William F. Benson, of Eldorado, is the present manager of the financial institution known as the Citizens' State Bank of that place, a representative member of the banking fraternity of Butler county, and an ex-member of the upper house of the Kansas legislature. He was born at North Dorset, Vt., Aug. 12, 1859, son of Joel and Elvira (Hulett) Benson. The Benson family was established in America during the early colonial period, its principal habitation being in the colony of Rhode Island. Elihu Benson, the great-grandfather of William F., removed from Providence, R. I., to Danby, Vt., in 1778, and was a pioneer citizen of that place, following the vocation of a farmer. His son, Daniel, married Sarah Rogers, a daughter of a farmer who also resided at Danby, and of this union was born Joel Benson, the father of William F. Joel Benson removed to Rome, N. Y., and in 1868 established a hardware business in that place, the firm being Frazier & Benson In 1878 he sold his interests there and removed to Kansas, purchasing land near Eldorado and becoming a successful farmer and cattle raiser. He continued to reside at Eldorado until his death, which occurrred[sic] Feb. 6, 1907. He was a Republican in his political views, but never sought or held office. He was married in Vermont to Elvira Hulett, and she preceded him in death by several years, passing away in March, 1892. This honored couple were survived by two sons, of whom William F. is the eider. His brother, Fred W. Benson, was a well known citizen of Eldorado, who died Dec. 4, 1909, leaving a wife, whose maiden name was Robie Colgrove, and who, with two childrenInez (Mrs. Calvin G. Gill) and Kennethreside in Eldorado.
William F. Benson enjoyed the advantages of the public schools of Rome, N. Y., after which he accompanied his parents to Kansas and remained with his father on the farm near Eldorado until January, 1893. He then assumed the duties of the office of county treasurer at Eldorado, to which position he was elected at the autumn election of 1892, and that city has since been his headquarters for the transaction of his extensive business affairs. Upon the completion of his term of office as county treasurer he again devoted his attention to farming and continued so employed until 1897, when he purchased stock in the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank at Eldorado and was made assistant cashier. In 1898 he was elected cashier of that institution and served as such until 1905, when he resigned to become the vice-president of Citizens' State Bank, and since the death of N. F. Frazier, in 1907, he has been the guiding force in that institution, being well know[sic] in banking circles and very successful as a manager.
In politics Mr. Benson is an uncompromising adherent of the Democratic party, and his able coöperation has been given unreservedly in the promotion of its cause. In 1895 he was elected to represent his district in the state senate, and in 1903 he was again elected to the same position. During his first term he served as chairman of the Committee on Assessment and Taxation and as a member of the committees on Education and Educational Institutions, Mines and Mining, Agriculture, and Congressional Apportionment. During his second term he was one of three Democratic members of the senate, and he served as a member of the committees on Ways and Means, Mines and Mining, Banks and Banking, Education, and Agriculture.
One of the most important pieces of legislation that was enacted during the second term of Mr. Benson was the securing of the passage of a law enabling the county commissioners of Butler county to levy a tax and build the magnificent court house that has been erected in the county seatEldorado. The enactment of this law caused a great deal of hard feeling to be exhibited toward Mr. Benson by some people in different parts of the county, for the reason that for over a quarter of a century there had been a feeling against the city of Eldorado by residents of other portions of the county, and the opposition to the building of a court house in any way created a certain degree of animosity between certain towns and the city of Eldorado. The passage of this law was vigorously opposed by the two representatives of Butler county, and as they were both of different political faith than Mr. Benson, and affiliated with the party that was largely in the majority in the legislature, it was somewhat surprising that he was able to secure the passage of the act. He, of course, had the united support of men of all political parties in so far as the people of Eldorado were concerned, and was fortunate enough to so word the law that it stood the tests of all the courts of the state, being finally passed upon by the supreme court and declared constitutional. After the law had been passed upon by the courts, and the people saw what kind of a building had been erected, and how little they felt the burden imposed upon them, with hardly an exception they now favor the course taken by Mr. Benson and are nearly unanimous in their praise of him for securing the passage of this act.
He has served as chairman of the Democratic county central committee several times, also as a member of the state central committee and he is recognized as an influential and active man in county and state affairs. He was one of the active forces in the organizing of the Butler County Telephone & Electric Company, is a director of the organization and was its secretary for a period of five years. He was one of the chief factors in the organization of the Butler County Fair Association and has been the incumbent of the office either of president or secretary since it was founded. He has extensive landed interests in Butler county, including the ownership of the old Benson homestead near Eldorado, which consists of 1,360 acres and is one of the model breeding farms of the state. There he has one of the best herds of registered Galloway cattle in America. The farm is under the immediate management of his son, Frank, and is equipped with all the modern improvements, a large number of cattle being fed each winter and prepared for market. Mr. Benson is also the vice-president of the Eldorado Alfalfa Milling Company. He has gained the Knight Templar degree in the Masonic fraternity and is also affiliated with Isis Temple Shrine at Salina.
On July 16, 1882, occurred the marriage of Mr. Benson to Miss Margaret Farley, daughter of John Farley, a contractor and builder of Rome, N. Y., and they have four children: Frank, who manages the home farm; George graduated in the law department of the Kansas University with the class of 1907 and is practicing his profession in Eldorado; Florence is a graduate of the Eldorado High School with the class of 1909, and Bernice completed the course in the same institution with the class of 1910. The family is socially prominent, and the home is the center of refinement and culture. Mr. Benson's chief recreation is in travel and the breeding of cattle.Pages 419-421 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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