The British Presence
in Southern Patagonia

++  William Greenwood (1849-1923)  ++
Early British Settler in Southern Patagonia

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greenwoodWilliam Herringham Greenwood (hereafter "WHG") was born in 1849 in the village of Colne Engaine, near Halstead, Essex. He was the 7th (and youngest) child of the Rev. John Greenwood D.D. (c1786-1865), rector of the parish and his second wife Lucy Brown (1808-1887). His father was a distinguished Classics student at Cambridge University, and formerly headmaster of the Christ's Hospital (Bluecoat) school in London.

WHG arrived in Punta Arenas by PSNC steamer in December 1872, accompanied by Messrs. Leesmith, Dunsmure and Potts (acquaintances, perhaps, from Santa Fe province). They explored as far as Coy Inlet, on the Atlantic coast. WHG claimed to have been the first English pioneer to settle in Patagonia. He also mentions a U.S. partner: (Doctor) John Forrest of Charleston, South Carolina.

Among WHG's early commercial ventures were a boarding house, bar, billiard room and store (the so-called "Piedra Buena's House"). He built a log shanty and bought a small sailing ship. Said to be a "crack shot" with a gun, he hunted guanacos and seals. He also set up a butchery business, at first with sheep brought from the Falkland Islands, and later with guanaco hunted at Laguna Blanca, Magallanes Territory.

Around 1875, reportedly bankrupt and disenchanted with his life as a businessman, WHG opted to abandon "civilisation". Instead, he chose to live in the valley of the Río Turbio, far from any settlement. His was a nomadic and often solitary life in the interior, on both sides of the Chile-Argentine border, hunting guanaco and rhea. This lifestyle lasted for more than a decade. There are references to exploring trips in company with Poivre and Zamora, and as guide to Rogers and del Castillo.

In the late 1880's, following the successful introduction of sheep-raising in southern Patagonia, WHG started the estancia Cañadón de las Vacas (north of Río Gallegos, in Santa Cruz Territory), previously rented by Henry Reynard. The first years were plagued by pumas which attacked the livestock, and WHG killed many personally. George Greenwood (his nephew) arrived at the estancia in 1893; he later took over management of the farm.

In later life, WHG published a series of articles for the Buenos Aires newspaper "The Standard" about his years in Patagonia. /*/

Suffering from poor health, WHG travelled to Britain in 1896, marrying Alice Shepherd in London in 1898, and returning to Argentina for a time. The couple spent their final years in Helston, Cornwall. Alice died in 1922, and William in 1923.

/*/ Greenwood's articles have been published in the book « Patagonia Wild and Free » further information is available here.

Main sources:
1. British Civil Registration Index http://www.freebmd.org.uk
2. LDS website http://familysearch.org
3. Reynard family papers, see http://patlibros.org/reyn/
4: “Origen y Evolución de la Inmigración Extranjera en la Colonia de Magallanes entre 1870 y 1890”, Mateo Martinic B., Instituto de la Patagonia, Punta Arenas (Chile), 1975
Thanks: Robert Lemaire (IX-2013)
Page created: 30-XI-2013
Last updated: 17-XII-2015