Benjamin Wilcox, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Benjamin Wilcox


Benjamin Wilcox was born in Connecticut in the year 1816. His early life was spent in an earnest attendance of the schools of his native place, and until the age of 16, in assisting his father in the duties of his farm. At that age his career as a teacher began. Later he entered Williams College, and graduated with high honors in 1841 at the age of 25 years. With a strong inclination for the study of medicine, a careful review of his qualifications convinced him that his widest and most natural field of usefulness lay in the onerous but noble duties of a teacher. He consequently adopted it as his life profession, entering it with his soul full of purpose and determination to succeed. His wide-spread fame, and the manifest good results of his life's labor, have demonstrated with striking force the wisdom of his choice. His life as a professional teacher began at Yates, New York, soon after his graduation; subsequently he taught at Wilson, New York, for 11 years, and then removed to Wisconsin, from where he was called to take charge of the high school at Valparaiso, in 1864. During his residence in Wisconsin misfortunes overtook him by an almost wholesale destruction of his property by fire, so that he came to Indiana in rather limited circumstances. He remained at Valparaiso until 1870, when a more advantageous offer from the School Board of South Bend induced him to come here and assume the preceptorship of the high school, a position he filled with great public satisfaction and personal gratification until his untimely and lamented death. In his professional life he was always thorough, earnest and energetic. He was a most perfect disciplinarian, and knew no higher ambition than that which prompted him to become one of the best and most distinguished instructors in the country. His schools were governed, not by the chafing power of an iron will, but by the unbounded love and respect which his treatment of pupils invariably commanded. Under his loving rule it was easy and pleasant to conform to the ever, strict regime of the school, for love was the controlling power, and self-respect the guardian angel. In evidence of the high esteem in which he was held wherever he has lived, the family archives contain columns of notices of presentations of beautiful and valuable gifts by his pupils and others. In life he kept a list of all persons who had received instruction from him during his professional career, and a correct record, as far as possible, of their whereabouts and condition. When it is known that this list contains between nine and ten thousand names, the magnitude of his life-work will be comprehended. This labor extended through a period of 42 years in all, and 34 as a professional teacher.

Professor Wilcox was twice married, his first wife being a sister of his bereaved widow. Five children were the issue of these marriages. His home was a happy, peaceful one; his private life pure, joyous and undisturbed. Nothing ruffled his even temper; offense was unknown to him. There was a quiet, impressive dignity upon his face, in his speech and daily walk which forbade offensive approach, and silenced importunity. He was a professed and earnest Christian, a Mason and an Odd Fellow, an elder in the First Presbyterian Church, and so zealous in his labors that a former pastor remarked on leaving that he was consoled with the thought that the Church could not go down so long as Professor Wilcox lived.

With health impaired by long continued labor, he left South Bend in the summer of 1875, to seek its restoration in the salubrious air of the Atlantic coast. But the continued wet weather and dense fogs daring that season affected him so unfavorably that it was deemed best to return. While on the boat he was taken seriously ill, and white on the cars grew rapidly worse, necessitating a stop at Le Roy, New York, where his only sister lived, and where he breathed his last, on Monday afternoon, Aug. 16, 1875. His remains were brought to South Bend for interment. Rev. Mr. Morey preached his funeral discourse, taking for his text 2d Timothy, iv: 7, 8, 9: "For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also who love His appearing." Mr. Morey spoke of the dead with great feeling. All might say of him that "he had fought a good fight." He had kept himself humble, steadfast and true in a world full of selfishness, deceit and trickery. His life had never been marred by a single underhanded blow. He was pre-eminently a man of faith, and had the utmost reverence for the Bible as the word of God, and implicit confidence in Jesus Christ as a divine Savior. His faith was absolutely royal, or rather it was the child-like faith that asks not sight. It colored the whole atmosphere of his life, and gave to his character manliness, purity and tenderness, making a perfect whole, commanding and receiving the homage of all. His appreciation of the true and beautiful in character, in thought or nature, was marvelously keen, and his power of expression was something wonderful.

Mr. Morey closed his address with an exhortation to the pupils of the dead professor, to cherish his memory and teachings, by quoting his parting words to the graduating class of 1875.
"We hope that the moral precepts that you have received in connection with your daily lessons will not be altogether fruitless; but that you will ever be found identified with the friends of truth, morality and religion. We hope it will ever be yours to walk in the light of the wisdom that comes from God, and in the personal assurance of His approving grace. And now, commending you to God as your protector, and His word as your guide, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

Resolutions of respect and condolence were passed by the teachers and students of the high school.

Source: Charles C. Chapman & Company. 1880. History of St. Joseph County, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Charles C. Chapman & Company. 971 p.
Page(s) in Source: 484-486

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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