American immigration to Brazil


By Frank Herles Matos

Historic fact

Three books report the history of American migration to Brazil and the subsequent creation of the city named Americana, in the state of São Paulo: Soldado Descansa (Soldier, Rest!) – an American epic story under the sky of Brazil – an extraordinary book written by Judith MacKnight Jones (rock star Rita Lee Jones’ aunt), who founded her book on family members’ remembrances, researched documents and interviews with immigrants who lived and witnessed this history: A Colônia Perdida da Confederação (The Lost Colony of the Confederation), by Eugene C. Harter, former journalist and former U.S. Consul General in São Paulo, who has prepared many studies in both Brazil and the United States, so as to understand and narrate “the only moment in history when thousands of American families left their homeland forever”; and Preservando a Nossa História (Preserving Our History), by Célia Gobbo, Fanny Olivieri, Maria JFA Ribeiro and Malquesedec Ferreira, who obstinately carried out some researches of numerous documents of that time.

Besides these books, the old Brazilian-American journal has published testimonies and stories about both this immigration and the daily life of this community in Brazil, Edward Baker’s diary, school works, some websites and a variety of documents found in Brazilian and American museums and libraries has also witnessed these events.

Despite these records, this fact has simply vanished from the history books in the Brazilian official school curriculum. By reason of its importance in the development of Brazil, especially that of the State of São Paulo, this issue should be better researched and divulged. I understand why this fact has been so little divulged in America, given that it is about one dark period in their history/

But history is here to be verified and proved by those who might be interested in doing so:

After the American Civil War (1861-1865), won by the North, the South of the United States of America went through the worst time of their history. “Cohorts of mercenaries and murderers, under the complaisance and, in many cases, under the protection of the Northern government, invade lands in the South longing for easy earnings…” (Extract from the confederated major Edward Baker’s diary, page 8, February 1866).

Reasons for Immigration

Thousands of American families were forced to migrate. Not because of the weight of the bayonet, but because of the continual pressures and contrivances made by the North with a view to rapidly annihilate any opposition focus.

After war came to an end, what the population of Southern United States of America wanted the most was peace to rebuild their lives, their future. But the Northern strategists saw in this rebuilding, especially the economical one, possibilities of future oppositions.

“…My father took part in the 1st Battalion that left Gonzalez. He was hurt in a battle in Virginia and sent back home, but he soon afterwards recovered and went back to the war. He was confined to prison and released. He returned home and once again returned to the battle field.

“… In those days of shocking terror, both rebuilding and staying there turned impossible. Daily crimes surrounded us and there was nothing we could do…” (Extracts from Pettie Steagali, Brazilian-American journal, 11/8/1928).

The Role of Masonry

In March 1864, still in the heat of the war, masons from the Southern United States of America, motivated by Albert Piker (confederated Brigade General and mason’s leader) wrote to Charles Nathan, an English-Jewish mason living in Rio de Janeiro, requesting him to sound the Brazilian government out about the opportunity of several American families immigrating to Brazil.

Charles Nathan submitted this issue to the masonry and the Emperor himself, who he was friends with and, in many occasions, his advisor. After evaluating the concern in a proper manner, both masonry and the government decided not only to encourage, but also create and implement any supports required for this immigration.

With a view to dissociating any official participation by the Brazilian and American masonries in this case, Nathan was advised and authorized to engage in this matter personally. Thus, in March 1865, in Rio de Janeiro, the International Immigration Association is launched, headed by Charles Nathan, Marcos Aurélio de Castro and Samuel de Oliveira Matos, well-known and active Brazilian masons then.

The nominated public employees and the members of the International Immigration Association (i.e., Brazilian voluntary masons), placed not only in the ports where these Americans were to run ashore but also in the villages, districts and cities where they would pass by, collaborated in an effective although extremely discreet way, so that this immigration could happen as good as possible. They received the newly-arrived immigrants, welcomed them and took them properly to their ultimate destinations.

Both masonry and the Brazilian imperial government hoped these Americans to be people with fine moral and intellectual upbringing and, especially with agricultural knowledge, who could boom the development of a wide region in the countryside. Consequently, a broad policy of support to these immigrants was implemented.

Reasons for Immigration

The American Immigration for Brazil was started within that year of 1865, in small ships and sailboats hurriedly reshaped, “motivated more by the pain and feelings of despair than by the vessels themselves”. They were exhausted men, women and children, many were very injured, others were sick and depressed, but they were determined to give a new start to their lives in faraway Brazil.

Between 1865 e 1885, almost ten thousand Americans coming mainly from Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Carolina of North, Kentucky, Tennessee, ran ashore in the ports of Belém, Vitória, Rio de Janeiro and Santos. Once they arrived, they had to redouble their so weakened energies and confront other faraway and tough trips around the land until they could reach the region of Campinas, whose climate and lands are similar to those of the South of the United States. But they made it. For Heaven’s sake, they made it.

Remembrances

But the homesickness of the United States and the past remembrances were still latent, as proved by this other extract of Pettie Steagali’s letter, Brazilian-American journal, 11/8/1928:

“Our farm was beautiful, had several acres, good houses, horses and cattle. We had a corn mill, cotton-benefiting machineries…

The Brazilian government received us very well, hosted us on the Immigrant Hotel, thus giving us shelter and food. It was my duty to explain that we were not immigrants. We were refugees. War refugees.”

Colonization

A number of colonization centers were established in the region of Campinas, where both Brazilian government and masonry were still encouraging and providing the essential supports until these immigrants – or war refugees, as said by Pettie Steagali – started to produce.

In all the colonization centers, lands were cultivated, but in 1866, when Colonel Willian Hutchinson Norris, former civil war soldier and former senator in the State of Alabama, arrived, the center of Santa Bárbara D’Oeste had a swift development and started to attract several families installed in distant centers. More than a few farms were opened by the Americans who cultivated, benefited and commercialized cotton, in addition to the dry land rice, watermelon (sort of Georgia’s rattlesnake), cheese, butter, honey, tobacco and several other subsistence products.

Without speaking Portuguese correctly yet, Colonel Norris, aided by English-speaking Brazilian masons, started to teach agricultural techniques and supply selected seeds for the Brazilians that showed an interest. The plow, so far unknown in the area, was introduced and started to be used in nearly all farms. The agricultural productions and its subsequent commercialization grew up and were diversified in such ratios that Santa Bárbara D’Oeste started to be the focus of interest and attention.

City of Americana

In 1869, by reason of the increasing agricultural productions and varieties boosted by the American and the Brazilian who learned and made use of the new agricultural techniques, the Brazilian government, by way of the Railway Company of the State of São Paulo, decided to have a railway through built in that region. The station of Santa Bárbara was inaugurated in 08/27/1875 by the Emperor Dom Pedro II himself.

The Brazilian mason Inácio Correa Pacheco allotted the lands around this station, which were purchased mostly by the American immigrants. In these lots, a large number of houses were buit and commercial activities were launched, provoking an unprecedented economical and social boom in that region. On account of the majority presence of Americans, this place became known as Vila dos Americanos (Americans’ Village) in 1870, as Vila Americana (American Village) in 1900, Distrito de Americana (American District) in 1904, and, eventually, as cidade de Americana (American city) in 1924.

Still in 1875, the American Engineer William Putney Ralston together with the Brazilians Antônio e Augusto de Souza Queiroz founded the company named Indústria Têxtil Carioba (Carioba Textile Industry – Carioba means white cloth in the tupi guarani language), 1.87 miles away from the Santa Bárbara Station, on the border of the Stream Quilombo, whose waters would put this industry’s hydraulic looms to work.

The Brazilian mason Inácio Correa Pacheco allotted the lands around this station, which were purchased mostly by the American immigrants. In these lots, a large number of houses were buit and commercial activities were launched, provoking an unprecedented economical and social boom in that region. On account of the majority presence of Americans, this place became known as Vila dos Americanos (Americans’ Village) in 1870, as Vila Americana (American Village) in 1900, Distrito de Americana (American District) in 1904, and, eventually, as cidade de Americana (American city) in 1924.

Still in 1875, the American Engineer William Putney Ralston together with the Brazilians Antônio e Augusto de Souza Queiroz founded the company named Indústria Têxtil Carioba (Carioba Textile Industry – Carioba means white cloth in the tupi guarani language), 1.87 miles away from the Santa Bárbara Station, on the border of the Stream Quilombo, whose waters would put this industry’s hydraulic looms to work.

Both industry and railway not only consolidated the agricultural productions but they permanently boomed the development of the entire region.

Today Americana is one of the most important cities in the state of São Paulo, with approximately 200 thousand inhabitants. This is a result of not only the American immigration but also of the Portuguese-descendant Brazilians that were already there, as well as of the subsequent Italian (1887) and German immigrations (1892) to the region.

Religion

Since these immigrants were Protestant and the Brazilian Catholic church then used to forbid people having any other faith from being buried in public cemeteries (!?), they started burying their deceased individuals in a farm, where they built the first chapel and named this site as Countryside Cemetery. In 1973, James Carter, shortly before becoming the president of he United States, visited this cemetery, where up to now the American families’ descendants are buried.

Junius Estaham Newmam, Methodist Priest, former confederated chaplain, ran ashore in Rio de Janeiro in August de 1867, settled his residence in Saltinho, a city neighboring Santa Barbara D’oeste. He started preaching to the American colonists in English, in the farm residences, in a stand and, later on, in the first cult room, covered with sape grass and red soil.

It took the first parish so long to be built, since not only he preached for Methodists but also for Baptists, Presbyterians and all those who were willing to hear his message. “It is wiser to join the listeners in only one church, with no naming plate.”

In 1876, the factory worker John James Ranson arrives in Brazil. This Methodist worker, who took up residence in Piracicaba, where his daughters Annie and Merry planned and founded the Newman School, predecessor of Piracicaba School, which is currently UNIMEP – Methodist University of Piracicaba.

Conquests, Victories

Difficulties with the languages and the needs to start over and adapt themselves were rapidly overcome. They kept their habits, maintained their traditions, culture and identity.

The new American-descendant Brazilian’s education was one of their priorities. They built schools and hired American teachers for children. Afterward, they founded the International School in the city of Campinas and the American School in São Paulo, coming to revolutionize the Brazilian teaching at that time by accepting boys and girls in a same classroom and allowing black children to study. The teaching methods utilized by the American proved to be so efficient that they became adopted by the Brazilian government.

Besides agriculture and education, these immigrations also revolutionized both medicine and dentistry that were then performed in the region. Simple cares of health prevention and elementary procedures of first aid were taught to the Brazilian who later spread this knowledge around the province. Some time later, they created and founded the 1st Agricultural 0School and the 1st Nursing School in Brazil.

American Families in Brazil

Those who are interested in learning part of the name of the American families who migrated to Brazil should visit www.scv.org/camp1653- in Portuguese and English.

Conclusion

As written by a student in the 6th grade B of Rainha da Paz School in Americana, “They lost a war, but we won a new culture. Brazil won and won.”

Sources

01. Soldier Rest - A American epic story under the sky of Brazil – Judith M. Jones

02. A colônia perdida da confederação (The Lost Colony of Confederation) – Eugene C. Harte

03. Preservando a nossa história (Preserving Our History) – Célia Gobbo, Fanny Olivieri, Maria JFA Ribeiro e Malquesedec Ferreira

04. Trechos de carta de Pettie Steagali, jornal Brazilian-American, (Extracts of Pettie Steagali’s letter, Brazilian-American journal) 8-11-1928

05. Schoolwork of 6th grade students of Rainha da Paz School – Americana-SP, Brazil

06. SVC Camp # 1653 “Os Confederados” (The Confederated).

07. Diário do Major Edward Baker (Major Edward Baker’s Diary), páginas 8;

08. A Maçonaria e desenvolvimento do Brasil (Brazilian Masonry and Develoment), páginas 86, 97, 98, 114 e 125 – José Eduardo Cunha

09. Maçonaria e a guerra civil, páginas 19, 32, 47 e 104 (Masonry and Civil War, pages 19, 32, 47 and 104) – William, S.

10. Israelitas na Cultura Brasileira (The Israeli in the Brazilian Culture) – Cordeiro HD

11. Prefeitura do Município de Americana (Municipal City hall of Americana) –SP, Brazil

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3 Responses to American immigration to Brazil

  1. Neusa says:

    Reportagem muito boa! Gostaria que tivesse também a ” Lista dos Passageiros” vindos no North American em 1867.

  2. Stephen J Couet says:

    This part of our history was unaware of. Enlightening.

  3. Richard Arthur says:

    I would like information on migrating to Brazil or a visa for living in Brazil

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