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Benson County Organized


Bertril W. Benson was a member of the 1883 Dakota Territory legislative session, and he had enough clout, that when the area he represented was organized into a county the next year, Benson County was named after him. Minutes from the first recorded meeting of the Board of County Commissioners read, “The County Seat for said Benson County is hereby established…at the town of Minnewaukan, in the County of Benson, Territory of Dakota this fourth day of June, eighteen hundred and eighty four”. At one time, Minnewauken was 8 miles from Devil’s Lake. Today many residents just say the lake is in their back yard!

Six years after officially forming as a county, the historic Benson County courthouse was built in Minnewaukan. Brick and stone on the outside and solid maple on the inside, the courthouse was built in 1890 at the cost of $40,000 dollars! Although the building has been updated throughout the years it retains much of its original design, including the large, three-story maple staircase that leads upstairs to the courtroom. The courtroom itself still uses the original wood seats…with metal hat racks positioned under the seats! And if the power happens to go out during a county commissioners meeting in the winter…not to worry. The commission meeting room has a working ornate fireplace with glazed brick and a carved mantel. The Benson County courthouse which stands 60 feet wide, 90 feet long and is 96 feet tall to the top of the flagstaff, is architecturally significant for its Richardsonian Romanesque Style. The courthouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Benson County is home to several other historical attractions, including Fort Totten, the best preserved military post of the Dakota Frontier era, and Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve. A portion of the Spirit Lake Nation also lies within the boundaries of Benson County.

By Merrill Piepkorn

Sources: History of Benson County

State Historical Society of North Dakota