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Tryphena Lucelle Willesee BENSTEAD

Also known as: née Rains, Trephina, Triphena, Tryphina, Tryphinia

Born: 3/08/1860

Special Achievements:

Tryphena Lucelle Rains married William (Bill) Benstead in 1881.  After managing Undoolya Station for five years, Bill became manager of Barrow Creek Pastoral Company, setting up home at Stirling Creek near the Barrow Creek Telegraph Station.  Four years later, Tryphena, their son Bertie and her sister Cornelia joined him at Stirling Creek despite the fact that he was advised that Central Australia was not a suitable place to bring a white woman, a decision he was criticised for.

The journey of 1920 kilometres consisted of 640 km by narrow gauge train from Adelaide to Hergott Springs (Maree), then 1280 km overland by horse and buggy following wheel ruts.  Tryphena drove her own buggy all the way, no small feat considering many of the horses had never been in harness before.

She is thought to be the first white woman to live in the township of Stuart.  In 1889, the Bensteads bought land and built the first hotel, called The Stuart Arms.

Tryphena had three children including Lucelle (Lulu) who is claimed to be the first white child born in the town (in 1891) and who went on to become an internationally famout singer.


  • References

    Petrick, Jose.  (2010, November).  The History of Alice Springs through Landmarks & Street Names.  St Marys, South Australia:  Openbook Howden Design and Print.  pp. 27-28.
    The Benstead Family, William (Bill), his wife Tryphina – Pastoralists and hoteliers and their daughter Lucille – vocalist.
         Bill Benstead, a cattleman and rough rider in SA was appointed manager of Undoolya Station, east of Alice Springs, when aged 21 years, in 1877.  …
         After five years he returned to Adelaide to marry his fiancée, Miss Tryphina Rains.
         …He then returned to Adelaide to bring up his wife, their small son Bertie and his sister-in-law Miss Cornelia Rains.
         The family travelled from Adelaide to Hergott Springs by train, the remaining 1300 km, with horses and two traps.  Tryphina drove one trap all the way in an epic six week journey, even though some of the horses were unused to harness.
         The family went to Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission for the birth of their second son Julian Geoffrey Barrow Benstead, on 15 October 1886 and the marriage of Cornelia to OTL Inspector, Joseph Skinner (Skinner St).
         In 1889, Benstead bought two blocks of land in Stuart (regazetted Alice Springs in 1933) and built the Stuart Arms Hotel.
         Their daughter Lucelle (Lulu) claimed to be the first European child born in Stuart, on 5 February 1891.
         On 21 December 1891 the hotel lease was transferred to Thomas Gunter and the Benstead family travelled to WA.  They reached Southern Cross, near Coolgardie, just before the goldstrike.
         Lulu loved to sing.  When Dame Clara Butt heard the child sing, she advised that her voice should be trained.  Lulu’s parents sent her to a convent boarding school so that her education would be worthy of her talent.  The nuns appreciated her gift and she sang at all the services.  However, homesickness overcame her; she ran away and went home.
         Lulu, Julian and their younger sister Florence Ann (Faby), were show-oriented and held concerts for the miners to raise funds for Lulu’s singing lessons in Sydney and then Paris.  Their older brother Geoffrey died at an early age.
         Lulu adopted the professional name of ‘Lucille’.  Lucille sang in her first concert in London on the same program as Dame Clara Butt.  She became world famous and entertained in noted concert halls throughout England, Europe and America.  She also sang to troops in both World Wars in England and overseas, often at great danger to herself.
         Lucille particularly enjoyed singing Negro spiritual songs like ‘Mammy’.  The words and music of ‘Chloe’ were written especially for her during an American tour.
         She gave singing lessons in London for her last 30 years, almost until her death, aged 92.
         When Lucille went to Paris, her family moved to England to be near her.  Bill became a livestock advisor and travelled the world extensively.  He died in London in 1940 and his wife, two years later.
         Government surveyor, Charles Winnecke (Winnecke Avenue) commemorated Benstead’s name when he named Mt. Benstead on Undoolya Station.