Surviving Confederate soldiers returned home to families in misery, their livestock consumed, money worthless, railroads and factories destroyed, boats swept from their waters, clothes and food gone. When some of these who were Masons heard of a “New South” with undeveloped land for 22 cents an acre, its emperor a Brother Master Mason, and better cotton than North America’s, they packed up and moved to Brazil. We know at least 154 families began the migration in 1865 from Texas, Alabama, and South Carolina to Brazil, and between 2,000 and 4,000 more moved to Brazil during the next 10 years.
....One was Colonel William H. Norris who had a small fortune in gold buried in his Perry County, Alabama, yard. A Union officer stopped his men from digging it up after Norris’s wife shook the officer’s hand Masonically. With that gold, Colonel Norris bought 500 acres and established an infant community. That spot in Brazil was to become the largest Confederate settlement in South America. It is near Santa Barbara, southeast of the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
....Norris and his Brethren founded George Washington Lodge in their little village that was soon named Americana by their neighbors. What began this exodus as a Masonic event in history? Actually, a Mason named Robert W. Lewis of Virginia wrote Robert E. Lee asking his opinion about Confederates leaving the country. Lee answered, “The South requires the presence of her sons…to sustain and restore her.” Then he wrote, “In answer to your question as to what portion I hold in the order of Masons, I have to reply that I am not a Mason and have never belonged to the society.”
....Lewis and other Masons knew Freemasonry was alive and well in Brazil, living hand-in-glove with its Protestant community, especially Presbyterians. Encouragement came from Brother Charles Nathan, a member of the Brazilian immigration society who helped arrange passage for Southerners via New Orleans. Nathan was a British merchant in Rio de Janeiro who had lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. He apparently worked with Reverend Ballard S. Bunn who led migrants to another colony near Americana.
The most encouragement, though, came from Brother Taveres Bastos, founder of the immigration society and confidant of the Emperor of Brazil whose father, Dom Pedro I, was Grand Master. His close friend was Reverend James Cooley Fletcher, Presbyterian minister and First Secretary of the U. S. Legation in Brazil. Together, they had the ears of intellectuals, educators, statesmen, liberals, and the Emperor himself. They actively promoted close United States–Brazil relations, including migration and agricultural/industrial development. When Confederate Masons communicated their distress, these leaders were ready to help.
....Joachim Maria Saldaña Mariño was a friend of Taveres Bastos. He was a co-editor of a liberal Rio newspaper. Mariño was Grand Master of the Grande Oriente do Brasil ao Vale dos Beneditinos, the Emperor’s branch of Freemasonry. Happily, he was also President of Sao Paulo, the province where Americana was born and flourished.
....Dr. Russell McCord was a migrant from Alabama who settled in the town of Macaé. Saldaña Mariño signed McCord’s Masonic certificates for the years 1872, 1874, 1875, and 1879. These documents comprise the best records of the U.S. Confederate Masonic–Brazilian partnership. Scottish Rite Masons will be particularly attracted to Saldaña Mariño because of his activity in the mid-1860s in the cause of separation of church and state.
.Dr. McCord’s Masonic documents are historic in another way. A second signer was the eminent José Maria da Silva Paraños, best known as the Visconde do Rio Branco. He was Grand Master of the Grande Oriente do Brasil, and he was the author of the first emancipation legislation that led, 17 years later, to abolition of slavery in his nation.
What was life like for former Southerners in Portuguese-speaking Brazil? In fact, half the Confederate North Americans quit and went home within ten years. But the rest stuck it out nobly and left a heritage that lives today, albeit as a small minority among the 170,000 citizens of Americana.
....Patrick Fields of Charlotte, North Carolina, has ancestors who fought in both the Revolution and Confederacy. His father and grandfather were Freemasons. He taught several weeks in the Sao Paulo region last summer and made it his business to investigate Americana. There he found a burgeoning metropolis populated mostly by people of Italian heritage spilling over from South America’s largest city, Sao Paulo. He noted, “The people in Americana are like those all over Brazil: all colors, all religions, all occupations, all heritages.”
Masonic Lodges abound in Brazil. Masonic, like Confederate, activity surfaces in Americana at their Confederate museum, cemetery, and frequent festivals which Fields videotaped extensively. He said, “Masons and other Confederates were never locked into Americana or other settlements. They spread all over Brazil. So you can’t say today’s people of Americana are descended from Confederate Masons.”
....What did these remarkable Masons bring to Brazil? Well, watermelons for one thing. Grown from their American seed, watermelons became so popular that up to 100 railroad carloads a day were shipped from Americana by the late 1800s. The Confederate Masonic families had no trouble raising meat, vegetables, and fruit to feed their families.
Their dishes included corn bread, spoon bread, egg bread, biscuits, and burgoo stew, a savory mixture of several kinds of meat and vegetables usually served at political rallies and community occasions. Black-eyed peas, potatoes, and Southern-fried chicken live on in Brazil. Brazilian desserts include such Southern staples as vinegar pie, ambrosia, custard, fruit pies, chess pie, and ginger cake.
....The immigrants introduced the plow and improved farming methods that increased cotton, coffee, and sugarcane crop yields nationwide. Brazil hired North Americans as advisers and plantation administrators. These Confederados, as they were called, got much in return. The Halls, Thatchers, Gastons, and other Confederados netted a 100% return on their first two-year cotton planting. They were able to build their Old South mansions again, though in Brazil. And they regained pride in their heritage. They felt they were Americans deep inside. Their undying respect for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee simply added to their fraternal bonds to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and the spirit of freedom of the United States of America.
....The validity of this information can be proved by reading two books: The Confederados published by the University of Alabama Press, and The Lost Colony of the Confederacy published by the University Press of Mississippi. Or, better still, take the next plane to Sao Paulo and visit Americana!