Franklin County Courthouse
|Nickname: Stranger Country|
|Area||5.66 sq mi (15 km2)|
|- land||5.48 sq mi (14 km2)|
|- water||0.18 sq mi (0 km2)|
|Density||1,286.2 / sq mi (497 / km2)|
|- summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
Benton, the county seat of Franklin County, took its name from the prominent senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton. The village of Benton was organized in 1841 on 20 acres (81,000 m2) 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.
Franklin County was platted in 1818, the year Illinois became a state, at twice its current size. It included the territory that is now Williamson County. In 1839 the 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.
The Franklin County Courthouse sits in the center of the Public Square. It is the third courthouse that has served the people of Franklin County. The Italianate building was constructed in 1874-75 at a cost of $27,500.00
Much of Benton's growth in the past can be traced to the abundance of high sulfur coal, the presence of multiple railroads, rich soil and the industry of her people.
On April 19, 1928 Benton was the site of the last public hanging in Illinois, when local gangster Charles Birger was executed on the gallows next to the county jail December 12, 1926 for the murder of Joe Adams, mayor of nearby West City, Illinois. A replica of the gallows and hangman's noose were built by the late retired Old Ben Coal miner, businessman & carpenter, Birchard L. Wampler  (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. He stayed at the home of his sister, Louise, at 113 McCann Street. The bungalow is now the Hard Day's Nite Bed and Breakfast. 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."
According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 5.66 square miles (14.7 km2), of which 5.48 square miles (14.2 km2) (or 96.82%) is land and 0.18 square miles (0.47 km2) (or 3.18%) is water.
Benton Public Library
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,880 people, 2,938 households, and 1,824 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,286.2 people per square mile (496.5/km²). There were 3,270 housing units at an average density of 611.3 per square mile (236.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.72% White, 0.29% African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.06% from other races, and 0.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.51% of the population.
There were 2,938 households out of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.7% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 22.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 86.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,177, and the median income for a family was $35,339. Males had a median income of $27,323 versus $19,403 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,787. About 15.6% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.6% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over.
- Charlie Birger, bootlegger during prohibition, hanged on 19 April 1928 at the Franklin County Jail in Benton
- John Malkovich, actor
- Lin Bolen, former vice president of NBC
- Doug Collins, NBA coach, player, broadcaster, and Olympic basketball player
- Gary Forby, state senator
- Billy Grammer, Grand Ole Opry Star
- William L. Hungate, federal judge and congressman from Missouri
- Tommy Johnagin, stand-up comedian
- Shirley Marsh, Nebraska State Senator
- Offa Neal, third baseman for the New York Giants
- Reathel Odum, Senate secretary to Senator Harry S. Truman and personal secretary to First Lady, Bess Truman.
- Gene Rayburn, host of Match Game TV show
- Noble Threewitt, thoroughbred race horse trainer, born here in 1911
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "Birchard L. Wampler". Tbwilson.com. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
- "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.