Mercer County PAGenWeb

John Benninghoff

JOHN BENNINGHOFF, deceased, was born in Lehigh County, Penn., December 25, 1801, and when quite young removed with his parents to Union County where he grew to manhood. He was there married in 1824, to Miss Elizabeth Heise, a native of Union County. Her father, Solomon Heise, was one of the pioneers of that section of Pennsylvania, where he died at the remarkable age of over one hundred and seven years. He was a native of the Keystone State, but his parents were natives of Germany, who immigrated to Penn’s Colony soon after it was founded. About 1831 John Benninghoff, wife and family removed from Clearfield County to Venango County, where he rented farm land for several years. He finally purchased land at different times until he owned a farm of 235 acres, which subsequently proved to be the most productive oil farm in the oil country discovered up to the present. This fortunate stroke of luck made him rich. His interest in the oil product of his farm extended from 1861 to April, 1868, when he sold his lands and removed to Greenville. During that period he had a large royalty coming in from the wells on his land, and his bank deposits in Franklin were correspondingly heavy. The bank failed and he lost a large amount of money. Losing confidence in such institutions, he concluded to be his own banker, and purchasing a safe kept his money in his house. On the evening of January 16, 1868, his safe was robbed of $250,000, not a cent of which was ever recovered, though the family spent $50,000 in attempts to capture the robbers. Notwithstanding this very heavy loss he died worth about $400,000. Mr. Benninghoff and wife reared a family of eight sons and four daughters, viz.: George, Charles, Martin, Amelia, Elizabeth, John E., Catharine, Frederick W., Mary J., Jeremiah, Joseph and Milton, all of whom are living except John E., Amelia and Catharine. The mother died in the Presbyterian faith, July 26, 1872, her husband surviving her nearly ten years, and dying March 20, 1882, in the eighty-first year of his age. He was a Lutheran in religions belief, and politically a Republican. At the time of his death he had sixty-one grandchildren and twenty one great-grandchildren. John Benninghoff was a plain, practical, upright man, whose word was ever sacred. Though his struggles with poverty in early life made him frugal and economical, when wealth came to him, almost as if by magic, he seldom refused to help worthy objects. He also gave a liberal donation to the Lutheran Church, and a similar gift to Thiel College, which alone attest his generous nature.

Source: History of Mercer County, 1888, page 776-777

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