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The Bender Family Collection - MS 486

Introduction | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory


The Bender Family Collection consists of correspondence dating from 1865 to 1898 written by the daughters-in-law and daughters of Peter and Elizabeth Bender (Eveline Goff Bender, Caroline Bender Wack, Betsey Powell Bender) and members of their families. There are also letters from the daughter of Jacob and Melissa Bender and letters from Philip Fowl, the husband of Catherine (Bender) Fowl.

The collection was donated by Cecile Strobel in April of 1987. No restrictions exist on the use of this collection and duplication is permitted for research purposes. This finding aid was prepared by James Kaser, doctoral student in American Culture, in October 1988.

Biographical Sketch

This collection of letters was authored by members, either by birth or marriage, of the Peter (November 19, 1796-August 17, 1881) and Elizabeth (June 22, 1803-August 14, 1888) Bender family. Peter and Elizabeth were born and raised in Frohnhofen, Germany where they married and had two children, Peter (June 23, 1826-August 24, 1881) and Jacob (October 11, 1829-January 5, 1920). The family moved to the United States in 1832, arriving in Boston and resettling on a farm near Elyria, Ohio. While in the United States, five more children were born: Catherine (January 24, 1834-May 24, 1914); John (December 10, 1836-January 10, 1888); Betsey (March 10, 1839-January 2, 1898); Caroline (November 1, 1841-January --, 1888); and Henry (July 9, 1842- ?). The letters tell little of Peter and Elizabeth Bender. Since they were written after Peter had become too old to farm, the information they do contain is focused on conflicts Peter had with his family over who would execute his estate and who would be his beneficiaries. The nature of these conflicts is not entirely clear, though they seem to involve the actions of Rev. Philip Fowl (March 1, 1835-June 25, 1894), who was married to Catherine Bender and later was hospitalized for mental illness. An argument between Peter Bender II and Philip is described but its contents is not recounted.

Most of the letters were written by Eveline Goff Bender, the wife of Peter Bender II who lived on a farm with her husband near Hassan, Ohio in Hancock County. Genealogy sheets included with the collection indicate that they were married March 31, 1852 and had one adopted daughter, Flora, who married Will Matthewson. The letters represent Eveline's attempt to maintain contact with her husband's family, who, except for Jacob and his family who lived near Quincy, Michigan, all lived near Elyria. In addition to commenting on news she has received, particularly about Peter I and Elizabeth Bender's health and the conflict over Peter's estate, she shares information about her community, the work she and her husband perform, the operation of their farm and her health. After the death of her husband she increasingly deals with her emotional state, focusing on her loneliness and sadness.

Caroline (Bender) Wack and her daughters are responsible for another part of the correspondence. Caroline was married to Alfred Wack on August 20, 1863 and her letters deal primarily with the activities of Henry Bender, Philip and Catherine (Bender) Fowl and Peter I and Elizabeth Bender, all of whom lived near the Wacks. Her daughters Ellen, Cassie, Matie, Betsey, and Mabel often explqain the fact that they are writing instead of their mother because of other demands on her time. Their letters include more personal information about their school, attendance at dances and involvement in such activities as quilting, cidermaking, and sleigh-riding.

A third group of letters were written by Betsey (Bender) Powell and her children. Betsey, who was married to William Sherman Powell (July 28, 1833-January 2, 1898) on November 25, 1856, had six children, three of whom, Elnora, Orpha, and Arthur, wrote letters included in the collection. The letters are similar in content to those of the Wacks except that they include a description of the death of a daughter of Catherine (Bender) Fowl from diphtheria and make reference to the earthquake of January 7, 1883, and some of the letters are written just within the Powell family.

Other letters in the collection were written by Henry Bender (July 9, 1842-?), his daughter Lottie, the above mentioned Rev. Philip Fowl (March 1, 1835-June 25, 1894) and grandchildren of Peter and Elizabeth Bender (Ruby Bender Ryan, daughter of Jacob Bender and Melissa Van Orsdal) who lived in Quncy, Michigan. There is no information about correspondents Phebe ___, Priscilla ____, and P. D. Webster.

Scope and Content

The Bender Family Collection, 1865-1898, mainly contains letters that communicate family news among branches of the family that lived on farms near Elyria, Ohio, near Hassan, Ohio, and near Quincy, Michigan. The material consists of personal correspondence all of which, except for several letters by male children and two by the Rev. Philip Fowl, were written by women.

The letters contain many references to family matters, such as conflicts over the will of Peter Bender I, his choice of an executor, the actions of that executor in carrying out the will and his treatment of Bender's wife Elizabeth. This material gives some indication of the social position and treatment of elderly people. As general communications intended to preserve family relations, the letters contain news of the communities in which they were written and references to personal matters such as illness and death andtheir author's reaction to these occurrences. Since all the correspondents were members of farm families, discussions of the agricultrual products of their farms and the price received for them are frequent. From these discussions one obtains an indication of the sort of tasks being pursued at different times of the year by both men and women.

By far the largest number of letters were written by Eveline Goff Bender who lived with husband Peter Bender II near Hassan, Ohio. These letters contain a great deal of personal information including emotional reactions to illnesses Eveline Bender suffered and her feelings of isolation, loneliness, and sadness after the death of her husband. She hints at her relationship to other members in the commnity and recods the eagerness with which she awaited mail and visitors.

Series Description


September, 1868-May 1888, n.d. Folder one.
Arranged chronologically
Outgoing personal correspondence primarily constituting Eveline Bender's attempt to maintain contact with her sisters-in-law. She reports on her and her husband's health, the nature and prices of their farm's products, purchases of land, sales, births/deaths of livestock, and weather conditions. She also communicates and/or comments on news she has received about Peter and Elizabeth Bender, her sisters-in-law, and their families f(particularly during the period when a quarrel developed among some family members over the settlement of Peter Bender's estate and during another period when the widowed Elizabeth Bender was ill-treated by the family members with whom she was living). She also reports on events in the community in which she lives including love scandals, difficulties over getting a postmaster and a schoolteacher, accidents and deaths involving non-family members, and religious revivals and conflicts centered on the establishment of church congregations.

December 1871-December 1898, n.d. Folder two.
Arranged chronologically
Includes letters written by Caroline (Bender) Wack as well as, in whole or in part, by her daughters--Ellen, Cassie, Matie, Betsey, and Mabel. Primarily, the letters contain news of Wack family activities as well as news of the families of Henry Bender, Catherine Bender Fowl as well as of Peter Bender I and his wife Elizabeth, all of whom lived near the Wacks. Such news as the imminent death of Peter Bender I, financial matters related to Elizabeth's death, and the scalding to death of Henry Bender's baby are included. There are mentions of such activities as quilting, cider-making, sleigh-riding and events such as going to dances. Brief mention is made of Mormon meetings held in the area and reactions against them.

April 1882-November 1895, n.d. Folder three.
Arranged chronologically
Includes letters written by Betsey Powell and her chidlren--Artie Powell, Elnora Powell, and Orpha Powell. Concern the activities of the Powell family and include a description of the death of a daughter of Catherine (Bender) Fowle from diphtheria and a description of the earthquake of January 7, 1883. A co-written, light-hearted letter by Elnora and Orpha is to their mother and brothers who were visiting Quincy and contains a drawing of a stage coach. A recipe for cough syrup is included with one letter.

October 11, 1881; July 26, 1884. Folder four.
Arranged chronologically
Two letters in which Philip defends his actions as the executor of the estate of Peter Bender I.

August 31, September 2, and September 8, 1898. Folder five.
Arranged chronologically
Three lengthy letters each of which were written over the period of several days that describe Ruby Ryan's visit to relatives in and around Elyria. She mentions William Powell, Catherine Fowl, Orpha Stang, Frank Fowl, and Nellie Eppley. She writes about the continuing sorrow of the daughters of Betsey Powell over her death, as well as her distaste for visiting and concerns over the fact that her mail is not reaching her. She also describes a visit to the downtown Elyria dress shop of Matie Wack.

September 3, 1896. Folder six.
Two letters mailed together. Lottie's letter is written to Ruby Bender and speaks of Lottie's return from a trip on which she visited Ruby and the rest of the Jacob Bender family in Quincy, Michigan. Henry Bender's letter is addressed to his brother Jacob. He refers to Lottie's enthusiasm for Michigan and the fact that she thinks he should buy a forty acre piece of land for sale there. Henry says his wife Hanna is in favor of the move and that he has been offered two thousand dollars for his farm, but he closes his letter by asking when Jacob is going to come visit him in Elyria.

April 30, 1865, April 10, 1878, n.d. Folder seven.
Letters by Phebe, Della, Persl (?), and Mrs. M.(?) Bender. Letter by Della Bender includes her "first attempt at a school composition" written on a trip to Clear Lake, Indiana as well as a copy of a hymn entitled "Gather Them In" in her hand.

March 12, 1871, May 22, 1888, n.d. Folder eight.
Arranged chronologically where possible.
One signed letter from P. D. Webster to Mary Sisson (Quincy, Michigan) May 22, 1888 dealing with a trip to Oberlin, Ohio. Also several letter fragments that refer to Catherine Bender and school lessons.


n.d. Folder nine.
Census records, marriage and birth dates, completed genealogical charts and a transcript of an obituary of Peter Bender I from the Republican, September 1, 1881.


Box 1


  1. Correspondence (Eveline Goff Bender), September 1868-May 1888, n.d.
  2. Correspondence (Caroline Bender Wack Family), August 1872-December 1898
  3. Correspondence (Betsey Bender Powell Family), October 1881-November 1895
  4. Correspondence (Philip Fowl), October 11, 1881; July 26, 1884
  5. Correspondence (Ruby Bender Ryan), August 31, September 2, 8, 1898
  6. Correspondence (Henry and Lottie Bender), September 3, 1896
  7. Correspondence (Miscellaneous), April 30, 1865, April 10, 1878, n.d.
  8. Correspondence (Miscellaneous), March 12, 1871, May 22, 1888, n.d.
  9. Literary Productions (Genealogical sheets), n.d.

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