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Benson City

Swift County, Minnesota

Benson City Hall is located at 1410 Kansas Avenue, Benson, MN 56215.
Phone: 320‑843‑4775.

Benson was platted in 1870 when the railroad was extended to that point. The city was named for Ben. H. Benson, a Norwegian settler. A post office has been in operation at Benson since 1870. Benson was incorporated as a city in 1908.

Beginnings [2]

Prior to the mid 1800s, the area that we now know as Benson was part of what appeared to be an endless prairie. The Chippewa and Sioux were the primary residents in the area, but by the early 1860s, settlers from the east began living in the area.

In 1870, the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad Company prepared a plat for the City of Benson and they extended their railroad from Willmar to Benson. Because the railroad did not construct additional tracks for over a year, Benson was, for a while, the "end of the line." As such it became a regional center serving the needs of people within a 100-mile area to the north, west, and south. It also became a starting point for the Red River cart trails that carried goods and people farther west. By 1875, Benson had a population of 300 people and it had four general stores, two drug stores, two machinery houses, three hotels, one bank, and two saloons.

The railroad's original plat for the city included a town square and commercial development just north of the railroad track at the present day site of the Swift County Courthouse. But because of the importance of the railroad, most commercial development occurred along both sides of the railroad track rather than around the platted town square. In essence, the 250 foot-wide railroad right of way evolved into Benson's town square with the railroad taking center stage.

Over the years, trucks and automobiles became an important mode of transportation. As a result, commercia~ and industrial uses began to develop along the highway system - particularly just east of the city on Highway 12. Many of the industrial and commercial uses that developed related to the agricultural base of the area.

Although Benson has grown and changed since the 1870s, it has also remained the same in many ways. Benson's economy is still strongly tied to agriculture. And the railroad and highway system continue to have a strong presence in the community. But perhaps most important, Benson continues to be a regional center that provides goods and services to the surrounding area.

  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benson,_Minnesota, accessed May, 2006
  2. City of Benson, Minnesota, City of Benson Comprehensive Plan 2000: A Guide to Benson's Future, www.bensonmn.org, accessed May, 2016.