Ben King's Verse/Biography
Benjamin Franklin King, Jr., was born at St. Joseph Michigan, March 17, 1857, and died at Bowling Green, Kentucky, April 7, 1894. He was married Nov. 27, 1883, to Aseneth Belle Latham, of St. Joseph Michigan, by Professor David Swing at his residence in Chicago. The wife and two sons, Bennett Latham King and Spencer P. King, survive him.
While yet a child, music came to Ben King as an inspiration. His infant fingers touched the keys of a piano and a ripple of notes, strange and sweet, startled his parents into the consciousness that a great talent had been given unto him. How odd a boy he was--no one understood him. On the edge of the marsh he would sit during hours at a time, under the spell of the weird music amid the rushes. As he grew up, lacking the instincts that make men successful in business, he was pronounced a failure--not by those who had warmed themselves in the glow of his poetic nature, but by the man who believed that to turn over a dime and thereby to make a dollar of it was the most gracious faculty that could be bestowed upon a member of the human family. But when Ben King died, St. Joseph became more widely known in one day than hundreds of excursions and a thousand orchards had served to advertise it in the past. On that April morning, people living in the far East and the far West asked the question: "Where is St. Joseph?"
Ben King was not only a man of music; he was a poet, a gentle satirist, and a humorist of the highest order. Every company was brightened by his coming, every man felt better for having heard his quaint remarks. There was about him a droll, a charming irresponsibility--a Thomas Hood from Michigan.
I find, as I have found for the fiftieth time while striving to write these lines, that I am still too much under the shock caused by his death to write dispassionately of him. My judgment, the common sense that one should bring to bear upon such a subject, is obscured by the vivid picture of an early morning; and down a dark hallway I still hear a violent knocking--and then comes a throbbing silence, and out of that silence comes an excited whisper--"Ben King is dead."