William Benitz Page last modified:
El Viejo

After 1868, age 50+
(Source: John C. Benitz)

William Benitz
Argentina 1874 - 1876
(ages: 59 - 61)


The big questions: Why did William Benitz leave California?  Why did he choose Argentina?  These questions have been asked many times.  They are interrelated and there is no single definitive answer:

Journey to Argentina

Missing map

The whole family went, William, Josephine, and all seven of their children, including the eldest, Frank, who had already left home.  In New York they were joined by William’s younger brother Frank Xavier Benitz (Uncle Frank) and their sister “Nany” and her husband Urban Mahrer.  (The Mahrers stayed just two months in Argentina, returning to the US from Rosario on December 12, 1874.)

The journey from Oakland to Buenos Aires took 72 days, entailed passage on 4 ocean-going vessels, and travelled 14,695 miles.  They departed Oakland, California, on July 29, 1874, and arrived in Buenos Aires on October 8, 1874. The following day they travelled up the Río Paraná to Rosario, Santa Fé.

The journey entailed the following legs:

1. Oakland to Panama July  29 - Aug. 14 SS Arizona - train across the isthmus
2. Panama to New York Aug. 15 - 28 SS Acapulco - Busch’s Hotel, Hoboken
3. New York to Southampton Aug. 29 - Sep. 8 SS Wesser  
4. Southampton to Buenos Aires Sep. 9 - Oct. 8 SS Boyne
5. Buenos Aires & Rosario Oct. 9  - Dec. 25 river ferry - hotels & a rented home

For a detailed description of their journey, please read either of the following:

The family’s first 25 years in Argentina.
1875 – Founding “La California” to “Benitz Hermanos” – 1900

The following table lists only the most important events.  For more detail, please begin with:

Date Event
1874, Oct. 8 William & Josephine & 7 children, with Frank X. Bz & Urban & Nany Mahrer arrived in Buenos Aires.  Next day they all traveled to Rosario, where William rented a house for the family while he searched for land.
1875, Feb. 18 William bought, from Carlos Vernet, 4 square leagues (10,800 hectareas/26,687 acres, 16,000 pesos fuertes) in the district of “Los Esteros”, 30 km. north of Cañada de Gómez, Santa Fé province.
1875, Apr. 8 William, with his sons and brother, Frank X. Bz, arrived by train at Cañada de Gómez.  They moved onto the land and began building a temporary home of mud & straw.  La California was born, the main house was built by Christmas 1875.
1876, June 27 William died.  Josephine (mother) assumed leadership of the family with eldest son, Frank J. Bz, managing the daily operations of the estancia.
1876, Sep. 10 Frank was in Rosario, having abandoned his role as manager.  Management devolved to the next older brothers, Willie (William O. Bz) & Alfred A. Bz, assisted by their uncle, Frank X. Bz.
1877 - 1880 Frank J. Bz begins investing in Colonia Espín (located midway between Alejandra and Calchaquí, Santa Fé province) and other ventures; his mother Josephine unwisely cosigns his loans.  He overextends and mismanages his investments.
1877, Apr. 12 Of weak constitution, Charlie dies.
1878, Nov. 12 Josephine (daughter) finds happiness when she marries John Schreiber and leaves the estancia.
1880, Oct. 14 Uncle Frank X. Bz dies at La California, 64 years old.
1881, March La Independencia, the farthest west ¼ of La California, is sold to pay for Frank’s debts.  (The paper-work for the sale continues until July 28, 1888.)
1881, Apr. 25 Willie (William O. Bz) marries Clara Electa Allyn in Corsicana, Texas.  They stay only a few months at La California before leaving.  He finds work as a mayordomo in Entre Rios.
1881, June 1 Frank marries Elisa Bichsel, of Colonia Alejandra.
1881, Nov. 23 Frank vanishes, most probably drowned crossing the Rio Espín.  Elisa and her sister go to live at La California.
1884, Mar. 31 Alfred drives a breeding herd north to establish an estancia (Laguna Yacaré) on brother Frank’s failed Colonia Espín.  During subsequent years, Alfred supplies La California with cattle for fattening.
1884 - 1899 Per Alfred’s diaries, La California is managed by Johnnie with periodic joint visits by Willie & Alfred.  Strongly suggesting that, after Frank’s disaster, the remaining brothers had taken control of the family finances & enterprises.  We don’t know what role their mother, Josephine, now played.
1884 - 1885 Elisa, Franks’s widow, leaves La California, complaining of mistreatment.  She goes to Colonia Esperanza, a Swiss colony NW of Santa Fé city; marries Lorenzo Güller, ca.1886-1887.
1889, March Alfred rents “El Mistolar” from the Santa Fé Land Co. (aka: La Forestal), west of Calchaquí, Santa Fé; it grew into Los Palmares, an 8 square league wedge of land between the Salado & Calchaquí rivers.
1889, Dec. 31 Alfred is evicted from Laguna Yacaré, moves all his cattle to “El Mistolar”.
1892, Oct. 25 John marries Marjorie Morris Macintosh from Scotland, sister of the assistant manager.
1893, Jan. 31 Herman dies (shot) in Mar del Plata (B.A. Prov.).
1893 - 1894 Alfred takes an extended trip to Europe & the U.S., leaving Los Palmares on April 25, 1893, & returning April 13, 1894.
1895 March: Alfred met with the Güllers in Reconquista; November24: second $6,000 pagaré due, to Lorenzo Güller.
1896, June The family buys Los Algarrobos: 10,125 has., 10 km. south-west of Monte Buey, Córdoba.  John signs for it.
1897, Apr. 1 Brothers William, Alfred, & John buy out their mother and sister (both Josephines).  The brothers form a partnership: Benitz Hermanos – each to manage one of the estancias, respectively: La California, Los Palmares, & Los Algarrobos.
1898, Mar. 18 Willie and mother (Josephine) sail to England, then to the U.S. Clara is already in the U.S., having rented a house in Winona, Minnesota, & put her children in school.
1898, Oct. 22 Willie arrives back in Argentina.
1899, June 30 John & Marjorie’s furniture is moved out of La California (& sent to Los Algarrobos).
Willie & Clara’s furniture is moved in.
1899, Aug. 7 Josephine (mother), Clara & her children, arrive back in Argentina.
1900, Apr.- Oct. John & Josephine Schreiber tour Europe with their eldest daughter, Bertha.
1900 Benitz Hermanos was supposed to exist for 5 years.  It dissolved informally before that, as the brothers went their separate ways.
by 1905 William Bz (father) and 3 sons (Frank, Charlie, & Herman) had died.
The surviving members of the family were:
  • Mother Josephine Kolmer Bz.
  • Daughter Josephine Bz married to John Schreiber – 6 children
  • Son William O. Bz married to Clara E. Allyn – 8 children
  • Son Alfred A. Bz – bachelor (married Olga Horner, 1915)
  • Son John E. Bz married to Marjorie M. Macintosh – 5 children

Supporting documents, anecdotes, etc.

John E. Benitz diary, 8 April, 1910:

Today, in 1875 my father with my brothers Frank, William, Charlie and Alfred, with Uncles Frank + Marr [?]  arrived on the La California camp and began to poblar [settle], set up the tent and began to make a sod rancho [hut], which stood for a good number of years afterwards, it was built just behind where now stands the row of buildings comprising office + rooms for book keeper, sitting room, and my old rooms-, 35 years ago.

(In 2020, the northern four rooms of the mentioned “row of buildings” is all that remains of the grand house that Wilhelm built.)

Alfred A. Benitz diary, 1873, pg.278:

Missing diary.

Father died June 27 1876
half past six in the evening.
  Cause sudden dizziness
could not breathe.
  Age 61 years, 4 months 18 days

Estancia “La California”
Cañada de Gomez
Provincia Santa Fe')

Last words–
“I am getting dizzy”

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)