Benson, Arizona

Last updated
Benson-Main Street.jpg
Downtown Benson
Cochise County Arizona Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Benson Highlighted 0405770.svg
Location of Benson in Cochise County, Arizona
Detailed map of Benson, Arizona.png
Detailed map of Benson
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 31°57′20″N110°18′24″W / 31.95556°N 110.30667°W / 31.95556; -110.30667 Coordinates: 31°57′20″N110°18′24″W / 31.95556°N 110.30667°W / 31.95556; -110.30667
Country United States
State Arizona
County Cochise
   Mayor Tony King
  Total41.69 sq mi (107.97 km2)
  Land41.64 sq mi (107.85 km2)
  Water0.05 sq mi (0.13 km2)
3,586 ft (1,093 m)
 (2010) [2]
(2018) [3]
  Density117.03/sq mi (45.18/km2)
Time zone UTC-7 (MST (no daylight saving time))
ZIP code
Area code 520
FIPS code 04-05770
Website City of Benson

Benson is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, 45 miles (72 km) east-southeast of Tucson. It was founded as a rail terminal for the area, and still serves as such. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 5,105. [2]

Cochise County, Arizona County in the Arizona, United States

Cochise County is located in the southeastern corner of the U.S. state of Arizona. The population was 131,346 at the 2010 census. The county seat is Bisbee.

Arizona State in the United States

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.



The city was founded in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad came through. It was named after Judge William S. Benson, a friend of Charles Crocker, president of the Southern Pacific. [4] The railroad, coming overland from California, chose the Benson site to cross the San Pedro River. Benson then served as a rail junction point to obtain ore and refined metal by wagon, in turn shipping rail freight back to the mines at Tombstone, Fairbank, Contention City and Bisbee. For example, the railhead in Benson was about 25 miles (40 km) from Tombstone, and was the closest rail connection to it until 1882, when a feeder line was laid from Benson to Contention City.

Charles Crocker American railroad executive who founded the Central Pacific Railroad

Charles Crocker was an American railroad executive who was one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad, which constructed the westernmost portion of the first transcontinental railroad, and took control with partners of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

San Pedro River (Arizona) river in the United States of America

The San Pedro River is a northward-flowing stream originating about 10 miles (16 km) south of the international border south of Sierra Vista, Arizona, in Cananea Municipality, Sonora, Mexico. The river starts at the confluence of other streams just east of Sauceda, Cananea. Within Arizona, the river flows 140 miles (230 km) north through Cochise County, Pima County, Graham County, and Pinal County to its confluence with the Gila River, at Winkelman, Arizona. It is the last major, undammed desert river in the American Southwest, and it is of major ecological importance as it hosts two-thirds of the avian diversity in the United States, including 100 species of breeding birds and almost 300 species of migrating birds.

Tombstone, Arizona City in Arizona, United States

Tombstone is a historic city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by prospector Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It became one of the last boomtowns in the American frontier. The town grew significantly into the mid-1880s as the local mines produced $40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and presently draws most of its revenue from tourism.

The railhead in Benson was founded about a mile from a traditional crossing of the upper San Pedro River (known also as the Middle Crossing), used by the Southern Emigrant Trail and San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line. It was the site of the San Pedro Station of the Butterfield Overland Mail and a wagon depot, the San Pedro River Station, run since 1871 by William Ohnesorgen. In 1878 he had erected a toll bridge over which mining supplies were transported to the new mining camps such as Fairbank and Tombstone. Two years later this bridge marked the location of the railroad bridge that became the terminal site of Benson.

Southern Emigrant Trail

Southern Emigrant Trail, also known as the Gila Trail, the Kearny Trail, Southern Trail and the Butterfield Stage Trail, was a major land route for immigration into California from the eastern United States that followed the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico during the California Gold Rush. Unlike the more northern routes, pioneer wagons could travel year round, mountain passes not being blocked by snows, however it had the disadvantage of summer heat and lack of water in the desert regions through which it passed in New Mexico Territory and the Colorado Desert of California. Subsequently, it was a route of travel and commerce between the eastern United States and California. Many herds of cattle and sheep were driven along this route and it was followed by the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line in 1857-1858 and then the Butterfield Overland Mail from 1858 - 1861.

Butterfield Overland Mail

Butterfield Overland Mail was a stagecoach service in the United States operating from 1858 to 1861. It carried passengers and U.S. Mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California. The routes from each eastern terminus met at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and then continued through Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, and California ending in San Francisco. On March 3, 1857, Congress authorized the U.S. postmaster general, Aaron Brown, to contract for delivery of the U.S. mail from Saint Louis to San Francisco. Prior to this, U.S. Mail bound for the Far West had been delivered by the San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line since June 1857.

The city today is perhaps best known as the gateway to Kartchner Caverns State Park. It is also home to the acclaimed Singing Wind Bookshop, which specializes in books about the Southwest. [5] [6] [7]

Kartchner Caverns State Park state park of a state of the United States

Kartchner Caverns State Park is a state park of Arizona, United States, featuring a show cave with 2.4 miles (3.9 km) of passages. The park is located 9 miles (14 km) south of the town of Benson and west of the north-flowing San Pedro River. Long hidden from view, the caverns were discovered in 1974 by local cavers, assisted by a state biologist who helped in its preservation.

Jay Six Ranch

The 40,000-acre (160 km2) Jay Six cattle ranch is located just outside Benson. The ranch played host to political figures like the young brothers Joseph and Jack Kennedy, and to senior statesman Barry Goldwater. The Kennedy brothers (Joe age 21 and Jack age 19) were sent out to the ranch in the spring of 1936 so that the brothers could work as ranch hands, and so that Jack Kennedy could recuperate from a recent illness in the dry desert heat. It is reported that ranchman Jack Speiden worked both brothers "very hard".[ citation needed ]

Barry Goldwater Republican nominee for President, 1964; U.S. Senator from Arizona

Barry Morris Goldwater was an American politician, businessman, and author who was a five-term Senator from Arizona and the Republican Party nominee for president of the United States in 1964. Despite his loss of the 1964 presidential election in a landslide, Goldwater is the politician most often credited with having sparked the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. He also had a substantial impact on the libertarian movement.

John G. F. "Jack" Speiden was an American stockbroker and ranch owner. Speiden fought in both World Wars, attended Yale and received a letter for football while playing on the hockey team, taught in China, worked on Wall Street, and bought a ranch. He ran for Congress for the 2nd District of Arizona in 1956 and 1958, defeated by Stewart Udall both times. Charlie Ohrel, who inherited most of the information about Speiden, after his death, summed up his life with a humorous understatement; "He sure did give it a good shot." Speiden's ranch, the Jay Six Ranch, left a legacy of its own. The ranch played host to political figures like the young brothers Joseph & John Kennedy, and to senior statesman Barry Goldwater. The Kennedy brothers were sent out to the 40,000-acre (160 km2) Jay Six Ranch in 1936 so that Jack Kennedy could recuperate in the dry desert heat. It is reported that Speiden worked them both "very hard".


Benson is located in western Cochise County at 31°57′10″N110°18′24″W / 31.95278°N 110.30667°W / 31.95278; -110.30667 (31.95288, -110.30677). [8]

According to the United States Census Bureau, Benson has a total area of 41.5 square miles (107.4 km2), of which 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2), or 0.12%, is water. [9]


Historical population
1890 348
1910 1,035
1920 825−20.3%
1930 92512.1%
1940 9624.0%
1950 1,44049.7%
1960 2,49473.2%
1970 2,83913.8%
1980 4,19047.6%
1990 3,824−8.7%
2000 4,71123.2%
2010 5,1058.4%
Est. 20184,873 [3] −4.5%
U.S. Decennial Census [10]

Benson first appeared on the 1890 U.S. Census as an unincorporated village. [11] It did not appear on the 1900 census. [12] It reappeared again in 1910. [13] It did not return separately (as a village) in 1920, but the population for the Benson Precinct of Cochise County (825) was substituted (which included the village of Benson and adjacent area). [14] It formally incorporated as a town in 1924 and has returned on every census since 1930. [15] On March 26, 1985, voters approved a resolution upgrading Benson to city status. [16]

As of the census [17] of 2000, there were 4,711 people, 2,084 households, and 1,346 families residing in the city. The population density was 131.9 people per square mile (50.9/km²). There were 2,822 housing units at an average density of 79.0 per square mile (30.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.32% White or European American, 1.29% Native American, 0.72% Black or African American, 0.47% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 5.69% from other races, and 2.38% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 19.85% of the population.

There were 2,084 households, out of which 18.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 30.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.72.

In the city, the population was 19.5% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 18.0% from 25 to 44, 26.5% from 45 to 64, and 29.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 50 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,289, and the median income for a family was $36,364. Males had a median income of $34,013 versus $18,964 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,315. About 6.2% of families and 13.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.1% of those under age 18 and 9.9% of those age 65 or over.


Similar to other desert plains areas of Arizona, Benson receives little rainfall and is relatively hot. Some snow occasionally falls in the winter.

Climate data for Benson, Arizona (elevation 3,671ft)
Record high °F (°C)85
Average high °F (°C)63.0
Average low °F (°C)28.8
Record low °F (°C)5
Average precipitation inches (mm)0.68
Average snowfall inches (cm)0.6
Source: The Western Regional Climate Center [18]


Replica of Benson Railroad Station Benson station.jpg
Replica of Benson Railroad Station

Benson Airport is located 5 miles (8 km) northwest of the city center.

Interstate 10 serves the city with four exits; the highway leads northwest 45 miles (72 km) to Tucson and northeast 35 miles (56 km) to Willcox. Arizona State Route 80 leads southeast 24 miles (39 km) to Tombstone, and Arizona State Route 90 leads south 32 miles (51 km) to Sierra Vista.

Amtrak provides passenger rail service at 105 E. 4th Street; freight railroads serving Benson are the Union Pacific Railroad and the San Pedro and Southwestern Railroad.

Benson Area Transit (BAT) is a bus service that covers Benson, St. David, Dragoon and Mescal. Benson is also served by Greyhound. [19]

Cochise Connection, which is operated by the City of Douglas, offers regularly-scheduled shuttle service between Benson, Bisbee, Sierra Vista, City of Huachuca and Douglas with a one-way fare of $3-4. [20]


Hank's Coffee Shop sign, 4th Street, Benson, 1979 Hanks Coffee Shop sign, 4th Street, Benson, Arizona (LOC).jpg
Hank's Coffee Shop sign, 4th Street, Benson, 1979

The World University is located in Benson.

The Benson Unified School District is a K-12 public school serving the Benson area. Their mascot is the Benson Bobcat.

Cochise College has a branch located on Route 90.

Media references

Notable residents

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Fairbank, Arizona Ghost town in Arizona, United States

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  1. "2018 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 1, 2019.
  2. 1 2 "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau . Retrieved 2014-08-23.
  3. 1 2 "Population and Housing Unit Estimates" . Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  4. "Benson's History". Archived from the original on 2016-04-11. Retrieved 2017-06-24.
  5. "Web Feature: A Bookstore at the End of the World". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  6. "World finds way to bookshop near Benson". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  7. "Singing Wind Bookshop (Benson, AZ): Address, Phone Number, Specialty & Gift Shop Reviews - TripAdvisor". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  8. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  9. "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Benson city, Arizona". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  10. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  16. "Benson OKs City Status", 28 March 1985, Page 17, of the Arizona Republic:
  17. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  18. "Seasonal Temperature and Precipitation Information". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
  19. Benson Visitors Center
  20. "Douglas, AZ". Retrieved 2018-10-28.