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Six The Baptists Southern Religion and Emigres to Brazil, 1865-1885 Wayne Flynt Migration is a familiar theme in Southern history. People leave one place and travel to another for a variety of reasons. In 1860 a young schoolteacher newly arrived in Butler County, Alabama, wrote friends that teaching in her rural locale was "a very unpleasant occupation: I do not know where we wil go to yet but we wil not be apt to stay in butler, I think it is a very good country for farming but ther is no society nor nothing elce her the people is more like hogs an dogs than they are like folks.... I will try to stay heare this year without saying much.'" Five years later, Southerners had more tangible reasons for leaving. A cycle of drought and bad crops drove the population of many parts of the South to the verge of starvation. The loss of human life and farm animals to the Civil War deepened the natural calamity. A prominent official in Calhoun County, Alabama, wrote Gov. Lewis E. Parsons: "I pledge you my word, I've never heard such a cry for bread in my life. And it is impossible to get relief up here. The provisions are not here and if they were there is no money here to buy with." He closed with the same earnest plea the hungry had directed toward him: "If any thing can be done, for God's sake do it quickly. This is no panic but real great hunger that punishes the people."2 Similar cries went up across the state. In November 1865, a Bibb County official reported nearly 600 indigent families containing 2,270 people. Conecuh County listed 728 destitute women and children on January 1, 1866. Tuscaloosa County contained 700 such families with 2,800 people. Louis Wyeth reported from Guntersville in Marshall County that three persons had already starved to death and 3,000 more were destitute. One widow with seven children had not eaten for a week. Benjamin F. Porter wrote from Greenville: "This very moment my wife is dividing our small store with a dozen ragged children who will want again tomorrow."3 Cherokee County suffered perhaps more than any other in the state. 106 Flynt Foraging armies containing tens of thousands had spent nearly two weeks there in 1864. Drought destroyed most corn crops that year and again in 1865. Thirty prominent men drafted a petition to Governor Parsons in August 1865 explaining that even once-prosperous farmers were destitute.4 The following March, citizens held a public meeting at Centre, where they drafted a resolution begging again for help. The audience contained few poor whites, who were then able to receive aid from the Freedmen's Bureau . This was a new class of poor, men who had recently been prosperous citizens. Now "we have no money, we have no cotton, we have no credit." Before, the only destitution known in Cherokee had been among the "old, infirm, decrepit, soldiers' wives, widows, their children and orphans; not so now, nearly all of all classes are in the same category." These were proud people who never before had asked for help; now all was "gloom and wretchedness and woe."5 Another public meeting in September 1866 was less specific about the source of assistance. The people who attended requested that federal Maj. Gen. Wager Swayne, Governor Parsons, and the railroads help destitute families to leave Cherokee County. One district contained twenty-three families with 147 members who were utterly destitute, without land or corn; eight of these families desired to emigrate to Texas, eight to Arkansas, five to Tennessee, and two to Mississippi. By late October many of these families had moved west.6 Tens of thousands of Alabama poor whites left their lands in the 1860s and 1870s. Between 10 and 15 percent of the entire white population of Alabama migrated out ofstate, an exodus exceeded only in South Carolina. The total probably exceeded 50,000 with a third of them heading for Texas. Many white farm laborers along the Georgia and Florida boundaries crossed into those states.7 For more affluent whites, migration had different sources. Some could not bear to remain in Alabama because residence there carried too many painful memories. A magnificent marble marker in the cemetery at the Hatchett Creek Presbyterian Church in Clay County records the death of a mother on one side and her three sons on the other...


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