Cora and Frank Benefield – One Tough Couple

This week, I am combining three themes into one: Tough Woman, Closest to my Birthday, & Plowing Through

Cora Mitti Capehart was a petite woman with a dark complexion, and is thought to have some Native American in her lineage. If she does, that lineage is yet to be found. Cora was born in the late Spring of 1876, in Randolph Co, Alabama, the third of seven children born to William T. and Emily Forrester Capehart. Her birthday was 7 June, and mine is 1 June, thus she has the closest birth date to mine. Not much is known about her early life, although census records show that she and her parents were in Randolph Co. most if not the entire time.

Cora married Monroe Franklin Benefield, son of Caleb and Sarah Sanders Benefield, in 1896. To my knowledge, a photo of Frank has not been found, but several of their children had a ‘husky’ build, so I image they were built like their father. Cora and Frank’s new house was situated between his parents and his older brother. Anyone who has lived that close to family knows it is not an easy feat. During the first four years of their marriage, they had three children, but lost their middle child at 9 months of age. During the next several years, their little family increased by five.

Around 1908, Cora and Frank and all but one of Cora’s siblings, packed up their families and moved to Texas.  I wish I knew the reason behind such a move. The men are all listed as farmers and renting their farms in 1910. Whatever they were raising must have proven profitable, because by 1912, it’s said that Frank owned his farm, had bought heavy farm equipment, and had money in the bank. He had also added another baby to his family making a total of eight children.

Around the last of January or first part of February 1912, Frank was involved in a freak farming accident. He was breaking a team of mules to the plow, probably in preparation for the upcoming planting season. Something must have startled them, for they bolted. Frank was tangled in the roping used to harness the mules, and could not get loose. They dragged him behind them as they ran, trying to get away from whatever had startled them.

Frank was seriously injured in the accident, especially his back. He developed pneumonia and gangrene, and passed away on 14 Feb 1912. He is buried in Bethel Cemetery, Fulbright, Red River Co, TX, and has a huge headstone, that depicts he was a member of Woodmen of the World.

Franklin Benefield's Headstone

Franklin Benefield’s headstone*

Cora was left not only with the enormous task of raising nine children alone, she also had the burden of birthing her last child without her husband, as she was roughly three months pregnant at the time of Frank’s passing.

Over the next couple of years, some of her family took advantage of her lack of business knowledge, borrowing money from her which they never repaid. Other relatives pressured her to return to Alabama, where her parents lived. Cora sold her farm, at a great loss, and with her nine children in tow, returned to her home state.

With three of her children married by 1920, she still had six at home. Her mother passed away in February of that year, and by May, her father was living with her, and in bad health. He passed away in June, just four months after his wife.

She is listed as owning her home in 1920, AL, but is shown as renting in 1930. It appears that she, like countless others, was hit hard by the depression. A single woman, with several dependent children, would be a prime target for anyone with an unscrupulous nature. By 1930, Cora and her two youngest were living in a rented house, paying $1.50 a month.

Although I have been unable to pinpoint the time and cause, Cora broke her hip. Apparently the medical ability at that time wasn’t very advanced, and she spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

Cora C Benefield

Cora C Benefield*

To add to the unfortunate happenings in her life, it is rumored that one son ‘had to get married’ about 1930, and apparently wasn’t too happy about it. He and his wife had two children before divorcing. He lost contact with the family, possibly going to Cuba, before returning to Florida, where he was located when his mother died. Although he did not attend the funeral, he did send flowers.

Cora passed away in May 1956, just weeks shy of her 80th birthday. She is buried at Forrester’s Chapel Cemetery, on land donated to the church by her maternal grandfather.

I cannot imagine losing a child, traveling across the country, then losing a husband, only to make the return trip across the country, and being the sole support and guidance for nine children.

Cora Capehart Benefield was indeed a tough woman who plowed through the hard times, both with and without her husband.

*Photos courtesy of Cora’s grandson, Bill.

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