Henry Leonard Reynard (HLR) was born in Yorkshire, England in 1845,
the fourth of six children: his father came from an old landed family.
Henry was educated at a boarding school in the suburbs of London.
His father owned race-horses, and young Henry subsequently spent a lot of time
with them — caring for them, riding them and racing them: it was a love
that would last throughout his life.
At age 21, seeking new horizons, he left for Argentina, where he acquired
a share of an English-owned estancia in Santa Fe province. At the suggestion
of one of the partners, HLR made a visit to Punta Arenas (Chile) in 1874. He
was favourably impressed by the economic possibilities of the Magallanes region
of Patagonia, and decided to relocate there definitively.
At that time, the expatriate community in Magallanes was very small. HLR entered
into partnership with James Henderson Dunsmure, the local British vice-consul,
operating a sawmill and hotel. After Dunsmure's death in a sailing accident,
HLR became vice-consul, a position he held for many years.
HLR was one of the first in Patagonia to foray into the sheep-raising business
— previously, animals had been imported from the Falkland Islands,
but only for human consumption. In 1877 he started a small ranching operation
on Isla Isabel (Elizabeth Island), located on the Magellan Strait. Its success
led to full-scale ranching of sheep, cattle and horses at Estancia Oazy Harbour.
At this period, land was held on long lease from the Chilean government.
In 1880, HLR married Marie Domange, a young French widow, whose husband
François Roig had been drowned along with Dunsmure. Marie inherited
her former husband's business, initially looking after it, and later working
with Henry to run the Estancia. When he came of age, her first son, Frank
Roig, became her business partner. Four of Marie and Henry's children survived
Thanks to HLR's early pioneering work, numerous new entrants into the sheep
industry obtained their first animals from his flocks. He comes across as an
amiable figure, willing to help others and consequently well liked.
The success of the ranching industry led the Chilean government to sell the
region's lands by auction in 1903. HLR was outbid, losing Oazy Harbour; he
was obliged to move his operations to Argentina. Some time earlier he had purchased
Estancia Cañadón de las Vacas, in Santa Cruz province; this was
to become the family's new home.
Across the years, the family maintained ties with England, educating the children
there and purchasing a home. With advancing age, Marie and Henry spent more
time in his native Yorkshire, dying there in 1910 and 1919 respectively. Their
two daughters, with their husbands, continued the family business
in Santa Cruz, which is held by their descendants to this day.
After Henry's death in 1919, his children
found that the autobiography he had begun in 1911 was incomplete. The main
body of the text described his early years spent in England, but, even so,
many of the anecdotes concerned other people, rather than himself. There was
some sketchy material about his first years in Northern Argentina; but about
Patagonia — the
scene of his main accomplishments — nothing.
To fill this void, they then set about contacting family,
business associates and old friends, asking them to share their memories of
HLR. The most prolific of these contributions came from
one of the earliest English settlers in Magallanes: his material is an important
addition to the early history of the region. Further interesting material came
from Carlos Webster; in his case, information concerning horse-racing in the
Rosario district (Santa Fe) during the 1870's.
The collected materials were typed — 178 double-spaced pages — and
appear to have been circulated within the family for comment. We have no information
about why the work was not published at that time. [However, the "manuscript" must
have been accesible, because the Chilean author Claudio Chamorro used some
of its data for his 1936 book "Bajo
el Cielo Austral".]
In 1982 there was a renewed interest in publication, and efforts were made
to improve the appeal of the subject to the general public, but this initiative
did not bear fruit. Currently, the bound typescript is carefully
stored in the family home.
In 2013, thanks to HLR's great-grandson Robert Lemaire, we had the opportunity
to examine the original book, making a photographic copy for further study.
In our judgement, beyond the biographic dimension, there is much of interest
to historians: first-hand accounts of the city of Buenos Aires, life in the
pampa, details of stock-raising, incidents from "early
times in Patagonia" and
so forth. With Robert's consent,
we undertook to transcribe the complete text. This is now uploaded to our
web-site, where it will remain available to all who wish to study it (or simply
to enjoy it).
The book comprises three sections (summaries of their contents appear below).
The web layout closely follow the original material's
page-content and numbering. Occasional, minor corrections
have been made to spelling and punctuation. Editorial notes are shown [thus].
Note: For rapid reference, see this
short biographical summary of the Reynard—Domange family.
Duncan S. Campbell
Advice to the reader:
The trustworthiness of specific data presented in the text depends on the time
elapsed since the events described, as well as on the informant's memory.
Therefore, please be cautious when reading memories recalled in later life,
which should be validated against other sources, such as diaries or official