Benton kicks off 150th anniversary celebration

Sunday, April 25, 2010
Jim Simmons, right, and the St. Denis Choir sing about "Jim Razor" Saturday during Benton's sesquicentennial celebration. More than 300 people attended the celebration in the St. Denis Parish Center, which included music from Kelly High School Band, Benton historical facts, and a funeral procession for "Jim Razor." Razor is literally a razor in a coffin that represents the men of Benton refraining from shaving for four months. On Sept. 4, the town will hold a "cutting of the beard." (LAURA SIMON)

BENTON, Mo. -- The sesquicentennial celebration for Benton kicked off Saturday with only two hitches -- the weather and a missing time capsule.

The event, originally scheduled to be held on the courthouse lawn, was moved inside the St. Denis Parish Center due to rain and the threat of thunderstorms. More than 300 people attended the ceremony.

Christy LeGrand, one of the coordinators of the celebration, said the sesquicentennial had many of the same events as the centennial. The program included performances by the Kelly Middle School band, the Kelly Honor Choir and various presentations by local residents.

Lois Spalding, a member of the Historical Society, said much of the land that is now Benton, which was founded April 26, 1860, was once owned by her ancestors. In honor of the occasion, Spalding was dressed in period clothes with a patterned bonnet.

Like Spalding, many attendees were dressed in period clothing, reflecting styles from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Missouri's own Harry S. Truman, portrayed by Scott County developer Joel Evans, made an appearance, addressing the residents and thanking them for letting him visit.

Benton resident Joanie Kerby said the gray suit, bow tie and glasses Evans wore made him a convincing Truman.

Kerby is no stranger to such events. Born and raised in Benton, she attended the centennial celebration in 1960 and sang the national anthem. She reprised her role at the sesquicentennial celebration.

"I love Benton," Kerby said. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."

LeGrand was planning on revealing Benton secrets during the program; however, that plan went awry when the time capsule buried 50 years ago couldn't be found.

"No one has any idea where it is," LeGrand said. "We dug where we thought it was by the courthouse, and other areas around the courthouse, and we still haven't found it."

A new time capsule will be buried in celebration of the town's 150th anniversary. LeGrand said a Missouri Blue Book and student essays about the town will be included. The time capsule will go to into the ground at the Sesquicentennial Whing-Ding on June 4 and 5. Activities then will include horse and buggy rides, an ice cream social and a period clothing fashion contest.

After Saturday's program, Benton residents mingled and talked to each other while eating the lunch provided by the Men's Group of St. Denis.

LeGrand hopes even more come to the "Whing-Ding" and to Benton's annual Neighbor Day, held on Labor Day weekend, to share the neighborly spirit.

Pertinent address:

Benton, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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