Sunday, April 23, 2017

Confederates in Brazil


Dom Pedro II Emperor of Brazil

The under-populated Brazilian Empire saw an opportunity in the collapse of the Confederacy to develop its vast wilderness interior.  Emperor Dom Pedro II, encouraging the southern colonization societies that sprang up throughout the South after the war, offered to pay one third of the ships passage of all emigrants from any southern port to Rio de Janeiro.  The Brazilian government also agreed to sell land at modest prices in any locality desired by the colonists.

To some southerners the Brazilian offer seemed heaven sent.  It was a land where they could live with dignity.  The climate was mild and good for cotton.  Land and labor were cheap, and Brazil protected the institution of slavery (which was not abolished until 1888).  The people were easy going and receptive to strangers.  In a short time some of the emigrants had already become wealthy.  The Rev. Joshua Dunn, for example, had acquired one and a half million square acres of coastal land for rice and sugar cultivation and was instrumental in establishing three new navigation companies by 1867.

The man fated to make the most lasting contribution among the Confederates in Brazil was the indefatigable Colonel William Hutchinson Norris.  Norris, the image of a Biblical patriarch, with his great beard and flowering mane, set out for Brazil in 1866, at the age of 65.  A native Georgian, and former Alabama State Senator, Norris was not easily intimidated by either man or nature.  Settling in Sao Paulo state, Norris burned back the jungle, built his shelters, and set about introducing modern agricultural techniques to Brazil.  He soon turned a profit growing both cotton and watermelons.  Other Confederates emigrants, many of whom had tried earlier to establish themselves in other parts of Brazil and failed, soon learned of Norris’ good luck and moved to this region to join him.  The harder Norris worked the luckier he became.


Nine years after the arrival of William Norris a railroad was extended from the city of Sao Paulo to the area where the Confederates were living.  The place became officially known as Vila Americana.  Later it was incorporated as the city of Americana.  Today, Americana, a prosperous little city of eighty thousand, has only three hundred Confederate descendants who still have ties with the city.  Four times a year they celebrate a Protestant religious service, enjoy a picnic of southern fried chicken, pecan pie and cornbread.



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