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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, no. 45, Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831)

This ancestor came into the world on December 1, 1776, just as the Revolutionary War was beginning. He was named after his father, Benjamin Dunbar (b. 1749). His mother was Hannah Hathaway. Young Benjamin was joined by a brother, Hosea, the next year. The family lived in Halifax, Massachusetts, but it did not remain intact for long. The father died when Benjamin and Hosea were just small boys.

We know nothing more of Benjamin’s young life. By the time he had reached his late 20’s, he had moved down the coast of Massachusetts to Chatham, on Cape Cod. There he married Rhoda Hall on June 2, 1805.

Benjamin became a saltmaker at Chatham. The British blockade during the Revolutionary War had made it impossible for the colonists to obtain salt, so they began experimenting making salt from seawater. Benjamin owned one of the numerous saltworks along the coast. Perhaps his operation looked like this replica found in the museum in Chatham:

During his years as a saltmaker, Benjamin and Rhoda raised their large family at Chatham:

  1. Safronay (b. 1806)
  2. Rhoday (b. 1807-bef. 1810)
  3. Daniel H. (b. 1809)
  4. Rhoda Ann (b. 1811)
  5. Benjamin S. (b. 1812)
  6. Moses (b.1814)
  7. Rebecca W. (1817-1873)
  8. Susannah H. (b. 1819)
  9. Hannah S. (b. 1821)
  10. Olive Hall (1823-1902), my ancestor
  11. Lucy Snow (b. 1827)
  12. Laura Ann (b. 1829)

During these years, America fought the British in the War of 1812. Benjamin did his part by serving in the Massachusetts militia. He was a private in Captain Hugh Nickerson’s Company of Infantry, Snow’s 2nd Regiment. They marched in the defense of Eastham from September 15-17, 1814. Benjamin earned wages as the rate of $8 per month, for a total of $.53. His other compensation included $.40 for rations, $.17 for private’s clothing, and $.03 for arms. For supplies he had a musket with iron rod, a bayonet, a scabbard and belt, 3 flints, 1 cartridge box, 24 cartridges with balls, a knapsack, and a blanket.

After the war, outside competition eventually ruined the salt trade for Cape Cod. Benjamin and his family stayed there through 1830 and then made the decision to move on.

They relocated to the interior of the country, settling in Stow, Portage County, Ohio. Unfortunately, Benjamin’s life was nearing its end. Before he could build a new life for himself and his family, he passed away at the age of 54 on September 11, 1831.

Benjamin E. Dunbar was buried in the Stow Cemetery, in Portage [now Summit] County, Ohio.

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