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Historic Benson murals a must-see as you enter Cochise County

Benson train depot mural
Posted at 2:40 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 17:40:52-04

BENSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — There are over 40 murals in Benson depicting the local history and culture.

Inspired by the rich history of the train industry, they are a must-see as you travel into Cochise County.

"I want people to remember that I was here," joked artist Doug Quarels. "Left my mark."

Quarels has left his mark throughout Benson, in the form of more than 40 murals.

Quarels was commissioned in 2013, by the non-profit Benson Clean and Beautiful, to enhance the town and develop civic pride.

It is also a way to educate visitors to the area, according to Lisa Hill, who led the effort.

"People need to know the history of Benson and Cochise County because there's very little written about it," Hill said.

"We're the gateway to Cochise County," said Cindy Allen, President of Benson Clean and Beautiful. "But we would like people to stop and enjoy the history of the county and of Benson."

Much of the history revolves around trains. Benson was established in 1880 with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Rail Road.

The Murals of Benson begin with 8 of Quarels' train murals near the Visitor Center.

Benson mural of depot

"The demographics of the people that like trains is everybody from five years old to 95 years old," said Bob Nilson, Benson Visitor Center. "We get them all."

Nilson is also an historian, who found photos for Quarels to use for many of his murals.

"He helped a lot getting with this," explained Quarles. "A lot of the photographs , getting the photographs that we needed to reproduce."

Quarels is originally from Louisiana and appreciates the beauty of southeastern Arizona, which comes through in his artwork.

"I love it," said Quarles. "The big sky, all of these mountains, the distance. And of course the people has been just wonderful."

Besides the train murals, you'll find historical events depicted like the Mormon Battle of the Bulls.

The Buffalo Soldiers escorting the stage to Ft. Huachuca in the 1890s.

The cattle drive depicts the last major cattle drive in Arizona.

There's even a mural showing the natural beauty of nearby Kartchner Caverns.

Plus, several murals depicting Kachina Dancers.

Benson Murals Kachina Dancers

While you're taking in the more than 40 murals of Benson, look for some of the hidden images Quarels snuck into his paintings.

"It's got to where I hide quite a few different things," Quarles said. "I mean it could be an alien or an elephant or giraffe or anything like that."

"I'll tell people to go see what you can find," Nilson said. "He's got the one picture of the depot from 1910. If you look carefully there's a little boy with a skateboard."

Benson train depot mural

You'll also find a gargoyle. Quarels says he painted it after the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

While he isn't currently painting any new murals, there are plans for more in Benson.

"Absolutely, we have plans for at least a half dozen more," said Lisa Hill. "As soon as we can find walls to put them on."

"We got to get more walls," joked Quarles. "People need to move down here and build buildings with big blank walls so we can paint them."

You can discover more about the Benson Murals with the help of a guide book. They are available on the Benson Murals website or at several businesses throughout Benson.