Location of Benton in Franklin County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
|• Total||5.16 sq mi (13.36 km2)|
|• Land||2.38 sq mi (6.16 km2)|
|• Water||2.78 sq mi (7.19 km2)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||2,936.97/sq mi (1,134.11/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
Benton, the county seat of Franklin County, took its name from the prominent senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858). The village of Benton was organized in 1841 on 20 acres (81,000 m2) of property donated by John Ewing and Walter S. Akin. In 1902 the village became a city, and incorporated under the mayor/commissioner form of government.
Franklin County was platted in 1818, the year Illinois became a state, at twice its current size. It included the territory that is now Williamson County. In 1839 the county was split roughly in half and the county seat was permanently fixed "at a hill at the south end of Rowling's Prairie", the site of the future city of Benton.
The Franklin County Courthouse sits in the center of the Public Square. It is the third courthouse that has served the people of Franklin County. The Italianate building was constructed in 1874-75 at a cost of $27,500.00
Much of Benton's growth in the past can be traced to the abundance of high sulfur coal, the presence of multiple railroads, rich soil and the industry of her people.
On April 19, 1928 Benton was the site of the last public hanging in Illinois, when local gangster Charles Birger was executed on the gallows next to the county jail for the December 12, 1926 murder of Joe Adams, mayor of nearby West City, Illinois. A replica of the gallows and hangman's noose were built by the late retired Old Ben Coal miner, businessman & carpenter, Birchard L. Wampler  (March 9, 1938 – June 29, 2010) and his son Birchard Neil Wampler. They remain standing today next to the old Franklin County Jail turned Museum.
In September 1963, George Harrison of The Beatles visited Benton while on vacation, the first time any member of the group visited American soil. He stayed at the home of his sister, Louise, at 113 McCann Street. The bungalow used to be the Hard Day's Nite Bed and Breakfast. During his trip he traveled from Benton to Fenton's Music Store in Mt. Vernon, IL to purchase a Rickenbacker 425 that later sold at auction for $657k. Harrison also performed with a band called "The Four Vests" at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Eldorado, Illinois. In an interview, Harrison's sister Louise said "his real first visit to America was when he came to the midwest in September 1963 and he met these wonderful, warm, friendly, real warm Midwesterners... school teachers, retired miners and all kinds of just wonderful people... and a little band. He had a fantastic time. He thought they were just wonderful people."
In August 2017, a 16-foot tall commemorative mural of George Harrison was created and donated California artist John Cerney. Cerney caught word of Harrison's memorable visit to the town on a Sirius radio program, which inspired Cerney's creation. The "highway art" can be found facing southbound traffic along Interstate 57. The project was completed just in time for tourists to admire it as they traveled through the city for the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017.
According to the 2010 census, Benton has a total area of 5.66 square miles (14.66 km2), of which 5.48 square miles (14.19 km2) (or 96.82%) is land and 0.18 square miles (0.47 km2) (or 3.18%) is water.
Benton Public Library
Benton and surrounding areas are served by two weekly newspapers, The Benton News and The Benton Gazette.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,880 people, 2,938 households, and 1,824 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,286.2 people per square mile (496.5/km²). There were 3,270 housing units at an average density of 611.3 per square mile (236.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.72% White, 0.29% African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.06% from other races, and 0.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.51% of the population.
There were 2,938 households out of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.7% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the city, the population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 22.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,177, and the median income for a family was $35,339. Males had a median income of $27,323 versus $19,403 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,787. About 15.6% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.6% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over.
- Charlie Birger, bootlegger during prohibition, hanged on 19 April 1928 at the Franklin County Jail in Benton
- Lin Bolen, former vice president of NBC
- Carl Choisser, Illinois state representative, lawyer, and newspaper editor
- Doug Collins, NBA coach, player, broadcaster, and Olympic basketball player
- William A. Denning, Illinois Supreme Court justice and state legislator
- Gary Forby, Illinois State Senator
- Billy Grammer, Grand Ole Opry star
- William L. Hungate, federal judge and congressman from Missouri
- Tommy Johnagin, comedian
- John Malkovich, actor
- Shirley Marsh, Nebraska state senator
- Rodney K. Miller, television host for Small Town Big Deal
- Offa Neal, third baseman for the New York Giants
- Ernest J. Odum, Illinois state representative and lawyer
- Noble Threewitt, thoroughbred race horse trainer, born here in 1911
- Herbert L. Upchurch, Illinois state legislator and educator
- "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 11, 2017.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved September 1, 2019.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "Birchard L. Wampler". Tbwilson.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-06. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
- "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.