Alfred to his siblings, Uncle Alfred to his many nephews and nieces, and Don Alfredo to most everyone else. The eighth child of William & Josephine Benitz, he was born on 15 June, 1859, at Fort Ross (California). He was a child of 8 when the family moved to Oakland, only 15 upon arrival in Argentina, 17 when his father died in 1876. He had light brown hair and blue eyes, and as an adult he was 5 foot 11 inches (1.80 metres) tall.
Alfred came of age at estancia “La California” (near Las Rosas, Santa Fé). He was a bachelor most of his life, and was likely the most colorful of his siblings. He was a big game hunter, hunting in the Argentine Chaco, the Yukon (Canada) in 1908, and British East Africa (today Kenya) in 1910. But he was also a very successful businessman and rancher.
In 1884, aged 24, he established an estancia for the family in the Chaco region of northern Santa Fé province, on land that had been part of his older brother Frank’s failed “Colonia Espín”. Located on the shores of Laguna Yacaré (now dry), it was bordered by the Espín and Toba (Saladillo Dulce) rivers. Forced off in 1889, he moved nearby, a few kilometers west of Calchaquí to what later became estancia “Los Palmares” (16,000 hectareas, rented from the Santa Fé Land Co., a.k.a. “La Forestal”; stocked with almost 12,000 head of cattle in 1894). He managed it for the family then for himself (after Benitz Hermanos dissolved), eventually buying it in 1904. His part of estancia “La California” he named “Las Tijeras” (1 league). In 1909 he added to it the neighbouring “Las Tres Lagunas” (½ league) — filling the house with his hunting trophies. In 1917 he bought “Campo Winter” (on the Bermejo river, Chaco), expanding it in 1927, 1932, and 1937 to approx. 7 leagues.
In 1915, at the age of 56, he married Olga Blanche Horner. They had no children of their own but raised three of Olga’s brother’s children whom she adopted after Alfred’s death. Uncle Alfred outlived all his siblings becoming the family patriarch, counselor, and banker. He died at the age of 78 on 17 September, 1937, at “Las Tres Lagunas”. Diminutive Auntie Olga, the family battle-axe, received an OBE for her support of the British war effort during WW-II. She was 87 years old when she died on 4 February, 1963, at “El Rincon” (Cruz Grande, Córdoba), and is buried beside Uncle Alfred at “La California”.
In these pages there is a great deal more about Alfred. His biography is a must read. He also kept a diary for much of his life (beginning as a teen in Oakland to the day he died) in which he recorded the family's long journey to Argentina, his many trips, and his more mundane daily activities. If you have the time, his diaries are a fascinating read.
© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)