Elisa Bichsel Page last modified:
Missing portrait

Elisa
ca.1900
(Source: J. Caseres)

Elisa Bichsel
1863 – 1921+

Missing records

Baptisms, Bargen Church
Written in High German
(Found by: J. Caseres)

Missing portrait

Oakland Tribune, 26 Aug. 1881

Missing card

Calling card

Elisa Bichsel was Swiss, born on 5 September, 1863 (and baptised on 4 October, 1863), in the village of Bargen / Vaargen, canton of Bern.  In about 1880 she and Maria, her younger sister, were orphans living with an aunt in Alejandra (Santa Fé, Argentina) – a colony of predominantly British and American settlers (colonos).  Their father had drowned when fording the Rio El Toba (a.k.a.: Saladillo Dulce), ten kilometers west of Alejandra.  (According to Güller family lore, he was driving a cart loaded with hides across the river when he vanished from his seat.)  We don’t know what happened to their mother.

Elisa was 17 years old when she married Frank J. Benitz on June 1, 1881, at “La California”, the Benitz family estancia (near Las Rosas, SFé).  Tragically, six months later she became a widow.  On November 23, 1881, Frank disappeared (most likely drowned) at the same ford across the Rio El Toba that took her father’s life.

After Frank’s disappearance, Elisa went to live at “La California”, likely accompanied by Maria, (see Johnnie’s letters).  She stayed at the estancia for at least three years – she is on record as a witness to a baptism at “La California” on 26 June, 1884.  However, according to Güller family lore the Benitz women treated her as a maid and attempted to marry her off to one of Frank’s brothers.  She left in about 1885 and moved to Colonia Esperanza, a colony of Swiss and other European immigrants, 30 kilometers north-west of Santa Fé city.

It is there that, in 1886 or 1887, she met and married Lorenzo Güller from Switzerland.  The censuses of June 1887 (Santa Fé province) and May 1895 (national) show they had moved to Reconquista (SFé).  In 1887 they are married less than a year, both are born in Switzerland, and he is listed as a “comicionista” (commission agent).  In 1895 they are married eight years with four children and he is listed as a “comerciante” (businessman).  The Güllers eventually had 6 children, 4 girls and 2 boys – see photo bellow.

In the 1887 census, Elisa gave her surname as “Guler”, however, in May 1895 she said it was “Benets”.  Probably because of Alfred Benitz’s recent visit.  In his diary entry for March 22, 1895, Alfred wrote: “Saw Güllers on busines” – in itself fairly innocuous, however he was accompanied by Mr. Marty, the Benitz family legal counsel from Rosario.  Also, the La California 1895 daybook has two intriguing entries, both made in the same blue ink and large scrawl: May 24: “2 Pagares signed”, and November 24: “Pagaré Lorenzo Guller falls due 3.000”.

In 1910, Lorenzo was a manager for “La Forestal” – he set up a tannin factory for the company at Villa Ana, SFé (75 km north of Reconquista).  He is considered the founder of the town that grew up around the factory.  Several years later, having moved once again, he served as president of the town council of Florencia, SFé (15 km. north Reconquista).

Lorenzo and Elisa eventually moved to Buenos Aires.  In Güller family lore, they are remembered fondly as “Tialito” and “Tialita”.  Elisa kept in contact with her Benitz sisters-in-law.  She died in 1921 or 1922 (58 years old) and was buried in the Güller family plot in the German cemetery, Chararita district, Buenos Aires (city).

Missing portrait

Census 1895 – Reconquista, SFé
(Source: J. Caseres)

Missing portrait

Lorenzo & Elisa’s Family – ca.1900
(Source: M. Güller)

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¡Muchísimas gracias, Jorge y Mely!

Research Credit: Before 2016, we knew very little about Elisa beyond her name (incorrectly spelt) and that she was an orphan.  Jorge Cáceres (of Las Rosas, SFé) took it upon himself to discover more about her.  He  persisted and after much effort uncovered most of what we now know about her.  Her photo was kindly provided to Jorge by a descendant of hers.  We are most grateful!  Gracias, Jorge!  Then quite by chance, we were contacted by Mely Güller who provided us family lore and many details about the family.  Gracias, Mely!


© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)