The Pioneer Settlement of Benton City was settled by optimistic citizens who believed that it was located so advantageously, that it was due to become the metropolis of this section of the state. It had the advantages of the Cedar River, with its steamboats and the promise of a railroad, to add to its shipping facilities. It was the largest and most enterprising community in the territory and served a wide area. Its decline began when the railroad missed it and went to Vinton.
William Danner remembers it as the scene of his childhood and has vivid memories of events prior to 1880 when his family moved to Vinton. His father bought a hotel built by Silas Bowe, and there the family resided until it burned in 1880. Other families had living quarters there. Among them was John Hite, the father of Loren Hite who was born there. At this time Benton City had two grist mills, a saw mill, store, hotel, livery stable and a building called Stoddard's Show House, which housed the Benton City Masonic Lodge. Dances and other entertainment were also held there.
At this time the Lyle brothers were the leading business men. Two brothers ran the store and one owned the livery stable. The Postmaster was John Barton and the mail was carried by "Bill" McGill who rode an old sway-backed horse.
Mr. Danner related an incident in his boyhood days, when he broke him arm in a fall from his pony. He had it set by "Doc" Whitney who rode horseback to make his calls, with his pillbox hung around his neck with a heavy cord. The young people dressed in the height of fashion. The boys all wore fine leather boots and tailor made clothes, mostly tailored at home and every boy carried a revolver or a dirk knife in his boot. The girls wore hoop skirts and bustles and were beautiful to behold when dancing in their finery.
The religious life of the community was not neglected as many of the early settlers were enthusiastic preachers of the gospel. John Lyron and John Pringle were very religious and devoted much time to saving souls. However, Rev. Howlett was the " Jigodeer Brindle," according to Mr. Danner. He was a shouting preacher who rode horseback carrying a sheepskin Bible with him constantIy. He Preached the first Mr. Danner ever heard over the body of Mr. Robbins, known as "Cock" Robbins. He had operated an oxen run tread mill just east of Benton City. The body was laid out on a slab in the home and Rev. Howlett preached from the text found in the 14th chapter of Job, the 14th verse. Mr. Danner was only 9 years old, but recalls it vividly.
Charlie Brooks taught the school which was held in a big brick school building.
The Indians had a camp across the river and had twenty to thirty tepees. The braves hunted, trapped and fished while the women worked and begged. Mr.Danner's father was quite a gardner and used to give them vegetables, such as turnips, cabbage, potatoes and pumpkins. They cooked their vegetables and meat, which consisted of squirrels, rabbits, ground hogs, skunk, and turtles, in large kettles hung on poles. Turtles were very plentiful at that time and the Indians ate large quantities of them.
Frank Luton has lived at Benton City for 57 years and has watched its decline from its prime, when the steamboats carried their cargoes of freight up the river and before the railroad sounded its death knell. The railroad was originally planned to go through the town, but when its survey was changed, the town moved with it. Mr. Luton and his wife attended many dances at Benton City and remembers Jonathan Jinks, the fiddler who furnished most of the pioneer dance music. The early settlers who Mr. Luton remembers were Chauncey Quackenbush, William Davis, John Danner, David Cantonwine, Mr. Stoddard, Robert Woods, John Crouch, Lyman D. Bordwell, John Pringle, John Hite, Jake Brumell, John Tryon and George Fry. Mr. Fry now owns the site of the town which is incorporated in his farm. The hotel was bought by Levi Smeltze and the brick and timber was used to build a brick house on the farm about a mile south of the old town. The only sign of the old town can be discovered by hunting for the old foundations and basements still remaining on the site.