River Press February 23, 1881
A SPECIMEN OF RAPID GROWTH:
The widely known and extensive mercantile house of Murphy, Neel, & Co began in business here in 1876, which makes five extensive houses which that firm have in the various large cities of the Territory. It was removed to this point from Carroll when it was becoming evident that Benton had a future before it which every indication foreshadowed would be prosperous and brilliant: for the country was beginning to settle up with white people whose attention was only just beginning to be drawn to Montana as a place for homes, and not a mere refuge for traders without commerce and hunters for precious metals which were scattered here and there through the Territory. The fugitive aspect of things was changing, the Indian was being gradually pushed further from a refuge which seemed to be his last, and trade built upon their simple wants and rude merchandise gave no hope of ever brightening into live again. Therefore it was with no hope of immediate reward this firm added another to their already numerous establishments, but with a faith, which the event has justified, that here was one of those points of which the natural advantages were amount the things lasting, and certain of great development.
In the spring of 1880 they purchased the property on the corner of Front and Benton streets, which runs through to Main street and has an area of 78×250 feet, and proceeded to erect the new building they occupy to-day. To this measure they were absolutely driven by the great increase in their business and the diversity to the lines they carried. The building is of brick, and the area on the ground is 44 x 125 feet. It is one story and basement, but notwithstanding this, it does not present that low squatty appearance which was anticipated by many before it was built. This is due to artistic ornamentation of the windows, the ornamentation above, and the unusual height of the basement, which, for all practical purposes equals another story. The business room as finished, is really magnificent in its proportions, in the arrangement of the light and the disposition of the long line of counters and shelving, and it is in our opinion the handsomest business room in the Territory. The basement is full size with the building, 8 feet high in the clear, and has ten double sash windows, admitting sufficient light for a wholesale salesroom, and is packed to the ceiling with heavy merchandise, with long alleys for passage between the boxes and bales of goods with which it is filled: the floor is of brick, laid in sand, and the cracks filled with stucco, and altogether is admirably adapted to the purposes it was intended for. The foundation walls are 2 ½ feet thick up to the surface of the ground, where it is reduced to 2 feet. Above the ground the walls are hollow, with a 4 inch space and 20 inches of brick work. The roof is of iron and fireproof, while the floor in the upper room is laid double, making it extra strong and warm, and the entire structure has been built in the most substantial and flushed manner. The walls are hard finished and polished, and the wood work is of the best, and is all finished in the best style. The openings on Front street consist of six arched doors in front and one at the side, making seven in all. These doors are filled with large double sash, and admit a splendid light, adding much to the effect given by the elegant display of goods which fill the rows of shelves and counters extending the length of the room. At the rear of the building, on Benton Street, are five office windows and doors, which serve to light the rear end of the room, which, altogether, is the best lighted apartment in the Territory, considering its size. The artificial light is supplied from ten gilded chandeliers with two lamps in each, and when viewed from either end of the room give the peculiar effect of great number do to foreshortening. In the center of the room is a line of pillars which support the ceiling and roof, and on each side of them are ranged a number of tables filled with clothing, light hardware, and the odds and ends that are required to be carried in this western country to fill the multifarious requirements of consumers. In the dry goods department, which is at the left of the entrance, there are 114 feet of continuous shelving, and on the grocery side, on the right, there are 72 feet of shelving in one string. There are 76 feet of closed counters on each side, all artistically made and finely finished, making in all 152 feet of counters. In fact, the whole finish and arrangement of the room is splendidly adapted for the requirements of their business, and is a place of delectation to the eyes of customers, which is appreciated to the fullest extent. At the rear of the store is a yard devoted to storage of wagons and agricultural machinery, which goods are an important element of their business, and the quantity of this class of machinery sold in Benton is the surest indication of the development of the country that can be found.
This firm deals in groceries, hardware, tinware, dry goods, queens ware, glassware, clothing, boots and shoes, iron roofing, wire fence, Schuttler wagons, spring wagons and buggies, which they sell in wholesale and retail quantities.
Taken a in all, the growth and success of this house has been marvelously rapid, and has fully justified a venture that was regarded at the opening of the enterprise as hazardous and premature.