Barbara Benson is the single most important historian in Barrington’s history since Arnett C. Lines—both documenting our history from 186 years ago since our original settlers arrived, and 155 years since the Village of Barrington was founded in 1865. Our first historian was the extraordinary Arnett C. Lines, who left behind an encyclopedic level of documentation, observations, and a keen and detailed look at life in Barrington for the generations before his, as well as his own. Barbara has picked up where Mr. Lines left off and closes any gaps in important historical information. His work is exceptional and irreplaceable, as is hers.
Through her writings for the Courier, the Cuba Township Newsletter, and Quintessential Barrington magazine since 2015, Barbara has created a historical library of her own—documenting important historical figures (Harold Byron Smith, Richard Duchossois, George Van Hagen, Paul Magnuson, Justine Kerfoot, and the Hawleys and other early families), as well as the life and times across the past 100 years. For our magazine, we have created a feature library called “Our Town Series” which offers a deep, individual history on the founding of each of the villages in 60010. We have yet to complete a few, but you can see them here on the magazine’s website under the “Our Town Series” tab. Once completed, these histories by Barbara need not be done again. They are a forever gift to our readers and researchers, as well.
Barbara has unselfishly given her all to both her family, and the Barrington area as a citizen, neighbor, civic activist, writer, and historian. She is also a key figure in the German Shepherd world, with her dogs (progeny of Rumor, the Best in Show winner in 2017 at Westminster) winning top events in the U.S. Many people in town consider her a celebrity and acknowledge her as she shops in local stores. The average citizen recognizes who she is and the work she is doing; it must matter to them.
She was the Barrington Historical Society director for many years starting in 1980, for which she helped raised money through her inaugural Winterscape events and calendar sales. She’s written two books and also wrote for our magazine’s special edition to commemorate Barrington’s Sesquicentennial. For that special edition, Barbara was central to the book’s structure, organized by the working committee with her input on how to present the content and what to include.
As the president of the erstwhile Greater North Barrington Area Association, she helped preserve acres of open space and keep away unwanted developments that would alter the rural character of the area. Barbara also helped secure the National Register of Historic places certification for our newly renovated Barrington’s White House, by providing a depth of history for the application process. She then donated material and content for the docents to use while offering their tours in Barrington’s White House.
The Barbara L. Benson Historical Lecture Series at Barrington’s White House offered a fun event followed by a traditional Hunt Tea in June 2018. “The Horses Never Left” offered a look at when the first horses arrived, and how they remain today as a vital part of our community. Barbara also provided the introduction to the first Town Warming event, a resurrected series of civic gatherings in the mid-1930s until the early 1940s. She loves holding court while in a group, offering interesting stories and facts few would know about, today.
Not only is she classy, gracious, and humble, as well as caring and highly intelligent, Barbara’s beautifully written words are forever documented—a true and timeless treasure for our many communities in the greater Barrington area.