Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
RICHARD H. BENSON. It is not the weaklings that accomplish worthy ends in the face of opposition but those with nerve and initiative whose motto is, "He never fails who never gives up," and with this terse aphorism ever in view, emblazoned on the pillar of clouds, as it were, before them, they forge ahead until the sunny summits of life are reached and they can breathe a breath of the purer air that inspires the souls of men with respite. Such has been the history of Richard H. Benson, of Springfield, whose career has been a varied one, and the earlier part of which was as a deep sea sailor, but the latter years of his life has been more prosaic.
Mr. Benson was born in Belle Haven, Accomac county, Virginia, July 12, 1850. He is a son of James S. and Catherine (Mears) Benson, both natives of Virginia, where they grew up, were married and established their home. The father was one of four children, John S., Edward, James S., and Keeley, all now deceased. The mother of our subject was one of five children, Margaret, Richard, Thomas, Sally, and Catherine. Richard Mears was a sea captain and in his service rescued many crews, among them was a Canadian crew, for which act he was rewarded by the Canadian government, Secretary of State Everetts presenting him with a fine watch, set with diamonds. James S. Benson and wife spent the latter years of their lives in North Hampton, Virginia, where the father's death occurred December 8, 1876.
Richard H. Benson spent his boyhood days in Belle Haven, Virginia, where he received a public school education. When but a lad his inclination was to the sea, and, leaving home when about seventeen years of age, he made a sea voyage on the ship Edwin Rowe to the west coast of Africa, under Captain Miller, of Portland, Maine, and was gone seven months, during which he visited Siereleone, in the western part of the Dark Continent, and passed in sight of Monrovia, stopped at Bassa, Grand Bassa, Cape Palmas, Dixcove, the River Gaboon, then returned to America, the voyage to New York requiring fifty-one days, and he was required to lay aboard the vessel in Brooklyn two months. On February 26, 1868, he landed in Lacon, Marshall county, Illinois, stopping with his uncle, John Benson, who owned a farm there, and in the fall of 1869 the uncle came to Springfield, Missouri, and our subject joined him here in the summer of 1872; leaving here the last of September of that year, Mr. Benson went to Chicago and remained there until Christmas, then went back to Belle Haven, Virginia, and remained with his father until in June, 1873, when he went to Baltimore, Maryland and shipped as a seaman in the government survey, remaining in the service until the spring of 1875, when he came to St. Louis, Missouri, and took a position as solicitor for the printing house of John McKitrick & Company, but after a short time he went to Chicago and entered the hotel business, which he followed. until he came to Springfield to make his permanent home in 1886, and thus he has been a resident of this city twenty-eight years, during which time he has been engaged in the sewing machine business as an agent for the Singer Manufacturing Company, remaining in their service for about eighteen years, and then took up life insurance business, staying in this line for one year, then took up the sewing machine business again.
Mr. Benson was married, July 3, 1888, to Ella V. Berry, a daughter of P. Jesse and Eliza (Cowling) Berry. The father was a minister in the Christian church, and had charge of churches in different states, and was an able and popular preacher. His family consisted of four children, namely: Ella V., wife of Mr. Benson; Maggie, who married W. J. Bills; Gertrude, who married Dr. M. Ney Smith; the youngest child, died in infancy.
Mrs. Ella V. Benson was born in Pennsylvania, from which state she later moved to New York state, then to Maryland, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, and she received part of her education in the college at Eureka, the latter state. She came with her parents to Springfield, Missouri, first in 1879, and the second time they came to this state was in 1881.
Three children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Benson, namely: James Berry, John E., and Richard K., all living in Springfield.
Politically, Mr. Benson is a Democrat, and he and his whole family are members of the South Street Christian church. They have a pleasant home on the Bolivar road, near Talmage street.
Springfield-Greene County Library