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James Alexander

James Alexander Marchant (1828-1916), originally of Charleston, South Carolina, settled in Clinton, Louisiana, where he married Louisiana DeArmond in 1851. She was a descendent of the Yarborough and Felps families who settled in East Feliciana Parish in 1798; her grandmother gave the land on which the town on Clinton was founded. The Marchants had four sons: John James, Madison Monroe, Taylor Alexander, and Langworthy. They owned a plantation and slaves and grew cotton, corn, and wheat. James A. Marchant served in the Confederate Army throughout the Civil War. He was an orderly and sergeant with the Packwood Guards, Company K, 4th Regiment Louisiana Infantry. His unit fought across the Southeast, and he lost his left arm in fighting at Jonesboro, Georgia, during the Atlanta Campaign. During Reconstruction, Mr. Marchant was elected parish assessor, but, having lost most of his property and slaves after the war, he decided to move his family to Brazil at the invitation of the emperor Dom Pedro II. The emperor encouraged immigration by southern planters in hopes of building the next cotton empire. The Marchants eventually settled at Campinas in the state of São Paulo. Thousands of Southerners emigrated to Brazil after the Civil War, and many remain to this day, calling themselves “Confederados.” James and Louisiana Marchant never returned to the United States following their emigration to Brazil.


James Alexander Marchant and John W. Hobgood of Louisiana


Like many southern migrants, Bridget to Brazil, John W, Hopgood of Louisiana had had enough of” that miserable country” by the mid-1869 and returned to the United States with his family. He had gone to Brazil in the company of his brother-in-law James Alexander Marchant. Hobgood’s and Marchant’s wives, Melissa and Louisiana, were two of three DeArmond sisters.  After leaving Brazil, Hobgood wrote to Marchant urging him to return in a letter that provides one of the most explicit pieces of evidence that Freemasons were behind-the-scenes facilitators of both migration and repatriation.


Well-written evidence of Masonic involvement in advancing migration efforts is frustratingly scant, a significant number of the southern man who relocated to Brazil were known to be members of that organization. In Hobgood’s case, the information comes in a letter written from New York, the family’s port of entry..” I found a great many friends here who have befriended me. We landed here without a cent but I soon found out that we would be taken care of. We were taken to a tavern and our bill paid until we can get away from here. I went to a Masonic meeting last Saturday night and told them my situation and they gave me money enough to go to New Orleans and where I will make other arrangements. I think 10 days more will land me safe at home.”


The Hobgoods could have remained a New York as “the people”  who helped them were “anxious” for them to do so. The family could “do well” there, John could earn four dollars a day and Melissa two dollars. But she wanted to her see her ill mother, so the family returned to Clinton, Louisiana. John's brother-in-law James Alexander Marchant was a Louisiana native, although he is sometimes identified as being from Charleston, South Carolina. He was a planter in East Feliciana Parish. His wife, Louisiana, was a descendant of the Yarbroough and Felps families who had located here in the late 1700s. One of her grandmothers donated the land on which the town of Clinton was founded. The MarchantS lived with a Mrs. M. Carr who was a South Carolinian and the titular head of the household, owning $6,000 of real estate and another $6,000 worth of personal estate in 1860. In the greater scheme of antebellum plantations, these are not impressive figures, but in East Feliciana Parish, this level of wealth was at the upper end of the scale.


But margins Masonic affiliations are unequivocal.  Their eldest son, John James, was a student in the “Primary Department” at the Masonic Male Academy of Clinton in 1866. In 1867, the Marchants were invited to a Wash-ington's birthday “Grand Mask and Fancy Dress Ball” at the Masonic Hall.  George Washington was a major Masonic figure of his day.). Among the committee members extending the invitation was Frank D'Armond and among the “managers” of the affair was O.. P. ( Owens Palmer) Langworthy, a physician from Ohio who had been in Louisiana since 1853. The Merchants admired him greatly and named one of their sons Langworthy.


Once James Alexander Marchant got to Brazil, he never left. The family (including Mrs. Carr), resided in the Santa Barbara – Campinas vicinity for many years, although Marchant was living in Rio at the time of his death. The Marchants probably felt added satisfaction with their decision to stay when Louisiana received a letter in 1872 for my friend who had returned: “I am indeed glad to know that you are all satisfied down there, I only wish we had never left Brazil. I would return tomorrow if it were possible. Business is at present very dull here, owing partly to hard times, and partly to the summer months. Complaints are heard on all sides, and the cry for Money, Money, is heard in every direction. A great many large houses have failed this season.”.


Later in the 1870s, the Marchant’s son Langworthy and James McFadden Gaston Junior, whose father had been so instrumental in bringing southerners to Brazil, shared a composition book, in which they wrote in French and Portuguese. In the late 1940s, James Alexander Marchant’s grandson Alexander Marchant became a founding faculty member of a Brazilian studies center at Vanderbilt University, the first of its kind in the United States. His granddaughter Anita was an official with the Inter-American Development Bank.


SOURCE:  A Confluence of Transatlantic Networks  Pages 199-201

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