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Benton Township

Benton Township municipal offices are located at 236 Shickshinny Road, Benton PA 17814; phone: 570-925-6166.

Beginnings [1]

Benton Township, established in 1850, was named in honor of Thomas H. Benton, then at the height of his political power. Benton Township has always been a farming district, although at first the dense forests caused the building of many sawmills to utilize the abundance of timber.

The most interesting item regarding the lands in Benton Township concerns the establishment here in 1769 of one of the famous "Manors" of the Penn family.

These divisions of land were set apart for the exclusive use of the Penns themselves, and in many instances were the last of the lands in the Commonwealth to be disposed of. The Manors here were two tracts of 530 acres each, and were "situate on a large branch of Fishing Creek, eight or ten miles above the end of Fishing Creek Mountain," that is, about two miles north of the present town of Benton. In the original survey the name of "Putney Common" was applied to those lands.

The first recorded settler in Benton Township was Benjamin Coleman, who bought land from Daniel McHenry and founded what was later the Laubach farm. Jonathan Colley was another settler who came to this section prior to 1797. The house in which he lived was built near the Swartwout mill, and the orchard he planted is still to be seen at that point. James Peterman and Jesse Pennington also came about the same time. The latter built the first sawmill in Benton Township, on Upper Fishing Creek. A Mr. Robbins built the Swartwout mill before 1850. It was later operated by J. Swartwout and Bent Cole. Isaiah Cole built the mill on the creek a short distance above Benton Borough about 1806. A cloudburst in 1848 destroyed both this and the Swartwout mill. The Thomas mill on West Creek, built in 1865, was then operated by N.B. Cole.

Others of the first settlers were Joshua Brink, Robert and John Moore, William Eager, Samuel Rogers, John Keeler, Daniel Whiteman, Peter Robinson, Jonathan Hartzell and Daniel Jackson. The house of the latter for some years after 1833 was all that existed of the village of Benton. After the settlement of Sugarloaf and the growth of the second generation of the families, the McHenrys, Hesses, Laubachs and others of that township moved into and helped to populate Benton Township. Later, many of their descendants were still living on the old farms.

Early in the history of Benton Township the tiny hamlet of homes located within what is now the Benton Borough limits was destined through its geographical position to be its principal settlement. During the last year of the eighteenth century two families had penetrated up the valley of Fishing Creek and had chosen sites in the vicinity. In the first sixty years of the nineteenth century the growth of the community was hardly perceptible to the passing generations. By 1868 the settlement had grown into a considerable village. Some fifty houses clustered around a tavern, a church, a schoolhouse and a sawmill. The post office had been established in 1852, and Daniel Hartman, who had started the first store, was appointed postmaster.

From 1868 to 1886 Benton grew slowly. The number of dwellings increased to sixty or more, two churches ministered to the religious needs of the community, entertainment and accommodations for the wayfarer were furnished by two hotels, and several stores supplied the requirements of residents. The "Exchange Hotel," which was destroyed in the great fire of 1910, was built by Hiram Hess in 1872 and opened to the public early in the following year, and for a long time was the most important hostelry in upper Columbia County and adjacent territory. The last owner of this hotel was Daniel J. Donavan, who remodeled the structure and entered upon a career of prosperity which was cut short by the fire. Since that event the hotel has never been rebuilt.

Benton's second hotel, the "McHenry House," was erected in 1886 by James Boyd McHenry, much of the planning of its interior being done by his wife, a lovely and estimable woman. This hotel passed unscathed through the fires of later years, and later operated by F.V. Zwilling, who catered to a large trade from all parts of this and surrounding counties.

The old "Travelers Inn" stood on the west side of Main Street some distance above the other hotels, and was in its day a famous meeting place for the residents of this section.

  1. Historical and Biographical Annals of Columbia and Montour Counties Pennsylvania: Volume I, 1915, J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago
**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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