Benajah‘s story is truly one of faith and
determination. He was from Connecticut but had moved his family to
Meanwhile soldiers who fought in the American Revolution were given
patents for military land in Ohio. To most the paper was worthless.
A New Jersey lawyer John Cleve Symmes had purchased many patents
from former solders down on their luck.
In 1800, Symmes took the patents to President John Adams and got
deeds for military land in central Ohio. One deed was for Range 16,
Township 3, 3rd quarter. He in turn sold the land to Solomon
Broderick another land investor in New Jersey. Broderick failed to
make the payments so Symmes had to file suit in the new town of
Franklinton, Ohio, for the purchase price and back tax payments
totaling $5674.36. Broderick failed to show so the land was put up
for sale by the Sheriff at the door of the courthouse in Franklinton
on June 11, 1807. The property would go to the highest bidder who
paid cash at the sale.
Benajah Cook heard about the upcoming sale and spent time checking
out the property. He collected money in gold coins but was leery of
going to Franklinton knowing robbers would be waiting for anyone
coming to the sale. He took an old coat to his wife to patch. She
sewed patches all over the coat. He grew a beard, made himself
scruffy looking and appeared a little more than drunk.
Everyone expected Moses Byxbe to come to the sale but he had not
shown. Several well dressed possible buyers were there. By noon a
beggar, dressed in a patched coat so filthy he was drawing flies,
staggered around the steps. In spite of people trying to get the
beggar to move on he stayed his ground. When the beggar said he
wanted to bid, the sheriff knew he had to allow it so the bidding
began. The asking price was $1.42 per acre. No one bid. The beggar
bid 10 cents an acre. The others upped the bid but each time the
beggar went higher. The men became disgruntled and decided the
sheriff should call the man’s bluff and when he could not pay, they
would run him out of town and return to the sale.
The last bid went to Benajah Cook for 42 cents an acre. He stepped
up to the table and tore open a patch removing gold coins. He
continued opening patches until he had purchased the land for $1680
and $40 in costs - all in gold.
Now he had to get away from Franklinton before thieves got him. He
returned to a stable where he hid his things in the loft, and
transformed himself from the beggar back to a man traveling through
the town. He easily made it out of Franklinton with no trouble.
Although Cook had the deed for 4000 acres, he really only wanted 500
for himself so he went in search of Moses Byxbe, in the nearby town
of Berkshire. Byxbe had bought many patents from soldiers at his
tavern in Massachusetts and set off to sell his Ohio lands. He came
through Wilkes Barre in Luzerne, PA, where he found good men willing
to move out of Pennsylvania. He brought them to Berkshire to set up
a town he thought would become the capital of Ohio.
Cook and Byxbe did business with Byxbe agreeing to buy the 3500
acres Cook did not want at the price he had paid for it.
Cook returned to Granville and moved his wife Cassandra and five
children to the future Harlem Township.
Baskin, O. L., “History of Delaware County and Ohio”, 1880.
Buckingham, Ray: “Delaware County Then and Now,” 1976.
Tieche, Vicki: “16-3-3,” 2008.