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Battcocks in Argentina

Henry Battcock

 1820

 Henry Battcock was born in 1820 in Chelsea.  He married Jeannette Gertrude Spence.  He started work as a grocer at 14 Marylebone Street, Regent Street, London.  In 1848 he became a “landed proprietor” of Cold Harbour in Croydon.  They had five children in England: Fanny Gertrude Battcock was born in 1848, Thomas James Battcock in 1850, Jeannette Elizabeth Battcock in 1852, Henry Wellesley Battcock in 1855, Frederick Walter Battcock in 1860 in Southampton and Frank Harper Battcock in 1863.  In 1863 they moved to Southampton and then to Argentina to work on railways. 

 Rosario 

 Henry and his family lived in Rosario in Argentina.  Arthur Seymour emigrated to near Rosario at the same time as Henry Battcock.  In his book “Pioneering in the Pampas” he describes Rosario of the 1860s. 

 “The chief highways of the Plate country are the rivers, and we now embarked for Rosario on the Parana, the river that bounds the western side of Entre Rios. The scenery resembles that of the Uruguay, as we were again ascending a stream of about twenty miles in breadth, studded with many islands which interrupt the view from bank to bank, causing it to present the appear­ance of a lake rather than of a river. No great beauty enlivens the scene between Buenos Ayres and Rosario, as the flattish land on either side the Parana is scantily wooded, and no hills occur to vary its monotony. The steamers are fairly comfortable, and ply only for pas­senger traffic; heavy goods coming up and down in sail­ing vessels.

 Rosario stands on the high banks of the river, in the middle of a perfectly flat green plain, but the river makes some variety in the view. It is a rapidly increasing place, at present containing about sixty thousand people, and, being quite a modern town, is much better built than Buenos Ayres, whose narrow streets, from the plan on which that town is built, cannot possibly be widened. The port of Rosario is very good, and quite large ships can come close in. This is a great advantage to settlers in the province of Cordoba, as in this way things can be sent direct by water from Eng­land to Rosario. There are a great many English settlers round Rosario, and a little later than the time of which I am now writing, one was always sure, in coming down to Rosario, to find some English friends, either at the hotel or in the English stores.”

 “Rosario will shortly be lighted with gas, like any town in the old country. Common oil lamps had been introduced for some little time when I was first there; but before that a very primitive sort of light was used in the shape of potro oil, that is to say, oil made from mares’ fat; potro means a colt.”

 The Central Argentine Railways

 Henry went to Argentina to work on the Central Argentine Railway.  In 1863, the Government of Argentina had granted William Wheelwright, a concession to build a railway line between the cities of Rosario (a major port in southern Santa Fe, on the Parana River) and Cordoba (a large city in the  center of Argentina).  Arthur Seymour noted in his book that “the flat nature of the country makes it very suitable for railways, as scarcely anything in the shape of cuttings or embankments are required; tunnels are quite unknown; and the bridges over the rivers are the only part of the railways that need any time to make”.

 The construction started in 1863 with the building of the station in Rosario. The line, a 5 foot 6 inch broad gauge railway, reached Córdoba in 1870, covering a total of 396 km. It was the longest in Argentina at the time, and the first to join two provinces.  Many people from England and Wales emigrated to work on the railways in Argentina.  Arthur Seymour felt that “the railways are made entirely by English contractors, and pay everyone concerned in them extremely well. A new one from Buenos Ayres to Mendoza is talked of, and will in all probability be shortly begun, and if it reaches Mendoza will no doubt be continued through the Andes to Chili.

 e English contractors did bring an English style to the construction of the stations and waiting rooms as Arthur Seymour noticed.  “The railway waiting-room always gave me a much more home-like feeling than anything else in the country; and I used to look quite affectionately at the clerk, dispensing the tickets through the square pigeon­hole, and all the other little things that reminded me of old England”. 

 

The railways were opening up the whole area for development.  Arthur Seymour was very excited by the opportunities.  “In fact, the River Plate ought to be one of the most flou­rishing countries in the world, from its great natural ad­vantages of every sort; and the settlers there would appear unable to avoid shortly becoming millionaires”.

“The traffic on the line increased daily, as even the natives, slow as they are to adopt any improvements began to discover that their goods accomplished the one hundred and thirty miles between Rosario and Frayle Muerto much more rapidly by rail than in the tortoise-like bullock-carts; and there was a great deal of passenger traffic, the English settlers finding it now much more fre­quently necessary to go down to Rosario on business than when the journey entailed two days’ confinement inside the stuffy diligence.”   

 The Rosario Races

 Much to Arthur Seymour’s delight the Railway Company put on races.  The races were a great success, the weather was beau­tiful, and a special train to Roldan was organised for the day. A good many ladies, both English and Spanish, were to be seen in the grand stand, which was very cleverly erected by the railway company upon trucks. The scene was a very novel and striking one, the gaily-dressed Gauchos galloping wildly about in the sunlight, which flashed upon the silver trappings of their horses, contrasting strongly with the grave black dresses of the gentlemen of the upper classes. Altogether it was a very cheerful and inspiriting sight.  The horses were all of the native breed on this occasion, though a great effort is now being made to introduce some English blood.” 

 “The day after the races a grand dinner was got up by all the English assembled in Rosario, and it was very pleasant to see all one’s old friends again; we drank success to the Rosario Race Club, and to the English estancias in the River Plate”.     

 

Central Argentine Railway Athletics Club

 It was English railway workers set up the first football clubs in Argentina including the Central Argentine Railway Athletics Club which is still one of the top teams in Argentina.

 In time of Cholera

 Henry and his family would have been in Rosario during the Paraguayan war.  The Paraguayan war involved most of South America. It started when Brazil attacked Uruguay.  Uriguay asked Paraguay for help who declared war on Brazil oand then on Argentina.  Then Uruguay decided to support Brazil and Argentina.

 At the beginning of the war, the military force of the Triple Alliance of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina was smaller than that of Paraguay. During the first phase of the war Paraguay took the initiative and invaded the Mato Grosso.

 Brazil sent an expedition to fight the invaders in the Mato Grosso.  Despite the Brazilian efforts the Mato Grosso remained under the control of the Paraguayans. They finally withdrew in April 1868, moving their troops to the south of Paraguay.  Communications in the south of Paraguay was by river. Whoever controlled the rivers would win the war, so the Paraguayan fortifications had been built on the edges of the lower end of Río Paraguay.

 The naval battle of Riachuelo was fought on June 11, 1865. The Brazilian fleet commanded destroyed the powerful Paraguayan navy and decided the outcome of the war.

 The outcome of the war was the utter defeat of Paraguay. After defeat in conventional warfare, the conflict turned into a drawn-out guerilla-style resistance that devastated the Paraguayan military and civilian population. The guerilla war lasted until 1870. One estimate places total Paraguayan losses, through both war and disease (particulay cholera), as high as 1.2 million people, or 90% of its pre-war population.

 The war brought cholera to Rosario.  Arthur Seymour described the outbreak.  “Cholera had made its appearance, for the first time, as far as I am aware, in the River Plate, and had been very prevalent both in Rosario and Buenos Ayres. It was supposed to have come down the river from the allied forces engaged in the Paraguayan war, who had been suffering very severely from disease, occasioned by bad food and exposure to damp. These constant attacks of cholera and fever had more than decimated the army, and great fears were of course entertained as to the havoc that such an epidemic as cholera might make in the towns. The natives, and especially the lower class of them, who live in small filthy ranches on the outskirts of Rosario, had been the chief sufferers, and hardly any cases of cholera had appeared among the foreigners and better-fed natives”.

 “Our well-known and popular consul, Mr. Hutchinson, exerted himself in the most devoted and praiseworthy manner to afford relief to the sick; and owing to his exertions a temporary hospital was erected, which was soon crowded with patients.”

 “At Villa Nueva a great number of the foreigners employed on the railway had died of it.  It appeared to have assumed the form of the worst kind of Asiatic cholera, and was some­thing beyond all belief. In Cordoba more than eight hundred a day were dying, out of a population of a few thousands, and in a monastic college there thirty-two out of the forty inmates had died.    It was at this moment very bad in Frayle Muerto, and there was little else for anyone to speak of but the terrible state of things through­out the country.    At a few leagues’ distance from Frayle Muerto the railway conductor pointed out to us a dead body lying not far from the tramway, which he told us was that of a tropero (a man traveling with mules), who having been attacked by the disease, was stripped and left to die by his heartless companions.    We heard many melancholy instances of this sort of desertion, cowardly relations and friends leaving the person attacked to perish without any effort for his recovery or relief, beyond a jug of water placed at his side; and the guard related one curious case of this description, in particular.    A few days before, he had seen, when passing near Villa Nueva, a man lying by the side of the railway, apparently dead, with a large demajuana of water placed near him; on the second day, however, the man had disappeared, and the guard found on enquiry that he had recovered from his deathlike state almost miraculously, and without any care or attention from his friends, beyond the jug of cold water which they had put near him when first he fell down there”.

 

Revolution and gunboat diplomacy

“On reaching Rosario I found the town in a very dis­orderly state, as, notwithstanding the cholera, the Federal party had taken this opportunity of getting up a revolution, and the place was in their hands.

 Two English gunboats had been summoned by our consul, from Buenos Ayres, to protect the British interests, as one of the Argentine gunboats having been fired into by the rebels, they had begun bombarding the town, and the shots had entered several houses, and greatly alarmed the peaceable inhabitants. I had only been a few hours in Rosario when I heard that one of the Las Rosas partners, who had been for a short time in England, had just re­turned, and while walking from the station to the town I met the whole party, just landed from the river steamer, and on their way to the station, accompanied by the com­mander of the Doterel (one of the gunboats), and escorted by a guard of marines.”

 The descendants of Henry and Gertrude

 Henry and Gertrude’s son Thomas James Battcock married Beatrice Mary.  They had one son Leonard Stanley Battcock born in 1906, who emigrated to New York.  Their second son Henry Wellesley married Louisa and had five children: Alberto Francisco born in 1898, Victoria Gertrude born in 1899, Thomas William in 1900, Henry Juan in 1902 and Rosie Clara.  Frederick Walter married Juan-Maria and had two children Miguel Federico born in 1899 and Janet Gertrude in 1891.  Frank Harper Battcock married Amilia Castelli and had one child Amilia Beatrice in 1900. There are now 20 or 30 Battcocks in Argentina.

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August 30, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Just read the above “Descendants of Henry and Gertrude” and have a correction:

    Beatrice Mae (not Mary) Battcock was the daughter of Thomas James, Henry’s son.
    His first wife, her mother, died when she was just a few years old. Her name was Susannah Hart. Thomas remarried Mary Ann Butterfield but they had no more children.
    Beatrice was my grandmother.
    She married Stanley Jennens Davenport and they emigrated with their first son (4 yrs old) Leonard Stanley Davenport, in 1911 to New York City.
    My father Ernest James Davenport was born in NY (1915)

    Beatrice and family had been booked on the Titanic. She had had a baby girl, Lucy, and they had made the emigration plans in advance, so that Lucy would be some months older and better able to withstand the trip (in steerage). Lucy only lived 5 days, and my grandfather gave away the Titanic tickets to purchase more immediate passage on the Majestic (Oct 1911) to get their new life started and so ease my grandmother’s grief.

    Comment by Sue (Battcock) Davenport | September 30, 2010 | Reply


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