Benton Co. History: The Story of the Once Thriving Benton City
ST. CLOUD -- You can't call Benton City a ghost town, because hundreds of people still live there, but it is definitely a forgotten city for most of us.
Mary Ostby is the Executive Director for the Benton County Historical Society. She says they have records showing the first deed filed in Benton County was for Benton City in 1850, but people were already living there a good ten years before that.
In fact, an article in 1856 in a St. Paul newspaper talks about the boat landing stop on the river prior to arriving in Sauk Rapids.
You now know Benton City as the east side of St. Cloud. The 68-acre village stretched from Sauk Rapids all the way to the Benton and Sherburne county line.
Ostby says Sauk Rapids - which was established a year later in 1851 - worked as a sister city with Benton City up until the devastating tornado of 1886.
Because of the tornado, St. Cloud was pushing for the annexation of both communities (Sauk Rapids and Benton City). Sauk Rapids was extremely against it. But, Benton City - also known as East St. Cloud - because of financial issues caused by the tornado, and because St. Cloud needed East St. Cloud, they agreed to it.
Ostby says east St. Cloud was desirable for St. Cloud because it had the rail line and the railroad depot. She says there started to be a transition from calling it Benton City to referring to it as East St. Cloud once the railroad came in the 1860s and they called their depot the St. Cloud depot, even though it was located in Benton City.
So what you see between 1865 and 188 is the slow transition that everyone calls the railroad the St. Cloud depot and that's when you see East St. Cloud cropping up in the newspaper article at the time, even though it wasn't incorporated as that.
In 1885 St. Cloud passed an ordinance requiring saloons to close on Sunday, however, the saloons in Benton City didn't have such an ordinance and became very popular.
In February of 1887, a St. Cloud delegation met at the courthouse and let it be known their wishes to annex Sauk Rapids, Benton City, and Haven Township into St. Cloud. In March of 1889, a bill passed both houses of the Minnesota State Legislature to make east St. Cloud a part of St. Cloud.
In 1890 the East St. Cloud Fire Company was established with its first foreman a man by the name of Frank Beaudreau, whose family opened Beaudreaus Bar in East St. Cloud.