During the presidency of George Washington one of the early major issues confronting him was raising taxes to pay the debt of the states incurred during the Revolutionary War. Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton in 1790 recommended an excise tax on domestically produced distilled spirits (the Whiskey Act of 1791).1
Summer after summer Stephen Benet and his siblings, who were all writers, visited their maternal grandparents William and Mary (Mahon) Rose who resided in a Carlisle home located at the northwest corner of North Hanover and West Penn Streets. Originally the house had been built for George Metzger (1784-1896).1 Grandmother Mary Mahon Rose (1831-1916) had numerous Cumberland County connections including the Mahon and Duncan families who had settled in the county prior to 1750.2 Her parents were Dr. David N. Mahon, a noted Carlisle physician, and Elizabeth Neil the daughter of a Dickinson College President from 1824-1829, William Neil. Benet’s father, Colonel James W. Benet, was a career soldier in the United States Army. James and Frances Benet named their youngest son after his father General Stephen Vincent Benet. The paternal grandfather was a Minorcan descendant born in Saint Augustine, Florida, who led the U.S. Army Ordnance Corp (1874-91) with the rank of brigadier general. He was also a graduate of West Point and had served in the Civil War.3
Stephen Benet (1898-1943) was best known as an author, poet, short story writer and novelist. One of his best known works was John Brown’s Body (1928) a book length narrative poem of the American Civil War, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1929.4 He published his first book at age seventeen, Five Men and Pompey.
While attending Yale, his alma mater, he became acquainted with Thornton Wilder who was a fellow member of the Elizabethan Club. Stephen was awarded a Masters Degree in English upon submission of his third volume of poetry in lieu of a thesis. At that time he was also a part-time contributor to Time Magazine.5
Three of Benet’s best known short stories were: “The King of Cats” (1929), “By the Waters of Babylon” (1937), “The Devil and Daniel Webster” (1936). The latter short story was about a devil and won an O'Henry Award. He adapted the Roman myth of the rape of Sabine Women into the story “The Sobbin Women." It was in-turn adapted as the movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.6
Benet died of a heart attack, in New York City, on March 3, 1943 at age forty-four and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Stonington, Connecticut, where he had owned the historic Amos Palmer House. In 1949 he was awarded posthumously his second Pulitzer Prize for Western Star, an unfinished narrative poem on the settling of the United States.7