Roger Benson began flying as a young man out of Tom North’s field on Highway 96 east of White Bear Lake on the way to Stillwater. In the 1930s, he plowed an airstrip on his family’s farm just east of Bald Eagle Lake in White Bear Township. In 1942, Roger, by then an experienced aviator, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. In November 1944, Roger died in the South Pacific after being hospitalized with severe burns from a crash. The Benson family named the flying field on their farm Roger’s Field in his memory.
John Benson, Roger’s younger brother, had learned to fly from his sibling and continued the tradition at the farm. Slowly, other aviators, along with their planes, started frequenting his airstrip, and the site soon became known as Benson’s Airport. The first non-family member to store a plane at the site was Wally Lindquist. In 1950, John registered the airport with the State of Minnesota and the first hangar was built in 1951. To this day, the airport continues to attract flyers with a passion for flight and a spirit of adventure.
The bond between pilots is a strong one, and Lindquist developed a life-long friendship with John and many of the other aviators who have spent countless hours at Benson Airport.
When John died in 1993, he donated a 66-acre plot of land that includes the present-day airport, a township water tower and a 25-acre park to White Bear Township, with the stipulation that it remains an airport for 40 years. If for any reason the airport operations cease, the land will revert to John Benson’s estate and then be donated to the American Cancer Society to do with what they see fit. Today, the airport is operated by the Benson Airport Association and home of EAA Chapter 745.
-Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing history thoughts monthly on this back page.