Friday, October 23, 2009

"Gravestones in English of People We Don't Know"

Ever since before moving to Brasil, I have been intrigued by Americana, São Paulo (or actually the town 7 km away called Santa Bárbara d'Oeste). A couple hours north of São Paulo city is a town molded by immigrants from the United States. After the Civil War, Dom Pedro II offered cheap land in Brasil to the Confederates. Hoping to appeal to those who weren't thrilled about living under the newly re-established United States of America, he thought Brasil could benefit from the farming technology that would be brought by the Southerners. No one seems to know for sure, but it is estimated that as many as 10,000 people moved from the US (mostly Southern states) to Brasil to take the emperor up on his offer. Many of them settled in the state of São Paulo in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste.

Today there isn't a lot left of those original settlers. But there is a Baptist Church, cemetery, and memorial along with what I hear to be a good museum. And there is an organization of American descendants, Associação Descendência Americana, who host the Festa Confederada and other events to honor their heritage. (There is a really great article with more information here, I recommend giving it a read if you're interested.)

I would love to attend the Festa Confederada in April and see the place transformed into the Old South: girls in hoop dresses, men in Confederate Uniforms, fried chicken, peach pie, and sweet tea all around . . . but, as it was, I was a bit preoccupied with giving birth and what-not this year.

So when we decided to make our random 3-day road trip through Southern Minas and São Paulo, I really wanted to make a visit to this oh-so-interesting place. Eric was a bit skeptical, but I think that was only because he was worried how folks would take to a Yankee wandering around those parts! I promised I wouldn't let anyone shoot him, and so he agreed to go.

We started off driving straight to Santa Bárbara d'Oeste to find the Museu da Imigração (Immigration Museum). We only had to stop and ask one person to get directed right to the Museum. We arrived just in time to see the lady locking the door. (I thought they were open until 4:00 on Sundays, turns out they close at 1:00.) We did ask her for directions to "O Cemitério do Campo" (the cemetery) though. She told us it was not in town and was too difficult to tell us how to get there and turned to walk away. We pressed her a bit more, explained we had a car, and asked if she could at least give us an idea of how to drive there. She told us to drive down Bandeirantes Highway.

I had the GPS coordinates, but the GPS didn't show the dirt roads that lead to the point, so we kindly accepted her directions. A couple hours later and after talking to several different people (most of whom had no idea what we were talking about), we found the cemetery. It actually is very easy to find and has lots of big signs directing you there . . . if you are on the highway to Piracicaba and not Bandeirantes Highway (which is a limited-access tollway that doesn't give access to the road to the cemetery) like the not-at-all-helpful lady from the Museum told us!!!

We drove lots of dirt roads through fields of sugar cane heading in the direction of the cemetery. We kept getting close, but not having roads to lead us all the way there. It was a fun adventure though!

Finally found the cemetery!

The area has a monument to the original settlers, a Baptist Church, the cemetery, and a small museum with a collection of items donated by the descendants of the Americans who moved here.

Around the base of the monument were the family names of the immigrants. It included:
Ayees, Baird, Bankston, Barnsley, Barr, Bentley, Bookwalter, Bowen, Broadnax, Britt, Bryant, Buford, Burton, Capps, Carlton, Carr, Clark, Cole, Coulter, Crawley, Crisp, Cullen, Currie, Daniel, Demaret, Drain, Domm, Dumas, Easton, Ellis, Ezelle, Ferguson, Fenley, Gill, Grady, Green, Hall, Hardeman, Harris, Hawthorne, Hogan, Holland, Jones, Keese, Kennerly, King, Lloyd, Mathews, McAlpine, McFadden, McIntyre, McKnight, McMullan, Meriwether, Miller, Mills, Minchin, Moore, Morrison, Newman, Norris, Northrup, Oliver, Peacock, Perkins, Prestridge, Provost, Pyles, Quillen, Radcliff, Rowe, Sanders, Seawright, Scurlock, Smith, Steagall, Strong, Tanner, Tarver, Terrell, Thatcher, Thomas, Townsend, Trigg, Vaughan, Ward, Whitaker, Whitehead, Williamson, Weissinger, Wright, Yancey

So many of these are familiar names to me. People from my hometown, folks I went to school with, Primitive Baptist preachers I know . . .

Tucked back among pine trees and palms (which I felt was most appropriate!) is a little church.

Inside, it felt much like the little churches in Cades Cove, Tennessee

This memorial to the First Baptists in Brasil reads:
Here, on September 10th, 1871, it was organized the first Baptist Church in Brazil. The founder members of that church came from the South of the United States of America, after Civil War. Their first pastor was Richard Ratcliff from the State of Louisiana. That church promoted the ordination of the first Brazilian Baptist minister, Antônio Teixeira de Albuquerque in 1880. It was a missionary church. They requested and received missionaries to Brazil, the families Bagby and Taylor, who thereafter went to Salvador, Bahia. Although they do not exist as a church anymore, the seed planted by those pioneer Baptists produced and still produces fruits for the honor and glory of God.

We wandered around the cemetery reading gravestones for quite a while.

I loved the combination of English and Portuguese on many of them!

And the simplicity (and funny wording, "aged 71 years") of some.

And the spell-it-like-they-pronounce-it mistakes (Lauisiana, U.S.A.)

As I wandered around snapping pictures and taking it all in, Eric looked at me, shook his head, and asked, "Really? We came all this way to read gravestones in English of people we don't know?" "But look, all the pine trees! The little country church! We could be in Georgia", I replied. With a sly little grin, my husband added, "My point exactly." Alas, I didn't expect my Darling Dearest Yankee would get it . . . he didn't.

After thanking my hubby profusely for not giving up on the cemetery search and burning a lot of expensive fuel on my behalf, I told him he could make the plans for the rest of the day. It took him 2.57 seconds to decide we would drive over to Piracicaba and admire heavy machinery. Specifically, the oh-so-fun-to-look-at Case sugarcane harvesters!

We would LOVE to see one of these babies in action! They're such funny-looking contraptions!

After that, we headed over to Campinas, had some supper, and spent the night there. The next day we made the journey back to Belo Horizonte.


Ray Adkins said...

Dear Emily,

I enjoyed that place just like you did, I was reading the head stones for a long time, they tell so much history.
They also indicated the American birth state from most of the deceased.
I guess if you enjoy history you will love that place. I still want to make it to their party in April.
We also had a little adventure thru the Sugar Cane fields trying to find the place but I agree with you that it is totally worth it.


cherie said...

Thank you for this report. We've been looking forward to it.

Rogério Penna said...

So, Clay Norris was also a freemason.

I always wondered how freemasons do in war... do they kill freemasons on the other side? How masonry deals with it?

Rogério Penna said...

Does someone knows if the american immigrants just mixed with the rest of the population, moved to larger urban centres?

As far as I know, famous brazilian rocker Rita Lee was descendant from one of these confederate immigrants.

Jim said...

From a google search I found your blog. It has helped me on my Ph.D. dissertation on an early missionary to Brazil. Thanks!
Jim Hardwicke