By Bob Imhof
Surveying The Land
The area that is now known as Benezette was once the home of the Seneca Indians and named Salt Lick due to the salt deposits adjacent to the town site. About 1787, John Bennett and his father came up the Susquehanna River and the Second Fork of the Sinnemahoning Creek, the original name of the Bennett’s Branch to a point where Caledonia in Jay Township is now situated. In 1790, Sam McKay was completing a survey of the Second Fork of the Sinnemahoning Creek and found the cabin of John Bennett at the mouth of Trout Run. In the early 1800’s, the name of the town was Potter’s Flats in honor of General James Potter who owned most of the land that is present day Benezette and surrounding land in Benezette Township.
First Non-Native American Settlers
After surveying the land in 1812 with Captain Joseph Potter and William Ward, Leonard
Morey purchased this land that contained 379-1/2 acres in 1815 and built a gristmill and a large house on a small tributary of Trout Run. The house served as an inn for the many settlers that were gradually beginning to move into what became known as Bennett’s Valley and for those needing to stay overnight while their grain was ground at the gristmill. Reuben and Ebenezer
Winslow purchased this land from Leonard Morey in 1827 and most historians acknowledge Reuben as the founder of Benezette. The Winslow family settlers were direct descendants to Edward Winslow, one of the 102 Pilgrims that arrived at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620.
What’s In A Name?
The development of the name of Benezette and Benezette Township has an interesting history. John Benezet, a French Huguenot, fled France due to religious persecution in the late 1500’s. The family’s flight took them to Holland and ultimately to England where they remained until 1731 when they left on the long voyage to America, entering through the Port of Philadelphia.
Anthony Benezet (born January 31, 1713) was the third born child of John and Judith Benezet. He became a major figure in Philadelphia as an educator, creating the William Penn Charter School and the first high school for poor girls in the city. Mr. Benezet’s life work and prominence in the 1700’s has been compared to that of Martin Luther King of our age.
There is no specific information that the Benezet family lived in the present site of Benezette. But it is believed many of the town’s early settlers had ties to Philadelphia, giving rise to the name. To this day the “official” U.S. Post Office designation for the community is Benezett.
A Thriving Community
Benezette became a thriving lumbering community especially during the great log raft and log drive era. Today, it has been revitalized by tourism as the home of Pennsylvania’s wild elk herd, the Elk Country Visitor Center, and as having a proud lumber heritage. For more information on Benezette, Elk County, and Pennsylvania’s wild elk herd look online at VisitPAGO.com or call the PA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau at (814) 849-5197.
About the Author
Bob Imhof of Ridgway is a local historian who has conducted extensive field research on the historic railroad systems used to bring timber to market in Elk County, especially the area of the Allegheny National Forest. He has served as President of the Ridgway Heritage Council and remains active with the organization, a local nonprofit focused on revitalization of the community. Prior to his retirement, Mr. Imhof served as Project Manager for the Lumber Heritage Region of Pennsylvania. Mr. Imhof maintains a website dedicated to tours of Ridgway and the surrounding area — BobsGuidedTours.com.