Benjamin Franklin Hilton – 1996 Inductee

Benjamin Franklin Hilton was the son of Horace and Mary Hilton, and was born in Edgerton, Williams County, Ohio, February 16, 1844. He attended the local school and spent two years at a private academy. At the age of seventeen the Civil War began and he enlisted in Company A, 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was discharged in 1864 and re-enlisted the next year, this time serving in Company I, 8th Hancock’s Veterans Corps. He was discharged a final time in April 1866.

“B. F. Hilton, who served a full three years in the Civil war, was never sworn into service, but went with his company in the place of another man after having been rejected himself. In a letter to the National Tribune, published at Washington, D. C., he tells the story as follows: ‘Editor Tribune–I believe I am the only one of the boys of 1861 who actually served three years in any company without being sworn into service. With twenty-four other boys who lived at Edgerton, Ohio, I signed up and was ordered to report at Defiance, where the 38th Ohio was organized. When the mustering office came I was rejected. The regiment was in camp for about three weeks and when it left for the South I was on hand to go with them. At Camp Dennison one of the boys refused to be sworn in and my name was put on the roll in his place. I served the full three years, never missed a skirmish or battle in which Company A, 38th Ohio, was engaged and I was discharged at Atlanta, September 13, 1864, without having been sworn into service.  – B. F. Hilton, Co. A, 38th Ohio, Osborne, Kansas.” — Osborne County Farmer, January 28, 1932.

Hilton returned to his home in Edgerton and joined his father in the mercantile business. On September 13, 1868, he married Mary Elizabeth Spencer in Edgerton. They had five children: William; Carrie; Mary; Horace; and Elizabeth.

The call of the west was strong in those days, so in 1870 Hilton came to Kansas and located a claim on East Twin Creek in what later became Osborne County. Then he returned to Ohio, put his family and their belongings into a covered wagon and made the long, slow trip to Kansas, arriving on their homestead May 6, 1871. Hilton settled onto his homestead and also helped to settle the country around him. He assisted in the organization of Winfield Township in 1872, and seven years later was instrumental in organizing School District 84, Hilton School, which was named after him, And it should be noted that Benjamin Hilton was the first person to buy a subscription to the Osborne County Farmer newspaper in January 1875 – he traded a coyote for it.

Hilton was a Republican in political affairs. He was a vigorous speaker and an astute organizer who held several township and school district offices. From 1891 through 1894 he served as Osborne County Clerk of the District Court, and in 1895 he was elected the county’s representative to the Kansas Legislature, serving one term. When rural mail delivery was first initiated Hilton was one of the first carriers ever appointed, a position he held over ten years. In 1908 the Hiltons moved into Osborne in order to give their children the benefit of a high school education.

Hilton was active in the American Legion and the Osborne Chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, O. M. Mitchell Post Number 69. When he died June 2, 1935, he was the last surviving member of Post Number 69.

Benjamin Hilton, soldier, statesman, and pioneer, was buried with full military honors in the Osborne Cemetery. It was a measure of the esteem in which Hilton was held by his fellow citizens when during the funeral all places of business in Osborne were closed, and all flags were placed at half staff in honor of this distinguished member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

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