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Texas Plains Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Benjamin


Knox County Courthouse, Benjamin (Rick Vanderpool)

Although there’s no rail line running through the Knox County seat of Benjamin today, the railway played a major role in the settlement of the region. And signs of the heyday of rail are still visible, from the abandoned Santa Fe Depot and the old trestle west of town.

Until the late nineteenth century, the area was frequented by nomadic Indians who followed abundant buffalo herds. In Spanish and Mexican Texas, several copper deposits along the Brazos were reportedly mined by Spaniards using Indian conscripts as laborers. The first Anglo to penetrate the future county area was probably Capt. Randolph B. Marcy, who in 1854 traveled through the area to survey the Brazos and Wichita valleys while searching for a suitable site for an Indian reservation. In 1855 elements of the Second United States Cavalry, commanded by colonels Albert Sidney Johnston and Robert E. Lee, patrolled the vicinity.

In 1885, a year before the county was organized, Hilory H. Bedford, president and controlling stockholder in the Wichita and Brazos Stock Company, founded a town and named it for his son Benjamin, who had been killed by lightning. The Wichita Valley Railroad (1905) and the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient line (1907) brought more residents, ranchers, and farmers, but the Dust Bowl years saw a decline in population as agriculture suffered.

Today the ancient history of the land is especially apparent at the Narrows, four to six miles east of Benjamin along US 82, a ridge dividing the watersheds of the Brazos and Wichita Rivers.

In the heart of town, one of Texas’s premier nature photographers, Wyman Meinzer, has restored the old jail as a residence. The Wichita-Brazos Museum, of recent construction, houses much of Knox County's colorful history, and the 1938 courthouse is located on the square.


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