With Family Histories of the Occupants
By Bernard A. Paul, James Ross, and Tracey Sandefur
On February, 11, 1982, the National Register of Historic Places entered into its listings the structure we know as the Willis Allen House at 514 South Market Street in Marion, Illinois. Although much is known about this property and the personalities of those who called it home, much more needs to be discovered. Early in 1992, the archaeological study that is contained in this book was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Bernard A. Paul, the present owners of this historic home.
The first white settlers pushed into this area and began to carve homes out of the wilderness in the early 1800’s. Milo Erwin said William Benson and his wife, Bethany, settled on “Poor Prairie,” the present site of Marion, in 1826. They built a log cabin and cultivated corn and wheat. After they had established a foothold, the Bensons built a more elaborate cabin in 1835. They are reported to have kept a hotel of sorts in this house. It was also used as the first Williamson County courthouse in 1839.
Archibald Thompson Benson filed a land patent in the general land office in Shawneetown, Illinois on March 3, 1843, for those lands in the 33-acre tract south and east of the square, including what is now the site of the Allen House. In 1850 he and his wife Julia deeded the land to Willis Allen. The same tract was also deeded to Allen in 1854 by William and Bethany Benson. Congressman Allen paid $200.00 for each transaction. Barbara Burr Hubbs says Mr. Allen moved into the log cabin on the former William Benson Land.