We are deeply grateful to the Confederado descendants of Santa Barbara d'Oeste and Vila Americana, Brazil, for keeping alive the memory of their southern ancestors who settled there. Heartfelt thanks to Judith McKnight Jones and Betty Antunes de Oliveira for all their help; to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, #1653; and especially to Fernando, Daniel , Francisco and Thomas.
John Damm, or Domm, his wife Augusta Bohne Damm and their daughter Helen Paulina, and John's brother Frank left Texas for Brazil in 1868.
The Damms settled near Santa Barbara, and their home was a popular gathering place for their fellow immigrants. They had "a great orchard and very well-maintained garden. It had many leafy arbors with swings and seesaws in the shade. It was a favorite place for the Americans to have picnics, being centrally located between the main American settlements. Like many other southerners, John was a member of the Freemasons in Santa Barbara.
"Other work for rainy days was to prepare implements. The blacksmiths had to improvise, heating the points of the plows until they were red hot and then beating them at the edges until they were suitably sharp. These chores could be done at home. For bigger jobs such as the construction of ploughs, etc., there were the brothers Domm, Frank and John, who had established themselves in the village with a well-equipped blacksmith shop." The Damms were "very good blacksmiths", according to Mrs. Jones in Soldado Descansa.1
John Damm manufactured the first steel ploughs in Brazil, together
with Henry F. Steagall, who was a woodworker and made the handles.
"So many ploughs were needed in the beginning!"1
In August of1900, John Domm died, he who "had made so many ploughs and taught so many people to use them...." When John Domm died, "a great friend disappeared, and the picnics at his place came to an end. Of course the picnics continued, but thereafter without the delightful presence of this family."1
After John's death, his widow Augusta returned to Texas with daughter Helen Damm Currie (widowed in 1889) and grandsons Von Rehder, Bertie and Bruce. They sailed from Rio de Janeiro on the Hevelius, arrived at Ellis Island on May 25, 1901, and were discharged on the dock as American citizens.
Augusta died at her home in Decatur, Texas, in 1906 and is buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.
Helen lived in Cleburne for a time, and owned a boarding house. She eventually applied for her late husband Abe Currie's Civil War pension - an interesting story in itself. Helen lived in Port Arthur, Texas, with her unmarried son Bruce until he died in 1936, then with her daughter-in-law Clara Currie, wife of Von Rehder, in Houston until her death in 1940. She is buried beside her husband in Houston.
1Jones, Judith MacKnight, Soldado Descansa! uma epopéia norte americana sob os céus do Brasil, 1967.