On August 15, we’ll be hosting an open house at the home Nels and Emma built in 1887. It made the National Register of Historic Places last year. More details on that are available here.
In honor of Sesquicentennial Plus One, I’m devoting the Speaking of Idaho blog to my family’s history during August.
Emma Thompson was a teenager at Morristown, though that term—teenager—was yet to be invented. Her memories about those days were full of community dances and handsome soldiers. She would marry one in February 1865, a month after her 15th birthday.
Emma Thompson married 28-year-old George Waldrum Bennett, a supply sergeant.
George Bennett was an Englishman who had travelled extensively, and whose father was a well-known actor and playwright at the time in England.
In his blue uniform with brass buttons—naïve Emma thought they were gold at first—he must have been a dashing figure to a young girl who had known little but dirt floors and hard work to that point. Early on in their marriage, though, there was a hint of trouble.
The army moved George Bennett and his new wife to Fort Douglas, Utah, where he worked in the commissary. The commissary burned down, and Sergeant Bennett was suspected of causing the fire. He was thrown in the guardhouse along with another man.
This left 15-year-old Emma alone, and frightened about what would happen to her. After a few days she worked up the courage to go inquire about George’s fate.
It was post commander Patrick Conner she went to see. By that time, he was Brigadier General Conner, and a very imposing figure. Emma pleaded for mercy for her husband.
At some point General Conner expressed his surprise, by saying, “Why, my child, you are married?” He ended their meeting with the words, “We’ll see what we can do about it.”
George Bennett (or, George Waldron, see story below) was released the next day, and soon was mustered out of the army.
Tomorrow we’ll catch up with Emma and George back in Idaho.
An Aside About George Bennett
We can only speculate about why Bennett registered under an assumed name. He would later show a villainous side, so perhaps he was trying to cover his tracks. Although know the name he used in the army help us to track him, it also complicated it. There was a George Waldron who was a well-known actor in the West at the time, and he and our George were often in the same towns at the same time. Further complicating our search was the fact that our George also acted in local productions from time to time.