The Town of Benson, which derives its name from early settler Alfred Monroe ("Mim") Benson, owes much of its historical development to the railroad line which passed through the present location in town in 1886 on its route between Fayetteville and Contentnea. Mr. Benson's purchase of a 402 acre tract along the Smithfield-Fayetteville Road in 1874 initiated the settlement of the area now known as Benson. During the 1880's Benson sold portions of his original tract to incoming settlers, many of whom were farmers. Benson was incorporated in 1887 and soon attracted a number of entrepreneurs wishing to take advantage of this new town along an important transportation route.
Today, Benson remains a link for many major transportation routes including the interchange of Interstate 95, the major north-south route of the Eastern United States, and Interstate 40, a major east-west route from coast to coast. Other major highways serving the town are U.S. 30 1, N.C. 242, N.C. 27 and N.C. 50. North Carolina's largest airport, RaleighDurham International, is 35 miles north, while 35 miles south is Fayetteville Airport. Seaboard Coastline continues to run through the center of town.
Situated where North Carolina's Piedmont Region meets the Coastal Plain, Benson is blessed with a temperate climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters. The climate plus the area's rich soil have given Benson a rich heritage in agriculture. From a cotton and tobacco farmland a generation ago it has become a center for the production and marketing of a number of agricultural products, including soy beans, sweet potatoes, corn, cucumbers and other vegetables, hogs, poultry and cattle. Although Benson remains an important part of the rich, agricultural region, diversification has taken place in the changing economic base as industry has come, giving added opportunities for employment.
Benson is located between two river basins, the Neuse and the Cape Fear. Within two hours is the coast and three hours drive is the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hunters and fishermen can enjoy the bountiful wildlife in the area. Several golf courses are located only a few minutes drive away. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy lighted tennis courts, several lighted athletic fields, a swimming pool, and numerous other activities. A full-time recreational director handles these activities plus a very active senior citizens program.
In 1924, an article appearing in a local paper describing the physical appearance of the town, stated:
"within the past decade (Benson) has made rapid strides in different phases of improvements and now presents to the visitor a neat, clean little town sprinkled about with a goodly number of lovely homes, handsome churches and school buildings, a modem brick hotel, (and) two large banks, the Farmers Commercial occupying one of the most expensive and up to date buildings in the state."
Although the "modem brick hotel" is gone, much of the Benson of 1924 remains today. And, because of that, in 1984, 54 acres of the town, the center of which is the downtown business district, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This historic district is comprised of the entire downtown business district and several blocks of surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Benson is the site of the county's largest celebration, Benson Mule Days, which takes place annually on the fourth weekend in September. Begun in 1950, Mule Days originated as a harvest festival to honor the surrounding farm community and its beast of burden, the mule. Over the years the celebration has grown to attract 50,000 for the three day festival with parades, beauty queens, rodeos, street dances, bluegrass music, arts and crafts, and barbecue.
The oldest festival in the county, and one of the oldest in the State, takes place on the fourth weekend in June. The State Annual Singing Convention was started in 1921 by five local citizens and is a weekend of gospel singing entertainment and competition. "The Sing" now attracts participants and enthusiasts from several surrounding states.
Other attractions include the Benson Museum of Local History, which is located on Main Street. The town municipal offices, Benson Area Chamber of Commerce, Benson Police Department, and the local court facility are also located in the building in the renovaged Benson High School Building located on Church Street.
Located within a one hour drive of Benson are a number of excellent schools of higher learning. LJNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University and N.C. State University are located in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, respectively. Campbell University is located in Buies Creek, which is fifteen miles north of Benson on I-95. Research Triangle Park is located approximately forty-five minutes northwest of Benson. The North Carolina Symphony, minor league baseball, college football and basketball and numerous other cultural activities can all be found in less than an hour's drive from Benson.