Acquisition: The Cornelius Bennink Papers were donated by Richard Bennink to the Cambridge Historical Society in 1996.
Access: There are no restrictions to items in this collection.
Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.
Copyright: The Cambridge Historical Society does not hold copyright on the materials in the collection.
Cornelius Gerrit Hendrik Bennink was born in Holland in 1842 and came to the United States with his family at the age of 4. The family settled in Cambridge, Mass. and Bennink lived in that city for nearly 50 years. Bennink enlisted in the Army in April 1861, entering Company D, 5th Regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry under Captain Burgess. (see note.) (This Company was attached to the Excelsior Brigade of the 74th Regiment of New York State.) Bennink’s regiment fought in many major battles, including Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor, before he was mustered out of the army on June 19, 1864. Following the war, he was engaged in the mercantile profession and active in state and city government, being a member of the Cambridge Common Council from 1880 to 1885. He was elected president of the Council in 1885 and was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1886 to 1887.
Bennink married [Lois] Augusta Ellis of Cambridge in 1869 (see note) and they had 5 sons: Arthur, Percy, Ernest, Carroll, and Herbert. He moved to Ontario, California with his wife in 1895 and opened a dry goods store there. As in Cambridge, he was active in government and in local activities, serving as president of the board of trustees of the municipality for 6 years. He was elected to the California Assembly in 1899 and again in 1901 and 1911. He also served as Aide de Camp of the Ontario GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) for 11 years. (The GAR was the pre-eminent veterans’ organization formed at the close of the Civil War. Prominent members included Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley. Local meetings were held regularly, as well as annual state and national meetings, called encampments. The organization developed strong political influence, and used this influence primarily to encourage legislation regarding pensions for veterans. Members established a fund for the relief of needy veterans, orphans, and widows and also solicited funds for the preservation of civil war sites, artifacts, and documents. In 1868, the GAR began observation of Decoration Day, later known as Memorial Day, by decorating the graves of fallen soldiers.)
Upon Bennink’s retirement from business in 1913, he and his wife moved to Whittier, California, to live with the family of his son Ernest. He remained there until his death in 1917.
Some discrepancy exists concerning dates: Bennink’s obituary in The Cambridge Chronicle refers to Bennink enlisting under Captain Richardson, and gives 1861 as the year he married.
“C.G.H. Bennink, Former City and State Official, Succumbs,” The Daily Report, Ontario, California, August 10, 1917
“Former Lawmaker Dies at Whittier,” Los Angeles Daily Times, August 11, 1917
Obituary, The Cambridge Chronicle, August 18, 1917
“The Cornelius Bennink Collection,” Cambridge Historical Society website
“The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies,” Library of Congress website
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System website
Scope and Content Note:
The bulk of this collection pertains to Bennink’s Civil War service and subsequent involvement in the GAR. These materials include letters, diaries, newspapers, military records, medals, and objects. A small amount of material related to Bennink’s civilian life and political career is also included. There is some overlap between series, as Bennink’s political life was strongly influenced by his Civil War service and involvement in the GAR: many of his political activities were directed towards improving conditions for Civil War veterans. In addition, some clippings in the Personal series pertain to observance of Memorial Day, which was initiated by the GAR. Some of the material is quite fragile, and preservation photocopies have been included in the collection.
The collection is divided into five series, as follows:
Civil War, n.d., 1861-1865
GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), n.d., 1886-1917, with gaps
Political, n.d., 1910-1911
Business, n.d., 1891, 1893
Personal, n.d., 1856-1917, with gaps
Series Descriptions and Folder Listings
Series I: Civil War (n.d., 1861-1865)
This series includes diaries Bennink kept during his civil war service, as well as letters sent to his parents and siblings during the war. Other materials related to his military service include a muster roll, a furlough certificate, and certificates promoting Bennink first to Corporal and then to Sergeant. His discharge certificate is also included, as is his Gettysburg Veteran medal. The series also includes several newspapers dating from the Civil War era. A variety of small wooden and bone objects can also be found here, such as a carved camp mirror inscribed “CGHB D 5th Excelsior” and a Civil War Infantry cuff button. In addition, photographs of Bennink in uniform are included in this series.
1 |1 |Bennink Diary, 1862
1|3 |Diary, 1864
1 |4|Correspondence, 1861-1864
1|5 |Confederate States of America (CSA) Circular on Deserters, 1861
1|6 |Civil War Medal and Ribbon: Civil War Sergeant’s Chevron; Gettysburg Veteran Medal, 1863
1|7 |Photographs, Civil War, n.d., 1861, 1863
||CHB – “Union Commanders” [Notman], ca. 1865 (distributed by Traveler’s Insurance)
||CHB – CHG Bennink (tintype) [Silas Gurney?], ca. 1861
||CHB – CHG Bennink [Silas Gurney], ca. 1861
||CHB – CHG Bennink [Silas Gurney], ca. 1863
2 |1 |Objects, 1862-1865 (carved wooden pipe and stem, bone rings; wooden ring; carved peach pit; wooden “book;” round button)
2|2|Objects, 1862-1865 (carved camp mirror; Civil War Infantry cuff button; Washington Elm carving;)
2 |3 |Military Records, n.d., 1862-1864
2 |4 |Civil War Newspapers, 1862-1865 (Boston Herald, May 10, 1862; September 3, 1862, May 8, 1863, April 16, 1865; Daily Evening Traveller (Boston), April 15 1865; Lewiston Daily Evening Journal, June 16, 1864; Savannah Republican, April 8 1865; and 2 undated clippings, from unidentified paper)
Series II: GAR (n.d., 1886-1917, with gaps) This material relates to Bennink’s involvement in the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), both in Massachusetts and in California. Included are medals and ribbons from several annual encampments, and certificates from the Commander of the Department of California and Nevada, appointing Bennink to the position of Aide de Camp. Also included is a white leather GAR belt.
1 |8 |GAR Calling Card, Wm. H. Smart Post, No. 30, Dept. of Massachusetts, Cambridgeport, n.d.
1 |9 |GAR Medals and Ribbon, 1886-1908 (GAR Ribbon: 20th Annual Encampment, San Jose CA, 1886; 37th Annual Encampment Dept. of CA and Nevada, 1904; 42nd Annual Encampment, Dept. of PA GAR; Erie PA Representative, June 1908; Los Angeles Medal; 2 Cambridgeport GAR medals (one engraved “Wm. H. Smart”)
2 |5 |GAR Certificates, 1909, 1911, 1917
2||GAR belt, n.d.
Series III: Political (n.d., 1910-1911) This series consists of material related to Bennink’s political career in California. Included here is a resolution which he introduced in the California State Assembly, requesting California Congressmen to support the Sulloway Bill to increase the pensions of Civil War veterans. An address Bennink gave in support of the bill is also included in the series, as is a 1911 roster of the California legislature. In addition, a political poster and cartoon can be found here.
1 |10 |Legislature, Address, and Legislative Roster, n.d., 1911
1 |11|Newsclippings, 1911
2 |6 |Political Poster: n.d. (re: Prop 2714??)
2 |6 |Political Cartoon, circa 1910
Series IV: Business (n.d., 1891, 1893)
This series contains a small amount of material pertaining to Bennink’s Cambridge businesses. Included are trade cards from Bennink’s Cambridge dry goods store, and several sheets of music featuring advertisements for various Cambridge businesses, such as Bennink’s store. (An advertisement for Bennink’s Ontario dry goods store can be found with the news clippings in the Personal series.) Some modern copy photographic prints of Bennink outside his dry goods store can also be found here.
1 |12 |Trade Cards (Bennink Dry Goods) and Catalog (Brass Founder and Finisher), n.d., 1893
1 |13 |Photographs 4.05 CHB – 4.06 CHB – CGH Bennink with unidentified individuals in front of Bennink Dry Goods, ca. 1880
2|7|Sheet Music, n.d., 1891
Series V: Personal (n.d., 1856-1917, with gaps)
This series consists of material related to Bennink’s private life. Included are newspapers articles related to Bennink, including accounts of celebrations of his 20th and 40th wedding anniversaries. Several newspaper obituaries can also be found here, as well as an article by Bennink’s wife, regarding the 1907 observation of Memorial Day. Other newspaper articles pertain to Civil War reminiscences and Memorial Day celebrations both in Boston and in California. (An advertisement for Bennink’s dry goods store is included in one of the Ontario newspapers.) Also located here are a ribbon featuring George Washington, a coin from the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, and a pin with a photograph labeled “Aunt Ida Kilgore.” In addition, some family photographs can be found in this series, including photo of four generations of the Bennink family (Cornelius, his father, son, and granddaughter) and photographs of Bennink, his wife, and his father.
1 |14 |Objects: George Washington Ribbon; Photo Jewelry; World’s Columbian Exposition coin, (Chicago, 1893)
1 |15 |Cambridge directory and almanac, 1856
1 |16|Newsclippings, including obituaries, n.d., 1883-1917
1 |17 |Article by Lois A. Bennink, 1907
1 |18 |Masonic Certificate, 1895
1 |19 |Photographs, Family, n.d., 1897, 1907 5.07 CHB – CGH Bennink as treasurer of Amicable Lodge of Masons, 1892
||5.08 CHB – Monument to Sickles Excelsior Brigade, Gettysburg, 1893
||5.09 CHB – CGH Bennink (tintype), 1866
||5.10 CHB – CGH Bennink [FW Legg], ca. 1870
||5.11 CHB – CGH Bennink [WL Bradley], ca. 1870
||5.12 CHB – CGH Bennink [Hardy], 1886
||5.13 CHB – Gerrit Jan Bennink, Cornelius Gerritt Hendrick Bennink, Ernest William Bennink, Lois Margaret Bennink [Hovey], 1897
||5.14 CHB – Lois Augusta Bennink [L Helenberg], ca. 1890
||5.15 CHB – Gerrit Jan Bennink [Brooks Photo], 1905
2 |8 |Newspapers (Bennink related), 1891-1908 (Ontario Record, June 3 1908. February 18 1909; Boston Evening Record, May 28 1892)