1988 Benton Family
 Reunion Program

In 1988, I traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana with my father’s side of the family to attend our 1st family reunion.  This reunion focused on my grandfather’s maternal side of the family.  My grandfather’s name was Sanders Willis, Sr. and his mother, Artimease (Benton) Willis Jackson, was still living at the time at the age of 86.  My first visit was in 1984 to attend my cousin, the late Jerome Vernell, Sr.’s wedding, but this was to be my first exposure to my family on a much larger scale.

The family tree program (shown to the left) stated the root began with Ed & Artimease Benton (Artimease Jackson’s paternal grandparents).  It also stated 7 children were born to this union:

  • Ed Benton , Jr. (b. 1872) – My 2x great grandfather
  • Charles Benton (b. 1873)
  • Thomas Benton (b. 1874)
  • Nellie Benton (b. 1876)
  • Earnest Benton (b. 1880)
  • Katie Benton (b. 1891)
  • Maude Benton (b. 1893)
This reunion focused on the descendents of these children.  My great-grandmother, Artimease (Benton) Willis Jackson (named after her grandmother), was born the first of six children to Ed, Jr. & Mamie Benton in 1902 in Gramercy, Louisiana.  Her siblings included:
  • Mamie Benton (b. 1905)
  • Percy Benton (b. 1908)
  • Dalton Benton (b. 1911)
  • Velma Benton (b. 1913)
  • Earnest Benton (b. 1915)

Twenty one years later, I decided to verify these facts on  One day, I came across something a little puzzling.  In the 1880 U.S. States Federal Census for East Baton Rouge Parish, page 28 (image 28 of 83), Artimease Benton is listed as “Tomese;” Mulatto, female, age 25 with the first 5 of her 7 children: Edward, Charles, Thomas, Nellie & Ernest.

1880 U.S. Federal Census for 
Artimease Benton & Children

This makes sense given the last two children are not born for at least another decade.  It also states their father, who is not listed, was born in Missouri. However, the 1900 U.S. States Federal Census for East Baton Rouge Parish, S.D. #6, E.D. #28, sheet 10 (images 20 & 21) illustrates a discrepancy from the reunion program.  Artimease is listed as Head of Household and a 45 year old widow of seven children.  She also stated she was born in October of 1854.  The following individuals and their relationship to her are as follows:

  • Thomas Benton; son; born in July of 1874; age 25; single
  • Nellie Jackson; daughter; born in Aug of 1876; age 23; married for 2 years
  • Alfred Jackson; son-in-law; born in July of 1873; age 26; married for 2 years
  • Katie Jackson; daughter; born in Aug of 1891; age 8; single
  • Maude Jackson; daughter; born in Feb of 1893; age 7; single
  • *Eddie Benton; son; born in Dec of 1872; age 27; married
  • Ernest Benton; son; born in March of 1881; age 19; single


1900 U.S. Federal Census for Artimease Benton & Children

My initial thought was Katie & Maude were the children of Alfred & Nellie Jackson, but that means Nellie bore her first child at 15.  The census record say she was married at the age of 21.  Also, the relationship column pertains to Head of Household, implying these young girls are the daughters of Artimease, but the family Reunion program says their last name was “Benton.”

Now I’m confused!

In July of 2009, I asked my Aunt Marguerite, daughter of Artimease Jackson, why Katie & Maude’s last names were “Jackson” instead of Benton if they were Ed & Artimease Benton’s children.  She was not sure, but she did remember that Maude Jackson (who married Joseph Davis, Sr.) was the last living child of Artimease Benton and the oldest living family member (95 years old) during the time of the reunion in 1988.  She recalled that when her sister, Ruth Castle, invited the entire Davis Family to the reunion, Maude’s daughter, also named Maude Davis, replied “…but it’s the ‘BENTON’ family reunion.  We are not Bentons.”   Aunt Marguerite, interpreted this as some missunderstanding–that since their surname is now “Davis” instead of “Benton,” they didn’t feel it included them.  As a result, Aunt Marguerite did not pursue it any further, but my suspicions were confirmed.  The family tree was incorrect—Katie and Maude had a different father, but anyone that new the real story was deceased and the living family members were not aware.  They just assumed they were Bentons.

On Oct 14, 2010, James Hill III contacted me on  James is the great, great grandson of Artimease Benton and great grandson of Maude (Jackson) Davis.  James came across my post of Artimease’s death certificate.  He instantly recognized the residential address!  He also was unsure of the relationship between the Jacksons & the Bentons.  Yet, on Dec 9th, he posted Maude’s death certificate which stated her birth father’s name…Andrew Jackson!  Their sister, Nellie, married Alfred Jackson.  Is he any relation to Andrew?  That has yet, to be explored.
James also pointed out something else I never knew:  On the aforementioned 1880 census (that I examined for YEARS), residing next door to Artimease (“Tomese”) and her children was a 36 year old, “mulatto” female named “Wartha Wederstrandt” and a 55 year old white male “boarder” named William Maddox.  From various interviews with his grandmother, Doris (Davis) Fields, James was able to confirm that “Hiawartha” Wederstrandt was Artimease’s sister!  James and I were unsure if “Wederstandt” was Artimease’s maiden name as well because she did not state her father’s birth location on the census, but Hiawartha did—she stated he was born in Maryland.
Then, something happened in early March of 2013.  While speaking to my Aunt Maguerite on the phone, I find out that her grandfather, Ed Benton, Jr., died in the mid to late 1940’s in his son’s (Earnest) house.  She said she was a teenager at the time.  I never heard that before because no one ever spoke of him.  That immediately prompted me to search for his death record in E. Baton Rouge Parish.  I just received the document last Thursday.  Ed’s son, Dalton, the informant, indicated Ed’s father’s name was “THOMAS Benton.”  Ed was not a junior and the family tree program was wrong again!
To verify this, I searched again and found a marriage record for a “Thomas Benton” & “Artimis Weatherstrand” married March 28, 1870.  Now, I know the true names of my 3rd great grandparents!!!! The document will be here next week and I will update this post as soon as I get it.**


Artimease Wederstrandt Benton


On December 14, 2010, James completely stunned me with an email of this INCREDIBLE picture of my 3rd great grandmother, Artimease (Wederstrandt) Benton.  He said this picture sat on the mantle of his grandmother’s house as long as he can remember.  I sent this to Aunt Marguerite and all of my family in Baton Rouge.  No one ever saw this picture before…truly amazing!

From (L-R): Doris Davis Fields, Artimease Wederstrandt  Benton & Artimease Benton Willis Jackson

Some time after that, James emailed a current picture of his grandmother, Doris, his mother and her sisters.  Using PhotoShop, I combined her picture with other pictures of Artimease (Wederstrandt) Benton & my great-grandmother, Artimease (Benton) Willis Jackson (shown above).


I called my Aunt Marguerite this afternoon and told her “I know why Maude said they were not Bentons.” When I explained, she just laughed and said “Well, that’s good information to know.”
She continued: “But they ARE Bentons because Artimease IS A BENTON.”
I said: “Only by her marriage to Thomas Benton. Her maiden name is “WEDERSTRANDT.”  Maude & Katie’s father was a JACKSON–Andrew Jackson.”
I said, “I am, Aunt Marguerite…I am.”

* – “Eddie” Benton is my 2nd great grandfather
** – On March 29, 2013, I acquired the marriage record (below).  Unfortunately, it did not indicate the parents of Thomas Benton & Artimease Wederstrandt. 

Marriage Certificate for
Thomas Benton & Artimease Wedserstrandt
Marriage License & Bond for 
Thomas & Artimease Benton

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