In the last installment of “Slumbering Souls,” we learned about Dr. Lester Pratt and how he retired to Homer to live with his daughter Emma and her husband Augustus for the remainder of his life. It’s time to look at Emma and Augustus to learn more about their lives.
Augustus H. Bennett was born at his father’s farm in Homer on April 14, 1840. His parents were Lorenzo Bennett and Almira Stone, and he was one of four children in their family. Lorenzo’s father was Deacon Asa Bennett who came to Homer with his brother, Reverend Alfred Bennett, from Mansfield, Connecticut. Their father, Asa Bennett, was a soldier in the American Revolution, and Reverend Alfred Bennett’s name is memorialized on a stained-glass window in the Center for the Arts.
Emma Gertrude Pratt was born to Lester M. Pratt and Adaline Castle in Pratts Hollow in Madison County on September 20, 1843. Emma’s mother died in 1850 when she and her sister were quite young, and their mother’s parents stepped in to assist their father with caring for his two little girls. Lester was able to pursue his dream of becoming a physician thanks to this assistance from his in-laws. Once his education was completed, Lester then moved his little family to Albany where he practiced medicine until his retirement in the 1890s, after which he moved to Homer to live with Emma.
Augustus’ parents, Lorenzo and Almira Bennett, moved their family to the village of Homer when Augustus was two. He attended the Cortland Academy in Homer, and at age 16, he became a clerk in the store of William Sherman. He spent the next five years in the mercantile business working for others, but at the age of 21, he entered a partnership with D.B. Corey in the shoe business. After Corey’s death in 1877, Bennett carried on alone until 1884 when he helped organize the Homer National Bank and was elected its president. He sold half of his interest in his store, but he and his sons remained involved until just a few years before his death. Augustus was heavily involved in building up the Homer National Bank, and he worked tirelessly for organizations that were important to him. He served on the boards of the Cortland Academy and the Phillips Free Library; as treasurer of the Congregational Church, Homer Village, and Glenwood Cemetery; and as a supervisor on the Cortland County Board of Supervisors. In fact, the Board of Supervisors issued a special memorial tribute upon his death, and fourteen of the twenty-one supervisors attended his funeral. These are just a few of the responsibilities assumed by Augustus Bennett in his lifetime which show the commitment and dedication he had for his community.
Augustus married Emma Gertrude Pratt on June 27, 1866, and the couple made their home on Clinton Street in Homer. Five children were born to the Bennetts, four of whom lived to adulthood. Sadly, their son Edward Lorenzo Bennett would not live past infancy. Based on copies of family Bible pages, it would appear that Edward was named after one of Augustus’ brothers who died as a toddler. Emma and Augustus were surely devastated by the loss of their child. Their four other children would grow up, marry, and provide their parents with several grandchildren.
Augustus was not the only one in the household who was an active member of the community. Emma had a variety of obligations she cheerfully fulfilled to make their community a better place as well. She was active in the Congregational Church as a superintendent of the primary department of the Sunday school, served as the president of the Ladies Aid society and filled various other offices within the church organization. Emma took a role as a member of the board of managers for the Cortland County Home for Aged Women (now the Brewster House) from its beginnings and, at the time of her death, she was the vice president of that board. She was also a board member of the Cortland County Hospital. Emma was deeply devoted to her family and her community.
The Bennetts were married for 37 years when Augustus died unexpectedly in 1904, though he had experienced a stroke as well as stomach trouble in the months prior to his death. Emma would carry on without Augustus until a serious illness caused her death in 1911. Augustus and Emma are at rest together at Glenwood Cemetery in the Bennett family plot. The devoted service to their community would carry on in the institutions they were committed to and in their offspring. We’ll continue to look at more of the Bennett family’s contributions to Cortland County next time.
If you are curious to learn more about the Pratt or Bennett families, your own family, or other local history, please visit us at CCHS to immerse yourself in the past. Visit www.cortlandhistory.org to learn more. ~Tabitha Scoville, CCHS Director