The Wheelock’s Second coming to Latin America
But what were the compelling reasons for this region and not a return to South America?
In 1879 the border conflicts between Chile, Bolivia and Peru exploded in open warfare in a war that would last 4 years known in English speaking countries as war of the Pacific. The dispute centred on the rich region of the Atacama Desert which is known to be rich in in metallic mineral resources such as copper, gold, silver and iron, as well as non-metallic minerals including important deposits of boron, lithium, sodium nitrate, and potassium salts.
Back in Britain, Thomas Wheelock having returned in the early years of the 1870’s. He was accompanied by two of his children Thomas and Enrique Maria, According to the diaries of Heinrich Witt his wife Mariana passed away in 1888.
By 1881 the consequences of the War and Peru losing several key battles forced Thomas Wheelock to close his businesses, along with other British citizens, with heavy losses and a permanent return to Europe.
After the Murder of his son Carlos Wheelock in the immediate aftermath of the war. His grandchildren Carlos, Tomas and Wilfred, moved to England, they studied at a Benedictine College St Augustine Abbey Boarding School located In Ramsgate in Kent.
Thomas Wheelock now settled back in Europe and had contact with his Son in Law Crisanto Medina and his Brother Jose F. Medina a well-known political family in Central America, he participated along with the Medina Family and other European and Nicaraguan investors, in the founding of the first bank in Nicaragua: “Banco de Nicaragua” with the approval of the Government of Evaristo Carazo in 1887, later his grandchildren would become main shareholders.
Also one of these businesses was the project to build an Inter Oceanic Canal through the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua, the Project was funded by newly created Banks in the several Central American Countries.
However, the main driver and backer was the United States government who gave concrete expression of Interest In the project as early as 1880 as a direct competitor to French Interests in Panama, this was before financial and strategic thinking change their view In the subsequent years.
At the time, Thomas Wheelock, his son’s and the other British investors must have been feeling confident as the US and Britain had agreed in the 1850 Clayton–Bulwer Treaty to renounce territorial possessions along the route of a possible canal, to prevent the domination of Pacific trade routes by the other, each agreed that any canal would be neutral and they would not acquire formal colonies on the route, by 1894 at the time of his death, two of his grandchildren Thomas and Carlos Wheelock Delgado were already settled in Nicaragua. The third grandson Wilfred joining them later.
This would change in 1901 when Britain renounced its claims in the Hay–Pauncefote Treaty, allowing the United States to build the Panama Canal, which opened in 1914, by then the founding of the first private Bank in Nicaragua and the opportunities to develop other interesting business investments were the most likely motive for the migration of the grandchildren to Nicaragua, where they settled and raised their Nicaraguan families.
The Development of Capitalism in Nicaragua: A Political Economic History
Latin American Perspectives
Vol. 10, No. 1, Central America: The Process of Revolution (Winter, 1983), pp. 7-32 (26 pages)
Andean Tragedy: Fighting the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884
By William F. Sater 2007
The Diaries of Heinrich Witt
https://www.inc.gob.ni/bibliotecas-y-archivos/ Nicaraguan National Archives
The Wheelock Family in Peru during the XIX Century by Jaime Wheelock Román