Please wander through our murals and learn
about the city of Benson, a little of its history, and what makes it a
nice place to live.
Before Benson was founded the fording of the San Pedro River was an important stage stop for the Butterfield Overland Stage.
Established in 1880 with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Rail Road, Benson became an important Gateway to the San Pedro Valley and still holds that title to this day.
Your guide to a Walking Tour of Murals
Our published guide book,
a handy reference of all our murals to-date. This booklet provides a brief
overview of each mural, its location, and other information regarding the
mural. Murals of Benson
added bonus for purchasing the booklet is a “look for” section on the
mural page that tells you some of the hidden objects to find in a mural.
the murals can be easily reached from the parking lot of the Benson Visitors
Center. A map in the guide book will allow you to locate each mural by number,
and shows its approximate location on the map.
available at the following locations:
Medicine Shoppe Endeavor Gallery Friends of the Benson Library Benson Feed, 639 E 4th St. Zearing’s Mercantile Benson’s New Day Spa White Buffalo Benson Visitor’s Center
Mural Depiction Be sure to tour the Oasis Court inner courtyard to view the Gambel’s quail along with their covey. Background Information Gambel’s Quail are sociable birds of the Arizona desert, where coveys gather along brushy washes and cactus-studded arroyos to feed. Males and females both sport a bobbing black topknot of feathers. However, the male’s copper cap distinguishes it from the female. This ground-hugging desert dweller would rather run than fly, look for mama, papa and babies running between cover or papa posting a lookout on low shrubs. Mural Depiction Hopi Kachina Dancer representing the Bear spirit. Background Information Animal representations were a common theme in Hopi Kachina Dancer regalia reflecting the traits of the animals that they represented. Kachinas are spirits or personifications of things in the real world. These spirits are believed to visit the Hopi villages during the first half of the year. A Kachina can represent anything in the natural world or cosmos, from a revered ancestor to an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon, or a concept. There are more than 400 different Kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture. The multiple gods of Kachinas varies in each pueblo community; there may be Kachinas for the sun, stars, thunderstorms, wind, corn, insects, and many other concepts. Kachinas are understood as having human-like relationships; they may have uncles, sisters, and grandmothers, and may marry and have children. Although not worshipped, each is viewed as a powerful being who, if given veneration and respect, can use his or her particular power for human good, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection, for example. Mural Depiction Shown here is a Spirit Dancer Background Information The Hopi are not the only tribe to observe the Kachina tradition in its religious calendar. Almost all other Pueblo villages in the Southwest observe the Kachina ritual in one way or another. The Zuni however, have the nearest resemblance to the Hopi Kachinas, and in many ways the two coincide so closely as to indicate a close relationship in the past. The Zuni believe that the Kachinas live in the Lake of the Dead, a mythical lake which is reached through Listening Spring Lake. This is located at the junction of the Zuni River and the Little Colorado River. Although some archaeological investigations have taken place, they have not been able to clarify which tribe, Hopi or Zuni, was developed first. The Hopis have built their traditions into a more elaborate ritual, and seem to have a greater sense of drama and artistry than the Zunis. On the other hand, the latter have developed a more sizable folklore concerning their Kachinas. Mural Depiction Be sure to tour the Oasis Court inner courtyard to view the whimsical Javelina and her offspring. Background Information Javelina are common in much of central and southern Arizona. Though some people think Javelina are a type of wild pig, they are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. They form herds of 2 to more than 20 animals and rely on each other to defend territory, protect against predators, regulate temperature and interact socially. They have a keen sense of smell but have very poor eyesight; they may appear to be charging when actually trying to escape. They eat primarily plants, including cacti, succulent plants, bulbs, tubers, beans and seeds; and sometimes insects, garbage and grubs. Mural Information Artist: Doug Quarles Completed: January 2014 Sponsor: Pioneer Title In addition to movements related to available shelter and food, the breeding cycle is important in understanding deer behavior. The “rut” or mating season usually begins in the fall. The gestation period is about 190-200 days, with fawns born in the spring, staying with their mothers during the summer and being weaned in the fall after about 75 days. Mule deer females (does) usually give birth to two fawns, although if it is their first time having a fawn, they often have just one. A buck or stag’s antlers fall off during the winter, to grow again in preparation for the next season’s rut. Mural Information Artist: Doug Quarles Completed: January 2014 Sponsor: Pioneer Title In addition to movements related to available shelter and food, the breeding cycle is important in understanding deer behavior. The “rut” or mating season usually begins in the fall. The gestation period is about 190-200 days, with fawns born in the spring, staying with their mothers during the summer and being weaned in the fall after about 75 days. Mule deer females (does) usually give birth to two fawns, although if it is their first time having a fawn, they often have just one. A buck or stag’s antlers fall off during the winter, to grow again in preparation for the next season’s rut. Mural Information Artist: Doug Quarles Completed: January 2014 Sponsor: Pioneer Title Mural Depiction Mountain lions can be found throughout Arizona and are most common in rocky or mountainous terrain. Because mountain lions are shy and elusive, people do not often see them. Mountain lions are solitary animals with the exception of females with kittens or breeding pairs. Signs of mountain lion presence include large tracks (3-5 inches wide) without claw marks; large segmented, cylindrical droppings; food caches where a kill has been partially eaten and then covered with leaves, brush or dirt; and scrapes in soft dirt or leaf litter. Background Information The mountain lion (Puma Concolor) is also known as the cougar, puma, panther, and catamount, and is the largest wildcat in North America. Mountain lions have powerful limbs and can leap as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet. There are an estimated 30,000 mountain lions in the western United States. One mountain lion subspecies, the Florida panther, is critically endangered with a population of less than 100 individuals. Mountain lions are active hunters and may travel long distances in search of food. They hunt alone and attack from behind, breaking the neck of their prey by biting it at the base of the skull. After killing their prey, they will bury it and leave it, coming back to feed on it when hungry. Females have two to four kittens, which the mother raises alone. The kittens nurse for two months, and then start to travel with their mother at which time she teaches them to hunt. They will remain with their mother from 1.5 – 2 years. Males that enter another male’s territory have been known to kill the kittens so that females will be more willing to mate. Did you know? Young mountain lions have spots, but adults do not. Mural Information Artist: Doug Quarles Completed: February 2014 Sponsor: Pioneer Title Mural Depiction Our mural depicts passengers traveling through the Arizona territory in the late 1800’s. Benson has been a transportation hub since its beginning and has earned its name as the Gateway to Cochise County. Benson became an important destination point as a fording station across the San Pedro River for the Butterfield Stage Company. The Butterfield Overland Stage ran between Independence, Missouri and California between 1857 and 1861. The stage route ran through Benson just north of the current town. The stage crossed the river in the vicinity of the present-day gas pipeline bridges, just north of Interstate 10. Benson commemorates its relationship with the Butterfield Stage every year in the month of October. Benson lies between two stations, Cienega (Seneca) station and Dragoon Springs. Both of these stations were called “Swing” stations compared to “Home” stations. Swing stations were used only for changing teams of horses or mules as well as allowing passengers to have a quick break and stretch their legs. These stations had a quick turnaround. Home stations were where passengers could get a meal. Station Masters, cooks, as well as maintenance men also could be found at home stations. Background Information A Brief History of the Butterfield Overland Stage Company Founders John W. Butterfield and his associates William B. Dinsmore, William G. Fargo, James V. P. Gardner, Marcus L. Kinyon, Alexander Holland, and Hamilton Spencer created a proposal for a southern route from St. Louis to California. The Post Office Department received nine bids. Brown, the Postmaster General, was from Tennessee and favored a southern route. Although none of the bidders had provided for the route, the Postmaster General advocated a southerly route, known as the Oxbow Route, with the idea that it could remain in operation during the winter, “from St. Louis, Missouri, and from Memphis Tennessee, converging at Little Rock, Arkansas; thence, via Preston, Texas, or as nearly so as may be found advisable, to the best point of crossing the Rio Grande, above El Paso and not far from Fort Fillmore; thence along the new road being opened and constructed under direction of the Secretary of the Interior, to Fort Yuma, California; thence, through the best passes and along the best valleys for safe and expeditious staging, to San Francisco.” The Route The Butterfield Overland Stage ran between Independence Missouri and California from 1857 and ending its run in March 1861. Just before the American Civil War began the US Government formally revoked the contract of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Company in anticipation of the coming conflict. This southern stage route was 600 miles (970 km) longer than the central and northern routes through Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah, but was snow-free. The bid and route was awarded to Butterfield and his associates, for semi-weekly mail at $600,000 per year. At that time it was the largest land-mail contract ever awarded in the US. During the 1860’s there were few routes westward. The Overland Stagecoach Route was one of the primary routes and had to be kept open for settlers, miners and businessmen traveling west. Because the Overland Stagecoach route was being harassed by bandits and Indians, Lincoln’s War Department responded by assigning a detachment from the 9th Kansas Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William O. Collins from Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory. Collins’ detachment guarded the route between Independence, Missouri and Sacramento, California. The Butterfield Overland Mail Company held a 6-year US Mail contract beginning September 15, 1857. On that date stages departed from St. Louis and San Francisco for the first time. The stage from San Francisco arrived in St. Louis 23 days and four hours later with the mail and six passengers. The scheduled time between the two points was 25 days. The Overland Mail made two trips a week over a period of two and a half years. Each Monday and Thursday morning the stagecoach would leave San Francisco on their cross continent trip, carrying passengers, freight, and up to 12,000 letters. The western fare one-way from Memphis or St. Louis to the Golden Gate was $200, with most stages arriving at their final destination 22 days later. The Butterfield Overland Stage Company had more than 800 people in its employ, had 139 relay stations, 1800 head of stock and 250 Concord Stagecoaches in service at one time. Proposed Butterfield Overland Trail National Historic Trail On March 30, 2009, President Barack Obama signed Congressional legislation (Sec. 7209 of P.L. 111-11) to conduct a study of designating the trail a National Historic Trail. The United States National Park Service is conducting meetings in affected communities and doing Special Resource Study/Environmental Assessment to determine whether it should become a trail and what the route should be. (See National Park Service Significance Statement) For Additional Information Wikipedia article: Butterfield Overland Mail Hike Arizona Desert Rambler Southern Arizona Guide Directions to Dragoon Springs Stage Station Mural Information Artist: Doug Quarles Size: 14′ x 35′ Completed: April 2014 Sponsors: Anonymous Donors Mural Depiction Even though this commercial mural wasn’t sponsored through Benson Beautification, Inc., the mural has an honorary position, as the Lions Club has been a part of Benson’s history since 1950 and has played an active role in community events and benefits programs. Background Information Every locale has some kind of active club that supports the community. The Lions Club shares that with all the other clubs that have supported the people of Benson since its founding. The first club in Benson, the Knights of Pythias, was established on 12 August 1882. Many other organizations have come and gone, but continue to flourish in Benson. Mural Information Artist: Doug Quarles Size: 6′ x 14′ Completed: January 2015 Sponsor: Lions Club Mural Depiction This mural on the south window slider of the Benson Museum is sponsored by Benson Pony Express. In celebration of the annual Butterfield Stage Days held the second weekend of October, the Pony Express re-creates a mail run from Benson to Dragoon. Background Information Since a stagecoach trip would be terribly inefficient and difficult to do with our modern transportation, the Pony Express commemorates the history of the stage coach that was such an integral part of Benson’s history. During the Butterfield Days celebration the Pony Express riders re-enact the route of the Butterfield Overland Stage from Benson to Dragoon, the next stop on the Overland Stage route. Mural Information Artist: Doug Quarles Size: 8′ x 6′ Completed: February 2013 Sponsor: Benson Pony Express