Reuben Moore Benjamin was born in June of 1833 in Columbia County, New York. Benjamin graduated from Amherst in 1853 and attended Harvard Law School. He came to Bloomington in 1856 and practiced law with Asahel Gridley. Abraham Lincoln served as a member of his examination committee and signed his qualifications to practice law in Illinois. Benjamin practiced law with several other well known attorneys in McLean County.
Benjamin served in the Union Army for several months during the Civil War and became a member of the constitutional convention to redraft the Illinois Constitution in 1870. Benjamin was elected Judge of the County Court of McLean County and served several terms. He also co-founded the Bloomington Law School at Illinois Wesleyan University and was Dean for several years. Upon retiring from the practice of law in 1893, he focused on writing and teaching.
Benjamin was known as a populist lawyer fighting for regulation of monopolies and trusts. He took the Chicago and Alton Railroad to court for unfair fees for hauling lumber. Even though Benjamin was a radical, he strictly adhered to the Republican Party’s ideals. He was described as a “pioneer antimonopolist” and at the same time a “radical opponent” of socialism.
He married Laura Woodin from Chatham, New York in 1856. The resided at 510 E. Grove St. in Bloomington where he remained until his death in 1917.
The Reuben Moore Benjamin collection contains a variety of genealogical information about the Benjamin Family, newspaper clippings, Reuben Benjamin’s writings and some publications, correspondence, deeds, abstracts of title, and ledger books containing newspaper articles and law notes.