Benton School is named after Thomas Hart Benton. He was a lawyer, who served for thirty years as United States Senator from Missouri. He was elected to this position when Missouri was admitted to the Union as a state. Supporting western interests in the Senate, he was influential in deciding several important questions of his time. He started a St. Louis newspaper and wrote a book, Thirty Year’s View.
The original Benton School was built at Hodge and Ripley. It had four rooms. It was designed by William B. Littner of St. Louis who also designed Grant School in 1910 and Hickman High School in 1925. This building was used until a new Benton School building was completed in 1927 at Hinkson and Ripley. It contained 12 rooms plus a gym. At that time, the new building was said to be as fine a piece of work as any in the state. The old building was razed when the new building was put into use. This building is the same one that is being used today. The kindergarten room was added in 1957 and the office and library/media center was added in 1988.
The following teachers were assigned to the new building: I.R. Tuttle, principal; Miss Sallie Flood, grade 1; Miss Annie Hodge, grades 2 and 3; Miss Nettie Goodding, grades 4 and 5. The salary for the principal and for Miss Flood was $60, whith the other teachers receiving $50 each. Mr. J.D. McQuitty was hired to be the janitor for $25 per month.
In 1949, Mrs. Daniel Hall, PTA president, started the Benton School tradition of Chili Suppers. This annual event is still a successful family tradition.
December 1958 – 150 parents at a PTA meeting voted unanimously to endorse a plan for ungraded primary units. Levels of advancement in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades would be based on achievement rather than grade. Children would be grouped with other children doing the same level work and of the same capabilities.
October 1959 – The primary unit plan instituted last year at Benton is to be used by other Columbia Schools. The program at Benton has been largely successful with both parents and teachers being pleased.
May 1964 – Miss Grace Wilhite retired after 43 years of teaching 3rd grade at Benton School. During that time, about 1300 students had passed under her tutelage. A special program on her behalf was held May 21.
In September, 1982, the “Benton Spirit” was started to inform families of PTA and school activities on a monthly basis.
May 1983 – Mr. Edwin Westbrook was honored for 27 years of service to the Columbia Public Schools. Mr. Westbrook served as a custodian for 17 years at Benton, the very same school he attended as a youth.