History of Bennett Springs
From Devon to Bennett Springs From 1840 to 1988
Home of the Harris Family
Compiled by Helen Emilie and George William Harris,
written in 1988.
Francis Harris married Mary Powell (Paul) in Devonshire, England. Their son Francis Harris left Plymouth on the ship “Marquis of Hastings” on12th October, 1840 and arrived in Sydney on 4th February, 1841.
The Captain of the ship was Captain Flint. There were 200 passengers on board.(Francis was not a convict). Francis was a native of South Molton-Devon. He was an agricultural labourer and as aged 22 years.
We are not sure when he came to “Bennett Springs” but he met Ellen Dower and married her in Goulburn on 18th February, 1846. She was 16 years old. Ellen was the daughter of Sarah (nee Newham) and John Dower. John Dower was a convict who arrived on the ship “Lord Sidmouth”, St. Johns Parramatta in 1823.
Francis and Ellen had fourteen (14) children. Two (2) died in infancy, and they reared six girls and six boys. They were all born at Bennett Springs.
Francis (1845 – 1896)
did not marry.
Mary Agnes (1846 – 1928)
married Francis Lane – 9 children.
Sarah Jane (1851 – 1921)
married William Lane – 4 children.
Margaret (1853 – 1933)
married John Parker – no children.
John (1855 – 1929)
nickname " Dynamite Jack" – did not marry.
Henry 1857 -1927)
nickname "Sparks" – did not marry.
Ellen (1859 – 1935)
married Tom Keys – 5 children.
Elizabeth (Eliza) (1861 – 1950)
married Frank Newham 4 children.
George William (Sonny) (1863 – 1941)
married Margaret Murray (nee Markham) – 1 child.
Annetta (1866 – 1922)
married John Neville – 7 children.
James Thomas (1869 – 1936)
married Margaret Stinson – 5 children.
Charles (1871 – 1929)
nickname "Rainbow"- did not marry.
Francis and William Lane were brothers.
Up to 1988 we have traced these descendents of Francis and Ellen –
The first title to “Bennett Springs” was granted to Francis Harris in 1854, but he lived there before the title was granted (probably squatted). The house is one of the oldest in the district. It was built of granite quarried on the property, about 1856, and the wall of the burial ground was built of the same granite.There are six gravestones in the cemetery and some are said to be buried outside the wall.
In his will Francis Harris left “one acre of land to be left for a burial ground where the vault now stands, for those of Protestant religion.”
The house was built about 1856. The main part of the house was originally used as bedrooms because it was an inn. There was an enormous living-dining-kitchen (which is now gone) at the back, separate from the main house. The walls of the house (internal and external) were 20 to 24 inches thick-the glass of the windows is in the centre of the windowsills are 10 to 12 inches each side of the glass. The doorways are the same, and the old original doors are still there. The shearing shed was across the main road.
There was a separate stone building behind the living area which was used as a dairy. This is still standing. Also a public telephone and Post Office.
The house was an inn-members of the public stayed there-also the police and bushrangers. If the police were staying there a large stick was placed upright in the gate post some way from the house to warn the bushrangers.
The bushrangers exchanged horses there-took fresh horses and returned them next time they were passing-usually in poor condition.
The police had aboriginal trackers with them and when they were leaving “Bennett Springs” George Harris (as a boy) would run with them for a mile or so and then return home.
The Springs which are the beginning of the creek have never gone dry and are still the source of water for the house.
There are still six orange trees on the property-the remains of a large orange orchard. They are thought to be the first grown west of the Blue Mountains (they were-in later years anyway-thick skinned and sour).
Dances were first held in the house and later a hall was built. Mrs George Harris (Margaret Markham Murray) used to play for the dances. She used to drive 20 miles to Bennett Springs (from Darbys Falls) in a sulky on the day of the dance, play all night and go home after breakfast the next day.
The first Church of England service in the district was held at “Bennett Springs” and later a service was held there once a week.
There was a racecourse, a cricket ground and a tennis court.
They brewed their own grog with a still, about a mile from the house.
There have been, over the years, extensions made to the main house. It was been painted green-then pink-and is now white.
The original property was about 7,000 acres but has been sold over the years and now is only 840 acres including the house.
When all the Harrises still living on the property had died Margaret and her husband John Parker bought it. It was later sold to John Parker’s grand-daughter who married Charlie Webb, for 12 pounds (£) per acre. In 1938 the Webbs sold it to Jack and Joan Whitty. In 1965 the next owners were John and Jean Brien who sold it to Beris and Maureen Harper in 1977. Beris Harper was electrocuted and some time later Maureen married Malcolm Knight. They are the owners at the present time (1988).
In the early days the lounge room of the main house was used as a hall and a dance was held there every Saturday night until a hall was built. The old piano from the hall was moved to Con O’Connor’s wool shed and was later bought and taken to Darbys Falls by George Harris – the grandson of Francis and Ellen Harris.
In the kitchen-dining room (which is now gone) there was a dirt floor. It had an enormous (long) table-the legs were poles dug into the ground and the table top made of planks which sat on top. The long stools which went right round the table, were made the same way. The fireplace was enormous-it had a door on either end through which the huge logs were dragged by a horse. There were seats all round the fire-even behind it.
Further Notes by FCM:
1) Joint author of the above, Helen Emilie (Henderson) Harris was the great great great granddaughter of FIRST FLEETER Thomas Acres (1758 – 1824) “CHARLOTTE” 1788 and of THIRD FLEETER Ann Guy, nee Hinchley, “MARY ANNE” 1791. Their Outline Descendant Tree is here. The page include some details about the circumstances of their transportation to the Colony.)
(2) My updated Outline Descendant Tree of the Harris family is part of the parent Harris page.. Note the many local 19C pioneer family names such as Lane, Newham, Markham, Ticehurst, Bewley, Hammond, Neville, etc;
3)Mark Paten’s record of the headstones at the Bennett Springs Harris Cemetery is here.