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People & Place Names
— Sierras Chicas de Córdoba —
La Cumbre, Cruz Grande, Los Cocos
1900-1940

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The people and place names mentioned in various diaries, letters, and other records that refer to the summer homes of the Benitz family during the period 1900-1950.

We will be adding names to the list and maps as we progress with the transcription of the diaries.  Any suggestions and corrections are welcome.

Gone to Paraguay.

  Maps:

 
No map.

“The Hills”
La Cumbre,
Cruz Grande, Los Cocos

(Source: Google by P. Benitz)

No map.

Cruz Grande Valley
(Source: Google by P. Benitz)

 

  The Punilla Valley

This article was prepared by Oscar Sundt, July 2001, for publication in the October, 2001, edition of the ABCC bulletin (American-British Community Council).  The article is an excellent summary of “The Hills” and the Anglo-Argentine community centered in La Cumbre, Cruz Grande, and Los Cocos on the west slopes of the Sierras Chicas de Córdoba, in the Punilla Valley between the Sierras Chicas and Sierras Grandes. Anglo-Argentines also favored, to a lesser extent, two other areas: Ascochinga on the east slopes of the Sierras Chicas, north of Córdoba city; and Nono and Mina Clavero on the more remote drier west slopes of the Sierras Grandes de Córdoba.

THE PUNILLA VALLEY

The Cordoba hills have several famous valleys.  Of these, the most important one is the Punilla Valley which is situated West of the Sierras Chicas.

The principal gateway to this valley is Carlos Paz, the fastest growing city of this province. There are several reasons for this.  Built on the Southern end of a large and most attractive lake, the San Roque, it is connected with Cordoba city by a double-lane modern highway.

There is also a hub of cross-roads here, leading South and West, most notably by the Altas Cumbres highway to Mina Clavero over the Pampa de Achala, top of the Sierras Grandes.

Along Route 38 to the North, we reach the important towns of Cosquin, La Falda, La Cumbre and Capilla del Monte.  This last town is at the foot of the Uritorco, a 1950 meter peak which is at the North end of the Sierras Chicas. Route 38 is a busy road, with houses, farms and villages along the 73 Kms. which separate Carlos Paz from Capilla del Monte.

Our main interest, however, is La Cumbre and its adjoining area, since this district had the greatest British influence in Argentina, outside Greater Buenos Aires.

This town was originally known as San Geronimo, a name which was changed to La Cumbre in 1901 because the Ferro Carril Cordoba y Nor-Oeste railway station was the highest point on that line, reaching 1144 meters above sea level.

A point of interest is that the railway line departs from the middle of the valley to veer N.E. towards the hills and then down again to San Esteban.  The same peculiar planning led the first settlers to continue developing into the Western edge of the Sierras Chicas, creating the villages of Cruz Chica, Cruz Grande and Los Cocoss from where the road descends, once again, to join Route 38.

Consulting historical chronicles covering the whole of the XX Century, as published by the La Cumbre Historical Committee, we take note that the first hotel built by an Englishman was at Cruz Chica in 1886 by Geo England, later sold to George Lumsdaine, a man who had a positive influence in this area for many years.  In 1909 A. W. Constable took over, finally selling the property to Fernando Lodi.  When his daughter Marion took over she proved to be a very active member of the community.

Nearby, Raynor John Runnacles inaugurated his own hotel in 1922 which he named "Reydon" in memory of his birthplace in Suffolk.  This became a famous hotel later inherited by his grandson Roy Pearson.

By 1932, the telephone directory lists other British owned hotels such as "Los Montes" run by Mrs. Constance Parker.  "Links House" owned by James Trigg and in Los Cocos the very well known "Los Molles Hotel" run by MacLoughlin, better known as Mac. We should also mention the "Rookery Nook" run by Mrs. Hobson, which later became a hilarious combination when it was bought over by Tito Peyrano.  The names just didn't match.

English schools were also numerous.  The two surviving ones are St. Paul’s founded by Bob Thurn and Reydon Girls School founded by Noreen Milman, now Mrs. Pryor, and Sheila Pearson.  Both were originally boarding schools, one for boys and the other for girls.  No boarders now, just bi-lingual day schools with a combined attendance of over 200 students.

Other schools were St. Mary's which functioned for many years under the guidance of Gladys Place and Blair House Summer School run by Mrs. Hill.  Here we should also mention an orphanage called Riverside Glenn Rest and the bigger one, Allen Gardiner Memorial Homes which provided comprehensive English education.  These "Homes" were discontinued many years ago.  However, the Anglican Church owns the property and keeps the Chapel in excellent condition, providing services every Sunday in English and Spanish, officiated by the Rev. J.C. Sosa and his very active wife Heather.  Maurice Rumboll provides valuable support as a lay-reader, his great voice leads the singing of the hymns which his wife Diana plays on the organ.

The Anglican Church also administrates the British Cemetery which is adjoining the La Cumbre Municipal Cemetery.  It was founded in 1915, a proper resting place for legions of our ancestors.

By the road in Cruz Grande stands a monument to the memory of John Benitz . This enterprising American-born pioneer bought land by the Cruz Grande river, as early as 1905 and there he built his summer home.  He was very active in district road planning and building and by 1915was president of the Road Construction Committee in this District.  His premature and tragic death occurred in March 1916, when a flash flood of the Cruz Grande river demolished his home.

In 1924 , on land donated by Bob Runciman, the now famous La Cumbre Golf Club was founded by several progressive residents, some of whom we can name: Runnacles, Lunibsdaine, Harding, Cadmus, Baxter, Trigg, Wright, Chapman and Alfred Benitz as it's first president.  Tournaments are held several times a year.  This Club, being the only one in the Valley in A.1. condition, congregates golfers from all over the country, overflowing the hotel accommodation.

The ABCC has a district in La Cumbre, represented by Sheila Pearson, together with the invaluable help of her committee.  The Ladies Guild was started by Dina Pearson and continues very active under its present committee.  During WWII fetes were held to make money for the cause at such places as Reydon, Cruz Chica Hotel, Allen Gardiner Homes and El Rincon, home of Olga Blanche Horner Benitz, MBE.

It should be mentioned that Jack Pearson was the British Legion Representative until 1965, having also been Chairman of the BCC.  The British Legion Record Book is now in La Cumbre, having been transferred from Cordoba city and is available for consultation.

Are you interested in flowers ? The Garden Club organizes a flower show every year, some time in October, a date carefully selected not to clash with a golf tournament.  If your idea of Cordoba is of a dry country with thorny bushes, you will have to change your mind.  Woods and gardens abound wherever you go and garden flowers and bushes have taken to the hills.  You will be thrilled by fields of cosmos and crataegus growing wild.

The only airport in this valley is close to La Cumbre.  In the 50's Aerolineas Argentinas operated scheduled flights which were discontinued when road and buses improved and competed with local air travel.  The airfield continues to receive private planes and is the home of the local Aero Club.  The thrill of flying continues from Cuchi Corral, a high cliff overlooking the Pintos river some 1000 meters down.  Or is it only 1000 feet ? In any case, hanging from a hand-glider or a "parapente" can prove very exhilarating.  You can get a ride for thirty pesos, life insurance not included !

Though the purpose of this article is to emphasize the British influence in this private enclave, we should not forget all the non-English speaking inhabitants who contributed so much towards the prosperity of this district, nor all those English speaking residents who are not mentioned but also had an influence in consolidating this community.

La Cumbre area is essentially a tourist resort, having a stable population of about 7000.  When locals are asked if they are sorry that La Cumbre has not advanced more, such as La Falda, there is an outcry. "Let us live in peace" they say, "surrounded by gardens, stately homes and friendly neighbours"

La Cumbre, July 2001.  A joint effort.

  Names:

Conventions used:

People are listed by their surnames then their first-name (if both known), followed by their titles (Cacique, Capt., Comandante, Don, , Mr., Sr.).  People may be listed twice for the diary entries don't always provide full names, in particular of those people the writers are familiar with, especially the workmen.  Therefore, when searching for a person, search separately for both the person's first-name and surname.

Places are listed by their proper name, followed by any preposition (El, La, Los) or feature qualifier (Arroyo, Cañada, Colonia, Estero, Fuerte, Isleta, Laguna, Mar, Paso, Rio).

Ñ - we treat as an accented N, not as a separate letter (as it is in the Spanish alphabet). The tilde was often omitted by English writers, as were most accent marks on vowels.

(1918 Jan.) - Many entries are followed by one or more dates in brackets.  The dates indicate the first month in which a name is found in the diary for the year shown.

— Abbreviations —

Alfred – Alfred A. Bz. – 2nd gen.

Arg. – Argentina

BA / B.A. / Bs.As. – Buenos Aires

Bz - Benitz

Cba. – Córdoba (province)

Herman – Herman Bz – 2nd gen.

Johnnie – John E. Bz. – 2nd gen.

Josephine – Josephine Bz-Schrieber – 2nd gen.

LaCal. – Estancia “La California”

Mother - Josephine Kolmer-Bz - 1st gen.

SFé – Santa Fé (province)

TL – Estancia “Las Tres Lagunas”

W&J – William & Josephine Bz – 1st gen.

WBz – Wilhelm Bz – 1st gen.

Willie – William O. Bz. – 2nd gen.

For more about the Benitz 2nd generation, see this family page.

A - M

Alfred / Alfredo / AABz / Uncle Alfred / Don Alfredo
See his bio pages: Alfred Alexander Benitz (1859-1937); 8th child of Wilhelm & Josephine Benitz.
Buenos Aires / Bs.As. / B.A. / BA
Largest city and capital of Argentina, also the name of the largest province (with capital La Plata) that surrounds B.A. the city.
Adjective: People of Buenos Aires city are: porteños - port people.  People from the province: bonaerenses.
Córdoba
Province in central Argentina, bordering Santa Fé province to the west, in which the Sierras Chicas (a.k.a. The Hills) and Sierras Grandes are located.  John E. Benitz's estancia Los Algarrobos is located in its south-eastern quarter, prime agricultural land.  Its capital, Córdoba city, is about 700 km. NW of Buenos Aires.
Adjective: cordobés / cordobeses
Cruz Grande
The name of an arroyo (creek), a locale on that river, and of John E. Bz’s summer home in that locale.  If not qualified, we mean John’s summer home.
(i) Arroyo: Drains from east to west from the Sierras Chicas into the “Valle de Punilla” (Punilla valley). See map above.
(ii) Locale/neighborhood: North of La Cumbre and Cruz Chica, in the valley (quebrada) of the Arroyo Cruz Grande. See map.
(iii) Summer Home: Belonging to John & Marjorie Benitz.  It was the first of the Benitz summer homes built in the Cruz Grande valley, (before 1904?).  It proved fatally unsafe on March 20, 1916, when a major flash flood (creciente) broke through the retaining wall, taking the lives of John & daughter Marjory-Daw.  Sold in: 19xx, it later became part of St. Paul’s School.  See map above, and JEBz's photo albums.
Greystone
William & Clara Benitz’s summer home in Los Cocos, about 3 km. north of Cruz Grande.  Purchased by Clara in 1903, it was sold by her children in 1944.
Hills, The
Term applied to the summer resort (& retirement) area in the Sierras Chicas favored by the Anglo-Argentine community.  The Sierras Grandes, though also favored, was not considered part of The Hills. The two parallel mountain ranges are in the north-west quarter of Córdoba province, in central Argentina.
(i) Ascochinga – north of Córdoba city, on the eastern slopes of the Sierras Chicas.
(ii) La Cumbre, Cruz Chica, Cruz Grande, & Los Cocos – on the western slopes of the Sierras Chicas, level with Ascochinga.
(iii) Mina Clavero, & Nono – on the western slopes of the southern third of the Sierras Grandes, it is drier, more remote, & more rustic than The Hills.
John / Johnnie / JB / JEBz
See his bio pages: John Edward Benitz (1861-1916); 9th child of Wilhelm Benitz & Josephine Kolmer.
John / Johnnie / JB
See his bio pages: John Benitz (1901-1975); 4th child of John E. Benitz & Marjory M. Macintosh.
Josephine (mother)
a.k.a. Josefa Kolmerer, Josefina Kolmer de Benitz, Mother
See her bio pages: Mrs. Josephine Benitz (1830-1912); wife of Wilhelm Benitz.
Josephine
a.k.a. Josephine Schreiber – she married Johan Schreiber, 1878
See her bio pages: Josephine Benitz (1852-1911); 5th child of Wilhelm & Josephine Benitz.

N - Z

Nogales, Los
John & Josephine (Benitz) Schreiber’s summer home, down-river next to Cruz Grande, the land was purchased in 1907, they sold it in 19xx.
Rincon, El
Summer home belonging to Alfred & Olga Benitz, it is up-river from John’s Cruz Grande.  Alfred purchased it in 1908 and the valley watershed above it as far as the 70 foot waterfalls (to protect his water supply).  The most beautiful of all, it is still owned by their descendants.  See maps above.
Santa Fé
Argentine province in which La California, Laguna Yacaré, Las Tres Laguans, and Los Palmares are located.  Its capital, Santa Fé city, is 475 km. north of Buenos Aires on the Paraná river (or 150 km. NE of La California).  The province is named after the city which dates from colonial times.  The northern 1/3 of the province lies within the Chaco geographical region; the southern 2/3 are within the pampa humeda - the humid pampas, prime agricultural land - flat and very fertile.
Adjective: santafecino.
Sierras Chicas
Pre-cambrian mountains, highest point: Uritorco, 1,979m. / 6,394ft.(east of Capilla del Monte); in the neighborhood of La Cumbre (1,129m.) the hills are about 1,200-1,500m. high.  Very pleasant climate in summer, can be chilly in winter.  Rainier season is November-March.
Sierras Grandes
Pre-cambrian mountains, highest peak: Champaquí, 2,884m., with several others higher than 2,200m.
Suma Huasi
Jo (Benitz) Webster’s home in Nono, on the west side of the Sierras Grandes, Córdoba.
Terrones, Los
Is a small picturesque valley of red sandstone formations (see photo albums) in the Sierras Chicas a few kilometers north-east of Capilla del Monte.  John E. Benitz bought it in the 1900s.  In the 1960s a squatter would attempt to charge an entrance fee.  John’s descendants neglected to pay the provincial property taxes and title was eventually forfeited.  Today, it is a privately owned park.  [On the web, search for: Parque Los Terrones Cordoba Argentina]
Villa Josefina
It was Josephine Kolmer-Benitz’s last home, built for her by her son John across the Cruz Grande river from his summer home.  She lived there from April 25, 1909, until she died August 20, 1912 (see her diaries).  After John died, Alfred purchased it (twice) from John’s sons.  It was sold out of the family soon after Alfred died in 1937.  It later became part of St. Paul’s School.

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)