Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Story of the Village of Bell Ville, Córdoba, Argentina (Part 7 of 7)

The story so far:
My grandmother and mother were born in Bell Ville, originally named Fraile Muerto, and this series of posts is the result of my research into this village, later a town.  There were English farmers in the countryside and (mainly) Italian immigrants in the town, and I descend from both.
Part 1:  The history of the area up to the mid nineteenth century.
Part 2:  The arrival of the English farming pioneers as typified by Richard Seymour and Frank Goodricke, who resided at their farm Monte Molino from 1865-68;  their first encounter with marauding indians;  headman Lisada’s gesture of friendship to an indian scouting party.
Part 3:  More encounters with indians; description of gauchos; characters in Fraile Muerto.
Part 4:  The arrival of Richard Seymour’s brother Walter and his friend Hume Kelly.  RS’s stsruggles with farming, loss of all their livestock after an indian attack; the weather and the primitive living conditions.
Part 5:  Shepherd Harry’s story.  Another indian raid; war with Paraguay, effects of cholera on Fraile Muerto.
Part 6:  Domingo Faustino Sarmiento newly elected president of Argentina; new farm machinery arrives from England; Lisada’s encounter with indians when incident related in Part 2 paid off; speculation why Richard Seymour gave up farming and returned to England.  The story of how Fraile Muerto was renamed Bell Ville.

Enrichetta Alina Maria Aloisi, my grandmother,
taken in Florence in 1891, when she was 1 year old.

Graciela Amalia Schiele, my mother,
taken in Bell Ville in 1923, when she was 1 year old.

The Italian Connection
The influx of immigrants from Italy seeking a better life in Argentina is the greatest by far, larger even than those from Spain.  Between 1814 and 1970 the country has welcomed some six million Italian immigrants.  They and their descendants, now 60% of the population, are the backbone of Argentine daily life and culture.  In fact, leaving Italy itself aside, Argentina is the nation with the highest percentage of Italians and with the strongest Italian culture.
After Napoleon Bonaparte’s downfall and the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, Italy was governed by Austria as many separate states until the Risorgimento movement headed by Victor Emmanuel II...

...started the unification of the country under Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Despite its success, the decades of struggle had created social and economic chaos and disunity, with the richer states being in the north and the poorer in the south; and many dialects – 10 in Sicily alone.  Initially the infrastructure to enable them to resolve these differences simply did not exist.  Corruption, unemployment and strong class-consciousness dominated their daily lives to an extent that drove many families to emigrate. 

Rinaldo Baronti, 1890s 
In the mid 1870s Rinaldo Baronti was one such hopeful.  He had been born and bred in the prosperous northern city of Florence, and as a young newly qualified architect met Amalia Bertani, the 15 year old daughter of a friend of his who lived with his family very near the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno river in the same city.

Amalia Bertani (my great grandmother)
as a girl

He fell in love with her, and asked his friend whether he would consent to their getting married one day, allowing via a long courtship for her to grow up a little.  Bertani was shocked and obdurate.  His daughter was too young to think of such things and he was to steer clear of her.  Despondent, Baronti opted for getting away from this forbidden fruit altogether, and he joined the stream of immigrants to Argentina.
Amalia’s sister Enrichetta was older, but already affianced to Vincenzo Rosignoli, a sculptor of renown from Assisi.  There are many statues around Italy which were created by him and in the picture below from 1912, he and her sister Enrichetta - now his wife - pose in front of Nymph, one of them.  He is best known for his tender portrayals of St Francis of Assisi caring for animals. 

Meanwhile Amalia grew up into a handsome girl with the accomplishments of the age – she spoke French fluently, wrote poetry of some merit, painted in oils, made all her own clothes, had a fine soprano voice and played the piano like an angel, being a fully qualified teacher of music.  My mother has told us that she was also fiercely proud of an uncle - il Zio Colonello - who had fought with Garibaldi.  Ten years after her aborted romance with Rinaldo Baronti, she married a marine engineer in Florence, Enrico Aloisi. 

Enrico had come top of his graduating class in 1885 and had been presented with a gold medal by Umberto I, the king of Italy himself.  Below is a postcard clearly used by the sculptor Vincenzo Rosignoli as a way of promoting his business, whose signature is appended.  The statue in the picture is of Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy, with a half relief at the base of Umberto I, previous king, who had presented my great-grandfather Enrico Aloisi with his medal. 

Enrico was five years her junior, so she lied about her age and incidentally did so for the rest of her life.  She bore him a son, Enzo, and a daughter, Enrichetta (my grandmother, later spelt 'Enriqueta'), but his life was tragically cut short in 1890 when he died of pneumonia some months before little Enriqueta was born.  The child was named after both her dead father and Amalia’s own sister.
Top left is Amalia Aloisi, newly widowed

Amalia was now a widow in her thirties, still living in Florence.  She was fortunate to be taken on by the Contessa Piscicelli, who employed her as a live-in governess to her children; she taught them and her own children French and music.   They kept close family ties with Amalia’s sister Enrichetta and her husband Rosignoli, and when possible stayed with them in Assisi.  Don Vincenzo, aside from being a serious sculptor, also had a sense of humour, and liked to create tableaus which he would get professionals to photograph.  Here is one where he is portraying himself as a dwarf (on his knees with shoes protruding) with his wife Enrichetta holding a puppy and her niece (my grandmother Enriqueta) front left, next to her older brother Enzo.

This state of affairs continued until she got the surprise of her life one day in the form of a letter from Rinaldo Baronti, her former suitor, now settled in Bell Ville, Argentina.  He had married but his wife had unfortunately died a few years before and left him with three small children to bring up.  He had never forgotten Amalia, and was now proposing marriage to her.  He offered her a new life, a new beginning at the opposite end of the world, and she accepted. 

He then sent her this fond card of himself sitting by a stream -

...which said on the reverse in a touching mixture of Spanish and Italian:  A vos que antes y sola me enoblesisti mente y corazon, ofresco como peño de verdadero amor este ricuerdo simbolo di eterna fe. ("To you, who alone once ennobled my heart and mind, I dedicate this token of true love, a symbol of everlasting faith.")

Amalia, Enzo (12) and Enriqueta (8) arrived in the port of Buenos Aires in 1898, where Rinaldo was waiting on the quayside.  Sadly their feelings on seeing each other again have not been recorded, but being a formal gentleman he had arranged for a civil wedding ceremony to take place immediately, and on the same day the four of them departed for Bell Ville, 450km (285 miles) away, to the Villino Baronti.
Enzo and Enriqueta in Bell Ville,
a couple of years after they had arrived from Italy.
(The original is only about 2 inches high, hence the low resolution)

My mother described the house as large, with an inner patio and fountain, and large bird cages.  It was dark inside, and had tiles on the floors and some of the walls, therefore cool in summer, and the dining-room had splendid and imposing matching furniture in light oak – sideboard, carving table, huge table, chairs and grandfather clock.  In time the furniture was sold along with the house, but the grandfather clock followed Amalia and later Enriqueta throughout their lives, my mother inheriting it eventually.  It is now with me, beautiful but too large to look natural in most modern homes. 

It took little Enriqueta many months to settle down, during which she often cried herself to sleep. 

This might have been in part because of her new surroundings and inevitably less attention from her mother, but it could also have been because it was not always easy adjusting to her new step brothers and sister.  Pepe Bertani was the eldest, then Querubina, and Angelito was the youngest.  Querubina and Enriqueta had very differing personalities, but they were approximately the same age, and Amalia was anxious that her children should give her new stepchildren no cause to clash.  Don Rinaldo was kind to the little girl, but her only real consolation was her older brother Enzo, whom she adored.
In her memoirs, my mother says –
“Amalia kept busy with her music, the garden and birds, of which she always had a number in cages.  The practicalities of housekeeping did not appeal to her, so that by the time my mother was fourteen, it was she who was running the house.”
In 1908 Bell Ville was officially proclaimed a proper town.  Rinaldo Bertani had a successful business as an architect, and had received various local commissions.  The best known of these is a building still standing today which is regarded as one of the best known landmarks of Bell Ville, the Hotel de Inmigrantes. 
As it was then

As it is now

This imposing building was designed to house immigrant families when they first arrived in Bell Ville and before they had found themselves somewhere to live.
As they grew into young ladies, the girls socialised together and chaperoned each other, always immaculately dressed in the garments made for them by Amalia.  This Bell Ville studio photograph is an example, with Querubina on the left at the piano and my grandmother Enriqueta on the right.  Note however that they are wearing identical dresses.  I wonder how they felt about that...

One afternoon in around 1914 her older stepbrother Pepe appeared with a friend of his, Manfred Schiele.  Manny belonged to a large family which farmed in the area, and was presently employed at Estancia La California, some 100kms away from Bell Ville, owned by the wealthy Benitz family.  At that time the young man’s job consisted in checking the state of fencing and gates over a large area, which he did on horseback.  In the evenings he dined with the Benitz family, where old-time etiquette was strictly observed.  Full evening dress, dinner jackets and black ties were required.  The relative informality of the Villino Bertani must have come as a welcome relief. 

Manfred and Enriqueta, engaged, in about 1912

I love this portrait of Granny, and the dog is magnificent, isn't he?

He hit it off with Enriqueta straight away, and it was not long before he was making excuses to stop off at Bell Ville on the way to anywhere.  It became official when his mother Agnes Schiele made the long journey to meet her (or as was the custom in those days to ‘check on her suitability’) and was charmed by her, so they became engaged. 

Edward Constantine and Agnes Schiele, recently married.

...and in later life

After their marriage they lived in Bell Ville for several years for practical reasons because my grandfather held positions at different estancias which necessitated quite a bit of travelling.  In due course they were settled at one of these, and their life consisted of life on the farm, visits to his parents on a farm 200 miles away, to her parents and family in Bell Ville, and to relations in Buenos Aires.  Granny had five children; Dick, Vera and John born in Buenos Aires (“the expensive ones”) and my mother Chela and Fred in Bell Ville (“the cheap ones”).

From left:  John, friend, Richard, Vera, friend, Graciela (Chela).  Youngest brother Fred would have been too young to be in the photo.

John, Chela and Vera

Chela in 1940, at 18

Chela’s earliest memories were of playing in the shady patio with the tinkling fountain, and being treated with affection by her grandmother and step-grandfather (Nonna and Nonno).  The household spoke Italian, and she picked it up from them, remaining fluent for the rest of her life.  Mum and my uncles and aunts were all trilingual.  Her mother Enriqueta worked hard to learn English, as it was spoken by all her in-laws, and I remember well that she spoke it very correctly and fluently, although with a heavy accent.  “Wood in a basket” became “vood in a busket”, for example.  She was very good natured about the inevitable teasing.

The Nonna - Amalia Baronti - in later life.

Enzo in later life

After the Nonno died, Nonna Amalia went to live with her daughter and family, who by now had a house in Buenos Aires so that the children could go to school.  They remained very close, and my uncles and aunt remember the two women sitting close to the old wireless, listening to operas, tears of emotion streaming down their faces – and the Nonna exclaiming… “Ah poveretta! Ora muore!”  (“Ah poor thing!  Now she dies!”)

Enriqueta (Granny), at about 78 years in 1968, with my sister
Belle Ville has come a long way from those days, and even since the 1970s when Mum and I visited it on a hot afternoon.  It is now a bustling, noisy town of 35,000 inhabitants which attracts its good share of tourists, particularly those interested in football.  It has an enthusiastically supported team, perhaps a response to the outstanding success of one of its sons – Mario Kempes, who was the star of the World Cup in 1978, scoring 6 goals, the top individual score of the tournament.

- or Osvaldo Ardiles, who was born in the same province, though not in Bell Ville.
The city’s claim to fame these days is its thriving industry in football manufacture, with their products being sold all over the world.  Research first started on this subject in Bell Ville after the FIFA 1930 first World Cup held in Uruguay when the host team beat Argentina in the final, it was said unfairly because of the ball that the Uruguayans had selected.  What resulted was a new type of ball with no stitching, which is still used today.
The environs are still devoted to crops and cattle farming, and though the sea of waving grass has shrunk considerably and is bounded by fences and bisected by country roads, it is still there.

(1)  Pioneering in the Pampas by Richard Seymour. First published in 1869, reprinted 2002, Stockcero Publishers
(2)  Fraile Muerto by Juan Carlos Casas, 2002, Stockcero Publishers
(3)  A Ramble through my Life, memoirs by Graciela Amalia Schiele de Bridger (Chela), 1922-2007, unpublished.
(4)  Websites: Wikipedia

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Story of the Village of Bell Ville, Córdoba, Argentina (Part 6 of 7)

The story so far:
My grandmother and mother were born in Bell Ville, originally named Fraile Muerto, and this series of posts is the result of my research into this village, later a town.  There were English farmers in the countryside and (mainly) Italian immigrants in the town, and I descend from both.
Part 1:  The history of the area up to the mid nineteenth century.
Part 2:  The arrival of the English farming pioneers as typified by Richard Seymour and Frank Goodricke, who resided at their farm Monte Molino from 1865-68;  their first encounter with marauding indians;  headman Lisada’s gesture of friendship to an indian scouting party.
Part 3:  More encounters with indians; description of gauchos; characters in Fraile Muerto.
Part 4:  The arrival of Richard Seymour’s brother Walter and his friend Hume Kelly.  RS’s stsruggles with farming, loss of all their livestock after an indian attack; the weather and the primitive living conditions.
Part 5:  Shepherd Harry’s story.  Another indian raid; war with Paraguay, effects of cholera on Fraile Muerto.

A new president

The cholera continued.  In the city of Rosario rows of houses were boarded up, either because their owners had died or escaped to the countryside if they could – one French family managed to get away, only to fall into the hands of  Indians, who kidnapped them.  The disease swept its way onward, indiscriminately killing native and foreigner alike.  It was estimated that people were dying of cholera at a rate of one in ten.  Richard Seymour himself was struck down with it, but was lucky.  After a very unpleasant twenty-four hours he took a turn for the better and recovered relatively quickly.
At a German colony in a village nearby called Cañada de Gómez a farmer witnessed every member of his household die in succession, and when he himself was attacked by the disease, he shot himself in despair.  His holding became abandoned, with livestock wandering about at will, and the whole area was severely depopulated.  It brought out both the best and the worst in people – the fear of infection was so great that the dead were being buried in great haste, and sometimes people left their relatives to die alone rather than set foot inside their front door.  They would then lasso the body from the outside and drag it out for burial.
As soon as the cold weather set in the disease vanished.

In May 1868 Domingo Faustino Sarmiento became the newly elected seventh president of Argentina.  This was welcomed with relief by the farmers, who saw in him their only hope of support against the incursions by the Indians. 
Until such time as Sarmiento could solve the indian problem, they turned their attention away from cattle and towards crops such as wheat, maize and flax, purchasing 20 young bullocks to do the ploughing so as to prepare the land for wheat growing, after scorching the grasslands with fire to prepare the soil, as was the custom in those days.  This was a method which in that area worked well because there was nothing but grass, though it was reported that in the province of Buenos Aires, which was well populated by thistles several metres high, serious damage could ensue if the fires were lit towards the end of the summer when the vegetation was very dry.
Driving the bullocks required infinite patience, for the animals didn’t fancy going in a straight line, and only seemed to respond when the shouted orders were accompanied by coarse and hoarse epithets (“...the gauchos ought to find their bullocks most obedient servants...” Dick Seymour commented wrily.) The creatures were reduced to order at last, but were obstinate and tiresome to manage.  This was not helped by the fact that the native ploughs were very primitive, consisting as they did of a log with a nail in it, which barely scratched the surface of the soil.  However the soil was so fertile and rich that there had been no incentive to improve the mechanism, until the European farmers settled there.  Later on when steam-driven ploughs from England eventually arrived, the locals could not believe their eyes.
Dick Seymour wrote that on a typical morning he would have ploughed up some dozen snakes, and there would be dense flocks of birds following to pick up seed, which, he said, in turn often provided food for the ploughmen.  He was also impressed by the number and variety of plants which flourished in those parts – their kitchen garden’s vegetables in ‘the greatest luxuriance’ .  The onions and radishes grew to an immense size, one specimen of radish reaching a size of 18 inches in circumference.  The soil was perfect also for melon, pumpkins, cucumbers, and many trees, including peach trees.  He loved the purple and red verbena wildflowers particularly.
Sadly their prize English rams died off one by one with a mysterious swelling of the throat, and they concluded that European sheep were not meant to live at those latitudes.
Round about at this time Gumersindo Lisada, formerly the capataz or foreman at Monte Molino (see Part Two) and latterly living in the village, had his most terrifying encounter yet with the indians.  He was visiting his friends at Monte Molino for a few days with his little brother Stani and they were rounding up stray cattle one day, when a party of indians came upon them and kidnapped Lisada.  Stani got away because he was at some distance and his horse was not as tired, and he was able to raise the alarm. 

This sort of action by natives generally meant that they needed someone of Lisada’s age and experience to act as scout, or baqueano.  Everyone knew the sort of treatment meted out to both gaucho interpreters and these press-ganged scouts, and in Fraile Muerto he was mourned as if already dead.  Richard Seymour was in the village at the time, and was much cast down by the news of his cheeky, feisty and highly regarded former capataz.  Several days later he bumped into one of Lisada’s friends, who reported that he had returned home late the night before, safe and sound.  Seymour hastened to Lisada’s home, where he found him tucked up in bed, resting from his labours and recovering from his fright.  After a few restoring rounds of mate, he told him his story. 
He had been seized by a party of some thirty braves, who were soon joined by an even larger number.  They informed him (through the gaucho interpreter) that he was now their scout and asked where he had come from.  On hearing that it was the Monte Molino estancia, they demanded him to guide them there.
Lisada was able to reply truthfully that thanks to the number of recent predations upon that property by their good selves, they would find nothing left to take – and he described the most recent raid (see Part Two).  They held a council, and decided they would head instead for the Esquina Ballesteros estancia belonging to the family of Casas, the Chief of Police.  When they reached there a group of them attacked the house accompanied by the gaucho and Lisada stayed back with the rest.  He heard a lot of shouting and shots, and smoke billowing out of the windows.  The interpreter told him later that the place had been bravely defended by three people, but the Indians had eventually got in and killed them all.  They also took with them every horse, cow and sheep they found, the latter doubtless merely to feed them on the way to their next raid.
A while later they attempted to kidnap another gaucho, who made a desperate attempt to escape but was caught after a chase over several leagues.  They bound his hands together and ordered him to his knees, and after allowing Lisada to give him a cigarette, the fugitive’s last request, executed him with their lances. 
Lisada was quite sure he would be next and was quaking with terror, but to his everlasting surprise learned that they remembered him from the raid to Monte Molino when he had crossed the moat and shared his cigarettes with them.  They had admired his bravery and appreciated his gesture of friendship, and would therefore spare him.  They gave him an old horse, shook hands with him, and told him to go home.
Dick reported that his former capataz continued to live and flourish in Fraile Muerto, unless he was later called up to serve in the army in Paraguay.  This would have been a severe trial for him, he reflected, fond as he was of sitting around drinking mate and – in Lisada’s own words – finding that his bedsheets “stuck to him” in the mornings.
Richard Seymour never spells out in his book why shortly after this he returned to England in 1868 for good and gave up his Argentine farming adventure, but his remarks make it easy to read between the lines.  The climate and soil were perfect and permitted the growth of excellent pastureland for cattle, which attracted many foreign immigrants with whom they had established excellent relations.  The communications with Buenos Aires and London were good, providing the market for their products, and the introduction of the railway was making the process faster all the time. 
On the minus side he had clearly been unprepared for the unknown diseases which affected his animals and killed them with no warning, the vast distance to Fraile Muerto because there was no bridge to cross the river which made errands a major chore, the regular locust plagues which left the cattle scratching for food and emptied their kitchen garden of vegetables, and the chronic lack of firewood on a sea of grassland with few trees.

Locust plague in progress

But all this was as nothing to the disillusionment he felt over the severity of the Indian problem and the government’s lack of reaction to this impediment to progress, let alone the loss of life.  The constant depredations had almost bankrupted him, but his experiences had a lasting influence on his life.
The Indians themselves and the 30,000 who died in the last quarter of the nineteenth century became a shameful and forgotten chapter in the country’s history until the last decade, when the true facts about their systematic extermination have become known.  Many books have been written on the subject and many claims for their land still continue. 

The indian campaign, 1879

Fraile Muerto becomes Bell Ville
The time had finally come for Fraile Muerto, the oddly named town of Dead Friar, to shed its name.  The moment and the place were set by the visit of the new President of Argentina, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.  In late 1870 he was travelling to the city of Córdoba for the inauguration of the First Industrial Exhibition, and he made a stopover of several days at Fraile Muerto.
The flags and the bunting were out, the schoolchildren let off school for the day, and a large outdoor barbecue was organised in his honour.  Sarmiento circulated among the guests chatting amiably to all and sundry, and presently asked to meet the oldest settler present.  He was introduced to the brothers Anthony and Robert Bell, farmers originally from Dunbar in Scotland who had established themselves as farmers in the area some years previously, and were recognised as having introduced modern farming methods. 
The President was an anglophile and had taught himself English many years earlier by translating Dickens novels solely with the use of a dictionary.  He questioned one of the brothers closely about the quality of the soil, the clearing of the bush, the crops they were growing, how the cattle fared, and the rainfall. 
Then he said “And the water – what is the water like in this area?”
Robert Bell smiled and replied “The truth is Mr President, I don’t know.  I only drink whisky.”
President Sarmiento was very amused by this, and on impulse he proposed the name of the town should be changed.  Calling it after a dead friar did not reflect its new progressive image; why not call it Bell Ville?  Two years’ later the name was officially changed and it has been Bell Ville ever since.
Many variations of this story have been told since then, but my grandfather Manfred Schiele was present when it was related first hand to his father Edward Constantine Schiele, my great-grandfather, also a farmer and landowner in those parts, by an Englishman who was standing by on that day in 1870.

My great-grandfather, Edward Constantine Schiele
Grandfather Manfred owned an estancia called El Recreo near Bell Ville, and later sold it to his brother Bertie, my great uncle, and in her letters home to her parents in England between 1912 and 1919, my great aunt Winifred described it as having a watchtower and a moat around it.  Drought and locusts seemed to be a constant in their lives.

Winifred and Bertie Schiele


For Bibliography see end of Part 7.

Next Post:  The Italian Connection - my Italian ancestors

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Story of the Village of Bell Ville, Córdoba, Argentina (Part 5 of 7)

The story so far:
My grandmother and mother were born in Bell Ville, originally named Fraile Muerto, and this series of posts is the result of my research into this village, later a town.  There were English farmers in the countryside and (mainly) Italian immigrants in the town, and I descend from both.
Part 1:  The history of the area up to the mid nineteenth century.
Part 2:  The arrival of the English farming pioneers as typified by Richard Seymour and Frank Goodricke, who resided at their farm Monte Molino from 1865-68;  their first encounter with marauding indians;  headman Lisada’s gesture of friendship to an indian scouting party.
Part 3:  More encounters with indians; description of gauchos; characters in Fraile Muerto.
Part 4:  The arrival of Richard Seymour’s brother Walter and his friend Hume Kelly.  RS’s stsruggles with farming, loss of all their livestock after an indian attack; the weather and the primitive living conditions.

Cacique Epumer

Harry’s Story
With the loss of all their livestock there was nothing with which to mark Christmas day 1867, so everybody scattered around the countryside to forage.  Two stray bullocks were eventually found and sacrificed for Christmas lunch, at which friends and neighbours gathered to celebrate, totalling some fourteen people. 

But New Year’s Day 1868 was not so pleasant.  Richard arose to the shouts of their peon Lorenzo who galloped into the yard shouting that the Indians were coming.  Hastily scrambling onto the roof, their lookout, Richard saw with dread that the largest number he had ever seen was approaching them at speed.  He calculated their number to be close to one thousand horsemen.  They galloped past their corrals, where they swept up the few horses that had been left from the last raid, and continued onwards to the puesto, one of many small outpost habitations constructed on farms where shepherds lived with their families, the closer to be to the animals they supervised. 

The puesto at Monte Molino was inhabited by Harry, a shepherd who lived alone.
Harry was a wanderer, German by birth, who had begun his working life as a sailor in the English Merchant Navy, moving on later to the US Navy.  The vicissitudes of his life had at length brought him to the River Plate, where he resolved to turn shepherd, and following employment at Monte de la Leña which was abandoned after a narrow escape from the Indians, he ended up at Monte Molino.  Richard says Harry was a good shepherd who as a former sailor could turn his hand to practically anything, and adds “…best of all, he was sober.”
Cacique Calfucurá

When the marauders had passed, they made their way over to Harry’s puesto and saw a bedraggled figure approaching them on foot, wearing only his undergarments and a sheepskin.  They learned that some two hours before daylight he had been awakened by his dogs barking.  He hastily dressed himself and climbed onto his roof.  He could see a number of horsemen in the dim light, one of whom called out to him in Spanish to get down and approach them, as they wanted to speak to him.  Harry asked them who they were, and they replied “Ranqueles”.  This was the tribe that usually raided the area, and Harry was very reluctant to move.  The interpreter for the Indians threatened to burn his house down and murder him if he did not, and he realised he had no choice. 

Cacique Catriel

From experience he gathered as the gloom started to clear that these were not the usual Ranqueles, and that they had a number of gauchos with them.  The chief started questioning him through the gaucho interpreter.  How many soldiers were there at Fraile Muerto, how many people lived at the main house at Monte Molino, how many foreigners and how many peons, how many at the old metal house, and so on.  They had evidently already amassed quite a lot of information about them.  Harry answered truthfully, except when he told them the old metal house was abandoned – Lorenzo, a peon, was living there, and it was therefore thanks to Harry that Lorenzo was later able to escape unharmed.
The chief ordered him to mount behind him, as he wanted Harry to show him the point at which they could ford the river.  By his reckoning he was riding with a troop of five hundred braves.  When they arrived at the river, they forcibly removed his boots and shirt, and sent him on an old horse with four Indians to wade across. 

It was still fairly dark, and Harry failed to find the exact spot which would avoid them getting bogged down in mud.  They floundered about for some time; Harry was convinced that at any moment he would feel a lance going through his back.  But somehow he persuaded the other four that it was due to the poor light, and they managed to return to the bank.  The second time was more successful, though they had to swim the last stretch as the river was in spate.  The cacique recalled them all, and taking back the horse he had been riding, told Harry to go, as he had served his purpose. 
He hid in the reeds for a long time and then followed the river as far as he could to confuse any other Indians in the area who might have attacked him.  He eventually got back to his puesto, where he found that everything in the world he had possessed had been taken, including his two spare horses and the 1200 sheep that were his responsibility.  He set off for the main house on foot, and this is where Richard Seymour found him.
Later in the day, when Harry had rested and got fresh clothes to wear, he took one of Richard’s horses and tracked the Indians’ movements of that morning as far as he could.  He discovered a trail of sheep corpses with part of their flesh removed and no traces of fires.  When 500 sheep found their way back to Monte Molino, they realised that the raiders had driven off the sheep merely to provide sustenance along the way, which they consumed raw.  They clearly had no intention of taking the remaining animals back with them.
When the men attempted to trace some of their horses, they were unsuccessful, but were interested to observe some Indians in the distance who were trying to catch some of their bullocks but when they got close enough came upon a fence, clearly a new concept to them.  They studied it for some time, clearly puzzled, and then departed. 

Harry was unnerved by these experiences, and decided to go and live in Rosario, the nearest city, some 200 km (130 miles) away, where he obtained employment at horse stables.
Richard attempted to encourage local farmers to muster a small army to go into Indian territory to teach them a lesson, but although there was a willingness to fight, it was the general consensus that leaving their properties empty and undefended would be a grave mistake.  Instead they petitioned the government for frontier protection, but the answer was the same as ever – President Bartolomé Mitre was too occupied with the war with Paraguay, where most of the government’s soldiers had gone.  This situation frightened off many potential investors who had come looking for land, and now left the area.
Then came cholera.

Paraguay in crimson, Uruguay in yellow, Brazil 
in green and Argentina in lavender 

In the mid nineteenth century Paraguay was a landlocked country of some 1,200,000 inhabitants, heavily dependent for its trade on the rivers which flowed through Argentina and accessed the Atlantic via Buenos Aires.  Its adjacent countries are Brazil and Argentina, and the boundaries set in the colonial days of the viceroyalty one hundred years earlier were vague at best, and the source of continual conflict between the three countries. 

When Uruguay started a dispute with Brazil over its mutual boundary and Argentina did not give Paraguay permission to cross its land with troops so it could reach Uruguay, it was but a question of time before they all ganged up against Paraguay in a Triple Alliance which resulted in a 10 years war between 1865 and 1875.  Paraguay lost, and its population was reduced by 50-85%, with 90% of the losses being young men.  I often heard it said in the 1960’s that the country had still not recovered from the loss, one hundred years on.
It was a brutal conflict, yet there is evidence that the majority of the losses were due to sickness, disease, a lack of hygiene and a chronic shortage of medical supplies.  The main culprit was cholera, which gradually made its way south as the wounded soldiers left the front.  It reached the Fraile Muerto area towards the end of 1867. 
Once it took hold, 800 people a day were dying in the province of Córdoba as a whole (within which Fraile Muerto was located), and the seminary in Córdoba city lost 32 of its 40 postulants.  Dick Seymour reported a cruel incident which took place near Fraile Muerto told to him by a railway conductor who saw a dead body by the railway line and recognised him to be a local cattle drover.  There was a jug of water by his side, but he had been stripped of his clothes and belongings.  Clearly when the thieves had found him he had already succombed to the disease but was still alive, and the jug of water was a salve to their consciences.

Makeshift hospital in Rosario for cholera sufferers
When Richard travelled to Rosario to transact some business he found the city in the throes of revolution and cholera.  To English gunboats were standing by, summoned from Buenos Aires to protect English interests, and rebels were taking pot shots at it, to which the gunboats were retaliating.  He met up with an English farmer just off the steamer who was making his way to the railway station on his way home.  He was grateful, he said, for the company of a motley assortment to protect him...

 “ English officer and his men, six or seven new acquaintances just arrived in the country, a thoroughbred horse fresh from England, a shorthorn bull named Whirlwind, some twenty sheep, and two or three carts laden with luggage...”
Richard sought out Harry at the stables, and was pleased to see him comfortable and happy.  On the following day the owner of the stables contacted him to tell him that while cutting alfalfa for the horses only a few hours later, Harry had suddenly been taken ill with cholera.  He rushed to see him and found his former puestero on a rough bed in a small hut by the alfalfa field. 

They tried all the traditional methods to cure him – mustard poultices, rubbing his hands and feet, getting him to drink a mixture of port wine, brandy and chlorodyne; but Richard already knew at first glance on seeing the pallor on his face and hands that he was doomed. 

Harry was clearly delighted to see his old master, but was despondent because he knew he was dying.  He begged him to get him a doctor, so Richard rushed back into town to try and persuade a doctor to come out and see him.  It was a fruitless exercise because many of the doctors were either worked to death or down with cholera themselves.  Their movements were also very restricted by the local militia due to the revolution, and all Richard was able to do was obtain prescriptions for medication which might help. 

Sadly on his return to Harry’s bedside he found that he had perished not fifteen minutes after he had left him.    
“...He had been a faithful friend, and I believe felt a real attachment to us, and his sad death grieved us all much.”


Bibliography will be given at the end of the final post.

Next time:  Sarmiento, the new president; Fraile Muerto changes its name to Bell Ville.
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