William B. Benson, a prominent citizen of Dayton, and chief clerk in the Coal and Iron Company, was born in Rhea County, June 4, 1844, and is a son of Bartley S. and Lina (Riddle) Benson. Our subject is the youngest of seven children, and secured by his own efforts a good education in his youth. He lost his parents when but a child, and found himself forced to make his way in life by his own efforts. He began as a farm hand, and worked three years in Hamilton at $4 per month. In 1857 he came to Rhea County and with his only surviving brother, James Benson, rented a farm where North Dayton is now standing, and was engaged in farming up to the fall of 1861, at which time he went to Kentucky and entered the Federal Army, remaining in service up to the latter part of 1864. In 1863 he was captured at Rogersville, Tenn., and sent as a prisoner of war to Richmond, VA, where he remained four months. He then was sent to Andersonville prison, Georgia, and in May, 1864, made his escape by deceiving the guard. After a tedious and tiresome journey of nearly thirty days he reached Chattanooga and rejoined his old regiment at Knoxville in June, 1864, and was mustered out of service in December of the same year, and came back to what was then Smith’s Cross Roads, but now Dayton. In 1865, he, in partnership with J.P. Walker, established a store of general merchandise, and continued twenty months with Walker, then bought him out and continued the same business. December 14, 1869, he married Miss Julia A. Collins, a native of Rhea County, born in 1847, and the daughter of Henry Collins. Mr. Benson is not a member of any church, but his wife and two daughters are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Our subject enjoys the distinction of being the oldest merchant now in Dayton. For twenty consecutive years he was postmaster at Dayton, and he secured the change of names from Smith’s Cross roads to Dayton. In 1886 he went to Texas and established a cattle ranch in Stephens county, and is still interested in this enterprise. He soon afterward entered the employ of the Dayton Coal and Iron Company, and is now chief clerk of the store.
Published by The Goodspeed Publishing Co 1887