Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jacob Philip Wingerter: Confederate Veteran and Brazilian Immigrant

When I researched the history of the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) I had hoped to include a chapter that discussed the soldiers’ postwar lives, however, I found it challenging at best to trace them into the postwar years. When I conducted my research, the internet was not yet available which meant I had to rely on printed indexes and microfilm. To say the least, scrolling through reels of microfilm is a tedious business, and after a time I gave up on following these veterans into the postwar years. Admittedly, weariness settled on me since I had tried to locate all 1,000 plus men in the 1860 U. S. census and the Texas tax rolls—enough was enough! Since writing my history of the 28th Texas Cavalry, I have heard regularly from descendants of men who served in the regiment. In this way, I have met a number of helpful and interesting people who have shared stories of their Confederate ancestors. The accounts about their wartime service interest me, but what happened to them after the war is often even more fascinating.

Most recently, Neusa Maria Wingeter di Santis of Brazil contacted me through the Texas in the Civil War Message Board, and what followed was a fascinating exchange about Neusa’s g-g-grandfather, Jacob Philip Wingerter. Private Wingerter enlisted in the spring of 1862 in the Freestone Freemen that soon became known more officially as Company H of the 28th Texas Cavalry. A Texas state official listed him as having zero taxable property in the state’s tax rolls, and that was the extent of my knowledge concerning Private Wingerter.

Neusa informed me that her ancestor was part of a colonizing group led by Frank McMullen to Brazil in 1867. The McMullan-Bowen Colony, according to a census of the group, consisted of 97 hardy souls; many of the men were Confederate veterans. Most traveled as families to Brazil; Jacob traveled there with his second wife, Susan, and his ten year old daughter, Amy. Jacob had already lived an exciting life; born in Bavaria, he immigrated to the United States around 1854. Settling first in Illinois, he eventually moved to New Orleans and then to Texas. His first wife and their children died as the result of an accidental poisoning, and then he experienced many hardships while serving in Walker’s Texas Division in the trans-Mississippi.

The members of the McMullan-Bowen Colony left Galveston, Texas, on the Derby, an old British vessel. These southerners left for a variety of reasons—some were concerned about postwar unrest, others hoped to escape poverty, and for others there was the lure of fertile land in a country that had some cultural similarities to the South. The little group encountered many difficulties on their journey to Brazil. They were shipwrecked near Cuba and were forced to find other transportation—this led to a trip to New York City and then, finally, to their colony near São Paulo. This fascinating story is told by William Clark Griggs in The Elusive Eden: Frank McMullan’s Confederate Colony in Brazil (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987).

Luckily, Neusa shared even more information with me about her ancestor. Before the war, he distributed religious tracts in New Orleans, and I suspect that he continued doing so in Texas and perhaps even when he served in the 28th Texas. Several years after arriving in Brazil, Dr. Edward Lane, Confederate veteran and founder of the very first Presbyterian church in Brazil, hired Jacob as a colporteur. In other words, Wingerter distributed and sold religious tracts and Bibles. According to a letter written by Mrs. Lane, “It has been no unusual thing for the colporteur to leave one copy of the Bible in a village or neighborhood, going back in six months or a year, he has been able to sell a dozen copies.” After Jacob found it difficult to ride in his later years, he worked for the American Bible Society. An admiring Mrs. Lane wrote that Jacob was “humble, patient, earnest, self-sacrificing, laborious, untiring, willing to toll anywhere, or at anything that the emergencies of the work demanded, but happier in proportion, as he was more directly engaged in extending a knowledge of the gospel.” Much of this religious information, according to Neusa, is from a book written by Dr. Alderi S. Matos who is the official historian of the Presbyterian Church in Brazil.

Neusa gave me permission to use the accompanying photograph of Jacob. It depicts him in 1914; he died two years later at the age of 83. He certainly lived a long, active, and fruitful life!

By the way, if you’re ever in Brazil on the second Sunday in April, you may wish to attend the Festa Confederada; Neusa reported that she attended the most recent one. The Festa Confederada is held alongside the Confederate Cemetery in Santa Barbara D’Oeste, São Paulo. Southern foods are served, many attendees dress in antebellum style clothing, and the heritage of the Confederacy is celebrated.


  1. My name is Liliana Wingeter Bartar and I´m also a g.g. granddaughter of Mrs Jacob Phillip Wingeter. Neusa and I (we are grandcousins)are trying to discover from where in Baviera/Germany our ancestor wa, but we are finding it very hard on account of no documents at all. If, perhaps, reading this comments, someone has some clues on the matter, please contact us through the following email I´very proud of Mr. Jacob Phillip Wingeter and so is Neusa. Thanks, Liliana

  2. 140 years ago my gg great-grandfather Jacob left the southern United States and arrived in Brazil.Through the worderful story of M.Jane Johnsson he is transported back to the fields where he battled tirelessly! I feel he contemplates us on high,smiles and humbly says to M.Jane:" Thank you, my dear,for your constructive work! Thanks for the redemption of our stories"!

    Jane,I hope you keep on presenting us with your glorius work for many years! God bless you !

    Neusa Maria Wingeter di Santis -Brazil

  3. My name is Vanessa Wingeter di Santis and I am the daughter of Neusa. We live in Brazil.
    I hear this story of my ancestor who fought in the Civil War since childhood! My mother has
    alwalys been passionate about the life of Jacob and researched a lot!
    Congratulation on your work as a researcher.

  4. Anonymous said...
    My name is Karla Wingeter , I live in Brazil . I am also a descendant of Jacob Philip Wingerter. We are one big family here in Brazil. Congratulation for your work ! We are proud of our ancestor ! Thank you !

  5. I have enjoyed reading the comments of several of Jacob Philip Wingerter's descendants! It has been a treat to highlight the postwar life of one of the veterans of the 28th Texas Cavalry.

  6. Hi, Ms Johansson. I am writing a few words just to thank you for publishing part of the history of my family in your blog. That was very significant for us, you can´t imagine it. The WingeXter family, here in Brasil, is quite big and every year almost the whole family meet together for a weekend (around 200 people). I am Soraya and Jacob Philip was my g.g. grandfather. Again, thanks a lot.

  7. Hi, my name is Giovana Wingeter di Santis. I´m in my mother's Neusa house and I just read your blog. I enjoyed it so much! I´m happy by see my ggg grandfather's history here, therefore I have been learned about it since I was a child and because I have seen my mother working hard in her research last years. Still, my three years old son already hear this history too. Then, I would like to congratulate both, Jane Johansson by the excelent presentation and my mother by recover part of our family's history!

  8. That’s a great article! I’m the fourth generation of Jacob Philip Wingerther (or you may find his name like Jacob Philip Weingarten). I appreciate the initiative of Neusa Maria Wingeter di Santis about searching his ancestors and her worry of not losing any information about her own past which is also a part of my past. Sincerely, Lucas Camolese. (

  9. It's wonderful to be acquainted with people who are so interested in their family history. I think that Jacob would certainly be impressed with the size of your family. My family is quite small and scattered nearly from coast to coast here in the USA. Your annual reunion must be quite the party!

  10. I would like to thank my sister Neusa for her brilliant research. Our ancestors are close of us now.
    Neize Wingeter Mansour

  11. As the historian of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, I had the privilege of including Mr. Wingerther's story in a book about the Presbyterian pioneers in our country. Later, I was contacted by some of his descendants and now we exchange e-mails regularly. I was delighted to read the interesting posting about Mr. Wingerther, adding new information regarding his eventful life. Thank you for making known this extraordinary individual. In the midst of incredible hardships he remained loyal to his beliefs and values. His life is an inspiration to many.
    Rev. Alderi S. Matos, Th.D.

    1. Rev. Matos-I am Robert Emerson, the great great grandson of Rev. William Emerson who went to Brazil in 1867(a confederado) and was a Presbyterian Minister-do you know anything about him? my email is thanks-Bob

  12. Wingerter's life was certainly an extraordinary one--his migrations alone make for an interesting story. I grew up as a Presbyterian (now I am a United Methodist), and I found his work for the Presbyterian church to be of particular interest. It is an honor to receive a comment from you, and I'm pleased that you enjoyed the posting.

  13. Hello. My name is Michelle Wingter, and i am a g.g.granddaughter of Jacob. We are really proud of our family. We meet every year, one better than the other, and the whole family gathered to celebrate our big and happy family, the family Wingerter. Thank you!!

  14. Hi Michelle--it is nice to "meet" you. Your family gatherings sound tremendous--I imagine that there is lots of good conversation as well as great food. Your family sounds like it is made up of many wonderful people, and I have enjoyed having so many of your relatives check in on my blog. It's been an honor to feature Jacob on my blog.