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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Charles E. Benton

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 36-39 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of Charles E. Benton

Portrait: Charles E. Benton

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When Charles E. Benton, for many years one of the foremost business men of Utica, died in the summer of 1913 the Utica Press referred to him as "above all a business man, prompt in action, accurate in transactions and honest in his dealings". It also was said of him that "he possessed a kind heart, which made him generous in giving to worthy causes". Elsewhere it has been written of Mr. Benton that "he was a man of unusual executive ability and business sagacity", in all of which kindly estimates his surviving contemporaries concur. It therefore is but fitting that in this definite history of the region in which Mr. Benton's useful and busy life was spent there should be carried some brief story of his activities, that future generations here may have a record of this one of the many men who so largely contributed to Utica's progress in his generation, even as his father in his generation had been one of the most influential factors in that progress, as is set out elsewhere in this volume.

Charles E. Benton was born in the city of Utica, in the old Benton home at No. 110 Park avenue, on August 27, 1844, and was therefore in his seventieth year at the time of his passing. He was the youngest son of James and Susanna (Bradley) Benton, both natives of England, the former of whom was one of the real leaders of industry at Utica for many years, a building contractor of large operations and at one time mayor of the city, as is set out elsewhere in the very interesting and informative biography relating to him in this volume. When Charles E. Benton was but a child his parents moved from the city to a farm in New Hartford, now known as "Graycroft" and it was there that he grew to manhood, completing his schooling in Utica. When he was about twenty-one years of age he became a resident of the historic old "Stonewall" farm, on Oneida street in New Hartford, which his father had purchased, and there he was in residence for about twenty years, at the end of which time, in 1888, on account of failing health, he left the farm and moved into Utica, occupying a residence at No. 694 Genesee street near the old Benton home place, where the remainder of his life was spent, this home having occupied a site on that block which was opened for the extension of Parkway boulevard (cross town), and the General Sherman statue now stands on the spot once occupied by the old Benton home.

In the year in which he retired from the "Stonewall" farm homestead place, Charles E. Benton bought the coal yards and plant of John H. Eberhart along the line of the West Shore railroad between Elm and Kemble streets, and in association with his son, Charles Frederick Benton, there became engaged in the coal business, the son being a partner in the enterprise. Not long afterward Charles Frederick Benton's health became so seriously impaired that he went west for recuperation and in 1903 passed away at Denver, at the age of thirty-three years. Charles E. Benton continued the coal business and prospered in it, becoming one of the foremost coal dealers in this section and widely known in the coal trade hereabout, as he was the sole agent in Utica for the Lehigh Valley Coal Company. When the old Utica Belt Line Street Railway Company got into trouble Mr. Benton was appointed receiver for it and in this capacity worked out a somewhat difficult problem in local finance and did much toward bringing the city trolley system up to its present high standard. For years also Mr. Benton gave much attention to his live stock interests in connection with his operation of "Stonewall" farm, which he brought to a state of cultivation, causing it to become widely recognized as one of the most highly and profitably cultivated farms in the valley. In his dairying operations there he took deep interest, devoting much of his attention to the crossing of the Holstein and Ayrshire breeds, and had secured splendid results along this line. He served for some time as the president of the Utica Sanitary Milk Company and also for some time was president of the Utica Canning Company, but failing health eventually caused him to resign both these executive positions. He was long one of the most active members of the Utica Chamber of Commerce and was one of the charter members of the Central New York Farmers Club and for years an active and enthusiastic promoter of the interests of that progressive organization. Mr. Benton also was one of the charter members of the Yahnundasis Golf Club, although he was not a devotee of the game of golf and did not use his club privileges in that connection. He also was a member of the locally influential Citizens Club of Utica. In his political views he was aligned with the democrats but never was a seeker after public office. For years during the time of his residence at New Hartford he was one of the vestrymen of St. Stephen's church there and upon taking up his residence in Utica transferred his attendance to Grace church, of which his widow is a member.

On December 4, 1867, at her home on the Herkimer road, Deerfield, the site now occupied by the Baker greenhouses, Charles E. Benton was united in marriage to Miss Lydia Smith, who survives him and who is still making her home in Utica, in residence at No. 1513 Genesee street, where she is very pleasantly situated. To Charles E. and Lydia (Smith) Benton were born three children: A daughter, Fannie Susan; and two sons, Charles Frederick and Theodore Edward, the latter of whom died in infancy. Charles Frederick Benton, as has been set out above, died untimely at Denver in 1903. He had married Miss Bessie Babcock and at his passing left a widow and two children, a son, Charles Babcock Benton, and a daughter, Aline Elizabeth. Miss Fannie Susan Benton was married to Eugene W. Dixon of Utica, and has a daughter, Frances Helen, who married Charles H. Maynard of Rome, New York.

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