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Bennett, John (IL State Representative)

Born: 1805-12-21 Halifax County, Virginia

Died: 1885-12-06 Petersburg, Illinois

Flourished: 1846-01-16

Born into a slaveholding family, Bennett began working in his father's store at the age of fourteen and became a partner at 18. In 1828, he visited Florida and purchased property with the intent to move there but gave up the idea when his father's health began failing. Following his father's death, Bennett managed the family plantation and ran a mercantile operation. In 1829, he married Mary A. Boyd, with whom he had at least four children. In 1835, Bennett sold most of his family's property, including its slaves, and set out for Illinois. The family lived in Rochester, Illinois for about a year but moved to Petersburg in 1836. Bennett bought an interest in Tinsley & Taylor's store and became co-owner with his brother-in-law Philip Rainey in 1837. The business closed in 1839 and Bennett entered into a period of financial difficulty. In 1840, he won election to the Illinois General Assembly but only remained one term after becoming disgusted with politics. In 1843, he became involved with a local tan yard. Bennett built a tavern in 1845 and managed it until 1849, when he founded another mercantile business. The following year, he married Mary Jane Cabanis after the death of Mary. In 1850, he was a merchant with property holdings valued at $4,330. He dissolved his business in 1854 and started a new one with his son, which he sold in 1857. The following year, Bennett became a member of the Board of Directors of the Tonica & Petersburg Railroad along with Richard Yates. In 1860, Bennett was farming in Petersburg and owned real estate valued at $38,000 and had a personal estate of $1,900. A lifelong anti-abolitionist Whig, Bennett refused to join the Republican Party.

Autobiography of John Bennett, Bennett-Carter Family Papers, Box 1, Folder 1, Manuscript Division, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL; The History of Menard and Mason Counties (Chicago: O. L. Baskin, 1879), 690; Matilda Johnson Plews, Some Interesting Menard County Homes (Petersburg, IL: 1967), 8; Gravestone, Rose Hill Cemetery, Petersburg, IL; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Petersburg, Menard County, IL, 271; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Petersburg, Menard County, IL, 221.