VETERANS OF THE CIVIL WAR FROM WALNUT, IA
BENJAMIN F. BIXBY
Benjamin Franklin Bixby descended from an old American family who had been famous as soldiers and pioneers from old colonial times. Deacon Solomon Bixby, grandfather of Benjamin, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was the father of eight children, viz.: Amasa, Rufus, Amos, Sumner, Jotham, Jonathan, Simon, Deborah and Nancy. [Ed Note: 9 names are listed.] He moved to the State of Maine, and settled at Norridgewock, on the Kennebec River, during the latter part of the eighteenth century. Solomon lived to the age of sixty-six years, and was a prominent member of the Congregational Church, in which he was a deacon for many years. He was one of the founders of the church in Norridgewock, and was a prosperous farmer, owning one of the finest farms in the state.
Rufus Bixby, a son of Solomon and the father of Benjamin, was born on the old homestead at Norridgewock in 1796, and received a common-school education. He was married to Betty or Betsey Weston, who was born in Madison, Maine in 1798 and died on April 17, 1882. Betty was a daughter of Deacon Benjamin Weston, who was born at Skowhegan, Maine, and was a son of a Revolutionary soldier. He was one of Arnold’s brave soldiers who invaded the then impenetrable and unexplored forests of Northern Maine in the late fall and early winter. Mr. Weston received his death from exposure. He reached home and died two weeks after his return. Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Bixby were the parents of fourteen children, three of whom died young: Solomon, William, Benjamin F., Augustus, Mary, Caroline, Elizabeth, Eunice and Sarah. [Ed Note: Only 9 names are listed in the 1883 History, but the 1891 History lists 14 names, but 2 Ann L.’s were listed, as well as Lyman Munson, Munson, and Lyman. The fourteen listed were: Mary, Solomon E., Llewyn, Caroline N., William W., Ann L., Elizabeth, Lyman Munson, Munson, Lyman, A. B., Sarah A., Ann L., and B. F.] Rufus was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was a deacon in the Congregational Church. He lived to the age of eighty-five years.
Benjamin F. Bixby was born on his grandfather’s farm at Norridgewock, Maine, June 17, 1828, and received a good academic education at the old academies of Bloomfield, Anson and Thompson. After graduating from the Brunswick Academies of Maine in 1851, he began life as a school-teacher at Madison, Maine, and on the Penobscot Bay. In March, 1852 when the gold fever broke out, he sailed from Boston around Cape Horn to California. While his vessel was stopping at Valparaiso, Chile for a supply of water during an insurrection there, they found Captain Brown, of the bark Florida, held prisoner by the Chilean authorities, accused of aiding the insurgents. At night the captain of Mr. Bixby’s vessel rescued Brown and immediately put to sea, expecting to be followed by a man-of-war. The former carried two large guns, besides small arms and cutlasses, and was ready for defense. The next day, however, Captain Brown was placed aboard his own vessel, and went on his way rejoicing.
On arrival in California, Mr. Bixby mined for gold at Volcano, Placerville and Cedarville. He followed this business quite successfully four years, and then went into the dairy business in Jackson, California, which he continued two years. He then returned to Maine to visit his relatives, and in 1858, came to Winterset, Iowa.
Benjamin was married, in Winterset, Madison County on September 22, 1859, to Mary Ann Hornbeck, born near Delphi, Carroll County, Indiana on May 11, 1842, the youngest daughter of Abraham and Elizabeth O’Connell Hornbeck [Martha “Patsy” O’Connell in The Ancestral File at FamilySearch.org, Martha Cornell in the 1883 History & Elizabeth McConnell in the 1891 History]. Abraham was born on Scioto River, Ohio on April 6, 1802, and was of German descent; his wife was born in 1804 and was of Irish descent. They resided at La Fayette, Indiana, for many years and settled in Madison County, Iowa, in 1852. Abraham died on June 1, 1880, at the age of seventy-eight years. They had six children: James, George, John, Elizabeth, Nancy and Mary A. [The Ancestral File also gives a child named William.]
Obeying the call of his country, Benjamin enlisted in Company E, Forty-seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry on May 4, 1864, and served at Helena, Arkansas. He was taken sick with malarial fever, and came near death. He was in a hospital at Helena, in the old residence of General Hindman, a noted Confederate General. After serving out his time, Mr. Bixby was honorably discharged at Davenport, Iowa, September 28, 1864 and returned home to Winterset and engaged in speculation. He was shattered by the malaria and for two years was disabled.
In 1868, he moved to De Soto, Dallas County, Iowa where he was employed in the depot of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad for five years. In 1874, he came to Walnut in the employ of the same railroad company, as station agent, in which capacity he served fourteen years; he was also agent for the United States Company. According to The Walnut Bureau, Jubilee Edition, October 6, 1927, B. F. Bixby was one of the early settlers of Walnut, coming in 1873 from Winterset. He was the first station agent, which position he held for some 20 years and he served as postmaster for a number of years. Mr. Bixby’s long service with the Rock Island Company as ticket and express agent is the best indication of his character and of his faithful and honest services.
In 1889, he was appointed Postmaster, under President Harrison, where he served four years to the satisfaction of the government and the people of Walnut. He was well fitted for this position by his long business training, his pleasant and courteous disposition, and his accommodating way of dealing with the people. [Ed Note: Several articles in The Walnut Bureau said that B. F. Bixby was assistant postmaster in 1897.]
He was a member of John A. Dix Post, G. A. R., No. 408, Walnut, of which he was Adjutant for many years. Benjamin was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a Republican.
Mr. and Mrs. Bixby had five children: James Franklin (deceased at five years of age), William Rufus, Mintie Maude (Maud), Derrick Lloyd (Lloyd) and Bessie.
I also discovered that Ben had a butcher shop in Walnut. “BUY YOUR MEAT AT BIXBY’S.” was an ad in The Walnut Bureau, January 13, 1888. “On Friday evening of last week B. F. Bixby locked the doors of his butcher shop and retired permanently from the field in Walnut. Inability to procure a proper supply of ice was, we understand, the reason for this action. On Monday he sold his tools to Charley McLyman who has rented the shop and will take possession on March 1st.” (The Walnut Bureau, February 28, 1908)
Benjamin Bixby died at his home in Walnut on November 21, 1914 at the age of 86 years, 5 months and 3 days. He was survived by his wife and four children: W. R. Bixby of Avoca; Loyd of Walnut, Miss Maud, and Mrs. R. E. Brownlee of Adair. His obituary says that it was impossible to estimate how much he did for the community and includes a long tribute to his life. His funeral was at the Presbyterian Church and he was laid to rest in the Walnut Cemetery, where he has a military gravestone.
Mary Bixby passed away at her home in Walnut on October 2, 1917. Services were held at the Presbyterian Church and she was buried in the Walnut Cemetery. She does not have a gravestone, but she is buried next to her husband.
William W. Bixby, the next eldest brother of Benjamin, made the first survey ever made to the Pacific Coast, about 1854 – 1855, which was made for a railroad from St. Paul to Puget Sound. Lyman, the younger brother, was a soldier in a Maine regiment, and was captured at the battle of Cold Harbor. He was a Lieutenant, and was in charge of the company when captured. He was six months in Andersonville and Libby prisons, and escaped from the former, and after nine days in the swamp was recaptured by means of blood-hounds. He was finally exchanged. He saw service before Richmond, being for two weeks under fire at one time.
His brother Solomon E. was pastor of a Congregational Church in Holland, Massachusetts.
JoAnn Bantin, great-granddaughter of Benjamin F. Bixby, sent a photo of him in front of his house. We helped her to locate it and found that it was the still-standing house at the current address of 302 Pacific Street. B. F. Bixby purchased this property, lots 7 & 8 of block 7 Original Plat, on April 11, 1878. JoAnn said that one of his goats was usually standing on the roof of the shed to the left. Also, there were three graves to the right rear of the house. She has the front door from the house, which is now used as an interior door in her home. (Information from the obituaries of Benjamin Bixby and of Mary Bixby, from History Of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, 1883 and Biographical History Of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, 1891)