Sunday, December 26, 2010

Were they after Gold?



The following article was sent to me by a good friend in Lima. It appeared in the New York Times in 1853. It highlights the search for gold in Peru and focuses on General O’Brien but more importantly for me it mentions Don Manuel Ijurra, and the 1853 expedition that my great-great-grandfather took part in.

Señor Ijurra was paid a handsome sum for organizing the expedition and it appears that his aims transcended merely setting up a farming outpost deep in the jungle. Could the promise of Gold have lured those in the expedition? There was/still is a great deal of Gold in Peru as the Yanacocha mine near Cajamarca attests. The article also mentions gutta percha or a natural form of rubber. The rubber boom would not occur until some 30 years later but its importance as a Peruvian resource was already established.


The New York Times, June 11, 1853

Gold in Peru – Gen. O’Brien’s Exploratiions.

"These are the topics of an article in the Valparaiso Mercurio, for April 19. Gen. O’Brien, a native of Ireland, resided for many years in South America, and was the illustrious comrade of San Martin in the battles of Chacabuco and Maipio. In 1828, he returned again from his native land to Brazil, with Mr. Ed. Crawford, the miner, in his company. From Rio Janeiro they pushed into the frightful solitudes of the Brazilian territory, armed with such trinkets as are the most successful implements for keeping peace with savages, until they met the gold-washers in the moutains of the Yungos Paucartambo and Cuzco. During four months and a half O’Brien disappeared, and no notice was had of him until his return, in which he made known and gave proof, consisting of various grains of pure gold, and two wallets full of the sands of the rivers Ninto, Milagro and “Erin’s Gold River,” of his discoveries.... General O’Brien traveled the banks of the rivers for more than twenty leagues, and in all that course he met the gold scattered in abundance, like scales of fishes.

Gen. Gamarra, who then governed the Peruvian Republic, offered O’Brien two hundred men and four pieces of artillery, that he might undertake another excursion; and O’Brien, on his part, guaranteed to pay the internal and foreign debt of Peru in a certain number of years. Just then occured the war of the Confederation with Bolivia, and all the projects were overthrown, But it seems now that the General is about to carry out his undertaking, and attempt his entry into the Cunchos Territory, assisted by the men and artillery of the Government, expecting to find, along the three auriferous rivers of his former discoveries, gold in such abundance as will eclipse the fields of California and Australia.

General Echenique (actual President) has contracted for two coasting steamers of 50 tons for the navigation of the deep rivers of the country, and to connect with Amazons the valleys of Cuzco, Carravalla, Paucartambo, Huanica, etc., and so make an easy egress to the Atlantic for their alpaca wools, cascarillas, fine and rare woods, gutta percha (rubber), and other valuable productions, which are not now cultivated, on account of the immense distance and difficulty of the route to the ports of Callao, Islak and Arica.

The celebrated Igurri under promise of aid to the extent of an appropriation of $ 100,000 from the Peruvian Government, is preparing to take 250 Germans, Italians and French to the shores of the river Ucalaya and the Napro, to develop the resources of those quarters.

The property in gold-washings belongs exclusively to Gen. O’Brien, says the Mercurio. The Chambers have also given him the exclusive right of exporting gutta percha (rubber) for ten years."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Share the Adventure Final Vote

Many months ago I submitted a video entry in the Swiss Army "Share the Adventure" contest describing my desire to retrace my ancestor's voyage through the Americas. It was selected for participation in the grand prize drawing. Voting for the grand prize started today and will continue until December 13th.

If you are a Facebook member, click on the link and vote for me. Please help me win 25 K and get closer to the dream of making my film. My video is Adventure #1: Bucket List. Many thanks and spread the word.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Storming of the Police Station


One of the greatest enemies of Henri's 1853 expedition across Peru was hunger. 160 years ago it would have been a logistical nightmare to find food and drink for 90 people every day. These people would not simply have been hungry, after walking all day, they would have been ravenous. Hunger was not simply an issue for stamina, but for the maintenance of social order.

An event related to food and its importance had dire consequences for the expedition in Chachapoyas.

"In the midst of writing my journal late into the evening on a cool night in Chacapoyas, Damian von Schütz the 2nd in command of the Amazon expedition and leader of the German emigrants entered my tent with a certain urgency and asked to borrow my pistol. I obliged without hestiaition, and followed him to the center of town. The local police captain was apparently fearful that members of the expedition may try and take the police prison and army barracks by force in an effort to release one of their comrades. He had been arrested earlier in the day for an altercation with a group of Peruvian soldiers. The soldiers in question had apparently stolen meat destined for the expedition. Guns were drawn and deadly force would have been used, had it not been for a fellow German countryman who implored him to see reason.

When we arrived at the police station all was calm and we felt the police captain’s fear was surely misplaced. At that moment, we saw a large contingent of our compatriots marching in military fomation towards the prison, very well armed and with malicious intent. We stopped the group and tried to disuade them, but their passions were greatly stirred, and their resolve strengthened by cheap local liquor. They felt that the local police captain had arrested their countryman without cause and would release him by any means necessary."

The local Peruvian police chief knew the Germans meant business and would eventually release the prisoner. The whole event turned the local population against the expedition and they had to leave Chachapoyas in haste.

The affair would have immediate effects. The negative reputation the expedition acquired in Chachapoyas would be hard to shake and made villagers less likely to help the expedition as they moved inland towards the Amazon. This coupled with graft by Don Manuel Ijurra and his own questionable character made a difficult journey even more perilous.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Forest Trees of North America

As mentioned in a previous post, Henri de Büren spent time at Harvard with Asa Gray, the preeminent American botanist of the 19th century before. While doing research I came across illustrations meant to accompany a publication by Gray on the forest trees of North America that he was working on in the early 1850s. The plates were drawn over a 10 year period from 1849 and 1859. For a number of reasons the illustrations would not be published until Gray's death.

"To the preparation of this report on forest trees by drawings and plates the Institution devoted a considerable sum during ten years; but owing to the many engagements of Dr. Gray, and other causes, no descriptive manuscript was ever received from him, and the expense of the illustrations becoming so great, Professor Henry (Secretary of the Smithsonian) suspended the work and the whole matter was permitted to rest until a more favorable opportunity. This never came, the death of Professor Henry and pressing demands on the Institution for other objects prevented its resumption, and the plates already executed with so much care and success remained at the residence of Dr. Gray until his recent death, when they were forwarded to the Institution."

It is impossible to know, as Henri does not mention it, but he may have seen a couple of the drawings while visiting Harvard in 1852.

Whether Henri saw them or not they are stunning, and I wanted to share them. All images come from Plates prepared between the years 1849 and 1859, to accompany a report on the forest trees of North America, 1891 and are courtesy of the Smithsonian.


Red Buckeye Tree


Magnolia Tree


Ohio Buckeye Tree


Honey Locust Tree


Kentucky Coffee Tree


Tulip Tree


Wild Plum Tree


Common Locust Tree


American Crab Apple Tree

Monday, September 27, 2010

Save the Museum of the Swiss Abroad


The Museum of the Swiss Abroad in Geneva has been instrumental in my project and helping me bring Henri's journey to life.

The future of the museum is presently in peril. The Canton of Geneva, the actual owner of the beautiful Penthes estate, is trying to decide whether to grant a new long-term lease to the Museum, its Conference Centre and Restaurant or to designate these facilities for some other, as yet unknown, use, because of its convenient location. The negotiations presently under way between the Canton and the Museum may turn out to be quite difficult.

What they urgently need are expressions of support. I would be grateful if you could join others in this appeal. Your support is critical, thank you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Detailed Peruvian Destinations

I found today an extra couple of pages in my great-great-grandfather's papers that detail his every stop in Peru while with the expedition led by Manuel Ijurra and Damian de Schütz.

I have copied his locations below. When I was able to find a present day equivalent I have placed its name in ( ) parentheses. Those not in parentheses are either correct or I did not find a present-day equivalent.


Expedition from Lima to LoretoTotal distance of 554 Spanish Leagues

By Sea
Lima – Port of Huanchaco

By Land
Huanchaco – Tujillo – Ascope – Cascas – Contumasa (Contumazá) – Magdalena – Caxamarca (Cajamarca) – Celedin – Balzas (Balsas) – Carrisal (Carrizal) – Tambo Viejo – Llique – Laimbamba – Suta – Magdalena – Lebanto (Levanto) – Chachapoyas – Taulia – Ventilla – Bagasan (Bagazan) – Almirante – Tuca Tambo – Rioja – Moyobamba – Gera – Guillea Rumi – Laguarpia – Calavera – Roque – Portero – Tabalosos – San Miguel – Lamas – Zarapoto (Tarapoto) – Tambo Grande – Chasuta

By River
Chasuta – Jurimaguas (Yurimaguas) – Santa Cruz – Laguna – Urarinas – Parinari – San Refis – Nauta – Omaguas – Iquito (Iquitos) – Pucalpa – Choxo-Cocha – Pebas – Cochiquinas – Maucallacta – Peruate – Comucheros – Moromorote – Caballo-Cocha (Caballococha) – Loreto

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Saratoga Springs

During his two-year journey through the Americas, Henri de Büren lived both opulence and misery. The contrast of being with the upper crust of American society at the beginning of his journey to struggling for the lives of his expedition mates in the Peruvian jungle in quite a contrast.

Saratoga Springs, New York. Currier & Ives Print

Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga Springs, NY, 1870s. © Library of Congress

Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga Springs, NY, 1870s. © Library of Congress


The following excerpt come from an early letter home to Switzerland in 1852. One must understand that Henri came from the upper crust himself, hence his rather stark rebuke of American cultural aspirations.

"After disembarking in Albany, we stayed there for two days, without noticing anything remarkable, only people walking tranquilly on the streets. While there we saw something even less interesting, a showing of Othello which gave me a sad perspective on the American taste in theater. It does not surprise me, given the fact that Yankees do not generally have any; they are too practical in life to appreciate taste or acquire it.

From Albany, we went to Saratoga, the American Baden-Baden, where we found many members of American high society. Men were dressed up, puffing themselves up to be as big as their safes. They had good looking wives accompanied by one or two other beautiful young women. In addition to the multitude of elegant people, there was German music, and a dinning room to serve a nine hundred to a thousand guests."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Successful Indiegogo Funding Campaign

I recently turned to Indiegogo crowdsource funding to assist with the remainder of the translation costs for Henri de Büren's journals.


I am pleased to say that my friends and family came through with flying colors and the translation costs are now taken care of. I have been deeply honored and touched by all the support and generosity.

So now its on to finalizing the letters and journals in French and English, followed by approaching Swiss cultural organizations to secure the printing budget.

The whole process of bringing Henri's work to publication has taken far longer than I ever would have expected. However, I understand now that the extra time has been beneficial to my understanding of his work and the final product will be that much better for it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Roots TV


The trailer for my Grand Tour project is currently being featured on the Roots TV website. A big thanks for showcasing my project.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Confederate Cousin

The more research I conduct on my great-great-grandfather Henri de Büren and his voyage, the more interesting items I discover. The intersecting paths and connections have become almost comical in a six degrees of separation from Henri de Büren way.

The most recent discovery is about fellow Swiss Eugène Louis Frédéric de Freudenreich Falconnet (1832-1887). He was the son of Béat Frédéric de Freudenreich (1802-1872) and Eugenie Marthe de Palézieux Falconnet. He was born in the Château of Bremgarten in Bern and would leave for the Americas in 1849. He would spend a number of years in Mexico with his uncle, François de Palézieux Falconnet, the agent for the Committee of Mexican Bond holders with whom Henri stayed while in Mexico. Henri does not make mention of Eugène so they probably never met. Given the fact that Eugène was born a de Freudenriech it also makes him a cousin to Henri's second wife Natalie de Freudenreich.

de Freudenreich arms from the Catherdral in Bern

Château de Bremgarten where Eugène was born. © Christoph Hurni


After Mexico, Eugène who was an engineer, would settle in Tennessee, work for the railroad and later fight for the South during the Civil War. I find this all fascinating because until recently I was unaware of Swiss emigrants fighting for the Conferderacy.



The following passage on Eugène comes from Civil War Tales of the Tennessee Valley By William Lindsey McDonald

Major Eugene Falconnet is best remembered in Florence as the Confederate officer who was married to a local nurse in a wedding which occurred behind enemy lines, then spiriting her away to safety in a canoe. This daring adventure occurred at a time when Falconnet was being watched by the Federal authorities. As commanding officer of four cavalry companies, he was the "eye and ears", for Confederate Brigadier General Phillip D. Roddey, in Middle Tennessee and North Alabama.

Major Eugene Louis Frederic de Freudenreich Falconnet was born in 1832 at his ancestral home, Chateau Bremgarten in Bern, Switzerland. According to stories as remembered in Florence, the Falconnets had royal connections in that country. About 1849 he arrived in Mexico and became involved with the construction of a railroad. By 1852 he was in West Tennessee; nine years later Falconnet was in Nashville as Chief Engineer for the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. Upon arrival in America he shortened his name to Eugene Frederic Falconnet.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Falconnet enlisted in the First Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Artillery. Always ambitious, he was granted permission as a private to organize an artillery company, at which time he became its commanding officer. In April 1862 his company became part of the artillery which Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles fought against General Benjamin M. Prentiss in the Hornet's Nest at Shiloh. Seven months later Falconnet was assigned as a major to the 14th Alabama Partisan Rangers, known as Malone's Alabama Cavalry. This regiment performed brilliantly under General "Fighting" Joe Wheeler in Alabama and Tennessee. In the fall of 1863, when Malone's Cavalry moved eastward with the Army of Tennessee, Falconnet was attached to Brigadier General Roddey, with his headquarters usually at Pulaski or Decatur, It was at this time that Major Eugene Falconnet was married to the nineteen-year-old Ann America Burtwell of Florence.

In late 1864 with Hood's Army in Tennessee, Falconnet was cited by General H. D. Clayton for gallantry in action. With less than 100 men, Major Falconnet successfully drove off a Federal cavalry force of "more than, twenty times his number." Soon after the war, the Falconnets buried their infant son, Hunter, in the family cemetery overlooking today's Industrial Paris Road and Cox Creek Parkway in Florence. They then moved to Nashville where he resumed his work with the railroads, He was also credited with the invention of several new processes of metallurgy and was one of the first to propose making steel in an ordinary blast furnace by passing a current of electricity through the molten metal. In 1881 and 1886 he was granted patents in six countries, including the United States, for his proposed air ship. This was fifteen years prior to Count Zeppelien's first air flight in Germany. Sadly, Major Falconnet was never able to arrange for the financing of his inventions.

Disappointed, this brilliant and gifted Civil War veteran died in October, 1887, and was buried beside his wife in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery at Nashville. He bequeathed his weapons to his son, expressing regret for having served in the war. In a final message to his children he wrote; "I have tried to behave with becoming modesty... I have left my mark in Tennessee and have largely contributed to the development of this country."

Artistic Inspiration

Henri de Büren sketched his whole journey through the Americas, but he did not produce art solely during his journey, it was part of his daily life. Most of the artwork from his journey is tragically still missing and I hold out hope to find it again one day.

In a similar vein to Henri's artwork I came across a small book today among family papers dedicated to the 1832 Morocco voyage of master French artist Eugène Delacroix. Delacroix's studies are visually rich and descriptive. I find them exquisite and wanted to share.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hôtel des Neuchâtelois

In one of Henri de Büren's 1853 letters home from Mexico he talks about climbing Popocatépetl. When he reaches the summit he talks about finding warmth and sharing a cordial with the sulfur miners in a hut on the rim of the volcano. He says it reminds him of the those you would find on the Aar glaciers back in Switzerland.


Unteraar Glacier


Oberaar Glacier



Oberaar Glacier on the left and Unteraar Glacier on the right. Image From Google Earth.



Henri's father, Albert would surely have understood what he meant and as they were both friends of Louis Agassiz, and he probably had the Hôtel des Neuchâtelois in mind when Henri described the hut in question. The Hôtel des Neuchâtelois was a grand name for a stone and wood structure that Louis Agassiz used for shelter while studying the Aar galciers.


From Appleton's cyclopædia of American biography in reference to Agassiz

"During the summers frequent scientific excursions were made in the Jura and the Alps. These expeditions led to his (Agassiz) study of the glaciers, and in 1840 he published his first Études sur les glaciers, which gave there suits of his observations during the eight preceding summers. He had erected a station on the middle of the Aar glacier at a height of 8,000 feet above the sea and twelve miles from any human habitation, and from this now celebrated Hôtel des Neuchâtelois he conducted his experiments. In 1847 he published his Système glaciaire, in which he thoroughly discussed the chief phenomena of glaciers and more fully developed his views on their earlier extension."


An engraving of Agassiz's Hôtel de Neuchâtelois


The Lauteraar Hut which stands on the same site as the original Hôtel de Neuchâtelois

To read more about Henri's journey please find the adaptation of his entire voyage on Amazon.com.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Inspired by 180° South


Along the long road to make my movie that retraces the voyage of my great-great-grandfather, Swiss explorer, naturalist and artist Henri de Büren, I have been inspired by many other creative endeavors. None however has touched me as deeply as the film 180° South.

"The film follows adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraces the epic 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia. Along the way he gets shipwrecked off Easter Island, surfs the longest wave of his life and prepares himself for a rare ascent of Cerro Corcovado. Jeff's life turns when he meets up in a rainy hut with Chouinard and Tompkins who, once driven purely by a love of climbing and surfing, now value above all the experience of raw nature and have come to Patagonia to help use their influence to help protect it." Synopsis by Tim Lynch

Besides the beautiful cinematography, and the important environmental message it is the idea of placing your own unique stamp on an historical journey, and seeing how it changes you which has moved me so. Please check out their website: http://www.180south.com/

Also if you have netflix, you can view it here: Watch 180° South

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Translation Funding


Due to unforeseen delays in European funding sources, I am looking for financial assistance with the translation fee for Henri's journal of his day-to-day 1853 voyage across Peru and Brazil. If you are able to donate, please visit my IndieGoGo crowdsource funding site here. 100% of all funds raised will go directly to translation. If you are able to donate there are some thank you gifts, from signed copies of the printed book, to an archival print reproduction of one of Henri's original drawings from his voyage. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A New Perspective on Henri

In some old family papers I found a small journal which contained transcribed letters from the 19th century. They were addressed to Natalie de Freudenreich, Henri's second wife and were written around the time of their engagement in 1860. Natalie was Henri's first cousin and lived with her family at the Château de Monnaz, in the Canton of Vaud.

At first I could not figure out who the letters were from, but after deciphering many clues within them, I have concluded that they are from Adèle de Rougemont, daughter of Frédéric de Rougement a contemporary of Henri's father and author of over 50 books on Geography, Ethnography and Theology.


Natalie de Freudenreich


Château de Monnaz


A passage from one letter seems to indicate that Natalie and Henri were a great match and both cared deeply about those less fortunate.

“That the most gracious God blesses you abundantly, and allows you to do all the good that you wish around the ancient manor. It's true the times of the troubadours have passed. No passing minstrel will immortalize a song of love to you beneath it’s windows. Hopefully in exchange however, you will hear the joyous voices of poor children, who will celebrate the goodness of their young lady of the manor. The de Büren’s of Vaumarcus are well known in the area for their generosity towards the poor and Mr de Büren was very wise to choose you to become a partner in his charitable works. He could not have found a more compatible mate in caring about orphaned children or the miseries endured by the sick.“

While these indications of Henri's charity are eight years after his return from his voyage to the Americas, the roots of his empathy are present during his voyage. As a case in point he lauds a school for orphans, Girard College in Philadelphia as "the most beautiful building ever erected in the name of charity."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time Capsule with Natasha Proietto


My project was highlighted today on Time Capsule, a feature of World Radio Switzerland. A big thanks Natasha Proietto for the exposure.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Asa Gray's Botanical Garden

While staying at the home of Louis Agassiz in Boston in 1852, (as mentioned in a previous post) Henri de Büren, explorer, naturalist and artist, paid a visit to Asa Gray and spent some time with him in his botanical garden. Henri speaks with great warmth about Gray in his letter home to his father, describes the incredible natural diversity of the United States and expresses his reverence for certain tree species he discovered in the U.S. I have assembled botanical prints of those he mentioned:

Elm Tree

Hickory Tree

Magnolia Tree

Tulip Tree

Sassafras Tree

Tupelo Tree

Friday, June 11, 2010

Swiss Army Share the Adventure Contest

Last month I recently entered the following video in the Swiss Army Share the Adventure contest. I felt my project would be a good fit for the contest given that my explorer great-great-grandfather was Swiss and that retracing his original journey is going to make for a compelling adventure.

video

I found out this week that I won the monthly prize and as a result will be part of the group vying for the $25 K year-end grand prize.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If Henri had travelled with an iPod – Part 1



From the very beginning of this project, I have wondered what music Henri de Büren listened to while he traveled and what music he missed from home.

I am breaking up my findings into European music he may have taken with him – had the iPod existed – and in a second post I will try and find examples of music he may have heard while traveling through the U.S., Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Brazil.


Early Romantic Music (1800-1850).
My assumption for this exercise is that he would have been taken with him music from early romantic artists.

From Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.
"Romanticism does not necessarily apply to romantic love, but that theme was prevalent in many works composed during this time period. More appropriately, romanticism describes the expansion of formal structures within a composition, making the pieces more passionate and expressive. Because of the expansion of form (those elements pertaining to form, key, instrumentation and the likes) within a typical composition, it became easier to identify an artist based on the work. For example, Beethoven favored a smooth transition from the 3rd to 4th movement in his symphonies, and thus his pieces are more distinguishable. Overall, composers during this time expanded on formal ideas in a new and exciting way.

The era of Romantic music is defined in this article as the period of European classical music that runs roughly from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to around the end of the 19th century, as well as music written according to the norms and styles of that period. The Romantic period was preceded by the classical period, and was followed by the modernist period.

Romantic music is related to romanticism in literature, visual arts, and philosophy, though the conventional time periods used in musicology are very different from their counterparts in the other arts, which define "romantic" as running from the 1780s to the 1840s. The Romantic movement held that not all truth could be deduced from axioms, that there were inescapable realities in the world which could only be reached through emotion, feeling and intuition. Romantic music struggled to increase emotional expression and power to describe these deeper truths, while preserving or even extending the formal structures from the classical period."


The Music
I have chosen a couple of pieces that Henri probably heard.

1. Frédéric Chopin – Nocturne in C# minor


3. Hector Berlioz – Ballet des sylphes

4. Niccolò Paganini – Cantabile

5. Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

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