Benton, Kentucky
Benton in 1939
Benton in 1939
Location of Benton in Marshall County, Kentucky.
Location of Benton in Marshall County, Kentucky.
Coordinates: 36°51′19″N 88°21′15″W / 36.85528°N 88.35417°W / 36.85528; -88.35417Coordinates: 36°51′19″N 88°21′15″W / 36.85528°N 88.35417°W / 36.85528; -88.35417
CountryUnited States
 • Total5.10 sq mi (13.20 km2)
 • Land5.04 sq mi (13.05 km2)
 • Water0.06 sq mi (0.15 km2)
Elevation423 ft (129 m)
 • Total4,756
 • Density944.03/sq mi (364.52/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area codes270 & 364
FIPS code21-05824
GNIS feature ID2403856[2]

Benton is a home rule-class city in Marshall County, Kentucky, United States. The current mayor of this city is Rita Dotson.[citation needed] The population was 4,756 at the 2020 census.[3] It is the county seat of Marshall County.[4]


Benton was founded in 1842 by John Bearden and Francis H. Clayton. The town was named for Thomas Hart Benton, a senator from Missouri.[5] Benton was then incorporated in 1845. [6]

In 1908, Benton drove its African American residents out of town, becoming a sundown town along with the rest of Marshall County.[7]

On January 23, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Marshall County High School, near Benton, resulting in 19 injuries and 2 fatalities.[8][9]

On December 10, 2021, the town was hit by the 2021 Western Kentucky Tornado.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.9 square miles (10 km2), all land. Benton lies in the center of the county encompassing the hills just south and west of Clarks River. Benton is the county seat of Marshall county, in the far western region of west Kentucky known as the Jackson purchase.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[10]

As of the 2010 Census,[11] there were 4,349 people, 1,809 households, and 1,154 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,007.4 inhabitants per square mile (389.0/km2). There were 2,032 housing units at an average density of 470.7 per square mile (181.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.4% White (96.4% non-Hispanic), 0.4% African American, 0.1% Native American and Alaska Native, 0.6% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 0.9% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 1.8% of the population.

There were 1,809 households, out of which 27.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.2% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.84.

The age distribution was 21.5% under 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 23.4% from 45 to 64, and 21.4% who were 65 or older. The median age was 40.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.7 males.

Based on 2008–2012 estimates from the American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the city was $42,342, and the median income for a family was $62,500. Among full-time workers, males had a median income of $47,895 versus $29,272 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,959. About 4.5% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.3% of those under age 18 and 10.7% of those age 65 or over.


Shape note singers gather annually at Benton on the fourth Sunday in May to sing from a tunebook called The Southern Harmony. This event, organized in 1884 and called The Big Singing or Big Singing Day, is the oldest continuous Southern Harmony singing in the United States.[12]

Tater Day

Tater Day was started in 1843 as a celebration of spring, and a time when all of the townsfolk would get together and trade in sweet potato slips, used to grow the plants.[13] It is also the oldest continuous trade day in the United States, in which goods such as guns, 'coon hounds, tobacco, or livestock are swapped or sold.[14][15] Tater Day brings to town carnival rides, games, a market, a potato eating contest, mule pulls, and a "biggest potato" contest, which attracts large potatoes from across the county. The biggest part of the festival is the parade, which completes one circuit around the town. It includes political floats, Marshall County High School marching band, horses and buggies, clowns, vintage cars, horses, Miss Tater Day, and other things for which Marshall County is known. There is also Junior Miss Tater Day for little girls ages 5 to 12, and Little Mister, Tiny Miss, and Baby Miss Tater day pageants and floats for the younger kids. There is also an annual Tater day derby that is hosted at the dirt track at the Benton City Park.


Benton is part of the Marshall County School District. There are 11 schools in the district, not including the technical school that is incorporated with Marshall County High School, the district's only secondary educational institution. For the 2011 to 2012 school year, there were approximately 4,838 students enrolled in the district.[16]

Benton has a lending library, a branch of the Marshall County Public Library.[17]


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Benton, Kentucky
  3. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  5. ^ Collins, Lewis (1877). History of Kentucky. p. 543. ISBN 9780722249208.
  6. ^ "Welcome to Benton, KY - City of Benton".
  7. ^ "Three Families Last to Leave Benton Arrived Here Last Night; Few Colored Folks Left in Marshall County—How Calvert City Acted Years Ago". The Paducah Evening Sun. Paducah, Kentucky. March 27, 1908. p. 6 – via Chronicling America. The women folk of the last three negro families remaining in Benton arrived in Paducah last night to join the men and heads of the families who have been here several days seeking homes. The refugees say that Sallie Pryor and her family, the woman on whose doors the notice for all negroes to leave Benton, comprise the only colored family now in Benton and that she says she intends to stay no matter what the consequences. The exodus of the negroes from Benton and Birmingham takes about all the negroes out of Marshall county, as there have been no refugees in certain sections of the county for many years, having been driven out on other occasions.
  8. ^ Joyce, Kathleen (23 January 2018). "Kentucky school shooting leaves at least one dead and multiple wounded, officials say". Fox News. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Two dead, suspect in custody after shooting at Kentucky high school". NBC News.
  10. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  11. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
  12. ^ "As early as 1933 G. P. Jackson noted that Benton held the only regular Southern Harmony singing in existence." Loftis, Deborah C. (1990). "Southern Harmony Singing: A Tradition of ShapeNote Practice". Performance Practice Review. 3 (2): 165–169. doi:10.5642/perfpr.199003.02.5. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  13. ^ [1] Fuller, Raymond G., "Recreation and child welfare," National Child Labor Committee, New York, 1919 Pamphlet 295, page 45. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  14. ^ [2] Trawicky, Bernard, and Gregory, Ruth Wilhelme "Anniversaries and holidays" Fifth edition, Chicago : American Library Association, 2000. ISBN 978-0-8389-0695-8 . Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  15. ^ [3]"Kentuckians turn out for Tater Day," Daytona Beach MorningJournal, April 5, 1960 (AP wire service story). Retrieved March 22, 2010
  16. ^ "Marshall County School District". Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  17. ^ "Kentucky Public Library Directory". Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Archived from the original on 11 January 2019. Retrieved 7 June 2019.