Hanover Furniture Company Has Roots in Haiti
A.L. Benford at J.A. Renaut Furniture, c.1914
I recently came across two April 1982 newspaper clippings at York County Heritage Trust on Benford’s Furniture in Hanover. The articles were from the Hanover Evening Sun and the York Sunday News. Benford’s was celebrating their 150th anniversary that week in 1982. The company had operated at the same site, 136 Carlisle Street, since 1832. (Photos from York Sunday News article.)
Both papers tell a similar tale, one that starts in Haiti and continues in Hanover:
The story goes that eight-year-old Francis Renaut, son of a French plantation owner in Haiti, escaped when the rest of his family was massacred during a slave revolt in the late 1700s. He made his way on a ship to his aunt in Baltimore, where he learned to be a cabinetmaker. He is said to have served in the War of 1812 and later moved, with his wife, to Hanover. There, at 136 Carlisle Street, he made and sold furniture and conducted an undertaking business. This was common with cabinetmakers, since they were also the coffin makers.
Francis Renaut died in 1857. His oldest son, Joseph A. Renaut, took over, with his siblings carrying on the business while he served as an officer in the Civil War. Washington Bair later bought the undertaking part, but Joseph carried on the cabinet making until the late 1800s. After that he concentrated on selling furniture. Son-in-law A. Lawrence Benford joined the firm, buying the “flourishing business” from his father-in-law in 1914.
A.L. Benford’s sons, Leroy and Samuel came into the business around 1920, as their sons, C. Lawrence and Steven R., would later in the century. After over 150 years and five generations of the Renaut-Benford family, the store closed in the 1980s. I believe 136 Carlisle Street is now the home of the .
I am often intrigued by the stories of York County people and the far and exotic places where they sometimes end up. This is a reverse example, how a small boy traveled from the Caribbean to put down family roots in Hanover.
Benford’s Furniture, 1982
Click the links below for more on York county furniture makers and sellers.
Chairs to coffins.
Lots of York County furniture makers.
Red Lion’s Zarfos & Burg and Dallastown’s Glatfelter Furniture.