Week 14 (April 2 – 8, 2018): Maiden Aunt

Rhoda C. Garee was born in Ohio about May 1840 to Jacob and Eliza Garee. By 1870, she along with her father and siblings, were living in Jefferson, Saline, Missouri.  Then by 1880 they had moved to Greenwood County, Kansas where she remained the rest of her life.

According to Rhoda’s nephew, C.E. Garee, she “was engaged to marry a young man who was operating a frontier freighting line until he could accumulate enough so they could make a home on her claim. He was evidently killed by the Bender family who operated a road house a county or two south east of where they lived. So many of their customers disappeared that people finally caught on. A posse of officers and settlers started out to ‘get’ them. They evidently got wind of it and started to leave for Indian Territory, but were too slow. My Father later talked with 2 members of the posse.Their stories of the chase tallied to a dot up to the point of overtaking. Neither would say a word about what or how, but the story was over.”1

The Benders were a family of serial killers who lived and operated in Labette County, Kansas from 1871 to 1873. “It is believed that the Benders killed at least a dozen travelers before their crimes were discovered and the family fled, with their fate uncertain. Much folklore and legend surrounds the Benders, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.”2 An Internet search for the Bender family murders yields lots of results and videos to entertain you for hours.3 Apparently they brutally murdered a dozen or more people and since I do not know the name or situation of Rhoda’s fiance I am not able to go further with researching his death.

Rhoda’s sister Jennie was 13 years younger than her and, according to the census records and Jennie’s obituary, Rhoda lived with her throughout her life.4  I imagine that Rhoda was an integral part of her sister’s, niece’s and nephew’s lives.  Her story was part of the family tradition handed down in my husband’s line and, even today, when I mentioned her to my mother-in-law she recalled hearing her grandfather C.E. Garee speak of Rhoda and her fiance’s death.

I do not yet know where Rhoda lived after her sister’s death in 1923 but she died in 1928 an is buried in Greenwood County, Kansas.

Further Reading:
  1. Garee, C.E., “Ed Garee’s Stories“, Noble, Oklahoma, 1961.
  2. Wikipedia contributors. (2018, February 22). Bloody Benders. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:31, April 8, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bloody_Benders&oldid=827106486
  3. [Pop Trigger]. (2016, Oct 25). The Bloody Benders Part 1 – An American Horror Story. [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/aCyC_e45LiY
  4. “Mrs. Jennie Wiggins”, Democratic Messenger, Eureka, Kansas, December 13, 1923, page 1.