Monday, February 3, 2014

Chelius Clifton Benefield (1867-1951)

From the Official and Statistical Register of Mississippi, 1912 edition.

   A successful businessman and political figure who made his home in both Tennessee and Mississippi, Chelius Clifton Benefield reached his highest degree of political prominence in 1911 when he won election as one of Pontotoc County's representatives to the Mississippi State Legislature. One of nine children born to William Hardy and Mary Hill Benefield, Chelius Clifton Benefield's birth occurred in the town of Trion, Georgia on October 17, 1867. He attended schools local to the area of his birth and later went on to study at the Terrell College in Texas.
   Both before and after his time at college Benefield spent time teaching school, being employed at various schools in Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia for a period of about ten years. He married in Tennessee on Independence Day 1894 to Ms. Belle Woodlee (1871-1953), to whom he was married for nearly sixty years. Their long marriage saw the birth of seven children, who are listed as follows: Myrtle May (born 1895), Bessie Bell (born 1896), Ralph Clinton (1899-1983), Glidden Ross (1902-1994), Tennie Alma (1905-1942), Chelius Clifton Jr. (1907-1921) and Mary Lucille Benefield DeBock (1909-1990).
   In the late 1890s, Benefield undertook a career change and began learning the art of surveying, subsequently becoming County Surveyor for the county of Warren in Tennessee, serving in this capacity from 1899-1903. Around this same time, Benefield began making his name known through various business endeavors in and around the Crossville, Tennessee area, including a stint as superintendent of the Tennessee Coal and Lumber Company. He was later instrumental in the founding of the Southern Land and Investment Company (serving as its General Manager) and occupied similar executive positions at the Monarch Coal Mining Company and the Crossville Lumber Company.
   Politics first beckoned to Chelius C. Benefield during his residency in Tennessee, and in 1896 received the nomination for the state senate from the county of Georgia. The Notable Men of Tennessee notes that he "declined the honor", and for next decade and a half had little involvement in political affairs. He later left Tennessee and removed with his family to Mississippi, where in November 1911 he won election to the state House of Representatives from Pontotoc County. Taking office at the start of the 1912 legislative session, Benefield was named to the house committees on Education, the Constitution, Engrossed Bills and also chaired the house committee on Contingent Expenses.

                               From the Notable Men of Tennessee, Personal and Genealogical, Volume 1, 1905.

    Little is known of Chelius Benefield's life following the conclusion of his term in 1914. At some point between 1914 and 1921, he removed with his family to Tehama County, California, where he would reside for many years afterward. Chelius and Belle Benefield experienced personal tragedy in November 1921 with the death of their fourteen-year-old son Chelius Benefield Jr., who lost his life in a school bus-train collision near Proberta, California while on the way to the Red Bluff Union High School. Young Benefield was one of fourteen schoolchildren who lost their lives in the accident, which received significant coverage in the December 10, 1921 edition of the Sausalito News.
  Chelius Clifton Benefield died at the age of 83 in Butte, California on August 5, 1951, and was interred at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Red Bluff, California, where his son was laid to rest three decades earlier. Belle Benefield survived her husband by two years, and following her death in 1953 was interred at the same cemetery as her husband and son.

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