Thursday, September 22, 2011

Who was Benjamin Monroe Hawver?

So who was Benjamin Monroe Hawver? Until relatively recently I didn't know very much about him. If he was alive, today would be his birthday, and he would be 134 years old. He was born on 22 Sep 1977 in Hollister, San Benito Co, California. Thanks to a few sources I have been able to confirm that date, but the oldest of those sources has to be from the San Benito Advance, about a week after he was born. Thanks to the awesome work of someone, a whole bunch of abstracts have been taken from area newspapers which allowed me to find this gem of info:

San Benito Advance
September 29, 1877
Born -- at Hollister, Sept. 22nd, to the wife of M.E. HAWER, a son.

If you are wondering where you can possibly find info like this, go to Not all localities have the same amount of transcriptions, but you might get lucky like I did.

A relative of mine took the time to interview Benjamin's daughter, Julia Louise "Judy" Hawver, before she died and was able to write down some of the family stories. Much of the story revolved around Benjamin and here are some of the highlights:

Benjamin's father was killed in 1879 by a Mexican man in an argument over a horse. I have not been able to prove or disprove this story yet. That year has not been transcribed on yet. But by 1880, according to the 1880 census, Benjamin and his mother Julia were living by themselves in Watsonville, Santa Cruz Co, California.

Benjamin's mother went on to marry 3 other men. One of the men was named Pullen. I believe his first name was Ezra. According to the family story Mr. Pullen was not a kind stepfather and frequently beat young Ben. When Ben was 12 Mr. Pullen kicked him so hard in the groin that he was injured. When Ben had recovered he ran away to San Francisco.

On his way to San Francisco, Ben had to beg for food. One place after breakfast Ben was told by the woman of the house that he could go split wood to pay for his meal. Ben split wood for a couple of hours and then went to check with the lady to see if they were square. The lady indicated that he needed to split some more wood to which he replied "but I didn't eat that much."

Ben continued to support himself by doing odd jobs. Some local taven keepers took a liking to him and would allow him to eat the hard boiled eggs and nuts which they left for their patrons. Ben would frequently write his mother, but Mr. Pullen intercepted and destroyed them before they could reach her. When Ben was 16 or 17 a letter did get through to his mom. Julia left Mr. Pullen and went to live with Ben in San Francisco. After arriving there she divorced Mr. Pullen and stayed with Ben.

When Ben was 20, he met a girl named Magdalena Gall. The story goes that she was washing windows while Ben was working outside the same building. They saw each other and fell in love. Magdalena's father was a strict old German and would not allow his daughter to date young men. So they eloped.

I was able to confirm their marriage in the San Francisco Call, by going to the historic newspaper section of the Library of Congress

16 Apr 1900 San Francisco Call - Hawver Gall Marriage

Benjamin had 5 children with Magdalena:
Beatrice Marie b. 6 Jan 1901
Ruth Frances b. 18 Jul 1904
Gustav B. b. 10 May 1909
Julia Louise b. 2 Jul 1913
Eleanor Edith b. 28 Oct 1914

The only picture that I have of Ben and Magdalena is this one with baby Julia.

Hawver Ben & Lena & Baby Judy 1913

Magdalena died in 1917, and Ben would later get re-married to Edith Florence Beckman. They had a couple more kids together:
Reatha Caroline b. 20 Jun 1926
Monroe Chester b. 20 Jan 1928
Unnamed b. 16 Jun 1931

Benjamin was a rancher and a stock raiser in Calaveras County. Benjamin died on 28 June 1938 in San Andreas, Calaveras Co, California. He is buried next to his mother and 1st wife in the Mokelumne Hill Cemetery, Mokelumne Hill, in Calaveras County. On a recent trip I was able to stop in and see the County Clerk for Calaveras County and got a copy of his death certificate.

Hawver-BenjaminM          1938 - Benjamin Monroe Hawver Death Certificate

For more details on Ben, check out my info on World Connect at
And for the full transcription of Julia Hawver's memories, you can check them out on my Flickr page.

--Update 24 Nov 2011--
I was able to find and scan a picture of Benjamin Monroe Hawver taken around the time of his oldest daughter Beatrice's wedding, which would have been in 1921. He wanted a family picture of himself and his 5 children.
Benjamin Monroe Hawver with 5 Children 1921

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