Foster-Seelstrang Exploratory Commission 


The Foster-Seelstrang Exploratory Commission (also called the Exploratory Commission of the Chaco) was the name given to a group of explorers and surveyors appointed in 1875 by President Nicolás Avellaneda (1837-1885), through regulatory decree of Law No. 686, in Argentina.

Eng. Arthur Von Seelstrang (1838-1896) around 1890. Gallery of portraits of the Faculty of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences National University of Córdoba, Argentine Republic.

Eng. Enrique Foster (1842-1916) around 1896. Piacentini López, Carlos P. (1978). Brief political and economic history of the Chaco (Breve historia política y económica del Chaco)

General Manuel Obligado (1838-1896) around 1885. Ichoalay Regional Historical Museum. Manuel Obligado was the first governor of the national territory of the Chaco, from the Organization of the National Territories, from November 25, 1884 to March 11, 1887.

The objective of this commission was the recognition of the territory of northern Argentina and the choice of the most suitable places for the settlements of towns and colonies after the enactment of Law Nº. 686 by President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888). It was made up of several members, including the Prussian Arthur Von Seelstrang (1838-1896) and Enrique Foster (1842-1916), and it's purpose was to delimit three colonies: Timbó, Las Toscas and Resistencia. The latter called "Resistance", because of the way in which the new peoples resisted against the hostile natives.

The Foster-Seelstrang Exploratory Commission functioned between October 1875 and March 1876 and resulted in a report of incalculable historical value that describes in great detail the area of ​​the Chaco, it's flora and fauna. This reconnaissance was possible thanks to a small steamship, and was completed, in some sections, by land.

The only map of these regions that existed up to that time was the one made by American Captain Thomas Jefferson Page (1816-1902) in 1855.

It was, as can be seen, a whole scientific mission of great importance, the one that was entrusted to the surveyors A. Seelstrang (1838-1896) and E. Foster (1842-1916), expeditioning in regions of which the government was very far from having a concrete idea. With good reason, since, in the respective memory, they would later have to describe mysterious lands to which they had to travel, and be proud of having carried out the first Argentine scientific mission.

The report contained the full text of Law No. 686 and it's regulations; appointment of the surveyor Enrique Foster according to the decree of July 14, 1875 to integrate the Chaco Exploration Commission; instructions given by the Public Works Commission for the traces of the colonies in the Chaco, geographic descriptions of lakes, rivers, and streams, products and climate of the territory; weather observations; references on agriculture and livestock; Chaco population; colonies traced; ideas on promoting future colonies; importance of the colonization of the territory and observations.

As a conclusion, the explorers and surveyors dedicated themselves to elaborating the corresponding surface determination maps, drawing the measurement planes and the general locations of the colonies with all their topographic features and references in the existing villages, rivers, streams, works, sawmills, ports, lakes, characteristics and levels of the terrain, etc., and they presented their final report on May 31, 1876 on the work carried out to the Central Government together with the corresponding documentation.

Out of a total of 10,000 hectares, 96 farms, 148 plots of villas and 100 blocks for town were marked out, divided into plots 50 meters wide by 50 meters deep.

The town's streets were drawn 20 meters wide, half way, and two wider streets, 30 meters wide, which intersected at right angles in the center of the main square. Both the blocks destined to the formation of the town and the lots for farms, were located in the eastern end of the colony due to the higher elevation of the land and proximity to the ports that would tend to their better development.

The entire perimeter comprised by the layout of the town and the farms was surrounded by a 45-meter wide avenue that separated it from other fields. The farms, in turn, were separated from the town by another 30-meter street.

The town blocks and farm lots were drawn in exact squares of 100 meters per side.

To the south and west of the perimeter of the farms, two lots of four blocks each were left free, destined for squares, and another one with the same object in the center of town, leaving it's central point marked in the geographical position of the 27º 27 '15" south latitude and 59º 2' west longitude of Greenwich. Likewise, the town lots were destined for a church, school, jail, municipality and cemetery.

After their efforts, the perseverance of the European immigrants, promoted the colonization and encouraged the progress of those regions of the Argentine Republic for their aggrandizement.

"With the foregoing, the Exploratory Commission of the Chaco judges that it has completed the report that it was duty bound to present to the Minister, and hopes that it has satisfied the aims of the Superior Government by entrusting it's members with such an honorable Commission."

Buenos Aires, May 31, 1876. Arthur Von Seelstrang (1838-1896), Enrique Foster (1842-1916), Manuel Obligado (1838-1896).

Final report

Enrique Foster (1842-1916) was a colonizer and surveyor, founder of Monte Oscuridad and co-founder of the city of Resistencia, Chaco Province, Argentina.

He was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 2, 1842 when his parents emigrated from the Portuguese island of Madeira. Later, due to the yellow fever epidemic, the family moved to Uruguay where they stayed for a short time and finally settled in Argentina.

He had a prosperous career after receiving the title of public surveyor in 1864, for which he used the influences of his father Ricardo Foster (1808-1865).

On July 14, 1875, President Nicolás Avellaneda appointed him a member of the Chaco Exploration Commission for the recognition of the territory and the choice of the most suitable places for the settlements of towns and colonies.

Finally, on May 31, 1876, the map was presented to the Ministry, where the Resistance area and it's characteristics were described.

Exploratory Commission of the Chaco in 1875 with aboriginal chiefs in the recently explored territory. On many occasions, this commission studied the quality of the land and explored these inhospitable regions, putting their lives at risk, because the indigenous people of the region were increasingly hostile.

The cacique Qom "Cambá" and the cacique Vilela Leoncito had formed a kind of indigenous confederation, whose warriors, driven by their courage and ferocity, had incurred all kinds of crimes and outrages.

The intrepid navigators crossed the whole territory without exhaling the slightest complaint against the excessive heat, against the vermin typical of the region and against the ever-latent danger of the Indian attack.

Arthur Von Seelstrang (1838-1896) was born in Tzulkiller, East Prussia, in May 1838 and was a military man in his native land, specializing in topographic surveys.

In 1863 he arrived in Argentina, and at the University of Córdoba he graduated as an Engineer, being one of the first to obtain that title. In this University later he was professor.

He published numerous works, among which his "First Scientific Atlas of the Argentine Republic, 1885-1893" stands out among the main and most widespread.

From 1880 to 1882 he was a member of the Academy of Sciences and Head of the Boundary Commission with Brazil and worked on the delimitation of towns in the north of the province of Santa Fe and Corrientes.

On March 29, 1875, President Nicolás Avellaneda (1837-1885) appointed him jointly with the Chief of the Northern Border, Colonel Manuel Obligado (1838-1896) and the Political Chief Aurelio Díaz, to recognize the territory of the Chaco, in order to choose the most suitable points for the foundation of peoples. Later, the surveyor Enrique Foster (1842-1916) was appointed as a member of this commission.

The Foster-Seelstrang Exploratory Commission (also called the Exploratory Commission of the Chaco) made the survey of Resistencia, and they considered baptizing the new colony with this name because of the way in which the new towns resisted against the hostile natives. As they say verbatim in their report, "due to the fact that a small number of men have resisted for quite some time, without protection from any government, the continuous threats of the aborigines".

In recognition of the work carried out by the explorers, the municipality of Resistencia testified it's tribute, recalling with the surnames Foster and Seelstrang the streets and avenues of the capital city and for having been pioneers of the Chaco topography in northern Argentina.

  • The street that originates at 3,200 from 9 de Julio Avenue in Resistencia, bears the name of Engineer Arturo Seelstrang.
  • The street that originates at 3,100 from 9 de Julio Avenue in Resistencia, is called Enrique Foster.

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