1979 Interview with Mae Tuttle
Submitted by Nancy Moore. Used by permission of Florence Hutchison, 11/13/1998.
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Mrs. Tuttle told this history to Alpha Jones, Recording Secretary of the Sangamon County Genealogical Society, Sept 19, 1979.

"In 1849 130 Portuguese arrived in Springfield. They came to Springfield so they could have a religion of their own, and be free to worship in their own belief. Of the 130 people who came, four of them were my ancestors -- Mr. and Mrs. Gomes and Mr. and Mrs. DeFraties.

"The first thing they did, when they arrived in Springfield, was to acquire a building where they could have their services. In the meantime, they had been having services in the Presbyterian churches and in houses and basements of the group. They acquired a building of their own so they could have their own services in Portuguese. The building was on Madison Street between 4th and 5th Streets, on the north side of the street. They named it the First Portuguese Presbyterian Church.

"There were only three or four empty houses in Springfield available to them when they arrived, and there were articles in the paper asking people to donate dishes, beds and other things so they could keep house. They did not want these things for charity - they wanted to work in exchange. The women did the people's washing and did a lot of sewing for them, and the men chopped wood and did other work in exchange for anything they could use in their houses from dishes to bedding.

"They started building their own houses over on Miller, Carpenter and Reynolds Streets, between 9th and 10th to 11th. In building these houses they made their own bricks. They started a brickyard where the Concordia Seminary ground is, and the Portuguese all worked together in making bricks to build their houses.

"They went to the river with their horses and chains and pulled out big pieces of stone. Some of the Portuguese were stone cutters, John Gomes especially. They brought these big stones and used them for steps, and foundations for their houses. Some of the houses they built are still in use. Many of them are rented out, and one is going to be sold - a little four-room house built by John Gomes.

"After these people came to Springfield, Mr. & Mrs. Gomes started having families, and their two daughters, Sarah and Eliza, married the DeFraties boys, Phillip and Henry. Henry and Eliza were my great-great-grandparents.

"When these people arrived in Springfield they had only the clothes on their backs. Domingues DeFraties had rolled up the Lord's Prayer and carried it in the front of her dress. It is real thin paper and hand painted in Scotland. Mr. Hickey of the State Historical Society says that it is over 200 years old, and that he knows Mr. Kalley (Rev. Robert Kalley), the missionary, had given it to her. In the middle is the Lord's Prayer, and around that is the Ten Commandments. This is how they learned to speak English, and how they prayed on the boat coming over here.

"They soon divided and part of the people built a church of their own on the Northeast corner of 8th and Miller Streets, and that building is still standing. [1979. It would be interesting to see if it is still there in 1998 when this record is being copied for this STAR GENEAL JOURNAL.] The front door and the windows, and everything on the west side of the building is the original one they built in 1850.

"The people of the First Portuguese church started to build their church on the corner of 8th and Reynolds Streets. They made their own bricks and hauled in their rocks to make the foundation, and built a big beautiful church. It was on the Northeast corner, and is now St. John's Hospital Parking Lot. The city condemned the building because they had no water, but they had a Manse next door where they had the bathroom and their kitchen where they served their dinners. The Minister lived upstairs. There is only one building (Church) left that the Portuguese built. I have a brick from the foundation of that building, and a bench made by them. If you notice it is made with pegs of wood put through, and there is a big "H" carved in the seat. The reason for that is the Second Portuguese Church united with the First Portuguese Presbyterian Church at 7th and Reynolds. They all went together and sold their church to the colored people, and the colored people called their church "The Hope Church". I received it from the Hope people.

"I have a lot of books here. They are all history, not only of my own family, but all the other Portuguese people, and many pieces of material made with Madeira lace that our families made.

"Mrs. Charlotte DeSousa gets the credit for being Mrs. Abraham Lincoln's dressmaker. The deal was, she would go to Mrs. Lincoln and get the orders and measurements and bring them home and the rest of the Portuguese women would meet at her house. Then she would sub-deal the jobs out, and they would make all of her clothes, and underclothes, all by hand with lace and embroideries. Each Portuguese woman would take a piece home, make it and bring it back.

"My grandmother helped make the dress Mrs. Lincoln wore when her husband was sworn in to be President. I've been to Washington D.C. and saw it. It is beautiful. It is in the Smithsonian building in Washington. It is dark blue velvet, and put together with bias gores down all over it, and the bias gores are made out of white satin.

"I have two quilts that were made by my great-grandmother, Mrs. Eliza Gomes DeFraties. When Mr. DeFraties died she married a Mr. Frank Martin, so a lot people knew her as Mrs. Martin. Eliza Gomes was her maiden name. One quilt, with the pink around it is not faded too bad, and looks pretty nice. The pattern is the log cabin. The next one is a nine-patch with its pieces of wool feather-stitched together to make a cover for the bed. These quilts were useable - they were not just to look pretty. I have a silver thimble that was hers, and it has her initials on it.

"I have a book with all her family members in it. In the first part of the book is a picture of the Second Portuguese Presbyterian Church at 8th and Miller. That is the church she was married in, and there is an invitation to her wedding. The invitation says that the wedding is to be at 7 and 1/2 o'clock in the evening, February 3, 1876, and the reception was after the services at 8 and 1/2 o'clock at their residence at 718 North 11th Street. That house is still standing, and still being rented out.

"I have a picture of their 50th Anniversary with all the Gomes brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. There are about 50 in this picture. I have two clocks from the DeFraties boys of Domingues two sons; Phillip married Sarah, and this is their clock. Phillip had it in his store at 12th and Jefferson. He sold white poodle dogs and goldfish. In those days, everybody and their brother had poodle dogs. He also raised Game Bantam Chickens, and there are the ribbons he won at the Illinois State Fair for his chickens.

"In Portugal, instead of having an Eagle like we have in the United States, they have the Rooster, so that it was very appropriate that he raised leghorn chickens. His roosters were beautiful, and he won lots of prizes with them.

"The pictures above are the Bringles and they also came in 1849. Mrs. Bringle was a DeFraties. The DeFraties and the Gomes married into all these other Portuguese families in order to keep the Portuguese line going. They had no papers to tell that they could be here. They were so frightened and afraid they would be sent back, they didn't tell people they were Portuguese people.

"They would tell their children not to tell that they were from the Madeira Island, 'or Grandma and Grandpa will have to go back.' Now that we are in the 7th, 8th and 9th generations very few of us know that we are Portuguese. It is a shame that we have lost all of that. As soon as they got here they started eating Springfield kinds of food, and talking the Springfield language because they didn't want to be known as Portuguese. They have lost many of their old recipes, and their old language.

"They learned to speak English by the people from the First Presbyterian Church taking them home to supper and teaching them to speak English. They gave them pencils and paper to try to teach them to write. Another family would take another group home every Sunday night. They would divide the Portuguese people into different homes for their supper and their lessons.

"For instance one family would take a DeFraties home and teach him to spell his name. A brother would go next door and the family would teach them to spell it differently. That is why we find the different spellings of the same name. Some of them couldn't understand them. They couldn't transfer it from Portuguese to English, so they got disgusted, and some of them took the name of Portuguese as their surname; some took the name of Teacher, and some took the name Smith. That is why you find Portuguese with the name Smith.

"In the 1887 City Directory of Springfield, Henry Roderick DeFraites is spelled "DeFratas." He was a policeman and his residence was 1106 Reservoir Street. I have his "billy club." It is made out of leather and is still in very good shape. It is filled with some kind of shot. The bottom is real hard, and it has a loop handle where you can put your arm through and carry it over your arm. This is what all policemen used to carry. While he was a City Policeman (in 1887) he and his buddy were chasing a horse thief around a barn. He went one way and his buddy went the other, and his buddy shot him in the heart. In those days they had no way to take the bullet out, so he had to live with that bullet in him. He lived until 1904 when he died with complications of that bullet. In the meantime he could not be a policeman, so he opened up what was an old time Saloon at 900 East Madison Street, on what is now the railroad track, in the area where Barker and Lubin's store was some years ago.

"My grandfather, Henry DeFraties, worked for the Railroad helping put down the tracks into Springfield. The Railroad company would furnish the crew a place to live along the track. As the tracks progressed, th house would be moved nearer to Springfield. The women took turns, a week or two at a time, staying out there, doing the cooking and laundry. My mother was born out there, when the house was at Curran.

"I have a little glass pitcher my Mother bought at the Springfield State Fair in 1905. It has her name on it, and the date when she bought it. While the Fair was out at the fairgrounds, they had no lights or water, so they had their downtown on the Square. Behind the pitcher is a pitcher of the carnival on the square.

"The books on this table are all books of descendants of the Portuguese. My maiden name was Whitmore, but my father was not Portuguese. Mr. Tuttle's family were not Portuguese.

"I have these Chatterton Opera House Programs. Chattertons was a large theatre here in town and it had 1000 seats - 500 down and 500 in the balcony. They did not have movies -- they had real people on the stage. We lived across the street from it, and I used to look across the street and see it. Whenever they needed a group of people to make a group on the stage, they called my mother and said, "clean the kids up and send them over." So, I have gone over to stand on the stage many times. Some of the older Portuguese people would be in the plays. They would play music. My folks would play a lot of music, and do a lot of other things on the show at the Chatterton Opera House. I have these programs here with their names on a lot of them, over a hundred programs. I also have a lot of Springfield City Directories, ten of them in the 1800s. They have all these Portuguese names and where they lived; also their business and where they went to church. There is a lot of history in those early City Directories. (Perhaps this is a good place for our present day family-hunters to look for their ancestors and collateral relatives. Idea from Ye Editor.)

"The Portuguese people came from the Island of Madeira, which is one of the Islands belonging to Portugal just off the coast of Portugal, from the coastal town of Funchal. The island has mountains and, of course, has sea coast all around, and is called the Island of the Purple soil. They raised grapes and Orchid flowers which grew wild all over the island. On the fences and by the side of the road there are vines, and in people's yards they have plants. The beautiful Madeira lace is made there, and many hand-painted dishes.

"There were seven cousins that were grandchildren of Mr. and Mrs. Gomes and Mr. and Mrs. DeFraties who organized a Club called The DeFraties Club. The Gomes girls ahd married the DeFraties boys, and that is why they called it the DeFraties Club. They met once a month, and did a lot of good. They donated an incubator to St. John's Hospital, and a lot of other things in town. Last year they bought a tombstone for Mrs. Domingues DeFrates. She died in 1907, the widow of Francisco DeFrates. He died in 1866. This year they bought a tombstone for her son Henry. He died in 1904.

"The next project we have is to build a bulletin board for the New Life United Presbyterian Church out on Sangamon Avenue. This church received the money from the sale of the Portuguese Church, about $50,000. Some of the descendants now belong to this church. Under the bulletin board we are going to put a memory box. We are having it made out of copper, and we are going to put pictures of all these churches and the names and addresses of every Portuguese that lived in Springfield before 1979. It will be buried beneath the bulletin board when they have their Open House November 18, 1979. My Open House will be November 13, 1979, which is the 130th Anniversary of the Portuguese people's arrival in Springfield.

(Should any readers of this issue of our STAR GENEAL JOURNAL, who are of Portuguese descent need information on past history of their families, Ye Ed suggests looking at the microfilm of the Springfield newspapers for these dates.)

"The Rev. Robert Kalley was also a medical doctor. He and his wife left Scotland in 1838 to go t the Orient as medical missionaries. His wife got sick and they had to stop at the first port which was Funchal on the Island of Madeira. Rev. Kalley set up a free hospital and also free schools. He paid the teachers from his own pocket. He had learned the Portuguese language when he first arrived. He then started preaching.

"In 1843 the persecution started and in 1844 he was arrested and put in jail for several months, and some of his followers were killed. In August of 1846, the persecution was so bad they fled into the mountains, and then escaped on a British ship which took them to Trinidad where they worked for the planters until they came to the United States in 1849. These were only a small portion of the ones that escaped to Trinidad, as there were well over 1000 people that left Madeira.

"Some of the Portuguese family names are: DeFraties, Gomes, Vasconcelles, Fernandes, Verre, Vieira, Affonce, Baptista, Chevers, DeCosta, DeGrastos, DeGoveia, DeGovers, DeCostes, DeMother, DeMindus, Mendonsa, Ferado, Ferreira, Lopes, Ferrira, Morris, Molone, McCabe, Nunes, Goomes, Oronello, Olivero, Portuguese, Roderigas, Stock, and Teacher.

"The 1850 Federal Census of Sangamon County has 173 Portuguese names with four born in Illinois. 130 arrived on November 13, 1849, and more came later. They escaped from the Madeira Island when they were persecuted because of their religious beliefs and went to Trinidad. From there they came to New York, then to Springfield, and some went on to Jacksonville (about 300)."

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