Franklin County Courthouse
Location of Benton in Franklin County, Illinois.
Location of Benton in Franklin County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 38°0′15″N 88°54′58″W / 38.00417°N 88.91611°W / 38.00417; -88.91611
CountryUnited States
Named forThomas Hart Benton
 • TypeMayor-council government
 • MayorLee Messersmith (Ind.)
 • Total5.66 sq mi (14.66 km2)
 • Land5.48 sq mi (14.19 km2)
 • Water0.18 sq mi (0.46 km2)
Elevation471 ft (144 m)
 • Total6,709
 • Density1,224.28/sq mi (472.712/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code
Area code618
FIPS code17-05300
GNIS feature ID404187[2]
Public TransitSouth Central Transit

Benton is a city in and the county seat of Franklin County, Illinois. The population was 6,709 at the 2020 census.[3] In 1839, Franklin County was split roughly in half and the county seat was permanently fixed "at a hill at the south end of Rowling's Prairie", the site of the future city of Benton. Benton's namesake is Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. The village of Benton was organized in 1841 on 20 acres (8.1 ha) of property donated by John Ewing and Walter S. Akin. In 1902, the village became a city, and incorporated under the mayor/commissioner form of government.[4]

The Franklin County Courthouse sat in the center of the Public Square. It was the fourth courthouse that served the people of Franklin County. The Italianate building was constructed in 1874–75 for $27,500. Much of Benton's growth in the past was due to an abundance of high sulfur coal, multiple railroads that pass through the town, fertile soil, and its industry.[4]


On April 19, 1928, Benton was the site of the next-to-last public hanging in Illinois, when local gangster Charles Birger was executed on the gallows next to the county jail for the December 12, 1926 murder of Joe Adams, mayor of nearby West City. A replica of the gallows and hangman's noose were built by the late retired Old Ben Coal miner, businessman & carpenter, Birchard L. Wampler [5] (March 9, 1938 – June 29, 2010) and his son Birchard Neil Wampler. They remain standing today next to the old Franklin County Jail turned Museum.

In September 1963, George Harrison of The Beatles visited Benton while on vacation, the first time any member of the group visited American soil. He stayed at the home of his sister, Louise, at 113 McCann Street. The bungalow used to be the Hard Day's Nite Bed and Breakfast. During his trip he traveled from Benton to Fenton's Music Store in Mt. Vernon, IL to purchase a Rickenbacker 425 that later sold at auction for $657k. Harrison also performed with a band called "The Four Vests" at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Eldorado, Illinois. In an interview, Harrison's sister Louise said "his real first visit to America was when he came to the Midwest in September 1963 and he met these wonderful, warm, friendly, real warm Midwesterners ... school teachers, retired miners and all kinds of just wonderful people... and a little band. He had a fantastic time. He thought they were just wonderful people."[6]

In April 1995, a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rally was held outside the Franklin County Courthouse in Benton that drew a crowd of about 400, though not all those in attendance were in support of the KKK. Two members of the KKK spoke negatively of Jews, Blacks, Gays, liberal politicians, and reporters. About 40 police officers were present for the event, and some were wearing riot gear.[7]

In August 2017, a 16-foot-tall (4.9 m) commemorative mural of George Harrison was created and donated by California artist John Cerney. Cerney caught word of Harrison's memorable visit to the town on a Sirius radio program, which inspired Cerney's creation. The "highway art" can be found facing southbound traffic along Interstate 57. The project was completed just in time for tourists to admire it as they traveled through the city for the total solar eclipse of 2017.[citation needed]

In June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, a Black Lives Matter protest was held at the Franklin County Courthouse in Benton. At the time of the protest, the courthouse was being prepared for demolition. The protest attracted a crowd of about 60 people. The protest came 25 years after the KKK rally (mentioned above) was held in the same spot.[8]


Land and water area

According to the 2010 census, Benton has a total area of 5.66 square miles (14.66 km2), of which 5.48 square miles (14.19 km2) (or 96.81%) is land and 0.18 square miles (0.47 km2) (or 3.18%) is water.[9]

Benton Public Library

Main article: Benton Public Library

Benton Public Library serves all residents of Benton High School District.

The library has a program in which people can pay for brick to be engraved and used on its property, and the funds made go to the library.[10]

The library contains about 48,000 materials, including Books, Audio books, Magazines, Large Print Materials, and Music CDs. Access to computers is also available at the library.[11]

Benton Public Park

The Benton Public Park has a few playgrounds, and picnic areas, as well as tennis courts, basketball courts, and ball fields. The Public Park also has a paved walking path that loops around the ball fields. The park is located near a railroad, and a red caboose sits at the entrance of the park. [12]



Benton and surrounding areas are served by two weekly local newspapers, The Benton News and The Benton Gazette. Other newspapers such as The Southern Illinoisan serve Benton and much wider areas surrounding it.

Television news

Benton does not have any news channels broadcast from the city. Many news channels still do serve the Benton, Illinois area. WSIL (channel 3), KFVS (channel 12), and Fox 23 (channel 23) are among the most popular channels that provide some local news for Benton.[13]

Internet access

Benton has multiple internet service providers that provide broadband internet. There are nine total internet service providers available for residential usage. Six of the internet service providers can offer broadband speeds (download of 25 Mbit/s). Three offer speeds that higher than 100 Mbit/s. The fastest internet service available is offered by NewWave at top speeds of 200Mbit/s. Between all service providers with Broadband speeds they offer: DSL, cable, fixed wireless, and satellite internet.[14]

Luann & Sonja: Welcome to Crappie Lake

Benton was the location of the 2023 season of Bravo's Luann & Sonja: Welcome to Crappie Lake, in which Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan spend five weeks in Benton, sprucing up the town.[15]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[16]

As of the 2020 census[17] there were 6,709 people, 2,835 households, and 1,575 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,185.55 inhabitants per square mile (457.74/km2). There were 3,360 housing units at an average density of 593.74 per square mile (229.24/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.65% White, 0.52% African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.78% from other races, and 5.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.59% of the population.

There were 2,835 households, out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.79% were married couples living together, 11.68% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.44% were non-families. 37.46% of all households were made up of individuals, and 25.08% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.10 and the average family size was 2.34.

The city's age distribution consisted of 22.2% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $44,795, and the median income for a family was $57,305. Males had a median income of $40,025 versus $32,923 for females. The per capita income for the city was $27,932. About 10.3% of families and 14.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.4% of those under age 18 and 14.5% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Benton, Illinois
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Benton History | Welcome to the City of Benton". Retrieved May 29, 2023.
  5. ^ "Birchard L. Wampler". Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  6. ^ "Gary James' Interview with Louise Harrison part one".
  7. ^ "Nineteen Klan Members Stage Rally, Attract Crowd of 400". AP NEWS. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  8. ^ Parker, Molly. "In wake of Floyd death, rural, white Southern Illinois towns are reckoning with racist past". The Southern. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  9. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  10. ^ "DONATE TO THE LIBRARY | Benton Public Library". Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  11. ^ "ABOUT US | Benton Public Library". Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  12. ^ IL 62812, 600 South DuQuoin St Benton. "Benton Community Park". Enjoy Illinois. Retrieved July 18, 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "Benton IL TV Stations and Channel Guide - ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX Digital". Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  14. ^ "Top 17 Internet Providers in Benton, IL". Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  15. ^ Crist, Allison (May 22, 2023). "Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan Are Back! Get a First Look at Luann and Sonja: Welcome to Crappie Lake". Bravo. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
  16. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  17. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved June 28, 2022.