Joseph Shaler Benham

Joseph Shaler Benham



Joseph Benham enjoys the distinction of being the first native of Newport to win renown, in his case for talents as an orator and attorney.  He was born in Newport about 1796 to Captain Robert and Elisabeth Benham.  His parents relocated to Cincinnati a few years after his birth.  Since educational opportunities in early Newport were superior to any in Cincinnati, Joseph's earliest schooling took place at either the Newport Academy or Rev. Robert Stubb's boarding school in "South" Newport.  He always described himself as a Kentuckian.

He opened a law office at Cincinnati in 1819 and married his first wife there.  They had three children. In the late 1830s he edited a weekly newspaper, the Kentucky and Ohio Journal in which he championed progressive ideals and patriotic sentiments.  When the Marquis de La Fayette visited Cincinnati on his tour of 1825, the Queen City's town fathers chose Benham to deliver the main speech welcoming the French hero to their city.

Children of Joseph Shaler Benham and first wife

1. Joseph L Shaler m-Isabella Greer
2.  Shaler
3. Shaler

He married his second wife Maria Louise Slocum (17 Jan 1802-22 June 1884) in Washington DC. She was the daughter of George and Jane H Slocum.

Children of Joseph Shaler Benham and Maria Louise Slocum

1. Blanche Benham b-17 July 1831 in Alexandria Va. d-15 Sep 1834 Louisville Ky. and buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Louisville; moved to Spring Grove Cemetery 28 July 1858
2. Ada Benham b-1833 in Cincinnati m-Charles Fairfax d-San Francisco

Maria Louise Benham's Obituary

Joseph Benham achieved stature as one of the most eminent criminal lawyers in the Ohio Valley.  In 1848, eight years after his death, the Cincinnati Commercial printed the following description of his remarkable powers of persuasion.

"It was at the term of the criminal court that I saw the late Joseph S Benham exhibit as much power of manner as the most powerful orator of the country.  It was toward the close of a hot summer's afternoon when but few persons were in the court-room, that a solitary prisoner was brought out for trial.  He was a boy, unattended by any friend, arraigned for stealing shoes.  Mr. Benham arose to make a motion in his behalf, and with a deep slow and feeling voice said something like this.

 'May it please the court, I appear for this friendless boy.  Who he is I know not.  Whence he came, I know not.  Whether any human being takes interest in him, I know not.  He called to me through the bars of his dungeon.  A lone and friendless stranger-he called from his cold prison for a stranger's aid.'

  There was nothing remarkable in these words, but so solemn and pathetic was the manner of the delivery that he actually drew tears from the eyes of the bystanders."

Joseph Benham died prematurely on July 15, 1840 in New Orleans.  He was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Louisville, but on January 1, 1858 he was re-interred in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.  His wife Maria was buried there July 3, 1884.

Spring Grove Cemetery Section 99 Lot 22

Joseph Shaler Benham re-interred January 1, 1858
Maria Louise Benham buried July 3, 1884
Blanch Benham b-re-interred July 28, 1858
Isabella Greer Benham b-Hamilton, Butler, Oh d/o John and Eleanor Greer; d-Cincinnati buried July 28, 1858
Isabella Benham buried July 28, 1858; d/o Joseph L and Isabella

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