Last week's Name Origins article on the given name Benoni prompted a number of reader emails. Below are three responses:
Susan Hathaway of San Diego, California: My relative Benoni was the last child born to Benjamin Hathaway (b. 1699 Mass.-d. 1762 N.J.) and his unnamed wife. Benoni Hathaway was born 6 Nov 1743 in Morristown, New Jersey. His father remarried widow Elizabeth (Mehurin) Crossman 17 Mar 1743/44 in Morristown, indicating his first wife died between Benoni's birth and the remarriage. Given the connotations of the name Benoni, Benoni's mother probably died soon after his birth. (Trying to identify Benoni's mother is my biggest brick wall. There has been speculation that her surname was Clemens, since the first child born of Benjamin's second marriage was named Clemens.)
Niki Cotton of Alexandria, Virginia: I read with interest your column concerning the name Benoni. I looked through the 100 names and, remembering several of my ancestors with that name, decided to do a little digging of my own. I found four relatives named Benoni: 1.) Benoni Clark was identified by Grace Pittman in her article. Benoni Sr. died before his son Benoni was born. 2.) Benoni David Stout was born in 1831 in Spiceland, Indiana, to Ephraim and Mary Stout -- and died the day he was born. 3.) Benoni Dewey was born in 1750 in Lebanon, Connecticut, to Simeon and Anna Dewey. Simeon died four months before Benoni was born. 4.) Benoni Stebbins was born in 1655 in Springfield, Massachusetts, to John and Mary Stebbins. Four siblings died before Benoni's birth and his mother died shortly after he was born. This column sparked an interest in looking at names a little more closely.
Christie Higginbottom of Rochdale, Massachusetts: There is an apple called "Benoni" which originated in Dedham, Massachusetts, according to the citation in Beach's Apples of New York (1905). Beach credits a Mr. E.M. Richards for introducing the variety to the market in 1832 and says it is "a fine dessert apple, very attractive in appearance and excellent in quality but not large enough to be a good market variety." Apple historian Tom Burford includes the Benoni apple in his Apples: A Catalog of International Varieties (1998), noting that it was also called "Fail Me Never." More information about the Benoni apple is available at http://applejournal.com/var004.htm. Since fruit names usually promote the variety or identify its origin, it is curious that a name with so many negative connotations was chosen for this apple.