Benny Williams goes to Oregon

On May 3, 1900, this story appeared in the Perry, Iowa Chief-Reporter:


This first known newspaper reference to the 17 year old future author of the Brotherhood of Light lessons illustrates some character traits that were still vividly evident four and five decades later. They also suggest why his first marriage, in 1903, reportedly occurred in Oregon. He was the only son of an only son, which rules out Williams siblings or cousins, but his mother’s brother Judge Sturgis Green had relocated to Oregon by 1900 with a primary residence in Portland. The judge had a stepson named Allen Hickey who had been born in Adel but was living in Oregon where he married in 1899. Hence Benny’s Oregon travels likely involved his uncle and cousin.

Judge Sturgis Green

The focus of this blog will remain the 19th century precursors of the Brotherhood of Light lessons, but events of the first two decades of the 20th, including the birth of five children, defined the context in which Benny’s public life as Elbert was lived after 1920. Dennis Sutton’s two studies of Elbert (available for sale on are exhaustive on his public life after 1920 but evidence on his early life as Benny has become much more interesting in the years since they were published, thanks to online ancestry websites. Thanks to Marc Demarest for finding this gem.