After the Southern Railway opened through the local district in 1867, the town of Moss Vale grew steadily around its railway station.
As told previously, in 1875 John Cullen purchased the town's Terminus Hotel (renaming it the Royal in 1880), adjoining shops, hall and land at the rear. He was an Irish immigrant who, when aged in his 30s, had settled at Burrawang in the early 1860s with his wife and children. His younger brother James built the Family Hotel at Moss Vale in 1879, operating it until the 1890s.
The Burrawang & West Camden Agricultural Society, numbering over 300 members, held its inaugural annual show in April 1880 at Burrawang, the first show to be held in the Southern Highlands. As exhibitors had difficulty travelling to the event due to heavy rain, it was decided to hold the next show at Moss Vale.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported in April 1881 that "the present show was held on a large piece of ground close to the railway station, kindly lent to the Society by Mr John Cullen, who also gave the use of his large public hall, which answered admirably for the display of miscellaneous exhibits."
After 1884 the Burrawang Society's show was held at Robertson and a district-wide Show Society was subsequently formed at Moss Vale.
John Cullen kept his property at Burrawang, on which he raised livestock. The Illawarra Mercury reported in February 1881 that "eighty-nine snakes were destroyed from a hollow log on Cullen's farm, the largest being six feet in length." Would present-day Burrawang residents be astounded at this?
AT LACKEY'S CORNER: Moss Vale's second rail bridge going up, with Argyle St passing under and the Tattersall Hotel on right, c1885. Photo: BDH&FHS.
Cullen acquired another hotel at Moss Vale. This was the Tattersall Hotel, a late-Victorian two-storey, brick building erected in 1879 at the corner of Lackey and Argyle Sts. Its first proprietor and licensee, Thomas Tate, sold it to Cullen in December 1883. After being its lessee for only a year, Cullen passed the licence to Edward Aland, the husband of his daughter Elizabeth.
The Alands changed the name to the Central Hotel in 1891 and in 1906 made additions and renovations, decorating it with an elegant first floor wrap-around verandah, timber posts and fine balustrade. They held the licence until 1910 and sold the property in 1914. Many publicans then came and went and the building was greatly altered in character, especially with the verandah's removal in 1928. The Central Hotel closed its doors in 2013.
Having become well established in the district, John Cullen nominated as an alderman on the first Moss Vale Municipal Council, gazetted on September 14, 1888. Out of 29 candidates, he was one of the nine alderman elected. His brother James was subsequently elected but only served one term. After five years as an alderman, John stepped down in 1893, then being in his sixties, and was made an honorary magistrate, serving on the bench at Moss Vale Police Court until well into the 1900s.
On March 19, 1898 the Scrutineer reported that the Royal Hotel, Centennial Hall, and adjoining shops, the property of John Cullen, were disposed of at auction to the then licensee, Ed Goodridge, for a satisfactory £6,700. "Our worthy Mayor must be congratulated on having acquired such a magnificent property and we wish him a prosperous future. We also hope that Mr John Cullen may be spared many years."
John Cullen had already disposed of his Burrawang land and purchased a property known as The Camp (later as Southdowns), described by a visitor in 1896 as "a beautiful homestead". Located a few miles out of Moss Vale on the Robertson Road, John and his wife Anna Maria lived there until moving to Ashfield, Sydney, around 1910.
John's sister, Mrs Jane Vance, had emigrated from Ireland in 1855, the same year as he had. She died in July 1913, the Scrutineer describing her as an esteemed Burrawang resident.
At their home in Ashfield, Anna Maria Cullen passed away in July 1919, aged 85, and John Cullen in December 1921, aged 88.
The Scrutineer noted that he "was one of the oldest identities of this district, a widely known and a highly respected citizen. The surviving family are Messrs Robert and Fred (Northern Rivers), Alfred (WA), Isaac (Wagga), Walter and Stan (Crookwell), Mrs Aland (Mosman), Mrs W Holt (Moss Vale), Mrs Lamb (Victoria), and Miss Cullen (Ashfield)."
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society - compiled by PD Morton. Part 3 of a 3-part series.
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