WILLIAM M. BENSON, who was a prominent farmer of Crawford township and one of the early settlers of Cherokee County, coming here in 1876, died August 17, 1904. He was born in Warren County, Indiana, near the Wabash River, on September 20, 1830, and was a son of Samuel and Martha (Martindale) Benson, a grandson of James Benson and a great-grandson of James Benson.
James Benson, our subject's great-grandfather, was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, and shipped to America, at the age of 18 years, subject to indenture for his passage money of $30. This resulted in his working for six years for a Philadelphia weaver, who was a just man and took the young Irish lad into his family as one of his own, winning the youth's lifelong devotion. Prior to the Revolutionary War, he went to South Carolina, where he secured a title to 400 acres of land in Union County, and resided upon it until his death in 1790.
His son, James Benson, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was born in Union County, South Carolina, and in 1810 removed with his family to Warren County, Indiana, where he resided on a farm until his death.
On the maternal side, William M. Benson's great-grandfather was a native of Sweden, an expert weaver, who was employed in London and later settled in County Tyrone, Ireland. The genealogy can be traced traditionally back to the days of Holy Writ, even to the tribe of Benjamin.
Samuel Benson, the father of our subject, was born December 15, 1800, in Union County, South Carolina, and died on his 66th birthday, December 15, 1866. His wife was born in 1805 in Greene County, Ohio, of South Carolina parentage. The subject of this sketch was the only son of the family that reached maturity.
William M. Benson was reared in Warren County, Indiana, and was afforded excellent educational opportunities. He took a three-years collegiate course at what is now De Pauw University. His cousin, H. C. Benson, was one of the first graduates of this institution and later became a member of its faculty as professor of Greek. For about 25 years Mr. Benson then made teaching his profession. mainly in Warren County, his last experience in this line being in the winter of 1877-78. In 1876 he purchased a claim in the northwest quarter of section 10, Crawford township, Cherokee County, Kansas, and secured the deed from the railroad company in 1877. He built a house on his land and then returned to Indiana for his family, bringing them to their new home on March 15, 1878. This home was burned in the following year, while he and his wife were visiting in Indiana. Upon his return, he built another house, which is one of the most attractive in the township. With wise forethought, he brought with him from the old home a number of cedar tree slips, which he disposed about his residence. They took kindly to the genial climate and fertile soil and have much more than repaid, in their growth, symmetry and beauty, all the care Mr. Benson ever bestowed upon them. The place has now a beautiful grove of more than 500 pines and cedars, which apart from their value were, during his life, constant reminders of the days of his boyhood and young manhood, and brought back many tender recollections of those who had passed away.
Mr. Benson owned large bodies of land in Cherokee County, at one time an aggregate of 600 acres, but retained at the time of his death only 220 acres, located in sections 3 and 10, Crawford township. This property, known as "Evergreen Bower Farm," he devoted to general farming and spared neither labor nor expense in placing it under a high state of cultivation, and making permanent improvements.
Mr. Benson was first married, in Indiana, to Prudence M. Slauter, who was born in Warren County, Indiana, and was a daughter of one of the early settlers of that county, who came there from the State of New York. Mrs. Benson died in 1884, aged almost 48 years, leaving a family of six children, viz: Martha Marinda, who married J. H. Clawson, resided for a time in Warren County and then moved to the Indian Territory, where she died in 1900; Cynthia Ann, who married Robert Radley, in Kansas and died in Cherokee County in 1896; Samuel I. (unmarried), his father's successor on the farm; William Willard, who married Emma Allen, and resides near Shawnee, Oklahoma; Rose Lee, who married William Cline, and resides in Oklahoma; and Theodoshia, who resides at home.
In 1885, Mr. Benson was united in marriage with Margaret Ann Fagan, of Cherokee County, who was born in Andrew County, Missouri, June 12, 1864. Mrs. Benson is a daughter of George and Margaret (Waterson) Fagan, the latter of whom was born on the Isle of Man. Mrs. Benson's father was born in County Killarney, Ireland. He came to America in 1850, and still resides in Cherokee County, where her brother, Thomas W. Fagan, and a half brother and sister also reside. Hon. Henry Watterson, the great Democratic editor of Louisville, Kentucky, probably came from the same family branch as did the mother of Mrs. Benson. Mr. and Mrs. Benson had five children, namely: Tressie Treene, aged 17 years; George W., aged 14 years; Marguerite Christine, aged 10 years; Lucy May, aged five years; and Clara June, aged one year.
In religious views, Mr. Benson was a member of the First-Day Adventist Church. He was a liberal supporter of church work, and not only contributed the site, but also paid about $600 toward the expense of erecting Bethany Methodist Episcopal Church, which is located in section 10, Crawford township. Politically, he was reared a Jacksonian Democrat and was practically one of that party's supporters, although he did not favor a departure in any way from its sound old principles. His first vote was cast for a candidate of the Know Nothing party.
Mr. Benson most acceptably filled many of the township offices, and always took a deep interest in educational matters, his long experience as a teacher making him particularly well qualified to judge of the efficiency of school methods. For a number of years he was active in the Masonic and Odd Fellow fraternities, but was not affiliated with the local lodges, never having taken his demit from Indiana.
The mortal remains of Mr. Benson were interred in Bethany cemetery, which is located near the Benson homestead, Rev. Mr. Stone, of the United Brethren Church officiating.
History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Andrea Martin, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 12/20/96.
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