Confederate Exite to Brazil
Submitted by Telma Andersen
THE DETROIT NEWS
Sunday, January 6, 1929
Still in Exile, 61 Years After War
Pot of Gold They Sought in Brazilian Jungle Never
Found, Say Confederate Colonists
By A. M. Smith
The story of the American Confederate Colony of
Santarem, Brazil as told to Mr. Smith, who recently
visited Brazil as the correspondent of The Detroit
News and the North American Newspaper Alliance.
SIXTY-ONE years ago there appeared in papers
in Nashville, Tenn., an advertisement that declared
that in the heart of Amazonia, far up the greatest
river in the world, riches were waiting for those
who would go, riches to be gathered without effort.
Luscious fruits grew in abundance, this luminous
ad said, and there were many places where one
needed only to scoop off the top soil to take out gold
by handfuls — placer gold, the desideratum ultimum
of all shovel-and-pan miners.
Land! Great areas of virgin soil, productive already,
though untouched by the hand of man. Free land!
Free transportation from Mobile to Santarem, at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajos Rivers, 600
miles inland from Para!
Thus was the rainbow painted, and with the pot of
gold at the end of the flaming arc in Santarem.
APPEALS TO WAR BROKEN
In Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas and in Mobile,
were hundreds of persons whose hearts had been
broken and whose property had been ruined by the
years of neglect and destruction of the great Civil War. Perhaps some were so badly broken in hope and spirit
that they already considered themselves as people
without a country.
"But no!" said old George "Clem" Jennings, sitting
on his verandah at Santarem, "it was not so much
that we saw no future for Southerners in the United
States. We trusted the spirit of Abraham Lincoln,
better appreciated by us after his martyrdom. But
our fortunes were broken."
"The better future was too far away. We had no
resources with which to begin to mend our fortunes
broken by the war."
"And that advertisement of Gen. Dobbins — I
forget his first name — he was a Confederate
general— that advertisement seemed to offer
something too good to be true. Free transportation,
land free— all we wanted to cultivate; a climate in
which one could never suffer from cold, and need
never get too warm; nature at her most prolific
productivity; so we came, about 100, and we landed
in Santarem 61 years ago yesterday, Sept. 15, 1867.
"I was a lad of 16 years. When we reached Mobile
— our home had been in Nashville — I had the queer
feeling that there was something fishy about the whole
business. I decided I did not want to come on with
my stepfather and mother and three half-sisters. I
tried to get money to take me back to Nashville. But
I couldn't get it. And my mother begged me to go on
with the family. So I came."
"But the most foolish thing a man ever did was what
my stepfather did when he brought his family away
from the United States and came to this country."
"Well— we left Mobile in the Red Gauntlet, a long,
slim side-wheeler that had been one of the
Confederate gunboats. I don't know how Gen.
Dobbins got the boat. But he had some agreement
with the government of Brazil for bringing in colonists,
and maybe Brazil helped him finance the purchase
of the Red Gauntlet. And we understood later that he
was well compensated by Brazil for the cost of the transportation and keep of the colonists on the way
STRANDED FOR TIME
"But plans went wrong on the way. We found we
had to run into St.Thomas to refuel, and it seems
that Gen. Dobbins did not have money to pay off
his crew. The American Consul at St. Thomas
would not let him go on without paying his crew,
and ordered the Red Gauntlet sold."
"That left us stranded there. But Gen. Dobbins
managed to get in touch with Brazilian officials,
and transportation was provided for us on the
regular steamers plying between St. Thomas and
South American ports."
"From Para we took the small river steamers on
up the Amazon to Santarem, which at that time
had a population of about 500 Portuguese and
Indians. It has grown to about 2,000 population--
but that is not a very great growth for 61 years in
a land supposed to be full of gold and wild oranges,
Old Clem's smile was wry. He had said that Gen.
Dobbins declared there was such an abundance of
fruit, and all kinds of tropical products, that a man
didn't have to work if he didn't care to. He could
pick his meals off the trees, and spend the rest of
his time scraping off a little top soil and scooping
HAD TO WORK
"It was lies— all lies that Gen. Dobbins told us,
and we never should have believed him," old
"We found we had to work, and we had to work
hard to get ahead enough to enable us some time
in the future to move our families back to the
States, and we never did get that far ahead. I don't
think a single settler who brought a family here in
that migration, or any of the younger ones, like
myself, who married here, and raised families, ever
got back to the States, except one or two men who
have made short visits back."
"MY father found no gold— none of us did. He
found only hard work in a climate that is hard on
a white man if he works, and he did not last long.
He just wore out and died."
"We found there was a good demand here by the
natives for cachaça (rum) made from sugar cane.
So we planted cane and built a small mill and still
and sold rum to the natives and to the river trade."
"But the land did not last long, and we had no
means of fertilizing it. Other land was not available
near enough to warrant moving machinery, building.
and keeping up roads, so we quit that business. But
it was a very good business while it lasted."
"I built a tow boat and imported an engine made
by George L. Squires, of Brooklyn, for it. I also built
a lighter and with this outfit I went to Manaus and
began the business of towing rubber and Brazil nuts
down to Para, and what freight I could get on up trips.
I was in that business for 12 years, then the lighter was
rammed by a snag in the river, and sank. The tow boat
was getting old, so I sold it and went to the Barbados
and bought a two master barque and put that into
freighting on the rivers here."
"One night the captain of the barque anchored it near
some shoals up river, and as luck would have it, the
river dropped very suddenly that night. The boat came
down on a submerged log and broke in two."
"Since then I have been in the cattle and dairy business
with my son-in-law, about 20 miles out from Santarem.
We have about 300 acres of land and a herd of about
80 cows, but they do not do very well here. I have
managed to live these 61 years in Brazil, but there is
no such thing as successful pioneering here for any
white man unless he has plenty of capital to back him."
"On the whole, the climate is healthful, if you know
how to take it. I have been fairly strong and hearty
all these years, until two or three years ago when
rheumatism tied me into knots. I had a tough time
with it. There was no doctor here who knew how to
treat me. There is a legend among the natives that
boa constrictor oil is very good for rheumatism.
But that was very hard to get. Finally my wife
managed to gather a little here and there from the
"There was enough to give me several rubbing
applications on my arms and legs. I couldn't use
my arms, and I couldn't walk when we began to
rub in that oil. Three days after I could straighten
out my arms and I could walk, and I have had
very little soreness or stiffness since. But I am
getting nervous, and I am only 77 years old."
I told Clem that his business for the next 45 years
was clearly indicated by this rheumatic experience.
He should go into the boa constrictor oil-for-rheumatism-sprains-bruises-and-bumps
business. I told him the people of the States
waxed great in numbers and wealth, since the Civil
War, and that there was no longer any North and
South, but that there were a great people for patent
Old Clem laughed heartily.
"SNAKES ARE HARD TO GET."
"Now that's quite an idea," he said. "The only
difficulty is to find the snakes. You people in the
States have wrong notions about snakes and other
wild things in this country. I have been through
the jungles a lot in these years, but I never saw a
boa constrictor in the jungle— which is the only
place where they are unless they are brought in
alive, and that is a rare occurrence. It is the same
with other wild animals. They are here, but here
is a big place, and a jungle where you have to cut
your way through is a fine hiding place. This is
not a good country for hunting anything— even
work that will keep a man alive."
HOWEVER, Mr. Jennings seems to have prospered
fairly well. He married a Portuguese woman of
Santarem. Three daughters and one son were born
to them. The son died in childhood. The daughters
married and there are now 12 grandchildren who do
much to brighten the declining years of the exile from
the far-away country of the north.
Mr. Jennings owns his own home, near the center of
the city of Santarem—has owned it and lived in it, in
fact, for 30 years. It is one of the better homes of the
city, a one-story house of eight rooms, all spacious
and with high ceilings, large doors and windows, and
the front and one side of the house presenting broad
verandas. About the house is a large area of trees
and flowers, with some garden plots in the back court.
The walls of the building are of brick and tile, and all
floors and wood finishing are of the glossy surfaced,
extremely hard and durable woods in which Brazil
abounds. This type of building is common in
BUILT ON BLUFF
The little city is built on a high bluff and straggling
hills, which form a point at the confluence of the
Amazon and Tapajos Rivers. The plazaand the
ancient Catholic Church form the center of the view
of Santarem approached from the river, which is
here only one of several arms of the Amazon, but is
three miles in width.
Back of the vari-colored brick and tile houses that
form the business section of the city, the convent
stands on a higher hill, and flanking this, toward the
northern edge of the city, on a still higher hill, a new
and modern hotel is under construction.
The streets of Santarem are narrow, paved with
cobblestones, over which the bullock carts lazily
rumble. There is one, and only one motor vehicle
in the city— a Ford truck of ancient vintage, but
still flirting around corners in the narrow streets,
the only thing of animated action in the city.
WATER FROM RIVER
Sidewalks are narrow, built two and constructed
of cement brick. Many houses and business shops
in Santarem, as in Para, have the front beautifully
finished with glazed tiling. Others present white or
blue or red stucco finish over tile and brick.
Recently a small electric lighting plant got into
action, and to this extent Santarem is modernized.
Water, however, is carried by every householder
from the river and one sees at any hour of the day
numbers of lads or Indian servant girls carrying
on their shoulders and heads five-gallon cans or
large earthen jars of water from the river up the
At the river's edge, on the broad sandy beach, many
row boats and sail boats, with their tan and high
sails, are ready to ferry one ac___(word is incomplete) or
waiting their time to start another extended fishing
trip. The people of all ages and both sexes bathe
at all hours of the day in warm water, blue and clear
on the Santarem side, for just around the point is
the Tapajos river, making its first contact with the
yellow waters of the Amazon.
Many women and girls, invariably clothed in a
one piece calico garment, sit in the water's edge
and work at the family washing. They soap the
clothes, rub them a bit, but prefer to whip them
with a hard downward stroke against the hard
sand of the beach. When wearied with work, or
too warm, a swift lunge and kick takes them into
the water more than waist high. A few minutes
here and they are ready to sit again in the water's
edge and continue their work. But they are never
in a hurry. And gossip of the town runs happily
up and down the beach as the bathers, water-
carriers, boatmen and laundresses pursue their
tasks and pleasures.
It was to this Santarem, not so large, but
unchanged in character ofappearance or type of
life, that there came from Nashville, in 1867,
James Vaughan; bringing his wife and his
daughters, Sarah, Mattie, and Hardy, and his
step-son Clem Jennings. And from Nashville
also came the family of Josiah H. Pitts. Among
the 100 pilgrims from the Confederate South was
also the Riker family, of Charleston, S.C.
Of the original colony of 100, there remain at
Santarem, Clem Jennings, his step-sisters, Sarah
Vaughan Pitts, Mattie Vaughan Machado and
Hardy Vaughan, who never married; also Ellen
Emmett Souza, Herbert Ashley Riker and his
brother, David Bowman Riker.
HAVE OWN CHURCH
These, with most of their children and grand-
children, are the nucleus of the little Baptist
Church at Santarem. Those who married
Brazilians have a divided religion in the home,
for all native Brazilians are Catholics. But there
seems to be a happy tolerance in this respect.
All of these survivors of the original Confederate
Colony of Santarem are far advanced in years.
All are in fair health, considering their advanced
ages, and all have an absorbing interest, as well
they might, in the development and welfare of their
children and their children's children.
But when the land from which they came is
mentioned, there is longing and regret in the
dimming old eyes.
"It was the most foolish thing a man could do to
leave our own country," old Clem said.
They followed the beckoning of the rainbow,
arching down to the virgin lands, the mighty rivers
and the close-woven greenery of the jungles of
Santarem. They found at journey's end, that the
pot of gold whose color shone in the glowing arch
was, after all only the promise of the fairies who
beckon onward until the light of the skies faded
forever from searching eyes.
Any questions, suggestions, corrections, or additional
information, contact me, Linda CONAWAY Welden at:
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