Tuesday’s public auction of 1,061 acres of farmland and hunting properties in Labette and Montgomery counties, including the 162-acre tract upon which the Benders performed their nefarious deeds about 150 years ago, sold for a total of $2.2 million.
Schrader Auction of Indiana conducted the auction Tuesday evening in the Cardinal Event Center in Parsons.
The land was divided into 15 tracts. Tract nine included the 162 acres that are part of Bender lore. The tract sold for $418,932, or $2,586 an acre. The tract was sold along with tracts one and two, both in Montgomery County north of Cherryvale. One was 21 acres and the other eight. The total cost for the three tracts was $493,926.
A 56-acre tract west of tracts one and two fetched the highest price per acre, selling for $155,960, or $2,785 an acre.
Schrader Auction did not release information about the buyers. Company policy is to not release that information until the transactions close and buyer names become public.
C. Brent Wellings, southwest manager for Schrader, said the auction had 41 bidders. But family members and spectators bumped up the number attending the auction to 125.
He didn’t think the knowledge of the Bender history impacted buyers.
“It is my opinion that the historical knowledge of Tract 9 had no impact, either positive or negative, on the sales price achieved,” Wellings said in email correspondence.
The Bender acreage is at U.S. 400 and Chase Road in Labette County. This is where William Bender, sometimes called John Sr. or Pa, his wife, son, John Jr., and daughter, Kate, operated a grocery in the early 1870s for travelers on the Osage Trail that ran from Fort Scott through Osage Mission at St. Paul and on to Independence. The trail was close to the Benders’ front step.
Soon after the Benders established their store in late 1870 or early 1871, travelers on the Osage Trail began disappearing. The Benders operated from a 16-by 24-foot frame cabin divided into two parts with a wagon sheet as a partition, according to a section on the Benders in Nelson Case’s “History of Labette County,” published in 1901. Some travelers stopping at the store for a meal or supplies (crackers, tobacco, sardines, candies, powder and shot were among items sold) would have their skulls smashed and throats slit. The Benders took their victims’ possessions and money and buried the bodies, some in an apple orchard/garden area on the property. Other bodies turned up on the surrounding prairie.