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Towards the Andes

The fertile land in the Valley was now all being farmed and some of the young men had heard stories of the wealth that was to be found in the water, gold. In 1883 a young man named John Daniel Evans led a group which began to explore the lands to the west over in the desert.

This was the time of the Campaign of the Desert when the Argentine government tried to force the natives of the south to submit to their military regime, some call it a process of civilizing the Indians, others see it as genocide. Whatever the opinion, the Indians were scared when they saw groups of white men on their territory, thinking they were government spies, and so when John Daniel Evans and three friends crossed their path the natives began to take chase. The three friends were killed but John managed to escape thanks to the bravery of his horse Malacara who jumped down a huge drop and up the other side in order to save him. The name of this place in the middle of the desert Dyffryn y Merthyron (Valle de Los Martíres in Spanish).

In 1884 Jose Luis Fontana was appointed Governor of the first province of Chubut and he decided to go with a group of men on a mission to investigate the land towards the Andes. The majority of the Rifleros del Chubut were Welsh, John Daniel Evans amongst them. They found a fertile valley in the shadow of the Andes on October 16th, 1885 -Cwm Hyfryd to the Welsh because the group had been hiding under a rain cloud and decided to camp for the night. When they woke in the morning they found that they were camped on a mountain looking down over the green valley and one of the company wondered ‘Wel Dyna Gwm Hyfryd!’ (‘Well there’s a beautiful valley!’ in Welsh…and a good story!). In 1891 John Daniel Evans returned with his family to Cwm Hyfryd where they were responsible for the watermill that gave the name to the first village, Trefelin (tref = town or village, felin = mill).

Choosing To Be Part Of Argentina – The Plebicito

There had been political problems between Chile and Argentina about the border between the two countries and the United Kingdom was invited to try to make peace between the two nations. The traditional idea was that the land from which the water ran into the Atlantic Ocean belonged to Argentina and the land where the water ran into the Pacific Ocean belonging to Chile but it was possible to redirect the flow of a river as was proved with the River Fenix by Francisco ‘Perito’ Moreno. So another was had to be sought and in the Trevelin area of the Andes a referendum was held by Sir Thomas Holditch on 30th April 1902 to judge whether people wanted to stay part of Argentina or become part of Chile: despite the government of Chile offering them twice the land they had already the inhabitants voted to stay part of the Province of Chubut, part of the same country as their families in the Chubut Valley. Shortly afterward the town of Esquel was founded some 25km to the north of Trevelin.