Elisa Bichsel was Swiss, born between May and December, 1863, in the village of Vaargen, canton of Bern. Vaargen no longer exists. In about 1880 she and her younger sister were orphans, living with her aunt (stepmother?) in Alejandra (Santa Fé, Argentina) – a colony of British and American settlers (colonos). Their father had drowned when fording the Rio El Toba, west of Alejandra; we do not know how their mother died.
Elisa was 17 or 18 years old when she married Frank J. Benitz on June 1, 1881, at “La California”, the Benitz family estancia (Las Rosas, SFé). Tragically, six months later she was 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”, very likely accompanied by her younger sister (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, in 1886 or 1887 she married Lorenzo Güller from Switzerland. The censuses of June 1887 (Santa Fé) and May 1895 (national) show them living in 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). In 1887 Elisa gave her surname as “Guler”, however, in 1895 she used “Benets” probably to avoid charges of bigamy as Frank had not yet been declared legally dead. The Güllers eventually had 6 children, 4 girls and 2 boys.
On March 22, 1895, Alfred Benitz visited the Güllers in Reconquista on business (possibly to do with Frank’s death). Fifteen years later, in 1910, Lorenzo was a manager for “La Forestal” when he set up a tannin factory at Villa Ana, SFé (75 km north of Reconquista). He is considered the founder of the town that grew up around the factory. He later served as president of the town council of Florencia, SFé (15 km. north Reconquista).
Elisa died after 1921.
¡Muchísimas gracias, Jorge!
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! Thank you, Jorge!
© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)