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Lola White’s Family History
The Benton Family History and Shell Collection

Hugh Samuel Benton's family has been in America since the days of the Revolutionary War, in which they served. They emigrated from England, settled in Virginia and moved west with time. Hugh S. Benton was reared in the cultural traditions of old Southern families on plantations. There were four boys and two girls in the Boone/Benton family. They visited and kept track of each other and supported one another in their endeavors. From his grandmother’s side, a long lineage of French Huguenots, named Hugo Dupuy, lent Hugh his given name. He was born in Missouri.

Hugh was blond, blue-eyed, slightly build. His happy personality and good looks were attractive to many he met. He sang well and was musically inclined. Hugh was a gentle person, courteous, moral, and hard working. He had determination and dedicated himself to doing the best at whatever he tried. As a very young man he joined the army and left his family farm in Amarillo, Texas when World War I was proclaimed. The U.S. Army sent him to Nogales, Arizona as a clerk in the Quartermaster Corps. Camp Little was a center of defense against Pancho Villa or other Mexican aggression that might present itself.

He did not speak Spanish but soon overcame that deficiency when, during off-duty hours, he met the girl of his dreams. Maria Dolores Quintero was a brown-eyed beauty whom Hugh called, "My Queen," perhaps, because of her regal bearing and dignified demeanor.

Maria Dolores Quintero, called "Lola," was born in Compostela (meaning a field of stars), a small town close to the Pacific Ocean in the state of Nayarit, Mexico Her family emigrated from Spain in the late 1700’s and settled in west central Mexico. Her mother's grandmother had married a sailor who came with Emperor Maximilian's forces when the French were trying to dominate Mexico, thus adding French to the family’s heritage.

Lola was raised in the tradition of old Spanish families and lived on her uncle Alvino Ulloa's hacienda. They raised cattle and crops. The family members all worked hard but also enjoyed the pleasures of music, horses and fiestas.

Lola’s father's favorite horse was an Arabian horse. During the era of the dictator, Porfirio Diaz, Placido Quintero, Lola's father, was on the road on his horse with the payroll in saddle bags. He was going to one of the family ranches he managed when he was assaulted, robbed and killed. Placido's father, General Candido Quintero, weeks later identified the body. Lola's mother could never accept that her husband was dead. She preferred to believe that he had been shanghaied by the "revolucionarios" and would return. Placido's empty, discarded wallet found at the site was given to his little daughter, Lola.

The world turned upside-down for Lola when her distraught Mother, Antonia, not able or not willing to continue in the hacienda life style so she took Lola and her two sisters to Nogales, a thousand miles and more away. Her mother’s name was Maria Antonieta Cruz de Quintero but was called Antonia or Tona.  Antonia built a home, which still stands, and searched for ways to earn a living. This meant that Lola, the oldest child, then ten years old was the housekeeper and the caregiver for her two younger sisters when her mother was otherwise occupied.

At the age of sixteen, she went to work as a clerk at Victor Wager's confectionary, called the "Palace of Sweets." She did not speak English but she overcame that handicap. She needed to learn English to work and to be able to converse with one of her favorite customers, Hugh Benton. Lola gave her life over to learning various skills in her many interests, the principal of which was her family. Both Hugh and Lola were devoted parents to their one daughter and two sons.

Despite some cultural differences Lola and Hugh had many things in common, among which were love of adventure, love of learning which led to love of life. One example, after his stint with the U.S. Army, he bought a horse and wagon and farming supplies and went to Mexico to grow cotton. A “scam” artist conned some of the young veterans into going to Mexico. The Mexican citizens would furnish the land and tools and water and the American veterans would furnish the expertise, labor and seed. The income would be split according a formula. The American con man did not furnish what he promised. But my mother and Dad stayed anyway. They learned about the land and the people and had a great adventure until Lola became pregnant.

Upon their return to Arizona Hugh took a correspondence course program passed the exam for Customs Inspector and was hired. He retired from the unit after 25 years. During his employment stint he increased his position from Inspector to Deputy Collector of Customs.

The U.S. Customs, under the Treasury Department, gave Hugh the assignment of opening a new international port of entry. Hugh suggested the name, “Lukeville,” for the port, to honor the famous Frank Luke, World War I Ace Pilot, from Phoenix. The Benton family moved to Lukeville in 1941 and became acquainted with the area. They often traveled to Rocky Point, Punta Penasco, Mexico. Lola spent hours reading and learning about seashells and marine life. That was the beginning of a collection that lasted for 40 or more years. The large Benton Shell collection was eventually transferred to the department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, College of Science at the University of Arizona. The shell collection became the core upon which college shell programs were developed. In addition, a Benton memorial fund helps graduate students do research .

A selection of shells from the collection is on display on the third floor of the Sciences and Engineering Library in Tucson for all to enjoy. My granddaughter, Erica Elizabeth Wager, a doctoral candidate at the University tells us that she likes to study in the same area where her great-grandparents' shells are housed. For more information call Dr. Peter Reinthal, Curator, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, phone number 520 621 7518 Fax 520 621 9190 Email: pnr@u.aruzona.edu.

The couple, who eventually moved to live in California, shelled in California, up and down the West coast from Canada to Southern Mexico. They traveled to Cuba, Texas, Florida, Louisiana and points between. The collection comprises some gifts of shells; there were a few instances of trading and buying; but, the greater part is what they gathered, cleaned, classified and stored themselves. Hugh and Lola appreciated the value of shells for their beauty, for their role in the ecosystem. In their homes, the shells were placed in display cases for all to see. With all certainty, the Bentons would have been pleased to know that the University of Arizona is caring for the collection and is displaying the shells for all to use.

A memorial fund was established in their name. The fund was increased recently to support a graduate assistant fellow. Rebecca Prescott was named the Graduate Research Fellow and listed the shells families on the web site. She also built shell kits for various grade levels to aid grade school students in learning about shells and marine life.

Article copyright ©  by Lola Benton White. Used by permission; all rights reserved. Last revised 16 September 2014.

© Copyright 2014, The First Families of Arizona.  Last revised 16 September 2014.