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The establishment of Linha Brasil, Venâncio Aires

[Excerpt from the book “Os Velhos Gressler” (in Portuguese), organized and published
in 1949 by Paulo Oscar Ernesto Gressler de Venâncio Aires. pp.224-231 — english version by Carlos A Heuser]

In 1860, the first German immigrants came from the already existing colony of Santa Cruz to the current Centro Linha Brasil, then part of the Colônia Mont’Alverne, which had been created in the year 1856. At that time, the current city ​​of Venâncio Ayres did not exist. The project was to create a city in the Baixa Linha Brasil region, but this plan was never carried out.

The first resident of Linha Brasil was Pedro Sisterhen who settled in colony n ° 17. He had little interest in agriculture, and was more active in the Yerba Mate trade and did occasional jobs of all kinds. In addition, he was employed by the colonizer with the task of assigning land plots to the arriving immigrants. Some old inhabitants of Linha Brasil tell that Pedro Sisterhen was a friendly and cheerful person. His son was the child that was born Linha Brasil. Sisterhen stayed in Linha Brasil until more or less the year 1874 and then moved away. Nothing is known about him after that time.

The first family to live in Linha Brasil was that of Christiano Henrique Benke. He was thus the pioneer of Linha Brasil. Benke was born in Meklenburg-Schwerin (Germany) on June 17, 1826, came from Hamburg to Brazil in 1852 as a legionary, and participated in the war against the Argentine dictator Manuel Rosas. At the end of the war, he tried to settle at different places, such as Porto Alegre, São Leopoldo and Santa Cruz, until finally, in the late 1860s, he came to the current Centro Linha Brasil. During the first year the Bencke family lived there alone until finally some other German immigrants arrived. Among others, the following families were the pioneers: Jacob Gerlach, Pedro Nagel, Jacob Ruppenthal, Elsenbach and Gass. They were strong and did not fear the virgin forest. They struggled, facing hardships and difficulties, to transform the jungle into a generous cultivated land. The surnames of these pioneers are found in large numbers in this municipality and its surroundings, as well as in the mountainous region.

[There is another post on this blog that tells in more detail the story of the arrival of Christian Heinrich Bencke in Linha Brasil.]

In 1872 the first transport of immigrants from Bohemia arrived, coming from the cities of Gablonz and Reichenbach (Austria). They were glassmakers and came here to conquer a new life and acquire their own land, what was impossible in their old homeland. Among those, there was José Gärtner. His first descendant to be born in Brazilian lands, was Ernesto Gärtner who still lives in the current Centro Linha Brasil in the midst go his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. With the advanced age of 75 years he still enjoys good physical and spiritual health.

In the years that followed, more groups of families came from Bohemia. Most of them settled on the colonies Linha Izabela, Picada Magdalena and Sampaio. On the occasion of the celebrations of the fifty-year anniversary of the colonies Sampaio (1873-1923) and Linha Izabela (1874-1924), very interesting reports were published, which narrate the beginning of the activities of those colonies. In these reports some notable events of their journey and arrival here are preserved. Francisco Reckziegel writes: “On our arrival in the Vila, our driver, André Jantsch, said: – Now we are in the city – The women then raised their hands to the sky and exclaimed: Good Lord, if this is the city, how will be our Village ?!” At that time, there were only six or seven white houses and some straw huts. This was the whole village. Also Bertoldo Stohr writes: “It was a trip full of difficulties. Some did not yet know Portuguese and the others did not understand German. We had to speak more with our hands than with our mouth.”

Most of these immigrants acquired their plots of land from Colonizadora Pereira & Cia, (brothers Henrique and António Batista Pereira) founded in 1865 and under the direction of engineer Carlos Trein Filho, from Santa Cruz.

A plot of land of 100 thousand braças (48 hectares) costed at that time 300 to 600 milréis, payable in five years. It was not very much, but was still a large sum, as the prices of the products were also very low. The start for these immigrants was very hard. A lot of sweat spilled and many ax blows were given in vain, as they lacked the knowledge and skills to perform these jobs. The first immigrants had to open roads and turn them into passable paths. With many sacrifices, they began to establish schools, churches and cemeteries. When the time of the first deaths among immigrant families came, it must also been hard for them. They, who in the old country were used to burying their dead in a collective cemetery, had to bury them here in a corner of their plots. Additionally, they had to carry out the ceremony themselves without the presence of a priest. It is difficult to imagine the difficulties and sacrifices that these ancestors had in order to be able to build what is presented to our generation today. We today tend to see the existing schools, churches and societies as modest, compared to the rest of our flourishing and progressive municipality. However, we must not forget that what today still seems small and insignificant at that old times was big and important.

For this reason, we must always mention with honor and gratitude these brave pioneers.

The colonists of that time hardly concerned themselves with politics. They had to deal with other, more immediate problems, engaging in their business and paying their taxes on time. Usually they took a political position alongside the parties that were in government. With the proclamation of the Republic, a large majority of them supported the legally constituted government.