Otis L. Benton, banker and capitalist of Oberlin, Kan., and the recently appointed supervisor of Indian funds, is a native Kansan, having been born in Pottawatomie county, July 31, 1866, son of Almon and Betsey F. Benton, natives of New York, who came to Pottawatomie county as pioneers in 1859. Here Almon Benton was engaged in farming and stock business, and here his son, Otis L., was born and raised and received his early education. Later he went to the city schools of Louisville, Kan., Washburn College in Topeka and Elliott's Business College, of Burlington, Iowa.
At the age of nineteen years Mr. Benton came to Oberlin, where he was employed as bookkeeper in the Oberlin State Bank, holding that position for two years, when he was made cashier. He remained with this bank as cashier and vice-president until 1891, when he organized the Oberlin National Bank, of which he was the first cashier, and the twenty-one years he has been connected with this institution saw him rise from cashier to vice-president and then to president. Mr. Benton also organized the First National Bank of Norcatur, the First State Bank of Cedar Bluffs, and the First Bank of Dresden, and many other financial institutions, notably among which is the Decatur County Abstract Company, which concern has the most complete records of any abstract company in the State. Not only has he been interested in financial concerns, but has dealt more heavily in cattle than any other man in the northwestern section of the State, handling from three to five thousand head of stock per year. He is a member of the Benton & Hopkins firm, which deals exclusively in cattle.
The banks which he has organized are not the only ones in which Mr. Benton is interested. He is a member of the firm of Benton & Douglas, bankers, also organized the largest corporation in western Kansas, known as the Benton & Hopkins Investment Company, with a capitalization of $200,000, of which he is president. This company is doing perhaps the largest business in northern Kansas and one of the largest in the whole State. Mr. Benton, of the firm of Benton & Steele, caused the consolidation of five telephone companies, and the new company is known as the Consolidated Telephone Company, with general offices at Oberlin, Kan., and paid-up capital of $150,000, thereby giving its patrons better service at greatly reduced rates.
Mr. Benton has accumulated a comfortable fortune and won the affluence it brings, yet he has not hoarded up in the neighborhood of half a million dollars and overlooked any opportunity to assist in the welfare, happiness and prosperity of the people of Kansas. He has always contributed liberally to the churches and colleges of his home county, as well as in different parts of the State, and any benevolent society has always found him a ready and liberal contributor. Nor has he confined his liberality to societies and institutions, but has sought other ways of being of assistance to the people of the State. In 1910, in order to put the farmers of this section of the country in better circumstances he distributed 8,000 bushels of a new variety of seed wheat among them and in 1911 distributed 6,000 bushels. Besides assisting the farmers in wheat raising he has tried to encourage diversified farming, by offering prizes for the best colts, corn, Kaffir corn, Indian corn, milo maize, cane and other farm products, in the way of round-trip tickets to Topeka, and coupon tickets to the State fair, of which he is a director. At the awarding of these prizes a great deal of enthusiasm was displayed by the farmers and the town was full of people. Some of the finest colts and farm products ever seen in this section were on exhibit. The contest was conducted for Mr. Benton by the officers of the farmers' institute of Decatur county in a manner satisfactory to all. Mr. Benton takes great interest in educational matters, and is at present one of the trustees of Washburn College. He has a number of ranches in this part of the country, 10,000 acres in all, each ranch managed by competent men, and all under his supervision. His residence in Oberlin is one of the finest in the State.
While Mr. Benton has taken an active part in politics he has never permitted his name to be used as candidate for any position. He was chairman of the Republican senatorial committee in 1896, and has also been chairman of the Republican central committee. He was a delegate to the Chicago National Republican convention in 1908, and has been prominently mentioned several times for congressman. He is a life member and director of the Kansas State Historical Society; is a member of the Kansas Bankers' Association, and at the Wichita meeting, May 17 to 19, 1904, delivered an address on "The Country Banker and Cattle Paper in the Light of History;" is a member of the State Agricultural Association, and in 1903 delivered an address before that body on "The Live Stock and Agriculture Feature of Northwest, Kansas." Besides various addresses before the different associations of Kansas, Mr. Benton has written articles for papers and magazines on various subjects. Five years ago he toured England with his family, and on his return wrote an article for the newspapers on "European Cathedrals and Abbeys as Twentieth Century Monuments to Biblical History," which received wide and favorable press notices. Mr. Benton has just been appointed by President Taft as supervisor of Indian funds, and took the office January 2, 1913, his duties being to maintain supervision of these funds and recommend the manner in which to handle this vast property. He is a member of the Presbyterian church, of the Ancient Order United Workmen, Modern Woodmen of America, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias and the Sons and Daughters of Justice.Pages 79-81 from a supplemental volume 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 October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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