Alfred Washburn Benson, of Ottawa, justice of the Kansas supreme court, is of English descent. The Benson family was established in America in the early days of the Massachusetts colony by an ancestor from England. Judge Benson's grandfather, Consider Benson, was a native of Massachusetts, as was also his father, Peleg Benson, who served in the war of 1812. Judge Benson is the descendant of an old stanch Massachusetts family on his mother's side also, his grandfather, William Washburn, having been a Revolutionary soldier. Members of both the Benson and Washburn families removed from Massachusetts to the state of New York in an early day and were united by the marriage of Peleg Benson and Hannah Washburn, to whom were born five children, only two of whom are now living, James H. Benson, of Chautauqua county, New York, and Judge Alfred W. Benson.
Judge Benson was born at Jamestown, Chautauqua county, New York, July 15, 1843, and was reared on a farm to which his parents had removed. He attended the district schools of Chautauqua county and the academies at Jamestown and Randolph, N. Y., until eighteen years of age, when he became a teacher and was thus engaged during the winter of 1861-62 in Warren county, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1862 he enlisted at Randolph, N. Y. as a private in Company H, One Hundred and Forty-fourth New York regiment, New York volunteers, with which he served until the close of the Civil war. This regiment was composed mainly of Cattaraugus county men, many of whom were students at Randolph Academy as was young Benson. It was assigned to duty in northern Virginia under Major-General Sigel, and was in various marches about Manassas and the old Bull Run battlefield until the spring of 1863, when it moved with the Eleventh corps to Chancellorsville, where on May 2, 1863, Judge Benson was shot through the left lung in a charge made by Stonewall Jackson's corps. In the retreat which followed he was left on the field, where some Confederate soldiers found him later, gave him water to drink, and treated him with great kindness. After they left him a furious cannonading by the Union forces indicated their position to the wounded man and stimulated him to reach them which he did by walking and crawling through the woods, until he reached the Union skirmish line. He was taken to a field hospital in an old Virginia barnyard. The next day the battle was resumed and in a short time this hospital was in the Confederate lines. The wounded soldiers who were unable to march south were paroled ten days afterward, and Judge Benson was finally sent to the Chestnut Hill Military hospital at Philadelphia, and while there received his first commissionthat of second lieutenant. In October following, he rejoined his regiment then at Bridgeport, Ala., and was detailed acting adjutant. The Eleventh was soon afterward consolidated with the Twentieth, in which corps he served to the end of the war. He was in the march to the relief of Chattanooga, the battle of Missionary Ridge, all of Sherman's campaign from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and from Savannah to Raleigh. He participated in the battles of Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, New Hope church, the battles around Kenesaw mountain, at Peach Tree creek, and the capture of Atlanta. He received his commission as captain at Atlanta in September, 1864, and served as a member of the division courtmartial at Atlanta and Savannah. While the corps was at Savannah he was recommended for major of the regiment and received his commission as such at Goldsboro, N. C., in April, 1865. When the war ended he marched with his regiment from Raleigh to Washington, where he took part in the grand review on May 25, 1865. After the war Judge Benson entered the office of Cook & Lockwood, of Jamestown, N. Y., to resume the study of law which he had begun at Randolph before his enlistment, and was admitted to the bar at Buffalo, N. Y., in November, 1866. In the following January he commenced practice at Sherman, N. Y., in partnership with A. A. Van Dusen, who has since served as county judge of Chautauqua county. While living at Sherman he was elected a member of the board of county supervisors, which office he resigned when he removed to Ottawa, Kan., where he has since resided. Since that time he has held numerous positions of increasing honor and trust. He served as mayor of Ottawa; as county attorney; was a state senator from 1881 to 1885, during which time he was chairman of the committee on temperance, which framed the first Kansas prohibitory law; was elected judge of the Fourth judicial district in 1884 and served three successive termstwelve yearsdeclining to be a candidate for reëlection, and resumed his law practice. In the fall of 1904 he was elected a member of the Kansas house of representatives and served as chairman of the judiciary committee until his resignation on June 11, 1905, to accept the appointment by Gov. Edward W. Hoch, of United States senator in place of Joseph R. Burton. He served as senator until Jan, 29, 1907, and on Aug. 1, 1907, he was appointed by Governor Hoch to a position in the supreme court of the state to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Judge Adrian L. Greene. In 1908 he was elected to that office for a term of six years, in which position he is now serving. He is a charter member and one of the organizers of the Kansas State Bar Association. For ten years he was lecturer on code pleading at the Kansas University School of Law and is at the present time serving in that capacity in the Washburn College Law School.
Judge Benson was married at Sherman, N. Y., to Unettie L. Towsley, a native of Manchester, Vt., where she was born to Darius and Lydia (Fowler) Towsley. Both the Towsleys and Fowlers were pioneer families in their respective states of Vermont and New York. Nathaniel Towsley, the father of Darius, was a soldier in the war of 1812. Two of Mrs. Benson's brothers served in the Union army, one of whom, Leonard Towsley, was killed in the battle of Antietam. The other brother, Nathaniel Towsley, is still living and resides in Manchester, Vt. Judge and Mrs. Benson have one daughter, Mrs. H. Ward Page of Topeka. Judge Benson has been a Master Mason since 1867; associates fraternally with his old comrades in arms as a member of George H. Thomas Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, at Ottawa, Kan.; and is a member of the Congregational church of that city.Pages 59-61 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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