HISTORICAL EXCERPTS from the Early 1900s
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  • "The Coming of the Portuguese" George Rawlings Poage, Journal of IL State Historical Society,
    Vol XVIII Apr 1925, No1

  • "Portuguese Have Melted into City Landscape" Oliver West, Journal-Courier, Jacksonville, IL;
    Nov 13, 1994, pp1&8

  • "Vieira Family and Religious Persecutions on Madeira" Oren Baptist, quoting Rev. Herman Norton, The Baptista Megafamily, Family History Publishers, pp 118-119

  • "The Coming of the Portuguese"
    This excellent 36 page article includes actual correspondence between major historical figures... and is heavily quoted in the "Summary of Events" which you can access from the Welcome Page.

    An additional story concerns one of the Session elders, Arsenio Nicos da Silva, and occurred during the riots on Madeira in August 1846:

    "He had fled first to his estates in the interior of Madeira, where he thought he might be safe. But he became convinced that there was no safety for him on the island, so he determined to flee to Lisbon. When he returned to Funchal, he was unable to go to his own home, but lay hidden elsewhere according to arrangements made by his family, who did not agree with his religious views. His wife supplied him with money for his flight to Lisbon. He had hoped that his family, whom he had been unable to see in Funchal, might rejoin him at Lisbon; but even there he was not safe, and thought of going to Oporto... The missionary board of the Free Church of Scotland offered to sustain him... he at once sailed for Trinidad."

    [kleber note: more info on da Silva's family is included in some of the "Articles from the 1800s" and the book, "The Exiles of Madeira." Arsenio da Silva died in January 1849 while trying to lead his congregation from Trinidad to America.]

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    "Portuguese Have Melted into City Landscape"
    Newspaper Article, November 13, 1994

    "One hundred forty-five years ago this weekend, immigrants fleeing religious persecution got off the train from Naples to begin a new life in Jacksonville. [1849] The descendants of the approximately 250 newcomers put their stamp on the business and cultural life of the community.

    Yet there were no public observances of the 145th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese here. Northminster Presbyterian Church, the defining institution of the Portuguese community, counts increasing numbers of non- Portuguese among its congregants as time takes its toll on the followers of Dr. Robert Kalley.

    Dr. Kalley, a medical missionary on his way to China on the service of the Free Church of Scotland, landed in the port of Funchal in the Madeira Islands off the coast of North Africa when his wife became ill. He decided to stay.

    Dr. Kalley exploited the goodwill earned through his medical skills and the use of his fortune to establish free schools on the Portuguese island to advance his Calvinistic brand of Protestantism.

    That soon brought him into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church and after being imprisoned and seeing his house burned by a mob in 1846, Dr. Kalley set sail with 200 of his converts for Trinidad in the West Indies.

    The journey of the Portuguese Protestants ended in Jacksonville when an economic opportunity gone sour met with the idealism of the Yale Band, the eastern intellectuals who held sway at Illinois College.

    The Madeirans' health suffered in the West Indies and when the American Hemp Co. offered them jobs and free 10-acre homesteads at Island grove, halfway between Jacksonville and Springfield along the railroad, they quickly accepted.

    The Hemp Co. reneged on its promise, leaving the pilgrims stranded in New York. The major Protestant denominations organized a relief society and the Jacksonville leaders welcomed them here.

    The Rev. Maniel Gonsalves led the group, which stopped in Jacksonville, while another 100 or so continued on to Springfield, and a few settled in Waverly.

    Jean Bowen is the great-granddaughter of John C. Cherry, an early immigrant who started as a teamster, opened a livery business, then a funeral livery and became one of the leading paving contractors in the state, although he was illiterate.

    Mrs. Bowen lives in the house on East Beecher Avenue once occupied by her grandfather, Antonio Vasconcellos, who cut grass for Mary Todd Lincoln in Springfield and earned his citizenship by serving in the Civil War.

    Northminster Church, the last of the three Protestant Portuguese churches in Jacksonville, published a Portuguese cookbook, and generally includes a native dish or two at church suppers, but ethnic consciousness has faded, as their assimilation is virtually complete, Mrs. Bowen said.

    John S. Wright, in a paper delivered to the Morgan Co. Historical Society on the 100th anniversary of the Portuguese immigration, noted that of marriages from 1850-54 between people Portuguese surnames all 23 involved both a Portuguese bride and groom. From 1890-94, more than half the 78 Portuguese who married wed someone of other than Portuguese descent. By 1940-44, none of the 19 marriages were between two people with Portuguese surnames, or their derivatives.

    The immigrants quickly Anglicized their names, so that Rodrigues became Roderick, Martinas changed to Martin, DeOliveiros was trimmed to Oliver, Ferriera was translated to its English equivilent of Smith, and Tioxiera was transformed to the similar sounding, but more easily pronounced, DeShara.

    Members of the Jacksonville's Portuguese colony dispersed as economic opportunity beckoned, and many prospered far from home. Frank Meline, a third-generation Portuguese who sold shoes in Jacksonville, ended up as the real estate magnate who laid out Beverly Hills, and built Mary Pickford's mansion.

    Movie star Mary Astor was the granddaughter of Frank Vasconcellos, a fourth-generation immigrant. Contemporary observers often commented on the beauty of the Portuguese women who, with their dark eyes and olive complexions derived from Arab and other North African ancestry, were regarded as quite exotic.

    The Portuguese were well represented in business in Jacksonville by the second generation, following those who got started as market gardeners or domestic servants, and excelled in the building trades and contracting.

    Perhaps by the sesquicentennial of the Portuguese immigration five years from now a proper public monument can be created in memory of the those who sailed to a foreign land to pursue their religious faith, and the descendants who brought their vitality to the prairie."

    Many thanks to Caryn Dubelko , Bob Hurford, and the Morgan Area Genealogical Association for their assistance in this research.

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    "Vieira Family Persecutions on Madeira"
    This information from "The Baptista MegaFamily" was kindly donated by Bob Hurford.
    "Nicolao Tolentino Vieira was one of Dr. Kalley's most ardent converts and was especially valuable because he was one of the few in the congregation who could read. Nicolao fled to the hills when threatened with imprisonment. 'He continued to elude the soldiers who pursued him until he was almost exhausted for the want of food... The place in which he had concealed himself was unknown to the Christians as well as to the soldiers.

    There was only one human being who knew where he was, and that was a Roman Catholic girl. Her heart was moved with compassion for these suffering Christians. She did not dare to tell anyone, not even her parents, that she knew where he could be found. But she stealthily took flour from the barrel, when her mother was absent, and baked a cake in the ashes. She then rolled it in her apron, and seizing an opportunity, she ran into the mountains and gave it to him. On this he lived four days. This cake, and this only, with the blessing of God, kept him from starvation and gave him strength to reach the deck of a British vessel. He sailed first to Demerara, then to Trinidad, and finally to [New York].

    The kindness of [the girl's] heart toward the persecuted could not long be concealed from the spies around her... She was suspected of heresy and was obliged to flee for her life... She escaped from those who sought her life, to a vessel in the harbor, and sailed for St. Vincent. There she was seized with fever and soon found a grave on the island.'"

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