Alfred A. Benitz Page last modified:

Laguna Yacaré

Colonia Espín, Santa Fé
1886 & 1887
(age: 26 - 27 years old)

Laguna Yacaré was the first camp Alfred established in the “Chaco Chico” (aka: “Chaco Santafecino”), having arrived in April, 1884.  It was about 20km. north-east of the town of Calchaquí/SFé, and about 350km. north of Ea. “La California”.  It comprised the northern third of brother Frank’s failed Colonia Espín (see map).

The day-book of 1886-1887 is missing.  We know it existed in 1938 for parts of it are quoted in Alfred’s chronicles (chapter 35).

Bits & Pieces of 1887:

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Background:  The photo is from Olga’s album (lent to us by Susan Horner).  It is not labelled but because its type is different from those taken in 1902 by Alftred’s brother John, we speculate the photo was taken by Alfred.  He had his own dark-room for developing photos at Los Palmares.

Reference Pages:  Written in English by Alfred and Herman, the day-book is full of Spanglish terms and names local to the region.  To assist you, please open and have at hand (in a separate tab / window) the Reference Pages.

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1887 - Santa Fé provincial Census of 1887

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Census: 1887, Santa Fe
Department: La Capital
District: San Martin Norte

  A B C D E F G H I J/K M M
  NAME Sex Age Role M/S Child. Profession Rank Religion Where from Read Write
1 Amante Urbano M 30 Boss M - DayLabor Peon C SFé No No
2 Acosta Angel M 20 none S - Military Corporal C BsAs No No
3 Sanchez Angel M 16 none S - DayLabor C SFé No No
4 Benitz Alfredo M 28 Boss S - Estanciero Patron P USA Yes Yes
5 Benitz Herman M 25 Brother S - Estanciero Patron P USA Yes Yes
6 Perez Tiburcio M 26 Peon S - DayLabor Peon C Corrientes No No
7 Romero Baldomero M 25 Peon S - DayLabor Peon C Corrientes No No
8 Lopez Julia F 18 Peon S 1 Cook Peon C Corrientes No No
9 Lopez Eulogia F  0 - - - - - C Corrientes - -
10 Baldon Victoria F 19 none S - Prostitute - C Corrientes No No

This provincial census reveals the most likely reason why the 1886-1887 daybook is now missing: the presence of a cook and a maid - both young & unmarried.  Per the daybook of 1885, a maid arrived on 5 December, 1885.  The daybook was probably destroyed soon after Alfred’s chronicles were written in 1938.

1887 - “The Chronicles of Alfred Benitz” - Chapter 35: Recovering stolen horses

Be aware that these quotes from Alfred’s day-book are not verbatim:  (i) verbs have been set to past tense; (ii) spelling has been corrected; (iii) terms may have been softened; (iv) quote marks were added, often followed by a translation in parentheses, e.g. "charcos" (puddles).

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Sept 2/87 - Note re Stolen Horses
Expenses incurred & horses recovered
(Source: S.B. Pryor)

– Click HERE for horse colors –

CHAPTER XXXV
Laguna Yacaré. 1887.

The railways were making great strides into the interior, and opening the country to a remarkable degree, and even in the wilds of the Chaco, lines were being laid down. The settlers came in great numbers, and it will be noted that instead of the great wilderness that Alfred first found, the "Laguna Yacaré" was rapidly becoming surrounded by other estancias, though actually many leagues apart. The Indians still appeared to be their greatest problem, and the following extract from some loose pages of a diary, gives an account of a chase after the savages, who had made a raid on the estancia. This account loses a great deal of detail in the diary, as actually their situation was far worse. The Indians made huge fires and rode at them through the smoke, so that it was difficult to see when they were being attacked. There was also a terrible hot north wind blowing at the time, and the party suffered tortures from the heat, dust, smoke and thirst. One man nearly died of thirst before they found water, and Alfred was obliged to stand guard and only allow the men to drink small quantities of water until they gradually revived.

Wednesday September 4th. Left at 8.30 in the morning to follow up the Indians who last Sunday had stolen 23 horses from Felix's puesto. The party consisted of Alfred, Evaldino and Gay, from our place, and about ten men from Torres estancia. The missing horses were, thirteen of Evaldino's and five or six of ours, also a large number of cattle. It seems the Indians had cut the fences and gone north-west. Evaldino and Juan, who followed up about three leagues north of the "isleta" said that there were about seventeen Indians. We took twenty-eight horses with us, including Charlie Gay's, and reached Torres estancia at noon... At night we reached a point north of monte which lay south of Cueva del Tigre, where we slept. Weather-N.E. wind, cloudy and very threatening, but cool.

Thursday 5th September. Left camp at 6.15 a.m. and at noon reached Isleta Largo. Morell saw us camped there, and thought at first we were Indians. He complained a great deal of "peste" among the cattle etc. but treated us first rate. Weather cloudy and misty at times, but fine day on the whole.

Friday 6th. Camped all day at Chilcas. Drizzly forenoon. Cleaned arms and rested horses. Morell treated us very well. Butchered etc.

Saturday 7th. Drizzly morning. Left Chilcas at 9 a.m. for Charrua. Arrived 1.30 p.m. where we camped. Found two mules and one horse tracks going southwards, about two leagues west of Chilcas. Elias and Evaldino looked for tracks and found where Indians had camped and slept, namely about two leagues west, at an "estero" (inlet). Also found a horse (colorado) which had been lanced. Shot it.

Sunday 8th. Left camp at Charrua at 6.30 p.m. and marched in north-westerly direction for about three leagues, where we struck the Indian trail, and from there went north for about three leagues more. Unsaddled but found no water for us or for horses. Lost my watch near Charrua. Camp at Charrua very good going for about one and a half leagues, then tremendously high "tucurusal" (an enormously tall ant heap made of earth, some reaching to nearly three metres in height).

Monday 9th. Marched about half a league from isleta towards the north, and in a "cañada" found a place where Indians had camped for a day or two with animals. Water in "charcos" (puddles) also large "paso" (track). Camped until 1.30 p.m. and marched until dark. About four and a half leagues from camping place saw "rastrillo" (tracks) of twenty or thirty cows going eastward. Tracks were about ten days old. A league further on, found a cow and seven calves, all tired and thin. Also found tracks of cattle taken by Indians. No water for night.

Tuesday 10th. Marched through very bad camp for about four and a half leagues until 11 a.m., when we passed a stretch of poor "algorobo" monte, where we found a rotten water-hole, from which we pulled out an ostrich and a fox. Gave water to horses and tried to clean out water-hole which was full of mud. North and south side of monte, open camp. Lots of cattle tracks here, old and fresh. Course north. Left again about 4.30 p.m. and marched about three leagues until dark. Tracks suddenly went almost west from camping place at noon. Lots of tracks about 1 p.m. of cattle going N.E. and others going almost west. No water for night. Camp got better in afternoon. Slight frost.

Wednesday 11th. About ten minutes walk from our camp we found an "estero" with splendid water, beside which were two tired horses and a mare, with our mark. We found also twenty-four "toldos" (wigwams) and further on a cow and three calves. We butchered a calf. Camp was made up of strips of monte and open camp. Rather good. Marched during afternoon through monte northwards, and then out west, but only went about three quarters of a league, when we camped for the night at an estero in the corner of a monte, where we found some more toldos that had been deserted about a week ago, I stood guard that night.

Thursday 12th. Got on to track of Indians, and marched N.N.E. through monte. Found tremendous "tolderia" on east side of camp, evidently deserted only the day before. Went hot on track until noon, and marched about four leagues. More open country now. We found that the Indians had butchered twenty cows in the last four days. No water at noon for horses. Coarse but pretty good camp yesterday and today. Found our grey mare killed on the road. Left camp again at about 3 p.m. and marched N.E. through forest of "quebracho" until dark. No water again, and horses getting very thin. Found where the Indians had encamped at a water-hole in cañada about two nights ago, but they had dried all the water up. Saw a cow there, and also a tired horse in the monte. Marched about three leagues to the east. Hot day.

Friday 13th. Found deserted Indian camping place about half a league from where we slept, also a fine laguna of water. Indians had left previous morning. Cow bones about. Camped here till about 3.30, and Elia and Evaldina went ahead about an hour. They soon came back and reported "toldera" about a league and a half leagues to east, so waited until dark in a corner of the monte and then marched to about half a league from the "tolderia". At about two o'clock left to have a go at the Indians, leaving the spare horses hobbled, and the pack-mule loaded.

Saturday 14th. We were going behind the toldos in the long monte, when we saw an Indian on horseback among the horses, knocking about there, so we chased after him and killed him, and then galloped down towards the "toldos" to get the horses. We found nineteen horses and mares, and there were about fifty cattle right in front of the "toldos". When the Indians saw us they yelled, and shot about ten shots at us. We collected the horses with ours, and then four of us went back to fetch the cattle, but they had come along by themselves. We were driving the animals away when the Indians shot at us, so we went towards the "aguada" water-hole in the corner, that we had passed the previous day, but the Indians chased after us, and almost surrounded us, so we made southwards to the open camp. Sixteen Indians came after us, and began firing and yelling at us. We got off our horses and took shelter behind them, and fired back at the Indians, but had to march on, on account of the shooters on foot who would creep up close and bang away at us shooting Elias horse "Manchasito" in the leg, and also Rosadas horse Sanagris. The Indians then stopped and waited, and we came at them suddenly. About twenty-five of them came at us full slick, but we managed to hit one (one was hit before) and then suddenly turned and fled giving us a volley of "alaridas" (yells) "ah-hu-u-u-u-uah". We marched south about four leagues and then turned east, and passed through south point of "palmar" (palm grove). Hot day and no water. Marched until about 9 o'clock and then dug small well and found salt water, but drank it as we were nearly mad with thirst. We then kept marching slowly eastwards all night, all sick with diarrohea.

Sunday 15th. Fearful march all night and next norning until 7.30 a.m. when we reached "Monte Bajo" where there was a big surveyors corral. Here we found a beautiful "estero" with splendid water. Didn't we drink as we had nearly all died of thirst. Juan and Elia had got separated from us the previous night, so we sent Evaldino and Eustacio to look for them. Elias horse turned up about noon, and Elias himself arrived about 3 o'clock on foot, having lain down in a monte, overcome by sleep and thirst. Great rejoicing... Juan still missing, and it is a very hot day. Anxious. We searched monte near here which is not very large, shot a buck and caught some "mulitas", but saw no signs of Juan. We had a wonderful pack-horse which had carried the pack for twenty-eight hours. Evaldino seemed afraid of the Indians following us up. Calculated that we had marched about eleven leagues from the "tolderia". Five leagues to south and six to east.

On September 25th we came upon a "toldera" way up on the Golondrina River, beyond the Palo Pelado which we sacked. Took sixty horses and mares away, but could kill no Indians. We burnt and broke up everything.


© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)