The land and homestead structures where the Independence neighborhood is being built have a lively and rich history and add to our historical understanding of Elizabeth and Elbert County. The …
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The land and homestead structures where the Independence neighborhood is being built have a lively and rich history and add to our historical understanding of Elizabeth and Elbert County.
The following is part 2 of a two-part series of the homestead’s history as presented by the developer, Craft Companies, which commissioned a research team from The History Quest to examine the lives of the families who lived there.
Part 1 appeared in the July 8 Elbert County News. The material has been lightly edited for clarity.
Part 2 picks up where part 1 left off, with the family of Dick and Marie Bentley and their son, Grant.
Grant grew up on the homestead with his parents and grandparents, graduating from Elizabeth Union High School in May 1939.
After graduation, Grant continued his work on the ranch, farming the fields and working cows with his father, Dick. During World War II, Grant served in the Army Air Forces. He also developed a talent for welding and eventually established Bentley’s Welding Shop, where his life extended beyond the vocation of agriculture. He even received a patent in 1954 for his reversible calf table invention, one of the many side hobbies he had throughout his lifetime.
On June 28, 1957, Grant married Helen Kraemer and moved to Englewood, where they resided until 1960 when Grant built a home on the Bentley (previously Demont) Ranch for them to live alongside his mother and father, Dick and Marie, until their passing. Side by side, the older and younger households worked the ranch, planting endless tree saplings and more than 60 varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables in their garden, harvesting wheat and grain, and raising cattle and hogs.
Dick Bentley died on Aug. 17, 1971, followed by Grant’s first wife Helen on May 16, 1972. It would be nearly a decade later before Marie died on June 17, 1980, at which point the original Victorian-style home on the Bentley ranch was locked up and all of their personal effects left behind in the house — only to be uncovered when Craft Companies purchased the property in 2018.
“Opening a door to the past and years and years of hard work on the ranch, we discovered the preserved family relics, heirlooms and personal letters that inspire the spirit of the Independence conservation community today. To honor the Bentley’s legacy, these historical findings will be preserved for eternity in the Bentley Homestead Park Collection,” said developer Jim Yates.
The best available information is that in 1979, Grant married Margaret King (approximate ages 58 and 52 respectively) who grew up around Elizabeth and graduated from Elizabeth Union High School in 1945. After their marriage in 1979, The History Quest researchers did not discover any significant family events until the death of Margaret King Bentley on Aug. 8, 2007, followed by Grant’s death on Nov. 16, 2008.
To honor this long family legacy spanning a century, Craft Companies has worked to preserve as many of the original, historic buildings and artifacts found on the property as possible. This includes the restoration of the original pioneer homestead house built in 1894 by the original settler, John F. Miller, from wood lap siding, locally sourced wood construction for all walls and beams, and a corrugated metal roof. The outhouse, typical of the style built in the late 1800s, the prairie (Western) barn and the Victorian farmhouse (circa 1921) are being restored for posterity.
To read part 1 of the series, visit tinyurl.com/IndependenceHistoryPart1
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