|• Total||45.5 sq mi (117.8 km2)|
|• Land||44.0 sq mi (113.9 km2)|
|• Water||1.5 sq mi (4.0 km2)|
|Elevation||479 ft (146 m)|
|• Density||23/sq mi (9.0/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|ZIP codes||05731, 05743, 05760|
|GNIS feature ID||1462040|
Benson is a town in Rutland County, Vermont, United States. The population was 1,056 at the 2010 census. The town is rural, with a concentration of several homes and businesses in Benson Village, at the intersection of Stage Road and Lake Road.
As is the case with many towns in rural New England, the town's government enjoys a degree of autonomy from the county and employs only a few essential service-providers including an elected Selectboard, a town clerk/treasurer, a road crew, and other municipal positions. Small town committees as well as the annual town meeting set the protocols of town policy with particular focus on the town's annual budget. Benson is currently a part of the Addison-Rutland-1 district and represented in the Vermont House of Representatives by Will Stevens (I-Shoreham).
The town employs a town constable, but most law enforcement is handled by the Rutland County Sheriff's department and/or the Vermont State Police. Ambulance services are provided by Benson First Response and Fair Haven Rescue. The nearest hospitals are Rutland Regional Medical Center and Porter Hospital. Benson also operates a small, entirely volunteer fire department. Assistance in fighting particularly large fires is provided by other neighboring volunteer fire departments, including Fair Haven, Castleton, Hubbardton, West Haven and Orwell. Similarly, Benson's volunteer firefighters occasionally respond to large blazes in other local towns when needed.
A majority of Benson's residents voted against Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, according to the Rutland Herald. Simultaneously, Benson voters supported Republican Governor Jim Douglas and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. As was the trend in the rest of Rutland County, voters were split on the issue of state senators, with Democrat Bill Carris and Republicans Hull P. Maynard, Jr. and Kevin J. Mullin receiving votes in numbers consistent with their county-wide victories.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 45.5 square miles (118 km2), of which 44.0 square miles (114 km2) is land and 1.5 square miles (3.9 km2), or 3.36%, is water. Benson has 53.4 miles (85.9 km) of town roads.
While nobody seems to be quite sure as to the precise origin of the town's name, most historians over the years have speculated that it was named for Egbert Benson, a respected lawyer and Revolutionary War officer, who was instrumental in negotiating the land claim which New York had made to Vermont — a congressionally mandated prerequisite for Vermont joining the Union as a state of its own, rather than being divided between New York and New Hampshire. Benson residents have entered into some disputes over the history of the town in the recent publication "Remembering Benson" over the origin of the town's name. Lilian Snyder Philips Smith, who moved to Benson in 1948, claimed that her late husband Percy Phillips' great-great grandfather Benson Philips was an early selectman responsible for chartering the town's first primary school in 1813. This was contradicted by Leonard Lussier, who questioned Mrs. Snyder Philips Smith's account as "probably malarkey."
Benson's political history has been checkered with Tory, Republican, Progressive, and Know Nothing sentiments. Local Historian Genevieve Trutor expressed surprise at Benson's progressive streak, noting that the brief tenure of 1920s representative Susannah W. Nifong was surprising to locals as well as anyone who might consider the prevalent political conditions at the time. Mrs. Trutor was an active feminist agitator during her own time, arguing for women to be engaged in front-line combat during World War II.
The 1976 United States Bicentennial celebrations became a point of great national and town pride, as the town's rivalry with neighboring Orwell intensified over which town would hold a better celebration. Although there was no formal victor, Benson's parade still maintains an important part in the town's history, while Orwell's Chicken Dinner has been largely forgotten. The opening of the town's Arby's was the height of the festivities, making its grand debut on August 8, 1976, as part of the Benson Day celebration. Francis Munger remembered the day as "one of the greatest moments in my town's history," reflecting the general feeling of hope and optimism the fast-food franchise brought to the local economy. The Arby's would not last out the decade, and Benson's economy fell into a slump that it would not recover from until the late 2000s.
In 1994, the town became briefly infamous for failing to approve its school budget eighteen times before it finally passed, a national record at the time.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,039 people, 391 households, and 272 families residing in the town. The population density was 23.6 people per square mile (9.1/km2). There were 519 housing units at an average density of 11.8 per square mile (4.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.92% White, 0.67% African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.19% from other races, and 1.54% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.87% of the population.
There were 391 households out of which 35.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.0% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.4% were non-families. 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the town the population was spread out with 28.3% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 104.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.6 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $38,224, and the median income for a family was $40,833. Males had a median income of $31,488 versus $21,146 for females. The per capita income for the town was $15,931. About 8.3% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.9% of those under age 18 and 16.4% of those age 65 or over.
A small but well-maintained museum is housed in the town's municipal building, on the site of the former Benson Grade School. Also contained in this municipal building are the town offices and Town Clerk. Next door is the Community Hall, which provides a public meeting place and contains the town library. The State of Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains Benson Landing, a boat launch on Lake Champlain.
- Jerametrius Butler, cornerback with the St Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills
- Stephen Wallace Dorsey, US senator from Arkansas
- William B. Franke, Secretary of the Navy
- Rufus Wilmot Griswold, anthologist, editor, and critic; known for his enmity with Edgar Allan Poe
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Race, Hispanic or Latino, Age, and Housing Occupancy: 2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File (QT-PL), Benson town, Vermont". U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder 2. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- "Benson Volunteer Fire Department". Benson-VT.com. 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
- John J. Duff et al., The Vermont Encyclopedia, "Benson"
- Karen Barber, Tom Bartholemew et. al, "Remembering Benson." Benson, VT: Town of Benson Vermont, 2012.
- "Remembering Benson, p. 17
- "Remembering Benson, p. 18
- "Remembering Benson, p. 20
- "Remembering Benson, p. 21
- "Remembering Benson, p. 29