Friday, April 13, 2018

The Two Graves of Henry Behnke

This mystery has been puzzling me for a while now and it was originally brought to my attention by my fiancé.  Mr. Henry Behnke, one of Stockton Rural Cemetery's eternal residents has not one, but two headstones and they are in separate areas of the cemetery, too!  

Henry Behnke was born on May 20, 1829 and died on March 2, 1862. One of his headstones states his name "Henry Behnke" (found in Block 26, lot 24) while the other just says, "H. Behnke" (found in Block 24) - but both share the exact date of birth and date of death. 

Although a few people have pondered the thought that perhaps there were a set of twins, both with the same date of birth and similar names starting with an "H," that maybe in some freakish accident both lost their lives on the same day.  Although I guess anything is possible, I would say that it is near to impossible and in this case highly unlikely.

You see, the only record I can find where he is mentioned, there is not other mention of another male "Behnke" with him.  According to  "An Illustrated History of San Joaquin County, California" Henry is mentioned very briefly in the biography of a man named John Corsten Grupe.   Grupe went on to marry Catherine Behnke, who I believe was Henry's sister, and this is how Henry's name was mentioned within the biography.

"In the spring of 1852, he (Grupe) went to San Francisco and took ship for New York, going by way of Panama; from New York he shipped at once to Germany and in the fall of the same year returned to New York. In the meantime he had sold his store in New York to his brother, and after stopping there a few days, started on a return trip to California. This time he came by way of Panama. 

In New York he met a number of persons who came to California with him. Among them was Catherine M. Behnke, who he afterward married. The others were Henry Behnke, Hattie and Rebecka Behrmann, Lena Meyer, John Kulmoe, John Wilkins and Henry Meyer, -- nine in all; of these, four only are living.  They crossed the Isthmus on a mule train, then took ship and came to San Francisco, and landed at Stockton on November 10, 1852.

On December 1, he was married to Catherine Behnke, and Henry Meyer was married to Rebecka Behrmann, both on the same day. " --

So we now know that Henry came to Stockton on November 10, 1852 and he died on March 2, 1862. After searching archived Census records I was able to determine that both Catherine and Henry came from Germany just like Mr. Grupe. According to the 1900 Census for the Douglas Township in San Joaquin County, Catherine Grupe was still living, but now a widow. She was living with two of her sons by that point. She was listed as being born in 1831, just four years younger than her older brother Henry, and that she was from Germany.

Unfortunately, this is where I have hit a dead end with learning more about Henry's life here in Stockton, and why on earth he has two headstones. I have found three other Henry Behnke's who lived in San Joaquin County, between the 1850's up to about 18 years ago. 
I can only assume that some of these "Henry's" are related to him somehow.

1) Henry August Behnke was born in 1854 and lived in Stockton in the 1890's because he is listed as a registered voter in the 1896 voting registry.  

2) Henry Behnke, born in 1850 and died 1928 (San Joaquin County)

Could one of the above listed men be his son? 

3) Henry John Behnke was born on February 8, 1918 and died in January of 2000, in Lodi (San Joaquin County). 

Could he be a grandson maybe? 

After searching the abstracts of the Stockton Daily Independent newspaper, dated March 3, 1862, I located Mr. Behnke's death notice. (They misspelled his name though).

"DIED- in this city, at the Avenue House, on Sunday morning the 2nd, Henry BENCKE, a native of Hanover, Germany, aged 32 years. His funeral will take place from the Avenue House at 1 o'clock this Monday afternoon."---

Answers to the rest of this mystery are still eluding me at the moment. 

I recently reached out to the Stockton Rural Cemetery office to see if they could shed some light on the mystery of the two headstones, one being found in Block 24 and the other in Block 26.  After speaking to Clara Navarro, who works in the cemetery office, she had no information to give me. The cemetery staff state that their archive records are in storage, so basically they were not willing to search through the records for this information.

As disappointed as I was to hear this, it does not deter me from my search for answers. I will keep searching to find out just who Henry Behnke was, and why he has two headstones, and I will not stop seeking these answers until they are available. 

I hope you will check back with me in the future as I plan to continue updating this particular blog post with more information as it becomes available.

(Copyright 2018- J'aime Rubio. --

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