Henry J. Benney

Photograph courtesy of the BC Archives
Call Number G-08296

  Sapper Henry J. Benney volunteered for Service in British Columbia and traveled with the Columbia Detachment on board the Thames City.

Benney took up the challenge, made by Captain Luard, to have amateur theatricals on board - and did so, in drag.

Theatre Royal, "Thames City"

The manager of the above Theatre has the honor to announce to the inhabitants of this "City" that he has, with considerable difficulty and immense expense, succeeded in securing the valuable services of the following histrionic artists, viz:

Charles Sinnett, Charles Derham, James Turnbull, George Eaton, Henry J. Benney, James H. Elliot, John Meade, William A. Franklin, James Digby, James B Launders

The Theatre has undergone considerable alterations, and every attention has been paid to the comfort and convenience of the audience. The Scenery, Dresses and Properties are entirely new, and of a first class description. On Wednesday, the 24th inst., will be produced for the first time at this Theatre that laughable and interesting Farce by G. Almar, entitled,


or "Crowded House"

"Wouverman Von Broom", (A Boat Builder), C. Derham
"Wouter Von Broom", (A Pilot), C. Sinnett
"Bluffenburg", (A Workman), G. Eaton
"Caukenburg", (A Sailor), J.H. Elliot
"Von Brent", (A Lawyer), J. Turnbull
"Estelle de Burgh", (Ward of Wouverman), H.J.Benney
"Pomona Vondertviller", (An Oyster Girl), J. Meade

Leader of Orchestra - William Haynes

During the evening several Songs and Dances will be introduced.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., performance to commence at 7 o'clock precisely.

Alfred R. Howse, Manager.

- 20th November, 1858, From The Emigrant Soldier's Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle.


"...It must be obvious to our readers that on board ship, where there is not even a "Hairdresser's or a "Milliner and Corset maker's" shop, considerable obstacles must necessarily exist in the way of stage management. If therefore the oysters "Pomona" carries on her back should not be genuine "natives", or if "Estelle's" crinoline should happen to be elliptical instead of circular, or even her petticoats rather short, let us not be too critical, as after all she is probably just as nice a girl as ever in spite of her crinoline."

-20th November, 1858, From The Emigrant Soldier's Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle.

This performance was postponed for one week due to the death on board of Serjeant Bridgman's only son.

"...It is our glory pride as Englishmen on all occasions to place the fair sex foremost, and we accordingly commence by noticing the two bright stars who have just risen in the theatrical firmament, Miss Bridget Meade, and Miss Mary Benney, both of whom, by their quiet ease and elegance on the stage, and by the propriety of their diction, gave great promise of future excellence. Their acting was admirable throughout, and the young ladies were dressed for their parts in perfect good taste. We cannot more especially help noticing the rich bands of their beautiful and luxuriant hair, clustered gracefully around their blooming cheeks, and we trust these fair damsels will long continue to delight a crowded audience as on the night of their last performance. Charms like theirs cannot fail to attract admirers and we venture to predict that many a heart-ache is in store for the young nobility and gentry amongst the play-goers of the rising generation in these realms.

- 5th December, 1858, From The Emigrant Soldier's Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle.

Benney remained in the Colony after the Detachment was disbanded in November of 1863.

Benney took some land and built himself a home in New Westminster.

During the Summer of 1864, disaster struck Benney.

Saturday 4th June 1864 - The British Colonist

Having been personally engaged up to a late hour on Tuesday in repelling the advance of the flames upon the property in the rear of the city, we were unable to give anything beyond the very meagre notice which appeared in our last issue of Wednesday.  In that notice we gave the names of four who were burned out at Sapperton.  We are happy to learn subsequently that only three of the four were really victims, viz., Franklin, who lost his house and a great part of his effects; Bruce, who lost every article he possessed in the world; Gilchrist, who lost his house and a portion of his effects.  This last case was rendered perhaps more distressing from the circumstances of Gilchrist having been absent upon the Bute Inlet Expedition, from which he only returned to find a heap of smouldering ashes where he left a comfortable house and happy family.  There were instances of heroic bravery, too, which ought to be noticed in connection with the Sapperton fire.  We learn that almost superhuman exertions were made in order to check the fire, and no better evidence of this is needed than the fact that Colston's house is now standing.  The Hon. Colonial Secretary, Mr. J.T. Scott, Mr. C. Good, Mr. Howse, Mr. Deasy, Mr. Argyle, Mr. Green and Mr. Ede, have all been mentioned to us as having exerted themselves in the most praiseworthy and sometimes daring manner in order to save both life and property.  The damage done to fences and garden stuffs must be very considerable, as we are informed that every piece of fencing in Sapperton was either burned or torn down to save it from being burned.  The roads in that neighbourhood also suffered more or less injury.  On the Pitt river road 234 feet of the roadway which was constructed of cedar logs covered with earth and gravel, was burned, while on the North or Burrard road, three of the bridges are more or less injured.  In the rear of the city the house of Mr. Benney was destroyed, and back about 2 miles on the Douglas street road Mr. Bennet was burned out, while some three miles down the river Mr. Martin's buildings were destroyed together with most of the household stuff.

    In the north-western suburbs considerable damage has been done in the destruction of fencing and garden stuff.  There is an old saying that nothing is so bad but it might be worse; and notwithstanding all these losses and misfortunes a general feeling of thankfulness ought to pervade the community on account of the smallness of the aggregate loss; and that feeling should find practical expression in assisting as far as our circumstances will allow, the few who have lost their all.

But it appears that Benney was a resilient fellow and remained in New Westminster. Benneyassisted his old Detachment Serjeant John McMurphy's wife with the following letter.

New Westminster
30th October 1866


Mrs McMurphy desires me to reply to your letter of the 20th ult. Requesting to be paid into the Lands and Works Department rent due for the Dwelling House she at present resides in, and begs me to ask you to allow her further time for payment of the same, till her husband returns from Cariboo, (who she now expects every boat), she being unable to meet the demand.---

I am Sir,
Your obdt Servant
H Benney

The Hon. J.W. Trutch