The City of Benson, county seat for Swift County, is located in West-Central Minnesota with a population of 3,240. Benson is approximately 130 miles west of Minneapolis/St Paul metropolitan area, 30 miles west of Willmar, and 22 miles east of Morris. Highways 12, 29, and 9 all travel through Benson. It is a great place to live, work and raise a family! Come visit for a weekend or a week. You may decide to stay for the rest of your life!
This region was the disputed land of the Chippewa and Sioux Indians. Raiding parties of each tribe made life quite perilous for any person. The first white man to travel across the future Benson area was Gideon S. Pond, an Indian Missionary who accompanied an Indian hunting party up the Chippewa River in order to study their habits and customs. However, it was not until after the Great Sioux Uprising that western Minnesota was made safe for white settlement. The first white settler in the Benson area is thought to be Ole Corneiliusen, a Norwegian who arrived in 1866. By this time the railroad had been extended from Minneapolis to Delano. This resulted in more rapid settlement in western Minnesota.
Early development of Benson and the rest of Swift County was strongly related to the railroad. A.W. Lathrop and W.V. Lathrop opened the first general store in Benson in 1869 in anticipation of the arrival of the construction of trackage through the area. The railroad continue laying tracks in the westward direction and by 1870 they had reached the site that they had determined to be a trading center named "Benson" in memory of a prominent politican from Anoka.
After the tracks reached Benson, no additional tracks were laid for over a year. As end of the tracks, Benson became a lively trading center. It was the exchange point to the Red River Ox Carts. These two-wheeled carts were built entirely of wood and raw hide and pulled by a single ox. They usually traveled in a train and the squeak of their unoiled wheels could be heard for miles. The Red River Ox Carts carried goods from Benson to about 15 miles downstream from the present-day city of Wahpeton, North Dakota. During this time Benson served as a market for the territory 100 miles to the north, south, and west. Prices were high at this time with a barrel of pork costing $40.00, 100 pounds of flour for $5.00, very poor butter was $0.50 a pound, eggs were a luxury, and potatoes were very scarce.
Within five years the population of Benson had grown to 300 with four general stores, two drug stores, two machinery houses, three hotels, one bank, and two saloons. In one of the general stores, A.N. Johnson & Co., the sales ran up to $60,000 in the last eight months of 1875. It was distinctly a boom period.