Yesterday I reviewed Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by Pamela Smith Hill.
Pioneer Girl was to be a story for adults, but no publisher picked it up. Later, it became the basis for the Little House series of children's books.
One of the stories told in Pioneer Girl that was too adult for the Little House books––although supposedly I'm an adult and it scares the crap out of me––is that of the Bender family.
You must keep in mind that not all of Wilder's recollections about her childhood can be traced as fact, but she remembered that as a little girl living with her family on the prairie in Kansas, Pa had to make the long trip to Independence more than once. On his way home from such a trip, he considered staying at the Benders. Kate Bender asked him to have supper there and spend the night. He felt it was better to hurry home.
Wilder writes: One night just about sundown a strange man came riding his horse up to the door on a run. Pa hurried out and they talked a few minutes. Then the man went away as fast as he had come, and Pa came into the house in a hurry. He would not wait for supper, but asked Ma to give him a bite to eat right away, saying he must go. Something horrible had happened at Benders.
It seems the Benders welcomed travelers loaded down with goods to eat with them and stay the night. The travelers sat with their backs to a curtain. The "guests" were attacked from behind the curtain, killed, and buried. Of course, the Benders kept their possessions.
Then Pa said, "They found a little girl, no bigger than Laura. They'd thrown her in on top of her father and mother and tramped the ground down on them, while the little girl was still alive."
It was easy for the Benders to carry on their grisly business because settlers who came to Kansas were out of the reach of their families. It was difficult to so much as send a letter.
Wilder also wrote that when she was older, she spoke to Pa about the Benders because he had been one of the vigilantes who had ridden after them. Pa assured her that the Benders would never be found.
As frightening as this story is, according to the annotations, it's not likely that Charles Ingalls would have stopped at the Benders. It wasn't close enough to the route he took. Wilder stated in a Book Fair speech that her family stopped at the Benders for water, and she saw Kate Bender in the doorway. But the Benders did not yet live in Indian Territory when the Ingalls family arrived.
Moreover, Wilder was two years old when they arrived in Kansas and four when they left. The terrifying stories of the Benders may have confused her, or perhaps she wanted to associate her family with a notorious name in order to excite interest in her work.
At any rate, the Benders existed; they had an inn and grocery store; and eight to eleven bodies, including a young girl, were found buried in the orchard behind the Benders' cabin––although some newspaper accounts placed the number of bodies higher.
The name Bender becomes a very frightening one because of the realistic way in which Wilder tells the story.
The Bender family consisted of an older couple and
a younger one, who were thought to be brother and sister
but might have been married.
For another account of the Bloody Benders, see https://goo.gl/A9CPv2.
I don't know how much of this information is correct, but it will give you a post-Halloween fright. Pretty obvious why the story didn't make it into the Little House books.
Infinities of love,