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Articles in the News

The River Plate Sport and Pastime was a daily newspaper that kept the large community of expat Brits living in Argentina informed of sporting events back home.  The article came to us by way of Stuart Pryor, great-great grandson of “Mr. Benitz senior”.


The River Plate Sport and Pastime
Wednesday, May 4, 1892

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April 22.  

When Mr. Benitz, senior, with his family came to this country in 1875 from California, he found it in a very different state to what it is at present. No railway to his destination and no roads of any worth, the difficulty of moving his goods and chattels was great, but that overcoming, Mr. Benitz arrived on the ground which he had chosen and bought. Three leagues of land between what are now called Elisa and Las Rosas were retained out of the four leagues bought, and to this the “lares et penates” of the family were carted with considerable difficulty. It was decided to build a  house not only suitable to the immediate wants of the family, but one in which could be entertained the  numerous friends and passers by also, which all estancieros receive with a welcome known only in camp life. In addition, Mr. Benitz was of opinion that when building it would be better to build with regard to future requirements and not only for the wants of the day. The result was a house of much larger extent than most of those I have seen, “replete with every comfort” (this is the auctioneers’ phrase, and I believe copyright), altos, with rooms sufficient to  accommodate twenty-five visitors, and though so many may not often be seen there at one time, it is certain that they would be received, should they arrive, as though they had been expected for a week.

The number of skins disposed about the rooms is simply astonishing to one not knowing the sporting proclivities of the brothers Benitz; the astonishment when one knows them is that they have not been fallen upon and smitten by the way. Lion, jaguar, wild boar, guanaco, serpent, and indeed every class and kind of skin indigenous to this country is to be found at La California, and some of the most beautiful specimens.

To describe the park in front of the house and the trees and gardens around is difficult. The appearance of the grounds when one comes from the dining-room is most imposing, and the guardian, the giant puma, prowling from end to end of its tether, makes it more imposing still. All the trees were grown from seed brought into the country by Mr. Benitz, not one being on the place previous to his arrival, and the result is simply marvellous. The blue gums, of which very few exist in Santa Fé, are here the finest to be seen. Pepper trees, silver and golden wattle, pines from the States, and many other varieties are to be found in profusion. In the garden behind the house are pears, apples, quince, figs, cherries, peaches, raspberries, strawberries of both European and Alpine varieties, and all kinds of fruits and vegetables, Mrs. Benitz taking almost as much interest in her garden as in her dairy.

Most sadly, twelve months after the building of the house Mr. Benitz died and left his sons to carry on the estancia business in conjunction with his widow.

To arrive at La California you take train to Las Rosas and return towards Elisa, then, at an angle almost acute, turn to the left, and with your destination unmistakably in front of you, carry yourself on another half league; La California, Las Lomas, and Las Rosas are all in touch and more or less equidistant.

Mr. John Benitz, so well known to your readers that it is needless to mention the many sports in which he excels, is the actual head of the establishment, and it was he who gave me the information for these notes and who showed me all over the place. What was seen was nearly the whole estancia, but much was related, and I think it as well to combine the two in one narrative.

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To commence with the horses: The breeding of horses for harness purposes is the aim of Mr. Benitz, and many were being handled and broken on my visit. There are four manada of mares each containing forty, and this year great luck has happily been the lot. The stallions, four in number, were selected from the stud of Mr. John Nash, of Carcaraná [sp] and El Refango [sp], and do not retract from the reputation of that gentleman as a breeder of high class animals. They are Clydesdale, Cleveland, and one Irish hunter of great power and form, and their stock are just of the class required in this country for carriage and draught purposes. One pair of chestnuts, rising five, are almost perfection, and a great horse or foal which galloped past me, struck me as being the very animal for carrying weight and beautiful in every point. All cannot be noticed but all are good. Mention must, however, be made of a pair of  pure white criollo ponies which are now being broken to harness. They are as handsome as any driven in the “Row” and should turn out as valuable. The potros, of which there are now seventy-five rising three, and some fifty or more rising two, and the fillies to the same amount, are kept in separate potreros, and they look as well as any to be seen around. The mares are mostly Suffolk Punch and are descended from that great old horse Nelson which belonged to Mr. Paul Krell.

Two thoroughbred bulls and 100 breeding cows of at least 15/16ths, are the home cattle. But this does not represent the stock. In three leagues of camp, now almost entirely laid down in alfalfa, one must expect a few more. Of late there have not been so many on account of Mr. Benitz having been ploughing and putting in this alfalfa, but in a few days (they are now on their way), he will have some 4000 head for fattening. That cattle were removed from La California was due to the fact that the pasto fuerte was found not to have the nutritive powers hoped for, and so they were sent to the Gran Chaco, where Messrs. Benitz rent some six leagues and have over 8000 head, which are of the best and fattest. Every year tropas are brought down to invernar, and other cattle are taken for the same purpose. To the markets of Buenos Aires, Rosario, Cordoba, and Santa Fé there are continual consignments both from here and the Chaco.

The sheep consist of 3000 black face, from the flocks of Mr. Kemmis and Messrs. Dickenson, with thirty imported rams. The capones and boregas are all in separate paddocks, only the breeding ewes being together. The sheep dip is some six feet deep and some fifty yards long, and built, with its approaches, on principles of the soundest.

Three hundred pigs from “famed Berkshire” complete the stock, but still there are many working bullocks employed in ploughing the last 1000 squares which are to take alfalfa in July, and for home purposes.

There are now 3800 squares of alfalfa divided into potreros and fenced to perfection. No wheat is grown, except by the colonists on the land, who this year, from 1000 squares, averaged sixteen quintals of excellent grain.

The dairy, cool and grotto-like, is a great hobby of Mrs. Benitz, who delights in superintending the making of the cheese and butter. The excellence of these is well known, not only over the province but at much greater distance. Hides and wool are sold on the place, and not exported direct. Direct exportation of horses is, however in contemplation for the early future.

The ostrich about which Mr. Benitz wrote you a week or so ago, which had, as supposed, ceased to lay, has now beaten her record; on the day of my visit, the 21st inst., she had deposited ninety-eight eggs, and still looked as if she could eat another packet of tin-tacks or a cold chisel, for which she seems to have a penchant. There are thirteen of these birds in the small paddock adjoining the house, and very charming they make the view, but this is the only domestic one.

The Gran Chaco, which I have never visited, is, I hear, though wild and rough, specially adapted for breeding cattle on a large scale and is the home of all wild game. Mr. Alfred Benitz is in charge there and has had many a brush with the Indians, for whom he generally accounts. Mr. Herman Benitz spends his time doing the hard work—he likes it—either here, at the Chaco, or on the estancia at Entre Rios, where another brother is manager and part proprietor. He was in the expedition against the Indians some three years ago which was commanded by Commandantes Agromenova and Sepera, in which 120 men took part. He was three months out and has many tales to tell of his sufferings and experience, and of the scalps that fell—I mean came off to him.

The success of Polo in this province owes much to Mr. John Benitz. He and Mr. Alfred Dickenson, enthusiasts in the game, whip up from every available spot those who can play and those who are likely to make players, and encourage the “young idea,” not by swearing at him when he makes a bad stroke or breaks some rule, and so unnerving him, but by applauding any mark he makes on the field and telling him quietly of his mistakes afterwards. These are the class of men to make the game popular and to bring in new blood.

C. W. W.

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)