accomplishments.