Pioneering Days—Physical danger and loneliness, followed by success

page one: The Authentic Voice of Despair

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Attacked by wild gauchos, 1872
Settlers moving out from Buenos Aires or Rosario to take up Government offers of land frequently found they were clashing with the local nomadic indian tribes. In the letter printed below, an inhabitant of Tandil, in the Province of Buenos Aires, gives a terse account of what happened when a band of wild gauchos went on the rampage.

Tandil, January 4, 1872

On New-Year's morning, about 3 a.m., we were aroused by shouts and 'mueras' in the plaza of this town, proceeding from a crowd of 50 or 100 men, who assailed the prison and overpowered the guard. A poor Italian who happened to be passing was trampled to death under their horses' feet. About a mile from the plaza they came up with a troop of bullock-carts, and murdered nine of the drivers, who were Basques, besides wounding two others that were natives.
Taking the road towards Buenos Ayres, they killed a pulpero and his servant, after which they divided into two bands, one of which went towards Chaparro's store, the other towards Mr Henry Thompson's. At the latter place they killed Mr William Gibson Smith and his wife; the shopman, William Stirling, was left for dead, and although awfully wounded, is likely to recover.
The band that went to Chaparro's put to death eighteen Basques, including Sr. Chaparro, his wife, and four children (the eldest eight years, the youngest four months old). Afterwards they pushed on for Don Ramon Santa Mariana's, at which place they were overtaken by the neighbours and National Guards, who shot six or seven of the malefactors and captured as many more. In the pursuit, some ten more were overtaken, and now the prisoners (sixteen) are in irons in the Juzgado. Until the rest of the band are killed or taken the alarm cannot subside.

British Parliamentary Papers, C.569: Correspondence Respecting the Treatment of British Subjects in the Argentine Republic: 1870-72, page 18.

The struggle to get started, 1888
A personal diary of his first month in Argentina gives us an insight of what it was like to arrive in a new country. Albert Euerby Martin (1855-1944), a young schoolmaster, married and with four young daughters, decided to try making a new life for himself and family in Argentina.

The diary shows the bleakness of life in an unknown town, the constant disappointment in searching for work and the openings that occurred through his attending church on Sundays.

Thursday Sep. 27th : Came off the Maskelyne about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, took two hours to reach land. Rambled about B. Aires lost for want of the language. Came to Emigrants' Home. A rum shop. Changed sovereign for $7.20. Am writing this at the Ems. Home with 5 other Englishmen.
Fri. Sep. 28th : Left Ems. Home by starlight, went to German Hotel, paid $1 per night.
Sat. Sep. 29th : Came from B. Aires by 12:30 train to Rosario de Santa Fe. Saw on the road many wild fowl, and inmense herds of cattle. Had look round town.
Sun. Sep. 30th : First Sunday in the Arg. Rep. Went to Anglican Church in the morning. Wet afternoon, roads or streets like a river.
Mon. Oct. 1st : Went to find Mr. Beale to whom I had letter of introduction from his son the Borough Surveyor of Welshpool. Found him in the street. Went with him to Hotel to breakfast. Went in afternoon to see about a situation, unsuccessful. Went in evening to have a talk with Mr. Beale and son.
Tues. Oct. 2nd : Went round town seeking something to do since 6, could find nothing to do. Fine day.
Wed. Oct. 3rd : Went out again seeking employment. No success. Lightning fearfully. Went to see Mr. Davis. Calle Tucumán.
Thurs. Oct. 4th : No success.
Fri. Oct. 5th : Went to look at the dock. Called at Davis. No success.
Sat. Oct. 6th : Very warm. Slight bite from mosquito. Eye swollen. Went down to see Davis´s also to see Mr. Clark of B. Aires Railway. Shed a few tears. No success.
Sun. Oct. 7th : Fine. Shed few tears. Went to American Church.
Mon. Oct. 8th : Fine day. Went to see a Mr. Clarke about setting on the Railway. No success. Rather sad.
Tues. Oct. 9th : Fine day. Had look down at the river. No success.
Wed. Oct. 10th : Fine day. No success.
Thurs. Oct. 11th : Went to see Mr. Colston. Promised to try and get me a job at the station. Went to see about piano tuning.
Fri. Oct. 12th : Wet morning. Harwood got job at Central Depot checking cargo. Came home to Hotel Calle Jujuy. Hawkins. Wrote to Annie. No success.
Sat. Oct. 13th : Fine morning. Went to see Mr. Rogers, tried piano. Arranged to give lessons to three for $15 "por mes".
Sun. Oct. 14th : Fine day. Went to American Church in evening.
Mon. Oct. 15th : Very warm. Went to Mr. Rogers. Gave music lesson 1 violin, 2 piano. Natives don't understand English so had to try my Spanish, made me sweat.
Tues. Oct. 16th : Hot day. Wrote to Mr. Fisher. Had letter from Córdoba. No success.
Wed. Oct. 17th : Hot day. Out early. No success.
Thurs. Oct. 18th : Wrote to Córdoba and to the camp. No success.
Fri. Oct. 19th : Wrote to Mr. Newell. No success. Rain and thunder.
Sat. Oct. 20th : Had letter from Annie dated 6th Sept.
Sun. Oct. 21st : Went to American Church. Mr. Pritchard preached.
Mon. Oct. 22nd : Gave lessons at Rogers'.
Tues. Oct. 23rd : No success.
Wed. Oct. 24th : Went to prayer meeting at American Church, Mr. Spangler spoke to me of Cañada de Gómez.
Thurs. Oct. 25th : Hot day, went had breakfast with Mr. Spangler. Promised to get me to Cañada de Gómez. Piano lesson to Miss AW.
Fri. Oct. 26th : No success.
Sat. Oct. 27th : No success.
Sun. Oct. 28th : Went to S. School, stayed service. Walked over to Alberdi in the afternoon.
Mon. Oct. 29th : Gave lesson.
Tues. Oct. 30th : Went with Mr. Spangler to C. de Gómez, at Ison's to dinner, had tea at Roberts'. Had look round the town to see what prospects there are to open a school. Saw Miller, Ison and Roberts on the matter.

Dec. 10th, 1888: Commenced school at Cañada de Gómez. 4 scholars James and Frank Roberts, Fritz and Bella Miller.

As can be seen from his Diary, less than three months after his arrival to Argentina, and on December 10th, 1888, Albert Martin opened his first "English School", in the town of Cañada de Gómez, Province of Santa Fe, kicking-off what turned to be a long life dedicated to fostering education, in Argentina. In the years to come, he would open and contribute to support English-speaking schools and musical academies.

The sequel
Albert Martin's wife and daughters joined him in March 1889. They subsequently moved to Barracas, Buenos Aires, to open an English school in 1891. Later they moved again to Quilmes and opened the Quilmes English School in 1894. Finally, they went to Bahía Blanca in 1898 and Albert opened the English Academy.

Success and honours
In 1905 he was invited to head the English Department of the Bahía Blanca National High School of Commence, an office he held until his retirement in 1936. It was a tribute to him and all his work that he was made in 1935 Professor Emeritus.

Albert's commitment to the local community was demonstrated by the fact that in 1928 he was invited to be one of the few Honorary Members of the British Committee for the Centennial celebrations of Bahía Blanca, along with other leading representatives of the British community.

Albert Martin was also an important figure in the promotion and growth of the Methodist Church in Bahía Blanca. He died in November 1944 in Bahía Blanca. After his death, an important portion of his books was given to the Biblioteca Rivadavia, the Bahía Blanca Public Library, one of the most respected in Argentina.

This portion of his diary has been reproduced here by the kind permission of his great-grandson, Cirilo Enrique Martin, of Tigre, Province of Buenos Aires.

© The form of presentation is the copyight of Jeremy Howat, May 2006

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