Bennett family put down roots in 1880s 

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Charles F. Bennett and his wife, Helen, enjoy the garden at their lovely twostory home on Tustin Avenue in the late 1800s

Like many of the men who came to Tustin in its early years, Charles F. Bennett had fought in the Civil War, serving in the Union Army.

Bennett was attending the Chicago University when the Civil War broke out and soon enlisted. He was assigned to the Douglas Brigade and later participated in 32 engagements including the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg. He was in charge of the guard at General Shermanís headquarters during the famous march to the sea. He was slightly wounded several times and had many narrow escapes.

Bennett was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant, but his health was greatly impaired by the hardships and privations he had suffered. After two years his strength was restored and he taught school in various parts of Illinois in addition to raising stock near the family farm in LaSalle County for a number of years.

He married Miss Helen Beach, another Connecticut native, in 1872. After six years in Illinois, they moved to Nebraska, making the long journey in a prairie schooner. Bennett raised cattle for a time, then settled at Arapahoe where he ran a hotel as well as a large merchandising business.
The couple came to California in 1885. They settled at San Diego for a short time before moving up the coast to Oceanside, where they purchased a 40-acre hillside farm. During the boom of the 1880s they disposed of their holdings at a profit and came to Tustin.

Bennett purchased 10 acres on the east side of Tustin Avenue north of First Street. They built a beautiful home and developed the land into a citrus orchard. Later he acquired an additional 22 acres in Tustin and Santa Ana as well as a 60-acre ranch at El Toro.

The Bennetts had three sons, Frederick W., Charles A., and Harvey F., and a daughter. Pearl Edna, who passed away as a young girl. Harvey, who was born after the family came to Tustin, attended Tustin Grammar School and Santa Ana High School. He moved to El Toro in 1911 to take over his fatherís holdings there. The house from this ranch is now part of El Toroís Heritage Hill Historic Park.

Becoming an authority on irrigation, the elder Bennett installed one of the few private irrigation systems at El Toro, taking water from Aliso Creek in addition to putting in a well and pumping plant.

Both Bennett and his wife were active in the Tustin community. She served two terms on the Tustin Elementary School District board, 1895-97 and 1901-03. Bennett represented Tustin area in the California Legislature from 1892 to 1894.

Bennett died at home on Jan. 7, 1921, at age 78.


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