We believe Josephine’s letters were written for her. We have come to the conclusion that she was illiterate, or almost so, because: (i) When living in Oakland, she signed legal documents with a mark (a large X) instead of writing her name; (ii) In Argentina, she could sign her full legal name in Spanish — but the style of her hand-writing is awkward; (iii) The handwriting in the letters to Mrs. Call does not match that of her signature — suggesting the letters were written for her by one of her granddaughters, Hattie or Katie Benitz, who were travelling with her.
|S.B. Pryor||5 March, 1899||Josephine||Mrs. Call|
|S.B. Pryor||4 Sept., 1899||Josephine||Mrs. Call|
|Fort Ross Museum||ca.1900||Josephine||Miss Baxmann|
|J.C. Benitz (Tin Box)||10 July, 1912||W. C. Morgan||Josephine|
Other Letters & Handwritten Notes
|J.C. Benitz (Tin Box)||12 Feb., 1858||Letter (W.Benitz to W.Howard) re Michael Kolmer’s death|
|J.C. Benitz (Tin Box)||1898-1899||Kolmer tombstone inscription|
|J.C. Benitz (Tin Box)||ca.1900||List of children, dead & living|
Copies of the letters were kindly provided to us by Stuart B. Pryor (g-g-grandson of JKB). The Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, California, also has copies on file.
Olompali [Ranch, Novato, California]
March 5th. 99 -
My dear Mrs. Call -
As you can see from the above I am back again at the Ranch. The day I was in the city I intended calling on you, only it rained & made it difficult for me to get out. But on my return to the city I will come & see you & then we can arrange about the apples, as I would like to pay you for them & also the freight. I went back to the store & bought some more yerba, which was very good.
I am thinking of going to Fort Ross the end of this month to see my Indians as they expect me then.
The weather is just lovely here & all the trees are in blosom, quite a paradise.
I wish best wishes & hoping to see you soon,
J Benitz --.
Las Rosas, F.C.C.A.
September 4, 1899
My dear Mrs. Call:
When I was in San Francisco last May, I went to see your daughter, and they promised to come and see me at the California Hotel where I stopped for a week, but, although I looked for them every day, they failed to come, so I did not have a chance to bid them good-bye. Rosa said she would print me a picture of our Fort Ross Fourth of July picnic and of Mr. Tucker, and I hope she won't forget her promise.
Now, I must tell you when I left California I left San Francisco June ??th and was five days in reaching New York, where William's family joined me. I enjoyed the stay in New York, going to the theater and visiting friends. We sailed July 5th, and after a long but pleasant voyage reached Buenos Aires August 5th. My sons and daughter met me, and two days later we came to the estancia.
The weather is still cool, and we have fires in the grates: spring does not begin till the middle of the month. You are having hot weather, while our fruit trees are just beginning to bloom. This is the season of fruit with you, too, and you will be huckleberrying by the time you get this letter. I suppose the campers and picnickers are coming to the coast.
I have busied myself since my return unpacking my things and getting straightened around: not entirely settled yet.
Remember me to Mr. Morgan and tell him that much to my regret, I had no opportunity to deliver his message. Remember me also to all my Fort Ross friends and write me a long letter soon telling me all about the coast.
With kindest regards to Mr. Call and the girls and much love to yourself,
Your sincere friend,
Estancia “La California”
Las Rosas (F.C.C.A.)
Provincia de Sta Fé
We found this postcard in the archives at the Fort Ross museum. Per the message, it must have accompanied a gift of a tie to Miss Baxmann from Josephine. Per the picture on the face of the card, it was likely sent by Josephine after she returned to Argentina, i.e. ca.1900.
I send you this tie to remind you of your
old friend Josephine Benitz
424 Main Street
The following letter was found amongst Josephine's photos, likely included with them by whomever gathered up her personal items after she died, August 20, 1912. It's possible the letter was received after her death; today it is in the care of her great-grandson John C. Benitz. Mr. W. C. Morgan appears to have been an old friend from Fort Ross. According to the Fort Ross State Historic Park web page, after George Call moved his family to a new home in 1878, he leased out the former Benitz and Call home “as the Fort Ross Hotel, which ran successfully, mostly under ‘Uncle Billy’ Morgan, until 1906, when the State took over the fort proper.” (See the Benitz Family Photos 1880 for a photo of the hotel.)
W. C. Morgan’s letter consists of two pages, hand written on both sides. We introduced paragraphs to represent the pages, otherwise there are no breaks in the prose.
Fort Ross, Cal. July 10th, 1912
Mrs. Josephine Benitz
Dear Mrs. Benitz
Your very welcome letter recd and very glad to know you are well and strong. I am the same. I got back home 3 years ago and I think there is no place like old Fort Ross. I have a nice little grocery store Post Office Telephone exchange office and my watch work. It keeps me pretty busy but I feel able for it. Since I came back I have repaired my house and painted it and it looks like new. We will try and put the old church up this fall the earthquake throwed it down. I hope before long to see old Fort Ross looking good again. I am not running the Hotel now. If I was I would send for you and miss Jenssen to come and run it for me. Those were Pretty good days.
Everything around here is very much the same as when you were here except the old building they have decaid some. We still have Dances in the old Hall under your old Butcher Shop. Will be a Dance here in the old Hall this Saturday night you are cordially invited to attend. The hotel is run by Mr. Sam McKean and Family. Fort Ross is a Dry Town now days. Mr John B. Doda Runs a Saloon at the old Place below here. He and his Wife has been sick too much booze. They are better. John has been having heart trouble. The Call Family are all well. All of the family are married with the exception Miss Emma & Mercedes they are Still at home, Carlos married Miss Kate Kaiser of San Francisco. Geo married Miss Rose Eckert the youngest Daughter of Mrs Pete Eckert who lives near the Plantation. I guess you remember the Eckerts.
I recd you letter on Saturday and on Sunday the next day I walked up to your Ranch and had long talk with your Tenant. I read your orders to him. He said to tell you their would be no redwood trees cut while he remained on the Ranch. He has but a small part of the Ranch rented as follows from the Garden fence South of the old House well towards Timber Cove. He pays one hundred dollars per year. That includes buildings and every thing west of the Garden fence. He pays $25.00 quarterly to Mr. J. B. Williams. His add is 1224 Fourth Street Richmond, Contra Costa, Cal Mr Williams has Bought House and lot there all the family are there except Howard. He is still working for Mr. R. Kees on Dairy Ranch near Bodega.
Your Tenant’s name is Mr. W. N. McLean. He came from Petaluma Cal here he has been living at Timber Cove over three years. He is a very fine intelligent gentleman. He has a fine wife and 3 daughters 2 of them are young Ladies the other will Soon be young lady. They are very nice family. Don’t worry a bout your Ranch up here every thing is all right. Mr Williams Reserved the balance of the Ranch and left his 2 horses on it. The Williams left here about the first of April if I am not mistaken. If there is anything I can do for you just let me know and it will be a pleasure for me to do it. Give your son Alfred my Best wishes and would be delighted to See you and him up here at any time. I will close by wishing you lots of Happiness and good health. Yours Sincerely, W. C. Morgan.
It is intriguing to speculate about Wilhelm Benitz’s abrupt tone in his letter to Dutch Bill Howard advising of their father-in-law’s death. It could have been his style, but it also suggests a certain coolness between them.
Fort Rofs febr 12. 1858.
Mr Will Howard
Early this morning we heard the sad news of the death of your father in law, Mr Kolmer, who died during the night.
I send you notice yesterday through Mr Balmer about his sickness and begged you to send the doctor but he will now be too late for him.
I beg you to communicate this sad event to your Lady and remain yours
The funeral of Mr Kolmer will take place on Sunday morning and should I like to see you attend if possible
This is the inscription provided to the stone-mason who prepared the headstone Josephine installed on her parents’ grave in Timber Cove, 1898-1899. There are a couple of spelling mistakes: in the second paragraph “Josephine Wangler” should be: “Josephine Wagner”, and in the fourth paragraph “Josephine Kolman” should be “Josephine Kolmer”.
The headstone (with the spelling mistakes) is still standing (2012) in what is now known as the Benitz-Kolmer cemetery (see Michael Kolmer’s page for a photo).
In Memory of
born in Endingen Baden
Germany: died at Timber
Cove Feb 11th 1858
wife of Michael Kolmer
born in Endingen Baden
Germany: died at Timber
Cove Feb. 22nd
born in North Carolina:
died in Timber Cove
December 24th 1890
Erected to their memory
by Josephine Kolman
God is Love
The following reads like it was written by someone not familiar with the family, such as the notes a lawyer in California might make. One of the reasons Josephine visited California in 1898-1899 was to obtain clear title to the Timber Cove property that had reverted to her upon her brother John’s death. A minor correction: Charlie died at the train station in Cańada de Gómez, not at “La California”.
Mr W. Benitz deeded to John Kolmer
the property called Timber Cove in
1866 and it was put on Record in
John Kolmer died on the 25th December 1890
William Benitz died June 27th 1876 at
Estancia California Provincia de
Santa Fé Argentine Republic.
At the time of his death there were
his widow and six (6) sons
and one (1) daughter alive.
Since then the following sons have died
Charles T. Benitz died 12th April 1877 at
the Estancia California.
Frank J. Benitz died 23rd November 1881
in the Chaco of Argentina.
Herman V. Benitz died 31st January 1893
at Mar del Plata Argentina.
The following are still alive.
William Otto Benitz
Alfred A. Benitz
John E. Benitz
© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)