Adjust story text size:
(Frank Henry Benham and James Bonley ‘Finn’ Cox operated sawmills in the mountains around Rye. According to several sources they provided the lumber “for most of the buildings in Rye.”)
Frank Henry Benham was born in Hammondsport, NY in June of 1846. He was one of four sons of Henry and Mary Cleveland Benham. His father had a tanning business for many years in New York State. Frank attended the public schools until November of 1863 when he enlisted in the Twenty-second New York Cavalry.
His first engagement was at the Battle of the Wilderness. He “participated in many important battles and skirmishes” until he was taken prisoner. Frank was first held in Libby prison; then Pemberton, in Salisbury NC and finally Florence SC where he was released on March 1, 1865. He returned north to Annapolis, MD where he was discharged the following June. His brothers also served with the Union army: George Kinney was killed in Florida and Lemuel Cleveland fought throughout the war. Frank returned to New York, where “he did contract work.”
In 1872, Frank moved to Pueblo County Colorado. He homesteaded land north of what became Rye. “Being situated at the foot hills of the mountains and easily accessible to the timber belts, he early became interested in the milling business.” He and Fin Cox became “partners in timbering and milling providing the lumber for many of the new settlers in the area. They acquired adjoining homesteads for timbering and employed several men for their steam operated mill.” Eventually, Frank Benham purchased the mills and equipment from Mr. Cox and operated the business alone. In 1900, Frank Benham is listed with two partners: Peter Cavenaugh and James Ray, the father of Paul M. Ray Sr. and Pearl Ray Fisher.
Frank married his neighbor, Louisa Josephine Butler on January 7, 1879. She was born in Webster City, OH in 1858. Her family arrived in Pueblo County, Colorado in 1873 where her father, Theodore Butler, homesteaded land adjoining Frank Benham’s.
Having no children of their own, Frank and Louisa adopted her niece, Nellie Louise Green; and nephew Nathaniel Mont ‘Montie’ Green when their parents died in Telluride Colorado, (Emma Butler Green in 1901 and William R. Green in 1902). Nellie was 12 at the time; Montie, 9.
Frank and Louisa participated in the community. “As a Republican, Mr. Benham as ever taken an active and prominent part in local politics, and two years ago (in 1900) was the candidate of his party for the office of county commissioner, but lacked nine votes of being elected.”
“Frank Benham was a great fisherman. He drove a Ford until he was more than eighty years old. Mrs. Benham went along and so often, did Mr. and Mrs. (Hamilton T.) Ashley, although much younger than the Benhams, they enjoyed being with them and from them learned to love fishing.”
In 1930, Frank and Louisa Benham sold their ranch to the Charles Cosselman family and moved to Pueblo. Frank Henry Benham died in 1938 at the age of 92. Louisa Butler Benham followed in 1942. They are both buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Pueblo.
Their adopted daughter, Nellie Louise married Charles M. Bowers. The couple lived in Pueblo and had one son, James F. Bowers born in 1915. He married Marian Lucille Smith and moved to Texas. After her death in 1977, he married Velma Johnson.
Montie Green, their adopted son took their name, Benham and he ended up in Washington State. In 1976, he was immortalized in a poem, How Rye Got Its’ Name written by Hazel Atterberry:
Monte Benham, he was justice of the Peace;
charged the big town hunters or made them cease.
But the country folk, he just let them shoot.
Though he made the rules he didn’t give a hoot,
when he knew they’d fed the deer corn and rye,
if they ate a few he never asked why.
That was the law on Table Mountain . . .
for the folks on Table Mountain.