Henry Wetherby Benchley
Henry Wetherby Benchley (February 20, 1822 – February 24, 1867) was an American politician who served in the Massachusetts Senate and as the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. In the 1850s, he was one of the founders of the Republican Party.
Benchley’s immigrant ancestor was William Benchley, who had settled in Rhode Island from Wales. By the 1840s, Benchley’s line had moved from Smithfield, Rhode Island to Worcester, Massachusetts. He married Julia and they had two sons, Charles and Julian. Benchley became active in regional politics, helping found the Republican Party in the 1850s. He also served in the Massachusetts Senate from Worcester, and was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in the mid-1850s.
After Julia’s death in 1854, Benchley arranged for relatives to care for his sons and went to Texas to oppose the institution of slavery. He was arrested and jailed in Houston for helping run an Underground Railroad station. This was after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed, which increased penalties for anti-slavery activism. He died in Houston in 1867 after the Civil War ended.
- The township of Benchley, Texas, near Houston, was named in his honor.
- His grandson, Robert Benchley, became a famed humorist based in New York City. His great-grandson, Nathaniel Benchley, and great-great-grandson, Peter Benchley, also became noted authors.
- Billy Altman, Laughter’s Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert Benchley. (New York City: W. W. Norton, 1997. ISBN 0-393-03833-5); from excerpt in New York Times, “Lemon Drops Around Us Are Falling “, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/a/altman-laughter.html
- Billy Altman, Laughter’s Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert Benchley. (New York City: W. W. Norton, 1997. ISBN 0-393-03833-5).
- Norris W. Yates, Robert Benchley. (New York City, Twayne Publishers, 1968.).
- Roger D. Joslyn, “The Benchley-Bensley Family”, New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Vol. CXLII No. 565-567 (January, April 1988, July 1988).
| Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
1856 – 1858
|| President of the Massachusetts Senate