Benton House Hotel
The Benton Evening News dated 21 February 1938, and includes a picture of a large white frame building with a porch
that wraps around the front and side of the building; there is a balcony atop the entire porch. The following story
concerning the old Benton House, was prepared by Mrs. Frederick H Wykes, granddaughter of the late John C Swofford,
who owned the hotel.
We native Bentonites take great pride in our ancestry, some people think it unwise, others think it vanity - but
they usually have no ancestors of whom to be proud. The person who does not know who his grandparents were naturally
would not care who they were. But we native Bentonites have pride of ancestry because we know both who and what.
As a writer once said, "There are many excellent persons who can go no farther back than papa and mama, who
doubtless eat and drink and sleep as well and love as happily as if they could trace an unbroken lineage back to
Nevertheless, we native Bentonites are proud of our ancestry and expect to remain so to the end, for we believe
that the simple story of the struggles , the sacrifices and the triumphs of the men and women - our foreparents
- (although we shall never know that story in all its fullness and completeness) is the richest heritage which
shall ever come into our possession. If we can pass this story along to the young people of their struggles, their
love for country and home we may not fear for the future of our homes not for the destiny of these United States.
Nowhere in Benton was the gracious hospitality of the south inherent in the personalities of the first settlers
(who mostly came from the south) evidenced more than by the landlords and their families of "The Benton House",
where the Swofford building now stands, to the guests who came for a meal, for a day, and some, who made it their
In March, 1844, the commissioners of the county, Carter GREENWOOD, William EUBANKS and Elijah TAYLOR, sold this
town lot at auction to Abraham REA for the sum of $255 (on which he built a round log house, 14 by 16 feet, for
a grocery store). It bringing the highest bid of any of the townsite lots, which were given by W S AKIN and Elijah
T WEBB, because of the fine deep well of water on it. Within three months the lot was sold to William ROGERS, who
within six months sold it to James ROGERS and from all data available James ROGERS built "The Benton House"
in 1845, as it appears in the picture.
The widow of James ROGERS sold the hotel to B W MARTIN on February 14, 1857, and from this date we have been given
many interesting items by the descendants of the owners and landlords of this once famous house. Mrs. W F DILLON,
granddaughter of Mr. MARTIN, tells of the visit of Stephen A DOUGLAS to Benton, who was a guest during MARTIN'S
tenancy. In November 1858, B W MARTIN transferred the property to Isaac WARD for consideration of $2450, who, with
his family lived in the hotel until Mrs. Sarah HOGE purchased it in June 1867, for $3000. This deed having a $3
Civil War revenue stamp. Her husband, Marion HOGE, served as sheriff of the county and while living there, their
daughter, Lavicia Jane, was married to one of Benton's former mayors, Sidney B ESPY, grandparents of Judge S M
WARD, an attorney of this city.
You note in this instance the Benton House was managed by a landlady instead of a landlord. Mrs. HOGE held the
property until November 1868, and then sold it at a profit of $1500 to Lewis H BRITTON, the deed also bearing a
war stamp of $4.50. In February 1869, Lewis H BRITTON and his brother, Joshua BRITTON, made a deed to William MOONEYHAM
for $4000, including hotel and lots on East Main Street now known as the Pemberton building. These were occupied
by a large livery barn, which was a very necessary adjunct to a hotel business. The travel was by horseback and
horse drawn vehicles and there had to be a place to feed and rest the teams as well as the traveler.
Major MOONEYHAM and his wife, Sally Ann, made this their home for nine years, during which time many noted guests,
including John A LOGAN and wife were entertained. The Major had seven daughters, five of whom were married in the
hotel parlor. They were: Sarah Jane to J G BUCHANAN: Louise Ellender to J W TAYLOR; Lucretia Margaret to S FITZGERRELL:
Malinda Caroline to Lawrence JONES; and Harriet Emaline to John C SWOFFORD. The eldest daughter, Rebecca Angeline,
was married to William R WEBB prior to their removal to the hotel. Two daughters, Almira FITZGERREL and Mrs. SWOFFORD,
are still living.
Major MOONEYHAM will be remembered by many as Benton's first centenarian, his 100th natal day being observed December
4, 1919. He was elected Captain of the Franklin County Militia in 1839, taking an oath to refrain from dueling
while serving as Captain. He also served two 2 year terms as sheriff of the county, collecting taxes and taking
them on horseback to Springfield.
In the phonograph are the Major, his wife and son, Thomas J MOONEYHAM, on the south upper porch, and daughter,
Almira, on front upper porch. Below is James BARR, at that time editor of the Benton Standard, Johnnie SPILLMAN,
and Emma MOONEYHAM, now Mrs. SWOFFORD.
In 1878, Dr. John S NORMAN, father of Mrs. L C PEMBERTON, bought the property and on June 27, 1879, sold it to
John C SWOFFORD. John C SWOFFORD was engaged in business with William WARD and Carroll MOORE and at the time of
his death was president of the Exchange Bank of WARD-MOORE and SWOFFORD. Following his death, management to the
hotel fell to his widow, Mrs. Emma SWOFFORD. In a few years, Mrs. SWOFFORD remodeled the building, removing the
south porch and roof which extended over the porches on the front replacing board walks with brick, removing banisters
on the lower porch, which section was reserved for ladies. Ladies in those days did not go into the men's office,
the smoke was too dense. A street light lantern on a post was put up at the corner of the square and East Main
Street, and the post holding aloft the sign "The Benton House" was taken down and with a new coat of
paint on the remodeled building, a new name, "The Arlington Hotel".
Some of the landlords that have been called to mind are John HILL, Tillman McCOLLUM, Malin C TINGLEY, great uncle
of Curtis E SMITH, Mr. GRADDY, and John B MOORE, SR, who was elected sheriff in 1888. While he looked after the
law and order of the county, his versatile helpmate efficiently took part of landlady.
In the days of the hotel, the meals were announced by the ringing of a bell at the front by a handyman. The parlor
was a common meeting ground for the swains and lassies on Sunday afternoons and the office, at all times, was for
the businessmen, the town philosophers, the Politicians, and the traveling men. There were no tele-phones, no radios,
and for many years no railroads nor hard roads. How welcome were transients, who brought not only to the landlord,
but also the townspeople, the news, and when court convened the whole countryside came to town and the hotel office
and the ladies' parlor was the common meeting ground.
In 1904 the hotel building was destroyed by fire and was replaced in 1905 by a brick business block..."
Submitted by: Sheila Cadwalader
History of Benton Library
The first Benton Library Association was formed by a group of private citizens on January 24, 1879. A private club,
association members met in each other's homes to exchange, read, and discuss books. The Association continued as
the only library until February 21, 1916, when Mrs. W. H. Hart, president of the Benton Woman's Club, Mrs. F. H.
Wykes, chairman of the Benton Women's Club's Library Committee, and Judge W. H. Hart presented a petition to the
City Council to establish a library and reading room in Benton. In May, 1916, the City of Benton passed Ordinance
No. 126 which established a Library for the residents of the City.
Almost a year later, the City Council named the first Library Board of Directors: Lucy A. Helm, Mary C. Stotlar,
Emma P. Browning, Moses Pulverman, Earl R. Hamilton, F. L. Skinner, E. B. Nolen, J.L. Ohle, and Carl Burkhart.
Progress was slow but finally on January 13, 1924, the Board voted to lease rooms 27, 28 and 29 of the Ward Building
located on the southeast corner of the Square. In the spring of that year, Miss Helen S. Dickson was employed as
the first librarian at a salary of $1,500 a year.
A permanent location for the Library was assured when on December 5, 1929, Andrew S. Cleveland donated his family
home and property to the Board, to be used solely as a public library.
The Cleveland home served as the Library until a disastrous fire destroyed it the night of January 9, 1955. Virtually
all the contents were destroyed. A temporary library was set up in the ground floor rooms of the Wood Building
on the Square.
The current library building was built by E. C. Fraily and Sons at a cost of $37,850 on the site of the Cleveland
home. On July 23, 1956, the new building was opened to the public and has been in constant use as the Benton Public
Library to the present.
The residents of the Benton Elementary School District Voted to establish the Benton Public Library District in
November, 1985. The change from a city library to a district library brought in additional funds for the library.
These funds enabled the library to expand their hours in order to meet the needs of the community.
The Library District currently serves the residents of Benton Grade School District #47 and Logan Precinct 3. A
branch library is located in the Logan Community Center and is open three days a week. The Benton Library is one
of only a handful of public libraries in this region open seven days a week. Many civic organizations and individual
citizens have generously supported the library over the years to make it one of the outstanding libraries in the
Submitted by: Sheila Cadwalader