Friday, February 3, 2017

Jemima Benton & Sidney Atwell

You’ve heard about Grandma Mary Alice Godwin Benton Palmer, the grandmother who made the beautiful wedding quilts for each of her grandchildren. You’ve heard how she made an extra block from each of the quilts in order to put them together to become a sampler quilt for her. And, you’ve read about each of Mary’s eleven grandchildren and how the quilt for each came about.

What about the parents? What about Mary’s sons and daughters who brought these grandchildren into the world and gave them their start in life? What do we know about that missing generation?

For the next four weeks, you will have the opportunity to find out. This week, let’s start with Grandma Mary’s oldest child, her daughter Jemima Benton Atwell.

Ohio Star
It’s hard to tell Jemima’s story without telling a little bit of her parents’ story. For Mary’s story, we owe a debt of gratitude to one of our series authors, P.A. Estelle, who wrote a synopsis of her life for the rest of us to use as a guideline.

In 1829, Jemima was born on small farm outside of Marietta, Ohio, just off the Ohio River, the same farm  her mother Mary and her father, Ezra Benton bought after they married the year before. However, her father contracted consumption and his health soon deteriorated to the point he found it difficult to continue farming. In 1843, her parents sold their Ohio farm and prepared to move south to a warmer and drier climate in hopes the change would help her father overcome his disease. However, the family only made it as far as Boonville, Missouri where Jemima’s father died. Jemima was fourteen years old at the time.

Map of Boonville, Missoure
Mary Benton was left a widow with three children to care for and no means of support. She chose to stay in Boonville. Always a sober and responsible child, Jemima helped watch her younger brother and sister after her mother found an old cabin for them to live in and found work with Edward Palmer, a widower with a young son. Jemima was still living at home when her mother married Edward Palmer a year and a half later.

Almost two years later, Jemima met Sidney Atwell in Boonville. He and his family were originally from Pennsylvania which is where his older brother, Jefferson, met his wife. Shortly after the Atwells had settled on their Boonville farm, they had gravitated towards associating with the Palmers and other families originally from northern states that did not approve of slavery and did not support the efforts of their pro-slavery neighbors to preserve and spread that practice. An attraction quickly grew between level-headed Jemima and gregarious, easily distracted Sidney. In 1847, when Jemima was the age of eighteen, she and Sidney married.

The young couple lived for a time in the Atwell home where Sidney helped his parents and brother farm. They eventually were able to buy a small farm with a two room cabin of their own nearby. It was there that Jemima’s three children, Kizzie, Jesse and Meredith, were born. After Meredith’s birth, Jemima developed a problem with miscarriages which prevented her from having more children.

Sidney & Jemima Atwell family in Salina, Kansas
However, in their community of Boonville, the tension and conflicts between those for and against slavery grew to the point that Jemima’s mother and stepfather decided to move to Kansas. They had heard there was good farm land with plenty of water for livestock in the west. Once Sidney and his brother learned of the Palmers’ plans, they decided to go with them so they could establish larger farms of their own.

In 1859, Jemima and her family moved to Salina, Kansas. She and Sidney settled on land east of the Smoky Hill River close to where it joined the Saline River. The next farm to the south belonged to Jemima’s mother and stepfather. On the other side of the Palmer farm was the farm of Jefferson Atwell and his family.  They started their farm from scratch, first living out of a wagon box until they built a fine two story house with three bedrooms, a barn and corrals. They planted wheat and silage crops for their livestock. They kept a herd of about thirty to forty head of cattle.

At the time, the small community of Salina was on the western edge of the Kansas frontier of what the Cheyenne considered their buffalo hunting territory. Tribal members were hostile to the whites moving onto the land. Jemima lived through fleeing from the Indian massacre scare 1862 while recuperating from another miscarriage and a bout of pneumonia. She helped her daughters escape when they were attacked by a knife- and gun-wielding bullwhacker. She was the one most proficient in home doctoring. She was often called upon to provide the right herbs and treatments for sickness and infections. If someone needed to be stitched up, they called upon Jemima to do it.

Now you know more about Grandma Mary’s oldest child, Jemima Benton, and the man she married, Sidney Atwell, let’s once again review the stories of their three children:

Kizzie Atwell in Kizzie’s Kisses by Zina Abbott:

Running from hostile Indians attacking Salina, Kansas in 1862, feisty Kizzie Atwell, Grandma Mary’s oldest grandchild, runs into freighter Leander Jones traveling the Smoky Hill Trail. He is as interested in her as his stallion is in her mare. The two join forces to prevent the Fort Riley Army captain from requisitioning their beloved horses for the cavalry. Avoiding bushwhackers and fighting off a thieving bullwhacker binds their bargain.

In 1865, at the victory dance held at Fort Riley to celebrate the end of the Civil War, Kizzie is asked to participate in a fund-raiser to aid the Sanitary Commission helping injured and sick soldiers. It involves chaste sweetheart kisses in exchange for tickets purchased by officers and guests. As a contract freighter for the Army, Leander is invited. Much to Leander’s chagrin, before his chance to claim his kiss, Kizzie’s uncle steps in and puts an end to the kissing game.

Is Leander out of luck, or will the bargain Kizzie and Leander made three years earlier to save their horses lead to a more romantic bargain sealed with a kiss?

You may purchase Kizzie’s Kisses on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.

Jesse Atwell in Jesse’s Bargain by Kay P. Dawson:

Cora left England for a new life in America as a mail order bride - only to find the man she’s come to marry has been killed in a gunfight. She has a sister in Kansas, but how can she get there?

Jesse needs this job driving cattle to Kansas so he can marry the woman who’s given him an ultimatum - buy land and settle down, or she’ll marry someone who will.

But, his cook’s been killed in the same gunfight, leaving him without anyone to drive the chuckwagon. His right hand man, an old cowboy with a soft heart, has a solution for both Cora and Jesse - one he might not like.

Dressed as a boy, Cora heads off with a team of cowboys, led by a man who isn’t happy about her being there. Kansas is a long way away…and a lot can happen before they get there.

You may purchase Jesse’s Bargain by CLICKING HERE.

Meredith Atwell in Meredith’s Mistake by Amelia C. Adams:

The summer Meredith turned eighteen was filled with romance and laughter - two young men sought her hand, and she chose the one she thought would make her the happiest. He certainly was the most handsome, and the wealthiest, and could offer her the most pleasant life. But that turned out to be a mistake . . . one she would regret for a very long time.

In a strange twist of fate, now she's being given a chance to set things right. Will she be able to live down her past, or will her foolishness keep coming back to haunt her and keep her from ever being happy with the man she loves?

You may purchase Meredith’s Mistake  by CLICKING HERE.

You may purchase all of the books in the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts series by CLICKING HERE.


  1. I just love the idea of the back stories! I'm fascinated with family history, and this is a snapshot into grandmas children that we have missed! Trdivincenzo (at) gmail (dot) com

  2. That is so great, I liked reading that. Wondered what happened to the quilts in the museum and how the story ends. Each story was separate but sort of left the prequel hanging. Am I the only one thinking like this?


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