In a Nutshell
Benton is a small, friendly community nestled in the beautiful, serene Southwest Wisconsin countryside. It lies in the heart of America’s dairy land, with its gently rolling hills, lazy streams, and fertile soil. Steeped in the rich traditions and culture of the early lead miners, it owes its very existence to the mining industry. While our treasure was initially found in the many lead mines that once dotted the region, Benton’s treasure today lies in its people—people with good, small-town values; people who have a strong, rural work ethic; and people who genuinely care about their neighbors and about their community.
You have an open invitation to come and visit the quiet, safe haven of Benton. Stay a while . . . get to know us. It won’t take long for you to see what makes Benton a very special place—a place we’re proud to call home.
Location and Population
Benton—with a population of 1007—lies in the very southwest corner of Wisconsin, just a stone’s throw from both Iowa and Illinois. This Lafayette County village is bordered on all sides by open land and farm fields. The Fever River meanders past the eastern boundaries of the village and flows to Galena, Illinois, where it empties into the Mississippi.
The people of Benton have a real commitment to community. Their “can-do” spirit has enabled them to direct change and to accomplish a number of important initiatives that have positively impacted the town and its residents. In 2009, the Village of Benton was awarded the “Cool Community Award” at the Building Economic Strength Together (BEST) Conference in Fennimore, WI. The Village received this award based on the community’s devotion to promoting economic wellness in the region.
Several farms surround the village, and agribusiness is an important part of the area economy. In addition to a number of small businesses located in Benton, the village has developed an industrial park that is ready to welcome business and industry to the community.
Built in 2004 and located in the industrial park, the Benton Business Incubator (www.growingbiz.org) assists small and medium-sized businesses during their startup and early-growth stages. The building provides resident businesses with office and manufacturing space, as well as business-assistance services that are beneficial to start-up businesses and industry.
The school district is the village’s largest employer, with the Benton State Bank being second. A number of the town’s people work in the businesses that are located right here in Benton. Other people make the easy commute to workplaces in Platteville, Dubuque, Galena, and various other neighboring communities.
Benton has an excellent PreK-12 public school system with small class sizes and a low teacher/pupil ratio. In 2002 a new elementary wing was added to the high school building at 41 Alma Street, housing all grade levels under one roof. The quality education offered by the Benton School District prepares our students for the opportunities and challenges that lie beyond the school’s doors. Having high expectations for all students, our teachers focus on academic achievement and character development that prepare our students to live and work successfully in the 21st century.
Benton has good, affordable housing and prides itself in innovative development strategies that have helped grow the community. The village purchased two separate tracts of land, developed the infrastructure (including curb and gutter), and sold each large improved lot for $5,000.
The first development, located adjacent to the school, began in the mid-1990s. When all lots in that development were sold, additional land was purchased on the west end of Benton, and the Roling Oaks’ development was initiated. Currently, 22 of its 24 lots have been sold, and the village is considering the purchase of additional land for a potential third new housing development.
Benton’s Early History
Benton was first inhabited by miners who came up the river from Galena, Illinois—miners who came in the spring and returned to Galena in the fall. These prospectors made no permanent settlements in Benton; they lived in caves dug into the hillsides. Among those first miners were George Rawlins and his son Ashford, who arrived in 1824.
The first permanent settlers to Benton were Andrew Murphy, his wife, and five sons. They arrived here in 1827 and settled east of town, near the Horseshoe Bend. They were accompanied by Peter O’Leary, his wife, a French adventurer named Francois, and an old family servant.
In 1835, the date of the first federal government land sale, Dennis Murphy (son of Andrew Murphy) purchased land on which Benton now sits. Benton was originally known as “Cottonwood Hill,” named for the large number of cottonwood trees that grew here. In 1845 the name was changed to Benton in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, senator of Missouri and longtime friend of the Murphy family. The town was laid out in March of 1844 and consisted of eight blocks divided by Main, Bean, Catherine, and Jackson (now VanBuren) streets.
The history of Benton is notably entwined with that of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, the highly respected pioneer priest who established 40 parishes and built 25 churches in the area, including Benton’s St. Patrick Catholic Church and New Diggings’ St. Augustine. Father Mazzuchelli, who served St. Patrick for the last 15 years of his life, died in 1864 and is buried in St. Patrick Catholic Church Cemetery. In 1993 Pope John Paul II declared Father Mazzuchelli venerable, the first step to possible canonization as a saint. The Mazzuchelli Gravesite and the Mazzuchelli Rectory Museum stand on the church grounds. Should Father Mazzuchelli become a saint, his gravesite will become a national shrine and will be visited by people around the world.
Your Invitation to Visit
Benton and the surrounding area are filled with interesting things to see and do, and you have an open invitation to visit. The area is steeped in history and fascinating architecture. There are a number of museums both in and around Benton that offer a look into the past. Artisans have set up shop in some of the nearby towns, where there are many boutiques, gift shops, and antique stores to peruse.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, this area is for you! The Mississippi River cuts through nearby Dubuque, Iowa, and Galena, Illinois, and offers boating, fishing, and various other water sports. There are a number of excellent golf courses in the surrounding area, from our local nine-hole course right up to 18-hole championship courses. Wildlife is abundant, and this part of the state is a paradise both for hunters and for those who simply enjoy seeing animals in their natural habitat. Snowmobiling, ice fishing, and skiing are among the winter sports enjoyed in the area.
We invite you to experience the splendor of all four seasons here in beautiful Southwestern Wisconsin and to visit points of interest all though the region. Come as often as you like, stay as long as you want—you’re always welcome.
What to See and Do
Click on any image to be taken to additional information about these sites and about others in and around Benton. (The free Adobe Acrobat Reader needed to view this document may be downloaded at Adobe Acrobat Reader.)
Where to Eat
Residents of Southwest Wisconsin and visitors to the area are fortunate to have a large selection of restaurants and eating establishments that serve excellent food at affordable prices. The following is a list of dining places in and around Benton.
Right Here in Town . . .
- GG’s Tap
- Serving pizza, as well as food from the grill and from the fryer. Head to GG’s on Tuesdays for all-you-can-eat chicken wings. Hours: open at 3 p.m. Tuesday thru Sunday (closed Monday).
- 62 E. Main Street — 759.3848
- Lawrence’s Pub & Eatery
- Serving up homemade pizza, specialty burgers, sandwiches, and more. Lunch specials Monday through Friday as well as “Game Day” food and drink specials for Badger and Packer games. Kitchen Hours: 11 a.m -9 p.m Tuesday thru Thursday, 11 a.m.- 10 p.m Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Free delivery within a 3 mile radius including Leadmine & New Diggings on Friday & Saturday evenings from 5 p.m-9 p.m. Bar Hours: 11 a.m. to close Tuesday thru Sunday (closed Monday).
- 46 Main Street — 759.4000
- McCarthy’s Bar
- Serving down-home fun with the local bluegrass favorite, Fever River String Band, fiddling out the tunes on Thursday nights and the year long count down to St. Patty’s day, this is a true “Irish” bar. Hours: 4 p.m. to close Monday thru Saturday (closed Sunday).
- 51 E. Main — 759.3942
- Road Runner Drive-In
- Located on the east edge of town and serving traditional drive-in fare and ice-cream treats. Open in season. Hours: to be determined.
- 525 E. Main — 759.2003
- Zephyr Depot (Ioco Station)
- Check out the daily specials in addition to pizza, sandwiches, and hot bread sticks. Fresh breakfast pastries and cinnamon rolls available every morning. Hours: Monday thru Friday 5 a.m. to 10 p.m; Saturday and Sunday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- 119 Main — 759.6281
On the Outskirts of Benton . . .
- Anton’s Bar and Grill
- Try Anton’s famous Macho Burger or have a sandwich, something from the grill, or 2 for $1.00 tacos on Thursday night. (And leave room for Donna’s delicious homemade desserts or ice-cream treats.) Hours: Thursday thru Sunday 12 noon to close.
- 26320 Cty. Hwy. W in New Diggings — 965.3174
- Cole Acres Country Club
- From steak to chicken to fish and seafood, it’s all on the dinner menu at Cole Acres. The dining room is open on Friday and Saturday nights, but you can always get a burger or a sandwich at the pro shop in the lower level of the clubhouse during golf season. Dining room hours: Friday and Saturday 5 to 9:30 p.m. (Saturday open for private parties. Call for information and party bookings.)
- 7617 Cty. Hwy. J (Benton/Cuba City) — 744.2476
- Guler’s Corners
- Located west of Benton at the intersection of highways 11 and 80 and serving food from the grill or from the fryer. Summer hours: Wednesday to Sunday 4 to close (closed Monday and Tuesday during the summer). Winter hours: Tuesday to Sunday 4 to close (closed Monday during the winter).
- 1895 Hwy. 80 S — 744.8498
- Hideaway Acres Supper Club
- Nestled in a grove of pines, a full menu awaits you at Hideaway Acres. While you wait for your dinner, enjoy Hideaway’s delicious salad bar, including your choice of hot soups. Hours: Sunday, Monday, and Thursday 5 to 9 p.m; Friday and Saturday 5 to10 p.m. (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
- 4825 Bennett Road in Leadmine — 759-4410
- Leadmine Tavern
- Hours: Monday 2 p.m. to 2 a.m; Tuesday thru Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
- 5389 Cty. Rd. I / in Leadmine — 759-6631
- New Diggings’ General Store
- You can’t really buy groceries here, but this bar will let you purchase a sandwich, grilled food, or a pizza. Open Thursday through Sunday, with live music Sunday afternoon from 3:30 to 7:30. Hours: Thursday and Friday 3 p.m. to close; Saturday 12 noon to 2:30 a.m; Sunday noon to close.
- 2944 Cty. Rd. I in New Diggings — 965-3231
- Oakside Supper Club
- Located on Hwy. 80 (toward Hazel Green) and serving a full dinner menu, including daily specials. Hours: 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
- 1391 Hwy. 80 — 744.2335
- Red’s Supper Club
- Located a few miles from town, through the small, rural settlement of Jenkynsville on Cty. H. The supper club serves a full dinner menu, complete with daily specials. Hours: Tuesday thru Saturday 4:30 to 10:00 p.m; Sunday 4 to 9 p.m. (bar opens at 4 each day). Closed Monday.
- 27569 Hwy. 81 (rural Cuba City) — 762.5406
- Steve’s Pizza
- Benton residents Bob and Cheryl Johnson own and operate Steve’s Pizza in Cuba City. The restaurant serves a large selection of handmade Italian-style pizzas and sandwiches. Order in or carry out. Delivery available to selected locations. Hours: Friday and Saturday 4 to 11 P.M.; Sunday, Monday, and Thursday 4 to 10 (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
- 205 N. Main / Cuba City — 744.3773
Where to Stay
There are a number of excellent lodging accommodations within a short drive of Benton. Whether you’re looking for something sublime or something more modest—or something in between—you’ll find it right here in the area.
In Hazel Green, WI
In Shullsburg, WI
- Badger Motel – Phone: 608.965.3556
- Lead Region Lodging – Phone: 608.482.1438
- Risken-Lee Holiday House – Phone: 608.482.1438
- Water Street Place Historic Inn
In Other Nearby Towns
Benton is close to many other excellent lodging accommodations in neighboring Platteville, Wisconsin; Galena, Illinois; and Dubuque, Iowa. Links to those towns’ chambers of commerce, as well as other useful links, have been provided below: