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Benbow City, Illinois, Newspaper Clippings

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser




Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 3, 1907
The new town of Benbow will be laid out and platted in a short time by A. E. Benbow, near the Standard Oil refinery site. Mr. Benbow laid out a town here several years ago at Glassboro. He now has taken the old plat and will rearrange it and add some more land to it, making the new town of Benbow. The owner says that he expects to have a thriving village there before long. The site is three quarters of a mile from the Mississippi river.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 15, 1907
From the East St. Louis Journal
At Benbow City, formerly Wood River, Ill., just sixteen miles from East St. Louis, and about seven miles from Alton, the Standard Oil Company is now erecting the largest oil refinery plant in the world, and a city of tents and frame shacks has sprung up as if by magic out of the wheat fields, along the tracks of the East St. Louis and Alton street railway company, the Chicago and Alton, the Big Four, the C., P. and St. L., the C. B. and Q., and the Illinois Terminal railway, all of which run parallel with the new town, while the Illinois Terminal connects with the Illinois Central, Clover Leaf Route, Wabash and the Litchfield and Madison, and will soon connect with the B. and O. at Maryville.

The big plant, in course of construction, now employs 700 men, and within a short time the construction force will be increased to 4,000 or 5,000 men, and the greatest need of the new city at present is living accommodations for this army of workmen, as hundreds of them are now obliged to sleep in tents and some of them at present are even sleeping out by the side of campfires.

A. E. Benbow, who originally owned all of the land on which the new city now stands, has sold over fifty lots for business and residence purposes in the past few days, and the business people are starting the erection of business houses immediately, and there will be work at Benbow City from now on for hundreds of men in the building trades.

Another feature of this great Standard Oil plant will be that they will not only refine oil, but they will manufacture their own cars for shipping, also all their barrels will be made at the big cooperage now being erected at Benbow City, while a large eastern chemical concern will erect a plant adjoining the refinery to utilize the waste product, making vaseline, paraffin and wax, while the Standard Oil company will erect a plant to manufacture candles from the wax residue.

Four large cold storage plants will be erected at Benbow City, one by the Anheuser-Busch Co., one by the East St. Louis and New Athens Brewing Co., one by the Wagner Brewing Co., and the Columbia Brewing Co. will also erect one, while the East St. Louis and New Athens Co. are preparing to erect a large two-story hotel building.

From all indications, Benbow City will soon be a city in fact, as well as in name, and Mr. Benbow in an interview yesterday stated that the city would be incorporated within the next ninety days. Real estate prices in the new city are advancing rapidly, and within the next six months Benbow City will assuredly have a population of over 5,000 people.

The magnitude of the plant being erected by the Standard Oil company is so great, that words cannot describe it, and the visitor to Benbow City, with its white tents and rude new buildings hastily erected, its hundreds of workingmen pushing on the great plant, is impressed by the spirit of hustle and energy, and the way the town has sprung up in a night reminds one of a page from the Arabian Nights, but the spirit of American energy displayed in this future great city shows it is no dream, but a reality.

Anyone wishing to spend a profitable half-day can get on the Alton car at Third and Broadway, and in less than an hour's time he can alight in Benbow City and see a big manufacturing city budding from out of the wheat fields. Many people think there are oil and gas in Benbow City. We know there is ginger there.


Source: Utica, New York Herald Dispatch, May 5, 1908
Benbow City, the first town which has grown up around the Standard Oil Company's new refinery, eight miles south of Alton, Ill., began its corporate existence as a village, Monday, with eighteen registered voters and twenty-three saloons. Within the corporate limits there are 300 persons. So there is one saloon for each thirteen inhabitants. In addition to the twenty-three saloons, there are seven brewery agencies, and each have $500 a year license. Payments for the licenses have already been made, and the little village starts out with a $15,000 nest egg. It will probably not vote against license for some time.


Source: The New York Times, May 5, 1908
Benbow City, the flat town, which has grown up around the Standard Oil Company's new refinery, eight miles south of Alton, is the "wettest" town in Illinois, and because it is the wettest it is also the richest. It began its corporate existence as a village Monday with eighteen registered voters and twenty-three saloons. Within the corporate limits of Benbow City there are 300 persons and one saloon for each thirteen inhabitants. In addition to the twenty-three saloons there are seven brewery agencies, and each dram shop and each agency pays $500 a year license. Payments for the coming year have already been made, and the little village starts out in life with a $15,000 nest egg. The liquor interests have paid $50 for each man, woman, and child in the village, the per capita wealth of which by reason of this revenue from the liquor interests is greater than that of any town or city in the United States.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 31, 1917
One of the first real acts in the work of cleaning up the dives which infested Benbow City came today, when the Circuit Court jury, which tried the case of Mrs. Alice Bligh, charged with harboring females under 18 years of age in a place conducted for immoral purposes, reported a verdict finding her guilty. Her punishment will be from one to five years in the penitentiary, unless the court sets aside the jury's findings. The woman testified in her defense that she had nothing to do with the dance hall where the girls were taken and kept. However, the girls had told their own story of how they were persuaded to go to the dive where they were kept for a few weeks. A. E. Benbow was among the witnesses. He told of renting to Mrs. Bligh a house in which she lived, but was not called upon to testify as to the character of the place. Just as the jury was finishing making its report to the court, another jury was just accepted to try the husband of Mrs. Bligh on the same charge as the wife defended herself against. Mrs. Bligh had told the court that she has seven children ranging from 5 to 28 years, and that five of them were with her.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 5, 1917
There was a grand farewell in Benbow City Saturday night, a sort of a turning backward of the "Spirit of '76." The well-known historic painting which shows three figures marching to martial strains illustrated a patriotic protest against British misrule. The parade Saturday night was a protest against the beginning of decent rule. According to stories which came from Benbow City, the work of the Circuit Court jury last week, which convicted three persons and gave them penal terms for running vice resorts in Benbow City, made a deep impression down there. Everybody in Benbow City felt that the lid was on and it was no joke either. The falling of the curtain on the revels of Benbow City is sure, and the bell had rung for the curtain to drop. Between the time for the curtain bell and the dropping of the curtain on the last act which will be the winding up of Benbow City as a municipality, it was resolved to have a big time. A party was organized which paraded from saloon to saloon. None was missed, and there were plenty of places to be visited to make sure that everybody who was in the party could get plenty to drink. It was a wild sort of a farewell party. In every place the crowd visited there was a big time, and it is said that the number of the people celebrating had grown to 23, which is the greater part of the population of Benbow City now.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 8, 1917
The Red Onion, one of the characteristic places of Benbow City, owned by Alton former gamblers, has been closed. The shock given by the recent Circuit Court convictions of Benbow City denizens, and the failure of the gang to get new trials, threw a cold chill into the hearts of the Red Onion _abitues. So, the Red Onion is no more. It has been closed tight and the legions of levity, the friends of follies, have departed for good. It is said to be a forecast of an early suspension by some of the other places in Benbow City. According to those who know, some of these places had some of their prosperity from money spent by some Alton people of more or less prominence, who found the Red Onion and similar places resorts where one could do about as he pleased.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 22, 1917
A get together meeting of the officials of Benbow City and Wood River was held last night for the purpose of finishing up all the legal formalities necessary for the annexation of Benbow City to Wood River. The meeting was held in the Wood River village hall, and was attended by the mayors of both villages, Mayor Beach and Mayor Benbow, and by the councilmen and officers of both villages. All of the books, papers and documents of Benbow City were brought into the Wood River council chamber by Village Clerk William Beers, and were turned over to Village Clerk Fred Shoemaker of Wood River. With them was $665.35 in cash, which was the balance in the treasury of Benbow City after all bills were paid. Also a deed for three lots on the Benbow City baseball diamond, owned by the village of Benbow, was made over to the village of Wood River. The best of feeling prevailed and the two villages, which had long been rivals and whose officers had been many times at outs with one another, were joined together in a strong bond of friendship. It was a big affair for Mayor Benbow. He came wearing his high silk hat and a Prince Albert coat and carried a gold headed cane. He remarked to his friends after the meeting that he was now free of official worry with the passing of Benbow City.


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