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Manuscripts by Subject - Health / Medicine - #11211

Title: Wilmer Benton

Dates: ca. 1937-1938

Collection Number: MSS 11211

Quantity: 1 foot

Abstract: Consists of an autograph book and photograph album which document Benton’s time at the San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium near Dunseith (ND).  The autograph book contains notes and signatures of fellow patients, and the photograph album contains photographs of patients, staff, doctors, and of the hospital grounds.

Provenance: The collection was donated to the State Historical Society of North Dakota by Michael Benton on February 7, 2014.

Property rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to the collection.

Copyrights: Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

BIOGRAPHY OF WILMER GRANT BENTON
By Michael Lee Benton

Wilmer Benton was born on May 30th 1916 at home, NE 11th Avenue and 8th Street NE, in Minot (ND); that was the end of town then. I remember him telling of when he was young, riding the horses up into the coulees above the house and swimming in a local pond fed by a spring.

He was born to William Theodore Benton, a carpenter, and Nellie Mabel Melius, a very busy mother, as Wilmer was the eleventh of eleven children. Number ten was his identical twin brother, Willard Lee Benton.

Growing up in the teens and twenties of the last century were not easy times for the working man, and education was not a priority. Wilmer attended Roosevelt School, on 7th Avenue NE and 8th Street NE in Minot, until the compulsory requirements were met to graduate from sixth grade. Wilmer then went out looking for any odd jobs he could do to help supplement the family income. Not an uncommon scenario for the era.

In the early 1930s Wilmer went to work for his brother in law, Earl Tolbert, married to Wilmer’s sister Ivah May Benton, on their farm northeast of Breckenridge, MN. After a year or two on the farm Wilmer joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was assigned to a camp north of Dunseith (ND). The purpose of the men in this camp was to build the picnic shelters and restrooms for the new “International Peace Gardens,” a works program through the Franklin Roosevelt administration to employ young men who could not find work; to build civic projects.

These structures were still in use in the 1980s for a CCC convention. Wilmer was very proud of his time spent with the CCC, their accomplishments for the community and making lifelong friends.

Wilmer’s next journey in life led him in the fall of 1935 to the Sanatorium at San Haven (ND).
This hospital was set up for people living with tuberculosis. Wilmer spent the next several months with a collapsed lung, all the while receiving the medicines and treatment required to live his life free of the disease. However, he would carry the scars in his lung for the rest of his life. This of course excluded Wilmer from military service during WWII.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s Wilmer drove delivery truck for various firms in Minot. He worked for Westland Oil, on the corner of 3rd Street and 1st Avenue NE in Minot for a few years, just prior to the fire that occurred at that facility in the mid 1940s. At the time Wilmer and Victoria lived across the street from Westland Oil and had some harrowing stories of that time.

Next Wilmer went to work for the Interstate Transportation Company driving bus. The offices and depot at that time were located on the corner of Broadway and Central Avenue in Minot. Wilmer would drive a bus for the next 30 years. The depot location really stands out for me: as a child of 4, I remember my father having to rush to the depot to salvage important paper work and business machinery as the “Great Grand Hotel Fire” raged across the street, leaving only the Flat Iron Building standing in its’ wake. The firemen were not sure they could contain the blaze. I want to guess it was 1957. He dragged the whole family down to watch.

While working for Interstate Transportation Company, Wilmer drove several routes throughout
ND. I know he drove the routes to Crosby, Williston and Bismarck. He would also drive for special chartered tours: one that took him to Winnipeg, Manitoba, was a big city deal for him.

It was while Wilmer was driving the Williston route, circa 1942, that a young lady boarded the bus at Ray (ND) headed for Minot. Her name was Victoria Agnes Burington. My father always claimed that Victoria, who happened to take the seat behind the driver, kicked him in the elbow to get his attention. They were married October 5, 1942 by the Justice of the Peace in Glendive, MT. Two years later, on October 10, 1944, Wilmer and Victoria had their vows renewed at St. Leo's Catholic Church in Minot.

Wilmer and Victoria settled in Minot and lived there until 1960. By this time they had two sons. The first, James, was born in 1951, and the second son, Michael, was born in 1953. Victoria was always known as “Babe”: like Wilmer she was the last child born, late in life, and the moniker just stuck throughout her lifetime.

By 1960, Wilmer had worked for the Interstate Transportation Company close to 20 years, driving bus was his life. An opportunity presented itself that allowed Wilmer to own his own bus line. So in the spring of 1960 Wilmer purchased a small local route that ran between Hettinger and Bismarck. Wilmer named the business, "V&W Bus Line," for the first letters of Victoria and Wilmer. He picked up his family and departed the verdant valley of the Mouse River to the arid Butted Prairies of southwest North Dakota.

Wilmer owned and operated his bus line 6 days a week for the next 10 years. The bus would leave the Lakeview Hotel in Hettinger early in the morning. His route included stops at Mott, New Leipzig, Elgin, Carson, Flasher, Mandan, and Bismarck, arriving at the old Greyhound station downtown at around 11am. The bus would leave Bismarck around 4pm on its return trip to Hettinger, arriving at 7pm. Long days for sure, and by 1970 he was ready to move on.

Wilmer and his family returned to Minot in the summer of 1970. He went to work for Tom Woods at Minot Sand and Gravel and remained there until his retirement in 1981. Once again he was behind the wheel of a big truck, cement and gravel, hauling materials for the rework of the Mouse River, in order not to repeat 1969s' massive flooding (until 40 years later).

Wilmer and Victoria divorced in 1972. Victoria continued to reside in ND until her death at a Fargo nursing home in September of 1993. Victoria rests at Rosehill Memorial Cemetery on south hill in Minot.

In 1980 Wilmer met Vera New Weed. Vera grew up on the family farm which is now part of Minot Air Force Base. He and Vera married on September 18, 1981, after Wilmer’s retirement. They resided on North Main Street in Minot for the next 20 years before moving into a senior apartment complex near 19th Avenue and 6th Street SE in Minot.

They remained there until Wilmer’s death in 2006, just 5 days shy of 90. Vera would follow him just a few years later. Wilmer and Vera lie side by side at Sunset Memorial Gardens just north of Minot.

Wilmer was the son of “Pioneers,” who came by wagon to this rugged country known as Dakota. He grew up in a hardscrabble time in this country; he triumphed, was successful, and led a life full of adventures of the common man.

BOX / FOLDER INVENTORY

Autograph book containing notes and signatures of fellow patients at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, 1937-1938    
Photograph Album: 11211-01 – 11211-46

Photographs Inventory
11211-01              Unidentified female patient on bed at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-02              Violet (last name unknown), patient on bed at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938           
11211-03              Two unidentified female patients with doll at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-04              Two unidentified male patients with Christmas tree at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-05              Unidentified male patient on bed at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-06              Unidentified male patient with Christmas tree at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-07              Unidentified male doctor at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-08              Unidentified female at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-09              Dr. Dodds at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-10              Unidentified male at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-11              Unidentified male at desk with cigar in mouth at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, December 1937
11211-12              Billy Green outside in suit at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-13              Billy Green and unidentified female outside at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-14              Unidentified female outside at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-15              Two unidentified males at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-16              Billy Green and unidentified male outside at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-17              Unidentified male in bed at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-18              Unidentified male outside at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-19              Unidentified male at desk at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-20              Unidentified male doctor at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-21              Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-22              Unidentified male at desk at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-23              Unidentified female outside at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-24              Jammie (last name unknown), nurse at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-25              Unidentified female outside of Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-26              Two unidentified males and unidentified female outside of Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-27              Three unidentified males and unidentified female outside of Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938          
11211-28              Two unidentified males outside of Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-29              Unidentified male at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-30              Two unidentified females outside of Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-31              Two unidentified males in bed at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-32              Two unidentified males standing in doorway at Masonic Temple at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-33              Two unidentified males standing in doorway at Masonic Temple at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-34              Unidentified male and female outside of Masonic Temple at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-35              Two unidentified males outside of Masonic Temple at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-36              Unidentified female nurse at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-37              Unidentified female patient at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-38              Unidentified female nurse at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-39              Bern and wife outside at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-40              Unidentified male at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-41              Two unidentified males at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-42              Unidentified male at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-43              Unidentified male outside at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-44              Wilmer Benton and two unidentified males outside of Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-45              Unidentified male outside of Masonic Cottage at San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938
11211-46              Aerial view of San Haven Tuberculosis Sanatorium, ca. 1937-1938

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