American Revolution Talk: A Family Divided

April 18th, 2017

7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Writer Jonathan Bennett Walker grew up on Compo Road South listening to his great- grandmother’s stories about his Bennett ancestors during the American Revolution.

And never for a moment did he believe that Deliverance Bennett, a direct forebear, was anything but a Patriot.

 

As part of the Westport Historical Society’s observance of American Revolution Month in Westport, Walker, now retired and living in Pennsylvania, will tell how his research revealed that the family stories were misleading at best.

 

Walker, who recently finished a novel, “A Certain Cast of Light,” about his ancestors’ experiences in the War for Independence, calls his talk “Westport’s Uncivil Revolution.” Uncivil,” he says, “because the Bennetts of that time were sharply divided in their loyalties”.

 

In the family narrative, Deliverance Bennett was a prosperous man and the owner of a spacious farmhouse that still stands at 96 Compo Road South. His devotion to the Patriot cause was a given, Walker says, and it never entered his mind that the handed-down account of Deliverance “giving succor” to wounded British soldiers indicated any wavering from the cause. 

 

His research, however, suggested a different narrative. The real Deliverance, it seems, may have been a Crown sympathizer, and also may have been the Loyalist, never identified, who helped the British outwit Benedict Arnold’s militia. Deliverance’s brother, Joseph, on the other hand, was a captain of the Compo militia, and Deliverance’s two Patriot sons served under him during the war. The postwar consequences of the brothers’ actions, Walker adds, turned out to be more surprising still.

 

Longtime WHS member Eve Potts will introduce Walker’s program. A retired medical writer, Potts is the author of “Westport … a special place,” published in 1985, and, more recently, “Talk of the Town,” a book about New Yorker magazine covers she co-wrote with Westporter Andrew Bentley. Potts has also written a review of Walker’s book.   

 

Walker says his novel takes the family story, as he now knows it, as a starting point and imagines the turmoil it must have brought to the lives of the Bennett brothers and their families. His talk is mostly about his journey of discovery, Walker says, and not the novel. Signed copies will be available for purchase and light refreshments will be served.

 

There is a $10 donation, and reservations are suggested. Call (203)222-1424 to make reservations.