In the first four years of Bullitt County's existence (1797-1800) 60 marriages were performed here. Of these Benjamin Ogden performed 29, Simeon Hall performed 27, and the remaining 4 were officiated by James Rogers. Today, we will look at the life of Benjamin Ogden.
Benjamin Ogden was born in April 1764 in Morris County, New Jersey, according to his application for a Revolutionary War pension. William C. Armstrong wrote in his volume, Pioneer Families of Northwestern New Jersey, that Benjamin was a son of Dr. Joseph Ogden and Dr. Ogden's fourth wife, the former Mary Bescherer.
Mary bore eight children for Dr. Ogden before dying as early as 1764, possibly in childbirth with Benjamin. Benjamin would be reared by Dr. Ogden's fifth wife, Grace (Miller) Ogden.
Mr. Armstrong indicated that Dr. Ogden died in 1768, and Benjamin would have been three or four years old at the time. When he reached an appropriate age, he was apprenticed to William Davidson where he may have begun to learn carpentry skills.
He must have been mature for his age, for when he was twelve or thirteen he managed to enlist in the New Jersey company led by Captain Mitchell, and served for about three months before Davidson discovered where he was and came to get him.
Following his sixteenth birthday, he enlisted again, serving two tours under Captain Matthew Freeman, and remained a soldier until the war ended.
At the war's end, Benjamin went to live with his brother Amos in Baltimore. From here he turned from war to peace. The following Spring, Benjamin "embraced religion" joining with the Methodist Church. In 1786, he was admitted on trial as a traveling preacher, and was appointed to the wilderness of Kentucky.
Lewis Collins, in his 1847 History of Kentucky, wrote of Ogden that, "his excessive labors and the exposure of pioneer preacher-life so impaired his health that Bishop Asbury solicited his return to Virginia, and placed him on the Brunswick circuit, in 1788. But here again he was attacked with disease of the lungs, and prostrated - compelling his retirement from the effective ranks. In 1790 he was ordained a deacon, and the same year was an active local preacher in Frederick county, Virginia; and soon after, in the same capacity, returned to Kentucky."
Much of what we know of Ogen's life after that comes from an article titled "Benjamin Ogden, First Western Cavalier" written by Louis A. Warren in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society in April 1929.
While in Kentucky the first time, Benjamin married Miss Nancy Puckett in Mercer County in April 1788. They would have four children: John Wesley, Stephen, Mary, and Benjamin Franklin Ogden.
According to Warren, Ogden returned to Kentucky in 1791. In September he secured a permit to solemnize matrimony in Nelson County. He delivered the first Methodist sermon in that county.
He continued to live in the same community. When Bullitt county was formed in 1797 from Nelson county, his home was evidently within the new boundary for this is when his name begins to appear in the marriage records of that new county.
His next destination was Breckenridge county, where he bought a tract of land in 1801. He only resided here for a short time and we find him disposing of his property in 1804, and buying a lot in Elizabethtown.
As was the case with most ministers at this time, Ogden worked to support his family. While at Elizabethtown, he taught school, served as county jailer, and did carpentry including building chairs.
During the eight years Benjamin Ogden lived in Hardin County he solemnized over one hundred weddings. He was by far the most popular minister in the county although there is no evidence that he had any regular preaching appointments, but the number of weddings he performed far exceeded those of the other clergymen.
Collins wrote, "In 1816 he was appointed to the Henderson, Tennessee circuit; but his health gave way, and at the close of the year he retired for some years. In 1824, again a member of the Kentucky conference, he was assigned to the Tennessee mission, and during the next two years to the Christian and the Yellow Banks circuits, where he labored faithfully and with success. At the conference of 1827 he was placed on the superannuated roll, on which he remained until he 'fought his last battle.' It had been his often expressed wish to die in the effective ministry; and although this privilege was denied him, yet during the few years that immediately preceded his death, he labored far beyond his strength."
His death occurred at the home of his son near Princeton, Kentucky, in November 1834. The church there is known today as the Ogden Memorial church.
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