Benson is a town in Rutland County, Vermont, United States. The population was 1,056 at the 2010 census. The town is rural, with a concentration of several homes and businesses in Benson Village, at the intersection of Stage Road and Lake Road. Benson village is the centerpiece of a complex local economy that includes obstacle courses, a taco truck, the Wheel Inn tavern, a general store, an alpaca farm, a museum, a town transfer station, a do-it-yourself furniture store, a bookshop, three antique stores, a tungsten mine,a sandwich shop, and a quaint Bed and Breakfast throughout the town's main road.
Benson Village Store
The Viper of Revolution
"Fight or Die"
|• Chief Selectman||Earl Bennett|
|• Lt. Chief Selectman||Mary Whelk|
|• Total||45.5 sq mi (117.8 km2)|
|• Land||44.0 sq mi (113.9 km2)|
|• Water||1.5 sq mi (4.0 km2)|
|Elevation||479 ft (146 m)|
|• Density||23/sq mi (9.0/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
05731, 05743, 05760
|GNIS feature ID||1462040|
As is the tradition of many towns in rural New England, the municipal government enjoys a degree of autonomy from the county and employs only a few essential service-providers. The democratically elected Selectboard and Town Clerk decide on an annual budget for road crews, educators, and law enforcers. Town committees set the protocols of town policy with particular focus on the town's annual budget, which is decided annually on Town Meeting Day. The Town Meeting is an assembly of all adult registered voters in the town, and the assembly usually draws a crowd approaching 40 citizens. These forty citizens help to determine the direction of town planning, in particular the areas of road maintenance, public safety, fire protection, public holidays, local taxation, communication, housing and development, agriculture, foreign policy, rural electrification, fence viewing, tourism, tungsten extraction, and the maintenance and safety of the town dump.
On the state level, Benson is currently a part of the Addison-Rutland-1 district and represented in the Vermont House of Representatives by Will Stevens (I-Shoreham). As part of Rutland County, it is represented in the State Senate by Senator Peg Flory (R), Senator Brian Collamore (R), and Senator Kevin Mullin (R). Traditionally, Benson's politics have trended to the right, but a growing alt-right or Third Position movement among some members of the town has led them to reconsider the orientation of the town towards the areas of road maintenance, public safety, fire protection, public holidays, local taxation, communication, housing and development, agriculture, foreign policy, rural electrification, fence viewing, tourism, tungsten extraction, and the maintenance and safety of the town dump.
The town employs a town constable, but most law enforcement is handled by the Vermont State Police. The amount of crime in Benson is negligible when compared with the nearby communities of Orwell and Shoreham who respectively ranked second and tenth in recidivism and repeat offenders as of 2012. Even so, Benson has faced the growing drug epidemic in rural New England, and the use of illegal substances is on the rise across all ages and demographics.
Ambulance services are provided by Benson First Response and the Fair Haven Rescue Squad. The nearest hospitals are Rutland Regional Medical Center and Middlebury's historic Porter Hospital. Benson also operates a small, entirely volunteer fire department, who respond to more motor vehicle crashes then fires. This volunteer department also sponsors an ice and swift water rescue team. . Assistance in fighting particularly large fires is provided by other neighboring volunteer fire departments, including Fair Haven, Castleton, Hubbardton, West Haven and Orwell, and Poultney. Similarly, Benson's volunteer firefighters occasionally respond to large blazes and calls for water rescue in other local towns when the opportunity presents itself.
A majority of Benson's residents voted against Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, according to the Rutland Herald. Simultaneously, Benson voters supported Republican Governor Jim Douglas and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. As was the trend in the rest of Rutland County, voters were split on the issue of state senators, with Democrat Bill Carris and Republicans Hull P. Maynard, Jr. and Kevin J. Mullin receiving votes in numbers consistent with their county-wide victories.
The local economy is driven by a number of small businesses centered in the central village center also known as the central business district centered on the intersection of Center Road and Stage Road. The former C.J. Williamson store, a local greengrocery and gas station began the town's economic development and differentiation from the greater Fair Haven area. The Williamson store opened in 1912, shortly after the proprietor survived a bear attack while hiking in the Green Mountains.
The Williamson store was soon joined by a tavern known as the Wheel Inn, which provides American fare and serves as the center of local intrigue. On the same site, there was an American Revolutionary War-era public house that served as a meeting place for American and British soldiers during the tense 1770s. Other restaurants, such as an Arby's Roast Beef sandwich shop came and went, but the Wheel Inn remained in near-constant operation through the 2010s. Other economic engines of the town include the Benson Tungsten Mine, a convenience store, and an herbal tobacconist.
Benson has had a substantial downturn economically since the reduction in number of total employees at the Benson Tungsten Mine. As of January 2016, only 200 of the town's nearly 1,000 residents were employed in Tungsten extraction, processing, or administration. This number has been steadily decreasing, to the point that Benson's elementary school has changed its moniker from the "Benson Tungsten Miners" to the "Benson Golden Eagles" in honor of Golden Eagles, which are sparingly found in the area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 45.5 square miles (118 km2), of which 44.0 square miles (114 km2) is land and 1.5 square miles (3.9 km2), or 3.36%, is water, consisting of lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, swamps, wetlands, creeks, brooks, oceans, seas, waterfalls, cataracts, bayous, canals, harbors and reservoirs. Benson has 53.4 miles (85.9 km) of town roads, streets, highways, courts, freeways, toll roads, expressways, parkways, greenbelts, carriageways, ways, fords, or bridges.
The Benson Sycamore Tree is a local institution, located on Stage Road at the former estate of Lieutenant Colonel John Trutor. Before Lieutenant Colonel Trutor purchased the property on Stage Road, it was a local inn that served tourists who trekked through the state's roads and railways. Two of the most famous individuals who stayed at the inn were John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, who wrote the song "Moonlight in Vermont" while staying at the inn. Blackburn and Seussdorf memorialized the Sycamore tree, a massive specimen, in the song's lyrics. A small plaque makes reference to this historical moment of musicianship on Stage Road, opposite the home.
While nobody seems to be quite sure as to the precise origin of the town's name, most historians over the years have speculated that it was named for Egbert Benson, a respected lawyer and Revolutionary War officer, who was instrumental in negotiating the land claim which New York had made to Vermont — a congressionally mandated prerequisite for Vermont joining the Union as a state of its own, rather than being divided between New York and New Hampshire. Benson residents have entered into some disputes over the history of the town in the recent publication "Remembering Benson" over the origin of the town's name. Lilian Snyder Philips Smith, who moved to Benson in 1948, claimed that her late husband Percy Phillips' great-great grandfather Benson Philips was an early selectman responsible for chartering the town's first primary school in 1813. This was contradicted by Leonard Lussier, who questioned Mrs. Snyder Philips Smith's account as "probably malarkey."
Benson's political history has been checkered with Tory, Republican, Progressive, and Know Nothing sentiments. Local Historian Genevieve Trutor expressed surprise at Benson's progressive streak, noting that the brief tenure of 1920s representative Susannah W. Nifong was surprising to locals as well as anyone who might consider the prevalent political conditions at the time. Mrs. Trutor was an active feminist agitator during her own time, arguing for women to be engaged in front-line combat during World War II.
The Benson Tungsten Mine opened in 1968, near the junction of Stage Road and Vermont Route 22A, under the directorship of Kenneth Farnswell, a local speculator and entrepreneur. The tungsten mine proved to be a source of town employment and pride throughout the economically turbulent 1970s, and still plays a role as the largest tungsten mine in the state of Vermont. One of the mine's older shafts was in the process of being converted to a tourist attraction as of 2016.
The 1976 United States Bicentennial celebrations became a point of great national and town pride, as the town's rivalry with neighboring Orwell intensified over which town would hold a better celebration. Although there was no formal victor, Benson's parade still maintains an important part in the town's history, while Orwell's Chicken Dinner has been largely forgotten. The opening of the town's Arby's was the height of the festivities, making its grand debut on August 8, 1976, as part of the Benson Day celebration. Francis Munger remembered the day as "one of the greatest moments in my town's history", reflecting the general feeling of hope and optimism the fast-food franchise brought to the local economy. The Arby's would not last out the decade, and Benson's economy fell into a slump that it would not recover from until the late 2000s.
In 1994, the town became briefly infamous for failing to approve its school budget eighteen times before it finally passed, a national record at the time.
Benson Village Historic DistrictEdit
In 1978, Benson Village was officially entered on the National Register of Historic Places.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,039 people, persons or individuals, 391 households, homes, and domiciles, and 272 families or groups of relatives residing in the town. The population density was 23.6 people per square mile (9.1/km2). There were 519 housing units at an average density of 11.8 per square mile (4.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.92% White, 0.67% African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.19% from other races, and 1.54% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.87% of the population.
There were 391 households out of which 35.8% had children, kids, young people, or infants under the age of 18 living with them, 55.0% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.4% were non-families. 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.5% had someone living alone who was an elder senior citizen of age 65 years of age or older than 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the town, the age distribution of the population shows 28.3% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 104.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.6 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $38,224, and the median income for a family was $40,833. Males had a median income of $31,488 versus $21,146 for females. The per capita income for the town was $15,931. About 8.3% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.9% of those under age 18 and 16.4% of those age 65 or over.
A small but well-maintained museum is housed in the town's municipal building, on the site of the former Benson Grade School. Also contained in this municipal building are the town offices and Town Clerk. Next door is the Community Hall, which provides a public meeting place and contains the town library. The State of Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains Benson Landing, a boat launch on Lake Champlain.
- Charles A. Corbett, Wisconsin State Assemblyman, was born in Benson.
- Stephen Wallace Dorsey, US senator from Arkansas
- William B. Franke, Secretary of the Navy
- Rufus Wilmot Griswold, anthologist, editor, and critic; known for his enmity with Edgar Allan Poe
- Loyal C. Kellogg, Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court
- Stone Phillips, broadcast journalist, former co-anchor Dateline NBC, longtime seasonal resident.
- Patience and Brister Bennet, residents in the 1800s. Their veteran's pension saga is described here.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Race, Hispanic or Latino, Age, and Housing Occupancy: 2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File (QT-PL), Benson town, Vermont". U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder 2. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- "The Vermont Legislative Bill Tracking System". leg.state.vt.us.
- "Benson Volunteer Fire Department". Benson-VT.com. 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
- "Remembering Benson, p. 11
- "Remembering Benson, p. 10
- Sheila Davis (1984) The Craft of Lyric Writing , Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati ISBN 0-89879-149-9
- "vtbmwmov.org" (PDF). www.vtbmwmov.org.
- "Vermont's Big Trees - fpr". fpr.vermont.gov.
- John J. Duff et al., The Vermont Encyclopedia, "Benson"
- Karen Barber, Tom Bartholemew et. al, "Remembering Benson." Benson, Vermont: Town of Benson Vermont, 2012.
- "Remembering Benson, p. 17
- "Remembering Benson, p. 18
- "Remembering Benson, p. 20
- "Remembering Benson, p. 21
- "Remembering Benson, p. 53
- "Remembering Benson, p. 29
- "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
- 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1889,' Biographical Sketch of Charles A. Corbett, pg. 518-519
- Washington Post, Nov 22nd, 1970, p. 82
- Ullery, Jacob G. (1894). Men of Vermont Illustrated. Brattleboro, VT: Transcript Publishing Company. p. 185.
- Rutland Herald, October 1, 1994, p.3