[Supplement “A Nação” n ° 15.797, Porto Alegre, Wednesday, July 29, 1951, p.37: Original in German, based on a story by the late Johann Bencke, summarized by Arnaldo Pfaffenzeller. English version by Carlos A. Heuser — this transcript was made from an old copy of the aforementioned article. At some points the copy is unreadable, which may have resulted in translation errors]
Our “picada” was founded in 1860. This means that Centro Linha Brasil is one of the oldest settlements in our municipality, since even the village of “Venâncio Ayres” did not exist at that time.
At that time the seat of the municipality was planned to be actually very close to us, northeast of our road, still in Baixa Linha Brasil.
For new immigrants coming to us, the journey from Porto Gomes to our “picada” must have been boring and sad. A plain of fields, like an endless steppe, dominated the landscape. Once in a while, one or another hut could be seen, which, due to the poverty of its residents, was made of the cheapest construction material: straw, clay and cracked palm hearts. (note: “Porto Gomes” is the old name of the port that received vessels coming from Porto Alegre – today it is called Mariante)
When the jungle was reached, it became more interesting, but not more pleasant. Only a narrow path, the so-called “picada”, led into the sea of leaves. And somewhere in the middle of this green desert was the destination of the immigrants’ desire – their new home.
The location of the new home probably resulted in mixed feelings for the newcomers. For most of them, the first days in the jungle were miserable. Some would have returned immediately, if they had not run out of funds.
The first resident of Linha Brasil was a certain Peter Listerheim, who was a funny and very active man. He settled in the plot number 17, but did not touch the virgin forest to transform it into arable land. He supported himself and his family with the Herva-Mate trade and did odd jobs here and there. His son, born here, was the first person born in Linha Brasil. Peter Listerheim did not stay long in the hostile and challenging jungle of Linha Brasil. He soon moved away and the family name is no longer known in the area.
The fate of settler Christian Heinrich Bencke, who – almost against his will – survived in the jungle, was completely different. He must be seen as the pioneer of Linha Brasil, since he and his family were the first settled residents.
Christian Heinrich was born in Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1826 and came to Brazil in 1851 as a so-called “Brummer”. He served as a legionary in the campaign against Rosas and in old age he liked to tell small stories and episodes of the war against the Argentine dictator. Sometimes he may even have exaggerated a little bit, for example, when he said that Rosas had great respect for the “Germans” and that he had declared more than once that he could fight any other enemy for a good twenty years, but not with the “Germans”, because they had rifles that didn’t need to be loaded.
Note: You will find the history of Christian Heinrich Behncke in another post in this blog.
Let us now look a little more closely at the circumstances of how Christian Heinrich Bencke established himself on Linha Brasil. As a pioneer and parent of a large family, known and respected throughout the state, he deserves to have his history recorded.
After the campaign against Rosas was over, we found the hero of our history in several locations: São Leopoldo, Porto Alegre and Santa Cruz. However, he didn’t like any of these places, having finally made the decision to leave the hospitable kingdom of Brazil and move to Chile.
But: “Man thinks and God directs”. Bencke only went to Porto Alegre. There he met a land broker who convinced him to try the Taquari region, because there he would find fertile land in abundance, the products would sell well and he could fish as much as he wanted in the Taquari River. Especially this part with the fish pleased our hero and with new courage he went with his wife, son and luggage on the journey to his new kingdom. But, where was the colony on the banks of Taquari, where was the fish and where was it to be sold? For two days, they marched on the plain of fields to finally, passing through a narrow peak, reach where their future home should be.
The reader can well imagine the mood of our good Bencke. But what was the use of complaining, cursing or mumbling? Tired of the eternal pilgrimage, he decided to put a smile on his face and try to survive in the jungle. Every beginning is difficult, but a beginning like the one that this settler had was almost unbearable. There was no one to ask for advice, no human being to open his heart. In the middle of the jungle, life was very hard, due to the monotonous work that yielded meager results. Living there meant: eating small birds or (unreadable), While the abundant material purchased in Porto Alegre lasted, the situation was still sustainable. But he became desperate when supplies began to run out, as there was nowhere to buy new supplies even having the money.
The first Christmas in the jungle was approaching: What a sad Christmas! Loneliness took over their minds. Old Bencke wasn’t a hunter, otherwise he would have been able to shoot something from the numerous game and prepare a delicious Christmas roast. But as it was, he was content with preparing an armadillo caught in a trap for a Christmas feast. As a side course there were also vegetables made from palmite heart.
Another year passed. Instead of improving conditions, the misery worsened. The other immigrants that a should come didn’t arrive, and the loneliness in the middle of the endless forest became unbearable. What wonder when the last remnants of mood died out and the escape from this hell of seclusion was seen as the last chance to preserve life. One single thought dominated their minds: Back to the people, away from these sad place!
But fate is prescribed for everyone and the destiny of Christian Heinrich Bencke was to be the progenitor of a large and respected family in Linha Brasil.
Leaving the jungle in the search of human settlements, the family had reached a place about 3/4 hours west of today’s city of Venâncio Aires and was preparing to camp there under the open sky. The rainy day was ending when they saw people in the distance – the long-lacking feast for the eyes. It was a group of Germans on their way to Linha Brasil to settle there: the families of Jakob Gerlach, Peter Nagel, Elsenbach and Gass.
The greeting that followed was an unforgettable celebration, the joy was immeasurable. Jakob Gerlach still had some well-stocked bottles with a good brandy and was able to give old Meckenburger Bencke a pleasure that he had not had for a long time. The mood was soon excellent despite the bad weather and in this mood the Bencke family was easily persuaded to move back to Linha Brasil. In addition to the Bencke family, the Gerlach, Nagel, Elsenbach and Gass families are the pioneers of our Pikade. After them, gradually came the following settlers: Josef Gärtner, Ferdinand Felten, Philipp Metz, Aluis Hermes, Karl Wenzel, Franz Jantsch, Bernhard Henning, Jakob Meurer, Jakob Christmann, Jakob Ruppenthal, Jakob Gerlach (son), Elisabeth Meurer and Richard Weber. They are all deceased and in their place stand their descendants. Honor the memory of these ancients!
From then on, the life of the settlers developed in the usual way in new settlements. A lot of work and little reward, “Schmalhans” was often the cook, because there was often nothing to be bought for the money they had. If they were able to get hold of an Arroba of bacon, it was a great pleasure, no matter how salty it was. In the first few years, bread was not known at all. Boiled and squashed corn served as a substitute, from which a kind of grits was prepared. The housings were poor huts that were covered with palmite leaves. It was a great step forward when some women wove cotton they had planted themselves and made rough fabrics of it. At least a few pieces of clothing could be made for the children so as not to let them run around in paradisiacal simplicity. The following costume soon became common for the children: Long shirts that reached the floor. If strangers came into the Picada, the shirts quickly disappeared behind the blankets. The narrator of this story, Johann Bencke, the eldest son of Christian Heinrich Bencke, still remembers the years when he had to run around as a “Hemdenmatz”.
Despite material needs, the settlers soon got together and founded a congregation that run the school, the church and the cemetery. This congregations still exists today. Social life, especially singing, was also organised.
Let’s take a look today at Linha Brasil: In addition to the school and church, there are two choirs and a gymnastics club. Two dance halls by Hedwin Freese and Armindo S. Christmann provide variety in everyday life. Mr. Ricardo Th. Pilz works as a dentist and also runs a pharmacy as well as represents Mullard radio sets. Mr. Pilz was a teacher in Linha Isabella and Centro Linha Brasil from 1911 to 1917.
Arnaldo Pfaffenzeller, agent of the “A Nação”, has run a stonemasonry since 1935, Affonso Pfaffenzeller since 1947 a forge. Hedwin Freese’s dance hall has a slaughterhouse attached to it, as well as a well-stocked commercial building for Fazendas, Ferrragens and Secos e Molhados. The other inhabitants of the Linha Brasil devote themselves to agriculture and produce tobacco, mainly oven tobacco. The last harvest was very good and it is hoped that God’s blessing will continue to rest on the work of the honest residents of Linha Brasil in the future.
Incidentally, this “Picada” also has its monument in honor of the pioneers who, under such adverse circumstances, had to create a home for their descendants. When Arnaldo Pfaffenzeller’s stonemason workshop started operating in 1935 and the 25th of July, the Colonist Day, approached, a group of men and women decided to find a way to pay tribute to the first settlers. A large part of the local residents spontaneously got together for several meetings: thoughts were exchanged and plans were forged. Finally, the realization of a monument was entrusted to a commission composed of Ricardo Th. Pilz, Paulo Kaden, C. Ernesto Gärtner, Luis Freese, Guilherme Becker, M. Josefina Pilz, Anna Felten, Emilio F. Gerlach and Otto Bencke .
Ms. Anna Felten and Ms. Josefina Pilz took on the task of collecting the contributions for the memorial from house to house, certainly a laborious and unappealing task, but which was nevertheless carried out with great dedication. The collection resulted in an amount of Cr$543.00. With this, the monument could be commissioned. Arnaldo Pfaffenzeller’s stonemason work was carried out in sandstone at a price of Cr$650.00. There were two festivities: when the foundation stone was laid on July 25 and at the inauguration of the memorial on October 18 of the same year. The money collected during the celebrations resulted in gross receipts of Cr$1,950.80, versus Cr$ 1,711.80 in expenses, including the monument costs. Since the memorial is right in front of the Protestant church, it was decided to build a staircase that leads from the street to the monument and from there to the church. This staircase, 265 cm wide and made entirely of sandstone, was carried out by Mr. Luis Freese. The enclosed picture clearly shows how the monument. It is the visible sign of the thanks of today’s generation to the pioneers who long ago fell asleep from last day. Rather in her memory and peace in her ashes.
A history of Christian Heinrich Behncke may be found in another post in this blog.
An old map showing Linha Brasil and the location of Cristian Heinrich Behncke’s lot can be seen at this address.