Highlands History | The worthy life of Copeland Bennett

Copeland Bennett served as station-master at Bowral from 1877. As outlined previously, he was on duty when a tourist train from Sydney collided with a shunting goods train just north of the station. Despite being found to have displayed a want of caution, he remained in high regard. 

An overview of his life continues here.

After the collision, the Bowral Free Press noted that “a striking feature in connection with the railway accident at Bowral was the facility with which the passengers and goods were transferred among the passenger trains, and the very short delay to those trains allowed to be caused by the accident. This work was carried out with most commendable celerity, and it is the impression that the Station-master acted with much judgment, and is worthy of praise. The work of clearing the line was also well conducted.”

Bennett’s wife Mary Jane, having raised two sons, died in 1883 aged 42. Bennett remarried in July 1888 and with his second wife Barbara Annie Fraser, of Nowra, had two daughters: Mildred (1889) and Constance (1890)

On August 18, 1888 a few of Bennett’s friends assembled at the Royal Hotel to express their goodwill on the occasion of his marriage. The Mayor, Mr J Morris, presented him with an engraved, expensive marble clock, saying that: “In your official capacity you have ever been obliging and helpful. I speak the feelings of all in wishing you every happiness, and I ask you to convey to Mrs Bennett our congratulations.”

In 1889 Bennett had the foresight to see the need for a Bowling Club in Bowral. After the first meeting on March 6, it was decided to form a committee with Thomas Cope (nurseryman) offering land to build the first club. Although it took a further 20 years for it to eventuate, Bennett had initiated the process.

In August 1891 the BFP advised that “our well-respected Station-master Copeland Bennett has decided to retire from the Railway service. After his many years of efficient and faithful service, we trust that he may long be spared to enjoy his well-earned rest.” Rather than taking it easy, however, from October 1892 Bennett sat at Bowral Police Court as a magistrate, having been appointed a Justice of the Peace. 

In February 1894 the BFP advised that Bennett had acquired land at Bundanoon “and is setting brick-makers at work for the erection of a house on his own estate”. The paper then lamented that Bowral was losing a worthy and useful citizen “who has been among us 17 years”. It noted that, as well as serving as a dutiful public servant, he had also taken his share of public work and personal responsibility.

Positions he filled at Bowral were listed, including lay reader and churchwarden, president of the Church of England Temperance Society, parochial nominator, superintendent of the Sunday School and trustee of the cemetery. He also served as president of the School of Arts and secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society. “He has always been willing to identify himself with those things which promised benefit to the town and seemed for the good of the people”. 

On his acreage at Bundanoon, Bennett built a substantial residence – Henderley (now Eastdene), fronting the Gullies Road – living there from 1894 with his wife and two young daughters. He took a very active part in Bundanoon affairs, and unusually joined both the Primitive Methodist and the Church of England congregations, being in the latter of great assistance to the Rev R S Willis. He also became a member of the Progress Committee and the Cricket Club, and lobbied for an improved road to the Gullies Reserve, which would go past his property. 

NEW HOME: The Bennett family at their Bundanoon residence, 1894. Photo: Bundanoon History Group.

NEW HOME: The Bennett family at their Bundanoon residence, 1894. Photo: Bundanoon History Group.

Around 1900 the Bennetts sold Henderley and moved to Lewisham in Sydney, stating that it was for the better opportunities of educating their daughters. 

Copeland Bennett died, aged 65, in March 1908, after a serious operation. He was interred at the Necropolis following a memorial service at Holy Trinity Church of England, Dulwich Hill.

His estate included 60 acres fronting Kangaloon Road, Bowral, known as Bennett’s paddock. It was offered for sale by his widow in July 1908, thus ending the family’s Bowral connection. 

Bennett is remembered for serving our district with great commitment.

  • Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a 2-part series.

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