1872–1904

Introduction

portrait

Born: Ju­ly 1872, Rat­i­bor, Ger­ma­ny (now Ra­cib­órz, Po­land).

Died: Ju­ly 15, 1904, of ce­re­bro­spin­al men­in­gi­tis, in the Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal, New York Ci­ty.

Buried: Lu­ther­an All Faiths Ce­me­te­ry, Mid­dle Vil­lage, New York.

Biography

Son of a Po­lish fa­ther and French mo­ther, Ben­ke em­ig­rat­ed to Am­er­i­ca at age 21.

His story was as stirr­ing as a romance, and a great deal has been writ­ten about him. His father was a mu­si­cian and gave his two sons a tho­rough mu­sic­al ed­u­ca­tion. Vic­tor al­so trained to be a civ­il en­gin­eer.

He came to the Unit­ed States af­ter his par­ents’ death with his share of the fa­mi­ly for­tune which he soon spent.

After his mon­ey was gone, un­a­ble to find em­ploy­ment, he drift­ed in­to the Bow­ery [New York Ci­ty], and man­ag­ed to earn his bread by play­ing the pi­a­no in all sorts of dis­rep­ut­a­ble re­sorts.

Like oth­ers of his class he be­gan to fre­quent the Bow­ery Mis­sion for shel­ter and warmth. One Sun­day morn­ing Mrs. Sar­ah Bird, the lead­er, an­nounced that there could be no ac­com­pan­i­ment to the sing­ing un­less some­one would vol­un­teer to play, as the pi­an­ist was ab­sent.

Victor Ben­ke, dirty, un­kempt, and half drunk, stag­gered to the pi­a­no in spite of the ef­forts of sev­er­al men to re­strain him. Glanc­ing at the hymn he played the ac­com­pa­ni­ment as no one had ev­er heard it played be­fore.

From that time Vic­tor Benke quit his old haunts. Mrs. Bird became his faith­ful friend, and made a per­ma­nent place for him, and he be­came one of the most suc­cess­ful mis­sion ev­an­gel­ists. He was or­gan­ist for Dwight L. Moo­dy dur­ing his last vis­its to New York, and fre­quen­tly went with him to neigh­bor­ing ci­ties.

The Ad­vance
Chi­cago, Il­li­nois
Volume 48, num­ber 2021, Au­gust 4, 1904, page 119

Sources

Music

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