Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN DENNIS. The office of biography is not to give voice to a man's modest estimate of himself and his accomplishments, but rather to leave upon the record the verdict establishing his character by the consensus of opinion on the part of his neighbors and fellow citizens. The life of Benjamin Franklin Dennis, president of the Bank of Rogersville, for many years a leading agriculturist and business man of the eastern part of Greene county, has been such as to elicit just praise from those who know him best, owing to the fact that he has always been loyal to the trusts reposed in him and has been upright in his dealings with his fellow men, at the same time lending his support to the advancement of any cause looking to the welfare of the community at large. No man has been better known or more influential in this section of the county during the past quarter of a century or more and yet he is a plain, easily approached and unassuming gentleman, contented to lead a quiet life and be regarded only as a good citizen.
Mr. Dennis was born near Gainesboro, Jackson county, Tennessee, on July 22, 1839, and is therefore nearly seventy-six years of age, but is still hale and hearty and as capable a business man as ever in his career. This is all due very largely to the fact, no doubt, that he has led a well-regulated life, free from bad habits and worry. He is a son of William R. and Sarah (Chaffin) Dennis. The father was born in North Carolina in 1813, but removed to Tennessee at an early age, where he grew to manhood and received a limited education in the pioneer schools. He was reared on a farm, but when young learned the shoemaker's and carpenter's trades, at both of which he was quite skilled. He remained in Tennessee until 1850, when he removed with his family to Greene county, Missouri, making a tedious trip by boat and wagon and encountered considerable hardships and exciting experiences on the way. Upon reaching his destination, William R. Dennis rented a farm for three years. He did not live long to enjoy the new country, dying in January, 1853. He was twice married, his first wife dying in Tennessee. In that state he married the mother of our subject, who was born in that state in 1818, near the town of Gainesboro, Jackson county, and there she grew to womanhood and attended the old-time subscription schools, taught near her father's farm. Her death occurred in Texas in 1876.
William R. Dennis' family consisted of six children, namely: Nancy, deceased; Benjamin F., of this review; James William, deceased; Martha Jane, deceased; Narvell A., deceased; Mrs. Elizabeth Brickey lives in Newton county, Missouri.
Benjamin F. Dennis spent his early boyhood in Tennessee, being eleven years old when he removed with his family to Greene county, Missouri, and here he grew to manhood and has continued to reside for a period of nearly sixty-five years, during which he has been not only a most interested spectator to the wonderful development that has taken place here, but has played well his part in the same. He received a limited education in the early-day schools of Tennessee and Missouri, but he had by nature an inquiring and plastic mind, and eventually became a. well-informed man by wide miscellaneous reading and contact with the business world, and today no one is better informed on current events in this community as well as questions of business and civic affairs. He is a fine type of the successful self-made man. He worked on the farm as a hired hand until he was eighteen years of age. In 1856 he made the long and hazardous trip across the great western plains to California and engaged in farming near Sacramento for awhile, then returned home, but went back to California a little later. However, he did not remain long, returning to Missouri in 1864, twenty-nine days of the trip being made by stage. He had numerous unusual experiences in the West and talks most interestingly of them. Mr. Dennis was successful as a man of business from the first, and he was only a young man when he purchased a farm of two hundred acres in the eastern part of Greene county. This he managed judiciously and added to his possessions until he owned eight hundred acres of valuable, productive and desirable land. Being a man of progressive ideas, he has always kept his land well improved and under a high state of cultivation, and farmed on a general plan and raised large herds of all kinds of live stock, making a specialty of handling mules, and no small portion of his income for years was derived from this source. He has long been regarded as one of the best judges of mule, if not all kinds of live stock, in the county. On his farm is to be seen a commodious residence in the midst of attractive surroundings, and numerous substantial outbuildings everything about the place denoting good management, thrift and prosperity.
Mr. Dennis continued agricultural pursuits until three ears ago, when he retired from his farm, renting his lands since then, and making his home in Rogersville, Webster county, where he has a modernly appointed and pleasant residence. He has also built several new buildings in Rogersville, and has done much toward the general material and civic improvement of the town. He has for some time been the principal factor in the Bank of Rogersville, of, which he is president, and its pronounced success has been due in no small measure to his efforts. It is one of the safe and popular banks of southern Missouri. A general banking business is carried on. It is well equipped with a modern safe and other necessary furnishings, and is, managed under a conservative and sound policy. It was organized in 1892, and its capital stock is $10,000.00 and $10000.00 surplus. The other officers of the bank besides Mr. Dennis are George M. McHaffie, vice-president; L. H. McHaffie, cashier, and H., E. Dennis, assistant cashier. It is the second oldest bank in Webster county.
Mr. Dennis has been twice married, first, in April, 1864, to Margaret Anne Smith who was born in Greene county, Missouri, in 1843, and here grew to womanhood and was educated. Her death occurred in 1876, leaving four children, all of whom survive at this writing, namely; John E., a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this work; Clara B., William A., and George F. Mr. Dennis was married a second time, in 1877, to Martha G. Ferrell, who was born in Tennessee in 1861 and there spent her early girlhood, removing with her parents when thirteen years of age to Greene county, Missouri, and here she received a common school education and lived on the home farm until her marriage, which occurred when she was seventeen years of age. She has proven to be a faithful helpmate, is industrious, kind-hearted and genial and, like her husband, has a host of warm friends throughout this locality.
Mr. Dennis is the father of five children by his second wife, named as follows: Henry E. is assistant cashier in the Bank of Rogersville; Cora A. is deceased; Grover C. is engaged in the hardware business in Rogersville; Shirley V. died at the age of eighteen years; Ben Elmer is at present a soldier in the regular United States army, and is stationed in California.
Mr. Dennis has traveled extensively and, being a keen observer, has profited much by what he has seen. In 1898 he was a member of the adventurous and hardy band of prospectors that invaded the Alaska gold fields and experienced the usual hardships and privations of such an expedition and from a financial standpoint the venture was not successful. He was absent in the rugged and picturesque Northland made famous by London, Beach, Curwood and other noted authors, about a year, returning to his farm in Greene county. But, unlike many who returned from that precarious country of the mighty Yukon, having lost their all in practically a game of chance, Mr. Dennis had plenty to return to, and despite the fact that he brought back no sacks of gold dust, is rated among the well-to-do men of Greene county, and, having honestly earned every dollar in his possession through his individual efforts, he is eminently entitled to his fortune and also to the high esteem in which he is universally held.
Politically, Mr. Dennis is an ardent Democrat and has long been influential in party affairs, although not seeking to become a political leader himself, preferring to devote his attention exclusively to his extensive business affairs and his home. Religiously he is a worthy member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and fraternally is a member of the Masonic Order, including the Knights Templars and the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He stands high in all circles in which he moves, being an honest, obliging, courteous and hospitable gentleman at all times.
Springfield-Greene County Library