William & Josephine Benitz Page last modified:

William & Josephine
Family Legends & Tales


There is a story that soon after arriving in Argentina in October 1874, William requested the assistance of the German embassy.  The embassy refused his request, he believed because he was the son of a tradesman.  However, it was more likely because he had become a U.S. citizen.  Whatever the reason, the story is that William was so angry, he swore never to speak German again.

However, he must have changed his mind soon after:

The recollections of Aphra Peard

Missing image

Click to view PDF
(Source: Jane Watt/Baggott)

Long before we could research records on-line, Aphra Peard wrote down her recollections of the family legends about William and Josephine Benitz.  Aphra was married to William and Josephine’s grandson John Benitz.

Afra’s recollections are very similar to the bed-time stories I was told as a child by my father (in the 1950s).  These stories are legends, however they did peak my interest in our family history that led me to create this website.  That said...

These tales are a confused & highly inaccurate collection of legends.
Click here for a far more accurate account.


Pioneer William Benitz  B. Endigen  Germany

In the year 1834 a young man aged 18 years having finished his education at “Freiburg University” decided to leave Germany, not liking the political situation.

He set sail on an old vesel for Mexico.

The journey was long and dreary, when getting to the Gulf of Mexico and land in sight, a dreadful storm arose, and after pitching & tossing the ship broke up.

He watched many passengers drown, but as he studdied the waves and saw bits of timber washed ashore on the 7th wave, he decided to jump on the next 7th wave, which landed him on the beach. (He was the only survivor)

He was exhausted and slept on the sand for many hours.

On waking he saw he was surrounded by hostile looking Indians, however they realized he was harmless and took him off where he lived with them and worked for many months.

Mexico at that time was in a sorry state, and when opportunity arose William escaped and was able to join the Texas Rangers. He fought through the war under General Sutter and eventually became Captain.

He helped hoist the Bear Flag (in 1846?) Being an able man and a good soldier, he was granted Fort Ross by Sutter and given the job of keeping the bad Indians at bay.

He made a lot of money selling potatoes to the gold miners, and proved himself so well, that “Fort Ross” was given to him as a home in payment for his service.

There is much as to the Russian river that I do not know.


In 1845 the Kolmer family arrived from Germany (Gulf of Mexico)  Mrs Kolmer was one of the first white women to land.  The family crossed mountains and took six months by covered wagon to get to ‘Fort Ross’.  Their home was “Timber Cove”  Josephine Kolmer a daughter was two years old when she crossed the plains with her parents.

At the age of 18 she married William Benitz.  Seven children were born to them.  Six boys and one girl.

Their first child was smothered by an Indian girl who got tired of looking after him.  The girl was flogged by her tribe and banished.  When out riding one day later Mrs Benitz was chased by bad Indians, and shot at with poisoned arrows, she was unhurt.

The 2nd child while sleeping in his basket was found to be covered by a rattle snake.  With great quietness and calm, William placed a bowl of milk in the basket.  The snake uncoiled and slid to the ground, which enabled William to kill it having done no harm to the baby.

William & Josephines children all went to school in Oakland (the only English school)

The Benitz also bought a house there.

William was a great reader and very learned.  He had sold Fort Ross in 1867 to James Dixon of Marin County.

Having plenty of money and also the “Wanderlust” to see the world, he decided to go to the Argentine (1874.)

He set sail with his family to England and thence to the Argentine.

William had always promised his wife a trip to Germany, however when on landing at Southampton, he found there was a ship sailing in two hours time to the Argentine, so they just stepped from one ship to another and Mrs Benitz never saw her native country again.


William was a hard man in many ways and she was gentle in those days, but he was fond of her and proud of his children.

The trip to Rosario Argentina was very long  When they arrived he bought a house and within a week he placed his two younger sons at school.

He then went off with his two older boys in search of land.  He bought land at “Las Rosas” and also in the ‘Chaco’

His estancia at Las Rosas is “La California” where he built a house, but shortly after that he died.

His wife then took over and was most capable, she had to cope with very headstrong sons, and a daughter of whom she was not very fond.

William took over La California

Alfred   "   Los Palmares (Chaco)

Josephine married Alfred Schreiber and was happy for almost the first time in her life

Charles was drowned in “Mar del Plata” 1877

Herman died in the “Chaco”

John Mrs Benitz favourite son bought 4 leagues of land ‘Los Algarrobos’ which he fenced and put in cattle, sheep, pigs, etc. with his earnings obtained from looking after two neighbourng ‘estancias’ belonging to great friends.

John married Marjory Macintosh a young girl out there from Scotland.

They had a lovely home at Los Algarrobos which was built in 1901.

Their children
   Elsie, Josephine, Marjory, John (my husband), and Alfred.


Details and knowledge as to Fort Ross, I gained from my mother in law who in her turn, had these details and many letters and photos from her mother-in-law Mrs William Benitz (née Kolmer)

I have the original Key to the Russian church and also the first Key to the house in the stockade

signed (Aphra Benitz)

The 1st local steam railway was opened in 1855

Howe was the chief engineer.

He married the youngest Kolmer daughter.

I have the 1st photograph of the railway.

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)