January 30: Benjamin Oden West (1933)

When Benjamin Oden West retired from the Chicago and Erie railroad in 1927, he had over 50 years of service. The Chicago and Erie, which existed from 1871 to 1941, was an important connection between Chicago and the Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area. West had come to Rochester, Indiana with a crew of surveyors in 1881 to fix the railroad right-of-way. A year later he was appointed the station agent at Rochester and served in that capacity until his retirement.


West was born in Washington, D.C. in 1857. He and his older sister, Helen, were both baptized at Epiphany as infants. West lived in Washington as a small boy during the trying times of the Civil War and it was he who furnished authorities with one of the first clues regarding John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin. On the day of the murder, Booth had tied up his horse in the alley in back of Ford’s Theater, which also backed up to the West’s home. Eight-year old Benjamin witnessed Booth’s getaway that night and was able to tell officers in which direction the assassin had fled.

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