June 19, 2018
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Obituary illuminates ancestor

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

How often I’ve searched for an obituary on a forebear I thought merited a nice little write-up and found a measly three-line death notice — or worse yet, nothing.

So I was more than thrilled to receive a little scrapbook that included an obituary of my great-great-grandfather Prosper Alvarus Bennett, who died in 1893 in Guilford.

Needless to say, I never made his acquaintance, so I’m pleased to have this tribute that I think probably appeared in the Guilford Register or Piscataquis Observer — and then was saved by his wife, Mary (Cummings) Bennett, later Mary Lord. Her I do remember a bit, as she lived until late 1954. Here’s the obit:

Universal sorrow and regret were caused in our village by the death of Mr. Prosper Elvarus Bennett, which occurred last Friday night, at the age of 38 years, after an illness of about a week with typhoid pneumonia.

Mr. Bennett was a native of Guilford, the son of Prosper and Mary A. Bennett. With the exception of about one year spent in New York, Mr. Bennett’s life has been passed in this town.

For the last two years he has been in the employ of the Piscataquis Woolen Company.

Mr. Bennett was retiring and apparently reserved in his temperament, but to those with whom he was intimate, he was a genial and social companion. An honest man, a kind and indulgent husband and father and an accommodating neighbor, he was liked and respected by all.

Though a member of no church he had made a profession of religion and was in sympathy with the Methodists. He was a Free Mason, a member of Mt. Kineo lodge of this town. He also belonged to N.E.O.P. Both of these orders attended his funeral.

He leaves an aged father and mother, a wife and two children a boy and a girl, two brothers, Lowell and Freeman, all of whom are residents of this town.

The suddenness of the death and the esteem in which the deceased was held, have caused a sorrow and sympathy for his friends which is deep and sincere. The Methodist church was completely filled at the funeral which took place Sunday afternoon. The beautiful Masonic service was observed in the church and at the grave.

Rev. Mr. Tinling preached a very touching and sympathetic discourse, alluding to the pure life and character of the deceased and recommending to his hearers the hope in Christ which was so sustaining and comforting in the last hours of the departed.

He also spoke of the pure and elevating principles of the orders of which he was a member, particularly those of the Masonic fraternity, which if lived up to would insure a life of moral rectitude and lead to that higher life to which our brother but a few months ago had attained.

No death has occurred in our village that has caused more profound sorrow.

Well, that’s a very nice tribute, I should think.

Some of the genealogical tidbits I already knew, having worked on the Bennetts for the better part of three decades.

Prosper Alvarus, a grandson of Isaac, one of the Bennett brothers who helped settle Guilford, also was related to his wife, Mary Cummings. Alvarus’ mother, in fact, was Mary Comins of Parkman.

To read of Alvarus described as “honest, kind and indulgent” reminds me of my dad. Also does the fact that “though a member of no church, he had made a profession of religion.” My dad certainly believed in and loved God.

But the “retiring and apparently reserved in his temperament” description? I didn’t think of my dad that way very often, and certainly not Uncle Roddy or Aunt Mary. Uncle Carroll was a little quieter than his siblings, I’d say.

It’s interesting that the obit listed Alvarus’ parents and his brothers, Lowell and Freeman, but not the name of his wife, or of his children, Silas Bennett and Rena Bennett.

My guess is that the obit was written by a fellow Mason rather than a family member.

One point I wondered about was cleared up here. My father and grandmother told me that Ga, Alvarus’ wife, had gone to art school in New York one year, but they didn’t know when.

I presumed that Ga may have talked her second husband, Will Lord, into taking her to New York to pursue her love of painting. Isn’t that a romantic thought?

It’s not what happened, obviously. Alvarus’ obit mentions “about one year spent in New York,” which is likely when his wife took classes at Osgood Art School. Her landscapes certainly favor the Hudson River School of oil painting.

Whether they went to New York for her art, or for his work, I don’t know. We do know that Rena and Silas weren’t grown yet.

Alvarus and Mary, along with the elder Prosper and Mary, are buried in the Bennett lot on the hill in Elmwood Cemetery. The family buried there spans some six generations.

Other newspaper clippings noted that Alvarus belonged to the Epworth League and that his death was the “first loss” of the New England Order of Protection.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to familyti@bangordailynews.net. More than 50 Family Ties columns are archived under Lifestyle.

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