Lois BENSON, 1875-1891 "Courageous Heroine of Mahaska Co."

Lois BENSON born January 18, 1875 Madison Twp. Mashaska Co., near Oskaloosa, to Charles & Huldah FERREE BENSON. At age 16, dies October 18, 1891, at her grandfather Charlie's, Charles & Lucy MIDDLETON FERREE home, 210 A Avenue West in Oskaloosa, as result of burns suffered in rescue of 2 small children. She was employed by Mr & Mrs Frank SHOEMAKE as maid & help care for their 2 small children, 5 miles north of Oskaloosa just south of South Skunk River. While the Shoemake's left in afternoon to attended church meeting at West Center School, Lois remained behind with the children. At 7 pm Oct. 17, 1891 a fire broke out from a oil lamp that fell on floor near the Children. Miss Benson rescued the children helping them to another room in the home. Then returned to fight the fire from the burning oil lamp which ignited carpet & furniture. Miss Benson got the flames extinguished, however her clothes were caught on fire in the process. Miss Benson rushed outside after noticing her clothing was on fire, she rolled in the grass to put out herself. It was too late as her under clothing was burnt as well as her hair was consumed entirely. In her condition she returned to the house to check that the fire was out, check on children & change her clothing as she knew she was badly burnt. Her faithful devotion to the children entrusted to her was her thoughts not caring for herself as pain must have been mounting she swiftly bundled up the younger child putting her in a baby cab. Pushing the cab & leading the other child by the hand giving no concern to her hands that were most severly burned with lost of finger & bleeding. They had to walk quarter mile to neighbor's home for help, knocking on the door of R.A. Kent's. Seeing her there with the children, he put her in to a wagon with the children beside her. Lois insisted she be taken to her beloved Grandfather Charlie's house. As fast as horses could go & steady driving would permit, the journey was made upon arrival there she was tenderly carried into Grandfather Charlie's house. Immediately Physician, Dr. Barringer, was summoned. Although in great agony, Lois stayed conscious until the doctor arrived & seemingly did not realize even then how fatally burned she was. She talked about the occurrence, never thinking of the heroic deed she had performed only that she tried to do her duty to the children entrusted to her care. She on complained of her hands burning, but her whole body was burnt to a crisp. The sad sad news spread, but not fast enough for her broken-hearted Mother, Mrs Huldah Stewart (she had remarried following Charles Benson death), of near New Sharon to be by her daughter's side during her last hours here on earth. From the Dr.'s first glance He know that the young girl was beyond the power of medical skill, but he did what he could to releive her of the terrible pain. She was gone by 2 Am. on the Sunday morn. Though her life was brief, she performed a greater task than many who live their alloted time do. She sacrificed her life to save 2 children entrusted to her care. General services were held for her at the home of grandparents Charles & Lucy Middleton Ferree, on Monday 1 pm with Rev. James Horner, assisted by Rev. J.M. Baugh, Officiating. She was laid to rest beside her father, Charles Benson, and a little brother in the Shoemake Cemetery in Madison Twp. within a quarter mile of where the tragedy took place. It was the largest funeral ever known, for neighborhood schools were closed for the day so that children could attend the services. Immediately steps were taken in the community & city to raise funds for a worthy memorial. The Shoemake's & A.W. Swalm, Owner of Oskaloosa Herald led off the fund raising campaign as well as clubs, churches, organizations, friends, relatives all joined in. Raising enough money for a monument to be placed at the head of her grave, in commemoration of her heroic deed. Poems were written about this teenage martyr, 2 of these being "LOIS BENSON" by Charles A. Kent, a man from the community & "SHE IS ONLY A GIRL" by Edgar Weldon Cooley of Marshalltown, Ia. Lois sleeps on a hill over looking the beautiful country side with the snows of winter & rains of summer watering the grass around her now. As the monument over head reads "FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH".

This is in memory of my gg-Uncle Charlie's granddaughter, Lois Benson, my cousin, whom I didn't have the honor to knowing. P.Woodward, granddaughter of V.R. & "Mamie"Mary E. BALTZLEY WOODWARD of Bussey/Albia & John & Rose Sharott GURICK BALLALATAK of Lovilia/Mahaska Co., g-granddaug. of Wm. Thomas & Augusta FERREE WOODWARD Bussey/DesMoines,& Wm.H. & Emma B. TUCKER BALTZLEY of Albia, (widowed Emma re-married Dan De Young, Marion Co.), gg-granddaug. of James & Minerva Jane MIDDLETOWN FERREE Bussey / Lovilia Iowa, & Sarah & William WOODWARD & foster family Martin & Henrietta HIEMSTRA SELL both of Marion Co. also their other adopted daughter, Olevia B. REYNOLDS, as was Wm. Thomas Woodward after mother's, Sarah, death when he was 6mo.old. Lois was also the g-granddaug. of Reuben & Nancy WELLS FERREE my ggg-grandparents also. Thank you!! Muriel Kooi, Pella, Marion Co. IA. with her help in recovery of this long forgotten event for it to be here 107 years later for all to read once again. Contributed by P. Woodward


 

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