Frank J. Benitz Page last modified:

Frank’s Diary
July 1876

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Frank at 29
16 Oct. 1879
(Silvia Ucko)


Frank kept a diary but we only have seven pages of it, six included here and another amongst his letters.  We do not know when he started nor how consistent he was in keeping a diary.  Like those of his brothers, Alfred and John, he records his day’s activities, but unlike them, he includes personal comments, and is more detailed, for example his weather chart is very detailed.

These six pages cover the critical period immediately following the death of his father, William.  The following is a transcript of those pages.  It begins with a table of the weather conditions of July, 1876.

We have transcribed the diary as written, neither changing nor correcting any errors in spelling or punctuation. Anything we have added is enclosed in [square brackets]. At the bottom of this web-page we have added footnotes about some of the place-names, people, and terms.

Stuart B. Pryor (great-grandson of Frank’s brother, William) very kindly provided us these pages (see footnote #1 for more details).

      July   1876-   (Celsius)          
A.M. night 7  A.M. 8  A.M. 1  P.M. 5  P.M. 8  P.M. P.M. night
1   3 -O-   Wsw -O- 15 Wsw -O- 12 Wsw. O 9 Wsw. O  
2   1 -O-   wsw. O- 18 wsw -O- 15 -O 11 -O-  
3   5 -O-     22 C 17 C -O- 10 -O-  
4 5 C C 22 Wn. C 15 C. Wn 12 Wn -C-
5   6 C     22 C. wn 19 C- 14 -C-  
6   6 C     20 C 14 C 11 -O-  
7   8 C 10 Heavy fog 12 Heavy fog 10 Heavy fog 10 Heavy fog  
8   8 C     22 C Ws. 14 C. ws- 10 -O-  
9   3 C. light frost.   C 20 C wse 13 C. wse 9 O- wse  
10   7 C. light frost.   C. 21 O. ws- 19 O. ws- 12 O- ws  
11   5 -O- frost   -O- 18 O. Wnw. -   -    
12   -       -   -        
13   -       -   17 O 12 O  
14   7 fog. 10 fog 13 fog. Wn. 13 Mist- Wn 13 Mist. Wn Wn
15 Wn. 13 C. Wn   C. Wn 23 C. Wn 20 C. Wn 19 O- wn  
16   15 C     26 C 21 C.r. T&l 19 C. t&l. wn  
17   16½ C Wn 15 fog 22 C. wn 20 C 19 C  
18   15 C     26 C 22 C 19 C  
19   15 foggy     28 Wn. C 25 O. Wn 21½ Wn Wn
20 Wn 16° Wn C     28 Wn. C 24 Wn C 20 O  
21   17 C 17 C. light rain 26 Sultry 22 O 20 O  
22   15 Fog     30 Wn C 24 C 20 C  
23   14 C   C 26 Ws C 21 Ws C 18 Ws C Ws. C-
24 Ws. C. 14 C. Ws     14 Ws C 14 Ws C 12 C  
25   12 C Ws     17 C 16 C 15 C  
26   13 foggy Ws     15 C Ws 15 Mist Ws 14 C. Ws  
27 4 a.m. Rain t.&l. 14 C 16 C 16 C. Wn
20 O 16 O  
28   10 C Ws     20 O Ws 12 C 7 O  
29   3 frost & Ice     16 O Ws 12 O 7 O  
30   3 O. frost & Ice                  


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1/7 — The peons finished twisting wire on to the Potrero at 11.30 A.M. In the evening the cattle were enclosed in it_ The last time that I saw father at the corrals was on Saturday the 17th of June, Mr. Marule from Las Totoras was here to see him, about 1.30 P.M., I accompanied father & Mr. Marule to the corrals. Mr. Marule praised the corrals, saying that the corrals were arranged splendidly, which pleased father very much_ Father told me some days before he died “Thr könna froh sein wen der Potrero fertig ist” [see footnote #2] Meaning that it would come very handy after a heavy rain_ I send four peons out gathering “Leña de vaca” during the forenoon, in the afternoon they went out with an ox-wagon and brought a load. Other peons were planting young poplar trees among the peach trees. Two were ploughing in the East field and one harrowing_ During the day a very strong and piercingly cold S.W. wind. This morning on arising I saw for the first time the constelation “Orion” in the East

2/7 — At 10 A.M., the whole family assembled in mothers room, and examined the contents of one of fathers trunks. We found his Mexican naturalization paper dated at [missing text] California the 15th of June 1844, Manuel Micheltorena [missing text] Governor. At 4 P.M. Mr. Tregarthen came, he is returning home from [missing text] brought us 2 letters of condolence, one from Mr. J. Schreiber dated [missing text] the other from Mrs. A. Glimmann of July 1st _ This is Charlys 20th [missing text]

3/7 — William left early in the morning for Cañada de Gomez on horse-back, he will [missing text] “Las Totoras”, and get two of our horses, that broke away from the wagon [missing text] were in to C. de Gomez. I wrote letters to the Buenos Aires “Standard [missing text] Zeitung” asking them to publish a notice, announcing fathers dea [missing text]

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latter paper to send the same notice to the “Argentinioche Deutsche Woekenblatt”_ I also wrote to J. Schreiber, requesting him to have a notice published in the “Capital” of Rosario_ I wrote a letter to Mr. Alexander Schmederer at the “Colonia California” informing him of fathers death_ I again had Paraiso trees plant[ed] south of the house. William returned in the evening from Cañada de Gomez [missing text] succeeded in getting his gray horse, but the other he could not find. [missing text] brought some papers, among them the “Weekly Alta California” dated April 22d & 29th and May 6th, all in one package_ At 4 P.M. Mr. John Watt and family also Mrs. McGregor called, they remained till 4.45 P.M., taking a cup of t[tea.]

4/7 — This is the 100th anniversary of the independence of the United States it had been our intention of celebrating it, but the sad event of las[t] Tuesday evening, makes this a day of mourning instead of joy_ The day passed very quitely, no distinction being made between this and any other ordinary day_ I again had Paraiso trees planted south of the house. I also staked out places for trees in the back-yard, a few alon[g] the meat and chicken house, also some along the southern side of house. The ground is very dry, I had 4 men carrying water to the trees all afternoon. We have at present 10 Argentine and 5 German peons working on foot; on horse-back we have a capataz (Juan Faria), and 2 peons, [missing text] one working the chain pump_ Mother presented me to-day, with a little gold-dust that father had, it is some of the first gold-dust discovered in California and found at Sutters Mill; Also a piece of Quartz coming from Fraser river, and another piece of quartz that father found personally in the mines_ She also presented me with two Japanese

Mother presented the others with various things.

5/7 — In the fore-noon I again had trees planted south of the house, they finished planting the Paraiso trees to-day. I also had some planted in the back-yard, along the outhouse and the main building_ In the after-noon I had a dozen Paraiso trees planted at the back of the Peon house_ I had all the Paraiso trees watered_ I then took the peons down to the brick-yard and set them to work cleaning out the pisadero etc_ William and a german peon ploughed in the Western field, on its northern side. At 1 P.M. we sent a peon with a wagon to Cañada de Gomez, for the purpose of taking in our cook & wife, she got to be very obnoxious, finding fault with everything, refusing to do the work, and was saucy, so we despatched them. We are very unfortunate with our cooks_, changing so often. Mother moved into fathers room to-day. William will move into mothers room.

6/7 — In the morning early the peons finished cleaning out the pisadero, and partially filling the other two_ I then had willow and poplar trees alternating planted around the three pisaderos. In the afternoon I had water drawn at the well at the pisadero and had the willow and poplar trees watered. I placed 350 slips from the Willow trees into a pisadero. I put one german to digging a sewer_ William & a german peon were ploughing to-day in the Western field between the house and Potrero.

7/7 — I had Poplar and willow trees planted alternatively in the low place on both sides of the brick-makers well. A german peon dug at the sewer. I stuck 100 more willow slips into the pisadero. Mrs. Tregarthen send mother two geese. Mr. Tregarthen send a wagon to Cañada de Gomez, they stop here this evening on their way in, they brought extra oxen along and borrowed a wagon from us. After supper I went to my room [missing text] wrote a letter to F. Rodolph, informing him of fathers death_ I [missing text] [req]uested him to send a copy of the inclosed notice to the following [missing text] Alta California, Bulletin, Call, Post, Petaluma Argus, Santa Rosa [missing text] Russian River Flag. All the Oakland papers_ I also requested him [missing text] to write a notice in german and send it to the California [missing text] I requested him to send me copies containing notice. I also [missing text] I had send John Ruoff a letter asking him to send [missing text] care of F. Rodolph, which he is to keep till further notice. [missing text] to gather Oak & Lucust trees seeds_ Very heavy fog all day.

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8/7 — The dogs made a great noise at 11 o'clock last night, I arose and heard the wagon coming_ In the morning the peon delivered us the mail, I received a letter from J. Schreiber, telling me that he had the notice of fathers death placed in the Capital_ The notice was misprinted, calling father Benitez, and instead of Endingen it read Eudingen. Mr. Schreiber had these two mistakes corrected, but all the notices had the wrong date of death, having it the 28th instead the 27th of June. The notice appeared in the La Capital of July 5.6.7.   _. Mr. Schreiber also send me a copy of his new lithographic birds-eye view of Rosario. The men finished planting and watering the Poplar and Willow trees at the low place at the brick-makers well. I then set them to work planting 40 pear, and 7 Pomegranate trees in the Eastern field, below the avenue. I also had 17 Quince trees planted, also grabe-wines at every post, along the fence adjoining the front yard, between the avenue and north fence. This concluded the work of planting trees. The peon also finished digging the sewer. William and the peons did not plow to-day. I wrote a letter in the morning to John Ruoff, Timber Cove, California, telling him of fathers death. I also requested him to gather me 25 or 30 lbs of seeds, such as Acorns, Laurel, Manzanita, buck-eye, Pine, I especially requested him to gather acorns of the various kinds of Oak (Mountain, White, Live etc.) He is to send them to Higgins & Collins, addressed F. B. Rodolph, Oakland for F. J. Benitz, he is to inform Mr. Rodolph when he sends the parcel, to call and get the package from H. & Collins. Our peon with the wagon succeeded in getting the horse, that broke away from William, the last time he was in to Cañada de Gomez with the wagons.

9/7 — The trees being nearly all planted, we discharged to-day a number of men, 3 Germans, 6 native and one of the horse-back peons, in all 10 men_ We have retained 2 Germans and 4 Argentine for work on foot, and a Capataz (Juan Faria) and a peon for the cattle, another to work the pump. in all 9 men_ A lot of our cattle having strayed away in the heavy fog of the day before yesterday, the capataz brought a band of 50 head from Las Rosas, but as there were many more there, he asked for a rodeo. William & Alfred went over with the capataz this morning to part out. Our carpenter Kinkelin and the girl Elisa went to Roldan yesterday, Mr K. took my letter to F. Rodolph and John Ruoff along_ William and others brought 52 head of cattle over from Las Rosas_ Very cloudy in the after-noon, the ther. fell to 16° at 3 P.M._ Yesterday after-noon an immense cloud of grasshoppers passed us some leagues farther south, they were going to the north-west.

10/7 — We commenced to make the sewer to-day, as the horse that we had in the cart refused to pull, we were compelled to haul the bricks by hand_ In the after-noon grass-hoppers passed over our place, coming from the south west. William, Alfred and 2 peons went over to Las Lomas and parted out a cow and two calfs that had strayed away. One of the peons harrowed to-day, there was no ploughing done to-day as there was not enough harrowed. Morning very cloudy and looked as if it would rain, but at 10 am, it was clear and warm.

11/7 — Finished the sewer at 10 am. At 12.30 m. noon I left on horse-back for Cañada de Gomez and Rosario_ Weather clear, light n.w. wind blowing_ At 11 am., I got ready for going to Rosario, immediately after dinner I mounted, and started for Cañada de Gomez, going in by the new road, I arrived there at 3.30 P.M., I was told that a change was made in the time table of the train, and that the train for Rosario would not leave till 6.20 [P.M.] I went to the Post Office and there found a letter from the Standard and J. Aleman also one from Mr. Lattman. I went in to Rosario leaving the Cañada at 6.20 P.M., and arriving at Rosario at 9.10 P.M._ I entered a horse-car and rode up to the Restaurant Hamburgo, everything was closed, but on knocking at the door it was opened, the porter then told me, that Mr. Glimman was very sick. He showed me up to a

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room, I retired at 9.30 P.M., without a supper. Evening cold.

12/7 — After arising I went to a hat store, and had some crape put around my hat, and then I went to a barber, had my hair and beard cut. I then called upon Mr. Schreiber, also at the Almacen Nuevo, where I purchased 2 bbls. of Sugar and one of Yerba, at the market I bought 375 oranges at .87½¢ per 100., I had them send to the Almacen Nuevo. I also called at Messers Davies & Blyth, the turning-lathe for Charly had arrived, Mr. Blyth will send it out to Cañada de Gomez. I then purchased some tree-seeds at a store, on the S.E. corner of Calle Libertad y Santa Fé; for 3.00$B_ At 9.30 am., I had break-fast, I then called upon Messers. Tietjen y Co, I paid them $B70.00 for fathers coffin_ I again called there at 1 P.M., and attended auction of trees and plants from Montevideo. I purchased quite a number of trees, such as Eucalyptus, Cypress, Pines, Acacias, peach also Santa Ritas, Magnolias and Jasmines_ I had supper at 6 P.M., Mr. Schreiber and Amelong came to see me at the Restaurant Hamburgo, they remained till 10.30 P.M.; I retired at 11 P.M., Some passengers that came from Cordova, soon after also went to their rooms, one of them plaid on a Zither, the first that I heard played since leaving Oakland, this was an excellent instrument, and the played played well, among other pieces he plaid the Alpine Horn.

13/7 — I arose at 5.15 am., I immediately wend to the corner of Calle Puerto & Cordova, where I took a horse-car for the Rail-road depot. The train left Rosario at 6 A.M., at the Carcaraña station, on walking on the in front of the station, I was surprised to meet Mr. Kinkelin our carpenter, he was on his way out to our Estancia_ I entered the car (2d class) with him and, there found Eliza our servant girl, also on her way out with Mr. Kinkelin_ We arrived at Cañada de Gomez, at 9.30 P.M., we were delayed on the way as something broke on one of the freight cars_ We ate break-fast with Mr. Hansen at 10.30 A.M., Mr. Daniel Tietjen and Mr. Meyer coming I remained talking with them till 1 P.M., when Mr. Kinkelin, Eliza & I mounted and started for home at 4.20 P.M._ The “Deutsche La Plata Zeitung of July 9th, contains and article headed “Dem Andenken eines wackern Mannes” an obituary notice written by Mr. Aleman. The Sandard of the 7th of July contains the notice of fathers death.

14/7 — Very foggy day. Alfred and two peons worked down at the well, filling earth against the water-throughs. I pla sowed a large quantity of tree seeds in six boxes. Charly & Johnny wend up to Tregarthens and brought us some slips from Willow trees. One of our wagons wend to Cañada de Gomez. In the evening I wrote a letter to the “Society of California Pioneers” informing them of fathers death.

15/7 — A very windy day. William left early in the morning for Cañada de Gomez, taking my letter to the Pioneers along_ He returned in the evening, bringing the Weekly Alta Calif. of May 13th, but no letters. I painted my book-case. 2 Peons worked down at the well_ One was ploughing and another harrowing.

16/7 — I promised to visit Mr. Daniel Tietjen to-day, but as it looked so much like rain I did not go. Josephine & Charly wend over to Mrs. Watts at the Tres Lagunas, and had breakfast with them, returning in the after-noon. At 4 P.M., it commenced to rain a little, a few hail stones fell, they were as large as pigeon eggs, it was also thundering, lightning, heavy clouds moving about the heavens, in the evening it thundered & lightninged south_ At 4.30 P.M., our wagon arrived from Cañada de Gomez, bringing our trees, etc., also a harrow and a roller.

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17/7 — To-day I had the corner between the main house & side house filled, as it was much lower there than else-where_ Several peons were ploughing and harrowing.

18/7 — After having had the yard along the front of the houses filled up, I set the men to hauling pieces of brick, on the to the earth along the house also commenced to make the roads, leading to the front gate_ Charly went over to Las Tres Lagunas and brought us 2 dozen chickens, and six turkeys, Mrs. Watt sold us the chickens at 6 $B per doz, and turkeys at $B 1.00 each.

19/7 — A foggy morning, and then a very windy day and evening. One of our German peons, commened to sow barley yesterday morning, in the Western field, he also sowed a little today, two peons were ploughing and two harrowing. Two others were hauling pieces of brick for the road leading to front gate_ I unpacked my two boxes to-day, and placed my books into the book-case, which I painted and repainted last Saturday, Sunday & Monday. William is tameing a lot of novillos, and breaking them in to work, several days ago he tied up three and this morning three more. I sowed some more tree-seeds to-day, in three boxes_ viz: #1- Pinus Maritima and Pepper trees, the latter were gathered from the trees in our garden in Oakland. #2- Pinus Nigra; and Pepper trees, seeds from Scharff. #3 Pepper tree, same as in box #2_ Evening warm & strong N. W. blowing.

20/7 — Strong North wind blowing all night, and continued all day. A peon belonging to one of the Estancias up north, brought out our mail, I received two letters from Frank Rodolph having the Oakland post-mark of April 10 and May 10. I also received one from Mr. James Smith of Grays Music Store, having the San Francisco post-mark of [blank space]. I to-day planted some creeping plants along the posts of our veranda, at 4 posts of main house I planted four Santa Ritas (Nerium roseum) and along the other house three plants, 1st Jazmin de los Azores, 2d Bignonia Capensis and 3d Melalanca Avalifolia_ The peons also worked on the roads in front yard_ Ploughing etc. as usual.

21/7 — Morning cloudy, it commenced to rain a little at 7.30 a.m., but immediately stoped again, not raining enough to lay the dust. Weather during the day very sultry. Worked in front yard, and others were ploughing and harrowing.

22/7 — Morning foggy, peons worked on the roads in front yard, and others ploughing. The Acacia seeds that I sowed on the 10th of June are up_

23/7 — At 9.50 a.m., Charly & I drove in our spring wagon (drawn by the Mestizo & Bayo), over to the Colonia Hansa to Mr. Daniel Tietjens, we arrived there a little after 12 m. noon; Mr. D. Tietjen was not at home, but in Cañada de Gomez, on a blow-out. Mr. Avelino Suarez also came, a native woman that has charge of the house, placed a diner before us_ About an hour after dinner Mr. Suarez left, we also left for home at 2.40 P.M., arriving at home at 5 P.M., our object in going to Tietjens was to get some three trees that he promised father. One of our peons that was in to C. de Gomez brought us our papers, also a letter from Wm Howard to William_ A Windy day.

24/7 — Strong South wind blowing all day and all last night_ As our oxen were not here, the men did not plough, but worked in front yard digging holes for trees. I this evening planted the Pinus Canariense_

25/7 — I to-day commenced to plant trees in our front yard.

26/7 — As many of our cattle have the hoof & mouth disease, I made a mixture of vinegar, salt & allum, and with some peons went to the corral, where the capataz and Valentine caught the animals, I washed their mouths and between the hoofs with the mixture. We washed 12 head, but still there are many more sick_ I to-day concluded planting trees. It looks very much as if it would rain. Peons are still ploughing and one sowing barley.

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27/7 — It commenced to rain about 4 a.m., and continued quite hard till 6 a.m., the rain was accompanied by heavy thunder & lightning_ As short as the rain was, it did a great deal of good as the ground was perfectly dry. In the afternoon the weather was beautifully warm. To day the peons worked on the road in front yard, and I marked out the 4 beds in front yard.

28/7 — Mother & I planted some shrubs in the four beds of front yard. I moved my seed boxes, from the front yard, back to the little garden, back of the side building_ A very strong wind commensed to blow about 3 a.m., it resembled very much a Pampero, only lacking thunder, lightning & rain_ A cold south wind blew all day_ I this evening wrote four pages of my mourning paper to F. Rodolph, reminding him that it is now two years since I bid him good-bye; I gave him a short sketch of our daily life.

29/7 — To-day it is two years since we steamed out of the Golden Gate, for South America. I to-day commenced a letter to Har[ry] Ewald. There was a light frost this morning. We to-day washed 10 more animals, that are sick from the hoof and mouth disease. This evening Mother & some others for the first time counted the money in fathers trunks, they did not think it worth-while, to let me know that they were going to count. A great camp fire raging over at Watts.

30/7 — A heavy frost this morning, Weather clear.


  1. These pages from Frank’s diary were included with his brother Alfred’s diaries used in the preparation of Alfred’s biography.  All these diaries were very kindly provided to us by Stuart B. Pryor, who received them from his mother, Corina Benitz de Pryor.
  2. The German spoken by Frank’s father, William, and quoted by Frank in his diary (on July 1): “Thr könna froh sein wen der Potrero fertig ist” was translated by a friend of ours who recognised it as a dialect of German.  Its literal translation is: “You can be glad when the potrero is done.” [“potrero” is “field” in Spanish].
  3. Juan Faria, capataz - subsequent generations of the Farias family have worked at La California and El Piquete.
  4. Wm Howard - the husband of Caroline Kolmer, Frank’s aunt and younger sister to his mother.
  5. Mr. Marule, of Las Totoras - estancia 40 km. to the east, half-way to the Paraná river.
  6. Frank B. Rodolph, of Oakland, California.  6-7 years older than Frank, became a prominent photographer.  His original photos are now stored in the Bancroft Library, Univ. of California at Berkeley.  He took photos of Fort Ross during the 1880’s, the best known are those of the Fort Ross Hotel (formerly the Benitz home), chapel, and derelict block-house.
  7. John Ruoff, of Timber Cove, California - the Ruoff family had a farm/ranch on the coast north of Fort Ross.
  8. Mr. Schreiber, of Rosario, Santa Fé; originally from Hamburg, John later married Frank’s sister Josephine (1878).
  9. Mr. John Watt, of estancia Las Tres Lagunas.  His son Al would later marry Frank’s niece Hattie (1906).
  10. Las Lomas, bordering estancia directly north of the La California headquarters, owned by the Dickinson brothers, cousins of Olga Horner, who many years later married Frank’s brother Alfred (1915).
  11. Las Rosas, bordering estancia to the north, to the west of Las Lomas, owned by Kemmis.
  12. Las Tres Lagunas, bordering estancia to the north, to the west of Las Rosas, at the time managed by Watt, later owned by Frank’s brother Alfred.
  13. Colonia California - a colony of settlers from California of which Frank’s uncle, Frank X. Benitz, was a founding member in 1866, in northern Santa Fé.  Not to be confused with Frank’s Colonia Espín.
  14. Roldan, Carcarañá, Cañada de Gómez are towns on the railroad from Rosario to Córdoba.  La California is 30 kilometers north of Cañada.
  15. Colonia Hansa - south east of La California, 10-15km.
  16. $B - pesos Bolivianos (see Measures for valuation, and intro to Frank’s letters).
  17. Leña de vaca - cow-chips, “buffalo chips”, or “bois de vache”, used for fuel.
  18. Pisadero - “Pisar” is to “step upon”, a pisadero is a small enclosure within which horses are driven to mix straw and mud by their trampling; the mud is then used to make bricks.

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)