Cecile Belle (Spann) Bentz Diplomas from Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana –
While we were going through stuff at my grandma’s house after her passing I came across a couple of very cool historical documents pertaining to my great-grandma Cecile Belle (Spann) Bentz. I had seen both of the artifacts many years ago, but that was long before I had a phone with a decent enough camera to get a clear photo of them.
Taking photos of crumbling documents is so much easier and safer than scanning. These two diplomas are a bit crumbly and crinkly. I was almost scared to touch them for fear they would disintegrate in my hand. They were in a frame with broken glass hanging on a wall upstairs in my grandma’s house. I had to remove them very carefully to keep from cutting myself or damaging the paper.
They are beautiful though. They have that sort of feel like you’re holding an old pirate treasure map in your hands. Not that I’ve actually ever held an old pirate treasure map, but it’s the way I imagine an old treasure map would look and feel and smell. I really wish one of my relatives would have left me an old pirate’s treasure map, but my great-grandma Cecile Belle left us these diplomas instead.
Cecile Belle Spann was born June 11, 1892 in Jefferson County, IN. She died May 27, 1955 in an automobile accident. She married Jacob Walton Bentz, son of Henry Bentz and Anna (Close) Bentz. Jacob Walton Bentz was born September 16, 1890 in Madison, Indiana. He died in Rushville, Indiana in 1980. I remember visiting him once in a nursing home when I was 2-years-old.
Madison Township Public Schools of Indiana Diploma
Cecile Belle (Spann) Bentz died before my mom was even born, so I know very little about her, but she apparently graduated April 3, 1909 from Madison Township Public Schools which would have been in Jefferson County, Indiana. The diploma is signed by Roxie Ogden (teacher), Chas. T. Fewell (county superintendent), and Chas. ? [maybe an N] Supplee [I believe those are p’s] (trustee). My grandpa told me she taught school for about five years after her graduation before she married Jacob Walton Bentz.
Young Peoples Reading Circle of Indiana Diploma
The second diploma which I found in the same frame hiding behind the other was for a Young Peoples Reading Circle of Indiana. This diploma was dated March 18, 1904. This likely required the reading of a certain list of books. This certificate is signed by Garfield Hoard, Jefferson County Superintendent, and teacher Florence Gans [I could be wrong on the G]. There are two other names with unreadable surnames because a bit of the paper is missing, but the first names appear to be Howard and Lawrence.
Jacob and Cecile Belle (Spann) Bentz were the victims of eminent domain when the Jefferson Proving Ground came to Indiana. They were given a small amount of money for the family’s house and land. This is how they eventually ended up in Randolph County, Indiana instead. Both Jacob and Cecile Bentz are buried at Union Cemetery near Windsor in Randolph County, Indiana. You can find their burial here on FindAGrave.
I’ve been told the home in Jefferson County was a very nice brick structure. Most structures on the grounds were destroyed in the process of building the proving grounds, but this house was kept to be used as offices.
Cecile Belle Spann descends from Revolutionary War soldier Jesse Spann. According to a memoir written by Cecile Belle’s grandfather Leonard Dobbins Spann, Jesse was given a land grant of several thousand acres for fighting in the revolution that included the area that is now Charleston, South Carolina. Of the land, Leonard Dobbins Spann wrote,
[Jesse Spann] neglected to look after it, and about 1840 a party of our people, Davis Leighton (Grandmother’s brother), Uncle Solomon and others started with a flatboat of mules to pay expenses down south to look after it. In passing over falls of the Ohio at Louisville, the boat was swamped, mules lost and the trip abandoned and never renewed, although talked of and planned out many times in my younger days. It would now be worth many millions, but so much for “sleeping on your rights” as the law terms it.
A Visit to Madison, Indiana
We once took a trip to Madison, Indiana because I wanted to see the location of my grandpa’s nativity. Madison has a great, historic downtown area with nice, little shops. We went into a candy store. My kids were little at the time, and who can resist a candy store? Along the wall, there were cases and cases of different types of candy. We bought a couple of different kinds. One of the candies we purchased was a small bag labeled Doggy Treats.
The small plastic bag included little bone-shaped biscuits coated in white chocolate and then covered in rainbow-colored sprinkles. Once outside the shop, we sat down on a bench and started to try the various types of candy we had purchased. I was the first to take a bite of the Doggy Treats.
I immediately spit that bite onto the sidewalk. It was an actual dog treat! It was right beside all the other human candy. I did not suspect it was meant for a dog. I expected to find a graham cracker inside the white chocolate just like those graham cracker Scooby Snacks you can buy at any grocery store. I went to Madison to visit the former home of my ancestors, and while I was there I ate dog food. I’m sure my ancestors would be so proud.
The Spann Family in America
Leonard Dobbins Spann wrote a lot more about the Spann family in America. I will likely venture into more of that eventually. If you connect to these ancestral lines, let me know in the comments. I love to hear from cousins.
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Just in case you missed my tribute to my grandma Merrimen Claire (Niccum) Bentz last week, you can read it by clicking the photo below.