Blog: Scott County County Seat, 1971 (9/21)

This week’s blog and next week’s blog will delve into this treasure trove of stories written by Missouri writer-photographer Stephen Robertson in the early 1970s, featuring towns across the region.

Articles usually give a brief history of towns and an overview of current conditions. And as a professional photographer, Steve has typically taken more than the two or three images published in the Missourian. Several unpublished photos can be found at the bottom of this blog.

Today’s offer examines the county seat of Scott County: Benton, Missouri. Next week’s blog does the same for Jackson, the county seat of Cape Girardeau.

Posted September 11, 1971 in the Southeast Missourian:

“I don’t blame young people today for wearing their hair long,” says Dickie Taylor, pictured through a screen in the window of his barber shop where he has been doing business for 27 years. “They have the right to wear their hair however they want.” (Stephen Robertson ~ Southeast Missourian Archives)


By Stephen Robertson
Missourian writer-photographer
(the fifteenth in a series)

A quiet, tree-lined community of 640 people nestles atop a hill halfway between Sikeston and Cape Girardeau in Scott County. A visitor’s first impression is that it is a pleasant city, a peaceful city. It is a picturesque town. Large, well-maintained houses line the shady streets. The 111 year old community has the atmosphere of hospitality.

This is Benton, the county seat of Scott County. Benton makes the most of being a county seat. In fact, the courthouse appears to be the only “industry” here. It provides jobs for many people, attracts visitors and is literally the center of the city.

The magnificent building was built in 1913 on a property donated by William and Nancy Meyers. The current building is the fifth courthouse built on the site.

A time capsule that will open in 2060 stands in the courtyard of the beautiful Scott County Courthouse in Benton. (Stephen Robertson ~ Southeast Missourian Archives)

The first courthouse was a small log building erected in the public square of Benton shortly after the town was laid out in 1822. Around 1844, the log courthouse was demolished and a brick building erected in its place. . It was so poorly built that in a few years it became unsafe and was replaced by a frame building. By legislative act, the county seat was transferred to Commerce in 1864. A vote in 1878 returned the county seat to Benton and a fourth building was constructed at a cost of $ 11,000.

Benton is also home to the Scott County Health Center, under the direction of Dr. Thelma Buckthorpe. The center is made up of seven qualified professionals whose preventive medicine program offers a full range of services in the fields of medical and environmental health. The tax-funded service offers a clinic for healthy babies, a family planning program, tuberculosis drugs and treatment for venereal disease. In addition, the usual vaccinations, blood tests and check-ups are provided.

The Benton branch of the Riverside Regional Library occupies a brick building near the city center. Here, approximately 5,000 volumes are available to taxpayers in Perry, Cape and Scott counties. There is reading material suitable for everyone, from toddlers to adults. The library is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and Saturday morning.

Ms. Lester Miller, librarian at the Riverside Regional Library in Benton Missouri, monitors the 5,000 volumes used by clients in Cape, Scott and Perry counties. (Steve Robertson ~ Southeast Missourian Archives)

Half a mile north of town is Felker Park, a state-run area popular with many who enjoy picnics and outdoor barbecues. The spacious grounds offer plenty of space for games.

Four churches serve the interests of the community. Two of them – the Catholic and the Methodist – were rebuilt after burning in 1940 and 1951, respectively. The Baptist and Baptist unity churches haven’t been here that long, but both have large congregations.

Benton has grown steadily despite its lack of industry. Its location between Sikeston and Cape Girardeau gives its workers a choice of direction that no other city offers them.

Here are some other photographs of Benton taken in September 1971 by Stephen Robertson.

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