Minnesota became an independent territory in 1849 after which nine original counties were established, Benton, Dakotah, Itasca, Mahkahta, Pembina, Ramsey, Wabashaw, Wahnahta, and Washington. Seven other counties, Aitken, Anoka, Crow Wing, Isanti, Mille Lacs, Morrison, and Sherburne were partly formed from the original Benton County land. Counties such as Cass, Itasca, Lake, Morrison, Pembina, St. Louis, and Sherburne combined their records with Benton County before the start of their own official records.
Benton County is named in honor of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of St. Louis, Missouri, a strong advocate of free land laws which eventually led to the growth and development of the country after the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862. Benton was born near Hillsboro, N.C. on March 14, 1782 attended Chapel Hill College (now the University of North Carolina) and the law department of William and Mary College, Williamsburg, VA. He was admitted to the bar at Nashville, TN in 1806 and commenced practice in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee. He died April 10, 1858. Benton counties in Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon, and Washington are also named for him. Click here to see photographs of Senator Benton's gravesite in St. Louis, Missouri.
Today, Benton County is a moderate sized county in central Minnesota, part of the St. Cloud Metropolitan Statistical Area. St. Cloud began as three separate settlements on the Mississippi River which were founded by three extremely different men. One of the town sites was begun by a former slave owner who was involved in the fur trade, bringing slave-owning Southerners to the area. A second settlement was begun by a professional town entrepreneur who attracted Protestants opposed to slavery. The third site was intended for a sawmill which drew Catholics from Germany. In spite of the differences, the three settlements eventually merged into one city in 1856. Soon after, granite deposits were discovered and area granite companies began shipping granite to sites all over the world.
In the center of the County is the city of Foley, the County Seat. The County's most populous city, Sauk Rapids, is on its western edge and adjoins St. Cloud. The median home value of existing homes in Benton County was $170,800, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The average median sales price of an existing home in Minnesota in 2010 was $206,200. Counties with the greatest long-term gains in median housing sales prices are generally close to the Twin Cities area and the southeastern part of the state. The largest industries in Benton County are services, non-durable goods, manufacturing, retail, and durable goods manufacturing.
Other statistics from the 2010 U.S. Census:
Percent of population growth 2000-2010: 12.3%
Persons per square mile: 94.2
Housing units: 16,140
Median value of owner-occupied housing units (2006-2010): $170,800
Homeownership rate (2006-2010): 70.6%
Persons per household (2006-2010): 2.50
Median household income (2006-2010): $50,848
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Last Updated January 29, 2012Copyright © 1999 Ron Zurek