Discovers other deposits of Fossil Fishes near these places

I found on my arrival at Crato that it would be necessary to remain there longer than I had previously anticipated, owing to the desert state of the country, in the dry season, between it and Oeiras, the capital of the province of Piauhy, at which time water and grass are so scarce, that only those well acquainted with the country would undertake this journey: I was, therefore, strongly recommended to defer leaving Crato till the rains should set in, to which advice I was the more willing to listen, finding that district a very good field for my botanical researches, and knowing well, moreover, that a journey to Oeiras at that time would yield very little. It was now the beginning of December, and the rains were not expected to set in till the beginning of February. Having pretty well exhausted the neighbourhood of Crato, I determined to visit in the interim a small town about[151] sixteen leagues distant, called Villa da Barra do Jardim, being the more desirous to spend some time at that place in order to search for a deposit of fossil fishes which were reported to exist in the neighbourhood. My friend Capitão João Gonsalvez gave me letters to his relation Capitão Antonio da Cruz, the principal person in the place, and on the afternoon of the eleventh of December I left Crato. The road for the first five leagues runs nearly eastward along the Serra de Araripe, and after having accomplished four of them we halted for the night, about eight o’clock, at a little village called Cajazeira; on enquiring for a place where we might pass the night, it being then quite dark, we were directed to a shed used for the preparation of farinha, which, besides being open all round, was but indifferently roofed; this, however, proved a better shelter than a large tree under which we first thought of encamping, for about midnight we were awakened by a tremendous peal of thunder that broke right over us. The storm continued with more or less violence for nearly half an hour, and was followed by a very heavy shower of rain, which caused me no inconvenience as my hammock was slung under a comparatively well-roofed part, although Pedro and the guide were soon obliged to change their quarters. On our arrival we found the village illuminated with several bonfires, and there was also much firing and other rejoicings, occasioned by the presence of the Visitador who reached this place during the day, intending to proceed to Barra do Jardim on the following morning. It was seven o’clock before we could resume our journey, and in an hour’s time we reached the foot of the Serra with the view of crossing it, but we first halted for a short time in order to take some breakfast, being informed that neither houses nor water were to be met with during the next eight leagues of the journey. At a distance of half an hour’s ride from Cajazeira we met a number of well-dressed horsemen, one of whom, finding on enquiry that I was the English Botanist about to visit Jardim, told me that his name was Gouvea; that he had heard of my intended visit from his friends in Crato, to which place he was then going, intending to return in the course of a few days.[152] From him I also learned that his companions had come to meet the Visitador, and escort him to Jardim; in half an hour’s time they all passed us on their return, in company with the prelate, and soon afterwards the Visitador’s troop overtook us, consisting of eight or nine horses, one of which was loaded with water for the journey across the Taboleira, as all elevated flat tracts are called in the interior. The water was carried in large leathern bags, and as I had not as yet provided myself with such an apparatus, I was contented with purchasing a number of oranges, and a few pieces of sugar cane, as very palatable substitutes, and on a short journey easily carried. The Serra is scarcely so high here as it is at Crato, but the ascent is very rugged, and in several places very steep. About half an hour after we descended the Serra we passed the Visitador and his party, all lying under the shade of a large tree, eating the fruit of the Mangába which grew abundantly around them: he kindly invited me to remain and partake of his breakfast, for which he was awaiting the arrival of his troop, but I declined his kind offer as I was anxious to cross the Serra without halting. It occupied a ride of nearly six hours to traverse this table land, which is perfectly level all the way; it is thinly studded with small trees, which give it very much the appearance of an English orchard; the soil was thickly covered with long grass, which was now dried up like hay; in many places it had been set fire to, and large tracts burned, which I afterwards found to be a very common practice in the open campos of Brazil towards the end of the dry season, in order that after the first rains a good crop of new grass may thus be obtained; it is, indeed, astonishing to witness the rapidity with which it then springs up. The vegetation on this Taboleira I found to be so very similar to that on the top of the Serra at Crato, that with the exception of a single specimen of a shrubby species of Cassia, I did not meet with anything I had not before collected; on the ascent of the Serra, however, I found a new species of Rollinia in flower. It was not till we had reached nearly the extremity of the Taboleira, that I came in sight of the valley in which the Villa da Barra do Jardim is situated, from the rich and verdant[153] appearance of which it takes the name of Jardim, or Garden. The Serra being lower on the south than on the north side, the descent is much easier, and the road is also better.

On reaching the Villa, which is nearly a league from the foot of the Serra, I found that we had passed the house of Captain Antonio da Cruz, so that we were obliged to turn back half a league, and I felt annoyed for not having sooner made enquiries, as our horses were greatly fatigued after so long a journey, performed during the whole time under a burning sun. On arriving at the house, which is attached to his Engenho, I met with a kind reception from the Captain, as well as from his son, and the lady of the latter, who was the daughter of my Crato friend, Captain Gonsalvez, with both of whom I had been previously acquainted during their visit to the latter place. My horses were immediately sent to pasture, and dinner prepared, for which I felt an excellent appetite after this long day’s ride. Aware of my intended visit, they had kindly prepared an uninhabited house in the town for my reception, to which they would not allow me to go till the following morning after breakfast.

The Villa da Barra do Jardim lies south from Crato, bearing a little to the eastward, the valley in which it is situated being about a league in length, and in its widest part about half a league broad; the town is small, in the form of a large square, three sides of which only are completed, and nearly in the centre of this square stands its only church, also in an unfinished state. At the time of my visit the surrounding country was very much burnt up, particularly towards the south; but on the north side of the town, towards the bottom of the Serra, there were many small plantations of cane, watered by small streams which take their rise in the Serra; without these the valley would then have been quite at variance with its name. Here, as around Crato, cane is the principal article cultivated, but in the neighbourhood of the Villa there are two or three very small plantations of coffee, for which the place seems well adapted, judging from their vigorous appearance, and the large crops they were said to yield; the quantity raised in this neighbourhood is not, however, sufficient[154] for its own consumption, what more is required, and indeed the whole that is consumed in other parts of the province, being imported from Rio de Janeiro. Upon asking several of the proprietors of cane plantations why they did not plant coffee in preference, seeing the much greater profit it would bring them, they all replied that, being accustomed to the making of Rapadura, they did not like to risk it for a system of cultivation with which they were but imperfectly acquainted; but the principal cause, in my own opinion, is their lazy and indolent habits, and the great horror they entertain of anything like innovation on the customs of their forefathers; were the country in the possession of an industrious people, this would no doubt become one of the richest districts in the north of Brazil.

Two days after my arrival I paid a visit to Captain Antonio da Cruz, where I learned that on a rising ground between his house and the Serra, there were often found rounded limestones, which when split exhibited the remains of fishes; two of his sons accompanied me to the spot, where I made a collection of several species more or less perfect. The place where these were found was on the slope of a low hill about a mile from the Serra,—the stone in which they occur being an impure dark-coloured limestone: I found them of all sizes, but none larger than I could lift, all were more or less rounded, having evidently undergone attrition. The place which they occupy is not above a hundred yards square, and in this extent scarcely any other kind of stone is found, but beyond it the ground is covered in a similar manner with rounded blocks of sandstone of the same nature as that which forms the mass of the Serra. Similar deposits exist along the base of the range, but all in isolated patches, as in the present instance. I have purposely deferred till now making any remarks on the geology of the district around Crato, but I must premise that the substance of what is here stated is taken from a paper read by me before the Glasgow Philosophical Society, in April 1843, and which has since appeared in the Proceedings of that Society.

Nothing like chalk, with its accompanying flints, has yet been found on the continent of North America; but in New Jersey[155] Dr. Morton has described a deposit which he considers to be equivalent to the lower or green sand beds of that formation, and to which he has given the name of “The ferruginous sand formation of the United States.” The fossil remains which it contains prove the correctness of his opinion. As regards the South American continent, it is asserted by Humboldt, that it contains neither oolite nor chalk, from the fact that no traveller who has hitherto written on the geology of that immense continent, has ever met with either; it was therefore a source of no little satisfaction to me to find that I had been the first to discover, in the new world, the entire series of rocks which constitute the chalk formation, specimens of all of which I did not fail to collect.

The Serra de Araripe, or that which runs between Crato and Barra do Jardim, is only an eastern branch of an elevated table-land which stretches continuously from the sea-coast, southward, and forms a natural boundary between the two great provinces of Ceará and Piauhy. It is generally elevated from 500 to 1,000 feet above the level of the country to the east of it, but not so much above that to the west; to this range the name of Serra Vermelha is given by the Portuguese, and Ibiapaba by the Indians. Between the 10th and 11th degrees of latitude it takes a westerly direction, and in about 47° of longitude takes a northerly sweep, finally terminating at the mouth of the River Amazon, under the equator, the country which it surrounds forming a valley of great extent, including the entire provinces of Piauhy and Maranham. This elevated range varies much in breadth, as many branches run off from it, both to the east and to the west; the top is nearly perfectly level, forming, as before mentioned, what the Brazilians call Taboleiras. The great mass of the Serra consists of a very soft, whitish, yellowish, or reddish-coloured sandstone, which in many places must be more than six hundred feet thick; and in this rock exist the nodules which contain the fossil fishes. The circumstance that first led me to suspect this rock belonged to the chalk formation, was an immense accumulation of flints and septaria similar to those of the chalk of England, which I found on the acclivity of the range during a journey[156] made along its base to the north of Crato. I now began to inquire if anything like chalk was found in the neighbourhood, when I learned there were several pits in the Serra, whence the inhabitants obtained it for the purpose of white-washing their houses; these pits I afterwards found to be situated in a deep layer of red-coloured diluvial clay, which lies immediately over the sandstone of the Serra. In a ravine near Crato I endeavoured to ascertain the formation on which the sandstone rested, when I found it to consist of several layers of more or less compact limestones and marls, with a bed of lignite about two feet thick; upon what these rested I could not at that time ascertain, but some time afterwards when I crossed to the west side of the range, I found these limestones existing upon a deposit of very dark-red coarse-grained sandstone, abounding in small nodules of iron-stone. Thus we find that the structure of the rocks in this locality is very similar to that of the chalk formation in England; there is

1st. A ferruginous sandstone deposit, equivalent to the lower green sand or Shanklin sand.

2nd. A deposit of marls, soft and compact limestones, and lignite, equivalent to the English gault.

3rd. A very thick deposit of fine-grained, soft, variously coloured sandstone, containing Ichthyolites, equivalent to the upper green sand of England.

4th. The white chalk itself, and flints occurring in pits partially covered by red diluvial clay.

Flints are very common along the foot of the Serra, to the N.W. of Crato, but none were found in any of the chalk-pits that I examined: I learned, however, that at a considerable distance to the north of Crato, at a portion of this mountain range, called the Serra de Botarité, both chalk and flints are far more abundant than they are near the former place, where they seem to have been almost entirely washed away, previous to the deposition of the red clay in which they are now found.

Since the time when these rocks were first deposited at the[157] bottom of the sea to the present period, both they and the surrounding country must have undergone various changes with respect to elevation; but before making any observations on this subject, I will point out the various places where I have met with traces of the chalk formation, besides that just described. In 1838, during my voyage up the Rio de San Francisco, which empties itself into the Atlantic between the 10th and 11th degrees of south latitude, I obtained specimens of the rock on which the Villa do Penêdo is built, and on comparison these proved to be identical with those from the upper sandstone of Crato. In 1839, I found the ferruginous sandstone of Crato extending westward thence about 500 miles, and in the year 1841 I observed at Maranham, in 2° of south latitude, and 44° of west longitude, a formation very similar to that at Crato. The whole island on which the city of Maranham is built, consists of a very dark-red ferruginous sandstone; on the main land to the westward, the same rock was observed rising a little above the sea level, but immediately upon it there exists a deposit, in some places more than 50 feet thick, of a yellowish and greenish coloured sandstone, very soft, and of a marly nature.

From these data, then, I think there can be little doubt that the whole of that immense shoulder which forms the more easterly point of the American continent, has at one time been a great depository for the chalk formation. The only other rocks that I observed in places denuded of the deposits belonging to the chalk are, 1st, gneiss and mica-slate, the layers of which crop out in nearly a vertical direction, as was frequently observed on my journey from the coast, and during my voyage up the Rio de San Francisco; and, 2nd, beds of grey-coloured clay-slate, which I passed over about 18 leagues below Crato. The whitish coarse-grained sandstone that I met with immediately afterwards, is probably equivalent to the ferruginous sandstone found on the west side of the range; from this it would appear, that between the cretaceous series and the primary stratified rocks, there are no traces either of the carboniferous or the oolite formations, nor[158] in any part of Brazil through which I afterwards travelled did I meet with any signs of them.[5]

We have already seen that the country, from the coast to Crato, is for the most part level, large portions being covered with coarse white sand or gravel of various sizes, which give it the appearance of the dried up bed of an immense river; much of this gravel consists of flints, and intermingled with them are numerous boulders of various sizes, more or less rounded, consisting of granite, gneiss, and quartz. Whenever these gravelly tracts cease to appear, the surface of the country is covered with a deposit of the same kind of red clay which lies over the upper sandstone of the table-land. To the westward of this table-land, considerable portions are covered with the variously shaped iron-stone nodules, found in the ferruginous sandstone, and which have accumulated from the decay of that rock.

I have now to offer a few remarks on the changes of elevation which this part of the continent has undergone since the chalk rocks were first deposited; it is manifest that that deposition took place at the bottom of a shallow ocean, and it admits of no doubt that at some subsequent period it has been gradually elevated above the level of the sea; it is evident that this elevation has been gradual, from the horizontal position of the strata of which the deposit is formed; for had the elevating cause been sudden and violent, their original position would not have been so perfectly maintained. The first portion that emerged from the sea was probably the long elevated table-land, which for a period must have formed a neck of land separating the Atlantic Ocean[159] on the east, from the great bay which the immense valley to the westward must then have formed.

From some of the foregoing observations it is obvious that the chalk formation at one time must have covered a very great tract of the surrounding country, and we may very reasonably conclude that it was during the gradual elevation of the land, that the action of the waves of the ocean as gradually destroyed the soft materials of which it had been fabricated. But long after this had been accomplished, and at a comparatively recent geological period, the whole country seems again to have been covered with water,—not only the nearly level country between the shores of the present sea and the elevated table-land, but even the highest parts of the table-land itself. This is proved by the thick stratum which exists on both, of a deep red-coloured diluvial clay, similar to that which I have observed to cover nearly the whole surface of Brazil, from the sea-shore to the summits nearly of the highest mountains, and which is often more than forty feet in thickness. When this is cut through it is found to consist of various layers of clay and sandy gravel, in which are imbedded rounded stones of different sizes. These have evidently been deposited from water; and in that part of the country in which we are now speaking, this deposition of clay must have taken place at a period subsequent to the inundation of the country to the east and west of the table-land. This could only have been accomplished by the sinking of the land again beneath the level of the sea, which will account for the nearly total destruction of the white chalk, as well as for those small cones of it which remain imbedded in the red clay,—that deposit having been laid down before the whole of the chalk could be washed away; since then this part of the continent must have gradually emerged a second time from the bosom of the ocean.

Part of my collection of fossil fishes were sent to the care of my much lamented friend the late J. E. Bowman, Esq., of Manchester, shortly after I found them; these were exhibited by him at the Meeting of the British Association at Glasgow, where they were seen by M. Agassiz, and although no specimens of the rocks[160] accompanied them, he immediately, from their zoological characters alone, pronounced them to belong to the chalk series. It is well known that this learned naturalist divides all fishes into four great classes, from the nature of their scales; two of these, the Ctenoid and Cycloid, never make their appearance in any of the rocks beneath the chalk, and it was from his knowledge of this fact that he decided my specimens to be from that formation, as they consisted chiefly of individuals of the Ctenoid and Cycloid groups. The fishes are in a most perfect state of preservation, and, as I have already stated, are included in an impure fawn-coloured limestone; the blocks, however, in which they are preserved, are only nodules contained in the yellowish coloured sandstone. They have in general somewhat the form of the imbedded fish, and the carbonaceous matter was apparently aggregated round them by chemical attraction from the sandstone while in a soft state; these nodules being harder than the sandstone, have, by its gradual decay, accumulated at various places along the acclivity of the range, and I possess specimens both from the east and west side of it.[6]

On the evening of the 23rd of December I had an invitation from Lieut. Col. João José de Gouvea, a gentleman to whom I brought letters, to accompany him and the Visitador to a place called Maçapé five leagues to the east of the Villa da Barra do Jardim, whither they were going to pass Christmas Day. This I gladly accepted, having been already informed that a large deposit of fossil fishes existed there. We started at eight o’clock on the morning of the 24th, and as the Visitador was not to return, he was accompanied for nearly a league from the Villa, by about half a dozen of the most respectable persons in the neighbourhood, Senhor Gouvea, his lady, and Senhor Machado, and I went on to Maçapé. At about half a league from the Villa we entered[161] a narrow ravine, wooded on each side with large trees, the branches of which were bearded with the long Tillandsia usneoides, and another large species of the same genus, but I did not observe a single Orchideous plant. This ravine is nearly half a league in length, and about the middle of it arises a spring yielding an abundant supply of cool and limpid water, which lower down is applied for the purpose of irrigation. As the ravine rises gradually, the ascent of the Serra here is less steep than by the one we passed on the road from Crato. Immediately on entering the Taboleira the vegetation changes, none of the trees seen there being found below, but I did not perceive any difference from those already observed on other parts of it. After a very pleasant ride of four hours, we reached the opposite side of the Serra, where a vast difference appeared in the vegetation, compared with that of the vicinity of Jardim; here all was green and verdant, owing to several heavy showers that had fallen a few weeks before; the trees on the Taboleira are also larger than those nearer to Jardim, and everything denotes it to be a more fertile country. From the top of the descent we obtained a fine view of the undulating but uninhabited country to the east and south. The Serra here is much higher than on the western side, and the descent is far from being an easy one; at less than a quarter of a league from it stands the Fazenda of Maçapé, which is the principal house in that place. On our arrival we found two large flags waving in the court before the house, and the Visitador was welcomed by the discharge of about a dozen guns; shortly after our arrival numbers of people, with children of all ages, began to assemble, and immediately after dinner the Visitador commenced his duties of baptism, &c. Having made enquiries for the place where the fossil fishes were to be found, I went there accompanied by Senhor Machado; after walking about half a league, we reached the spot which much resembled that near Jardim, the stones occupying a limited space on the slope of the rising ground that runs along the foot of the Serra. This site having lately been cleared and planted with cane, we had little difficulty in procuring abundance of stones, though few good[162] ones, for after nearly two hours’ work, I could obtain no more than three or four tolerable specimens, most of the remains being very much broken. On our return we found an immense crowd of people assembled, while more were arriving, chiefly for the purpose of hearing the three masses that are always performed immediately on the entrance of Christmas Day. At nine o’clock in the evening mass was said under the veranda, at one end of which a small altar was erected, brilliantly illuminated with wax candles, and surmounted by a figure of the Virgin, about a foot and a half high, elegantly dressed, with a gold chain round her neck, to which was attached a small toy watch. The more respectable portion of the audience seated themselves on the ground within the veranda, while the remaining men, women, and children were squatted in a similar manner on the area of the court in front of the house; altogether not less than a thousand persons were here assembled. After the conclusion of the ceremony we partook of a supper of fresh fish, and at ten o’clock the Visitador retired to his hammock to enjoy a little sleep, prior to the commencement of his midnight labours; I followed his example, but slept so soundly that I did not awake till after the conclusion of the mass, notwithstanding that my hammock was slung in the same confined room as that of the prelate, and the upper half of the door, which opened into the veranda, was open. No observations were made upon my apparent neglect, but I have no doubt that I was set down as a perfect heathen. In the morning mass was again celebrated, and when breakfast was over the Visitador resumed his labours. During the day the place had all the appearance of a fair; European goods, jewellery, provisions, rum, &c., were on all sides exposed for sale, and in the evening, dancing was carried on in the open air until a very late hour.

The following day I returned with my friends to Jardim, the Visitador going in another direction about two leagues distant. When about half way across the Serra, we alighted at a spot where Mangába trees abound, in order to collect some of the fruit, which is not considered good to eat until after it has fallen to the ground; on this occasion Senhor Gouvea let go his horse’s[163] bridle, when the animal, finding itself at liberty, set off at a round pace on the road towards Jardim. I therefore instantly mounted with the intention of intercepting it, and in the act of turning round, struck my head with considerable violence against the branch of a large tree, which in an instant felled me to the ground. I could remember nothing that subsequently occurred till we were within half a league of Jardim, when I awoke as from a sound sleep, and found myself on horseback proceeding along at a pretty quick rate behind my companions. I felt much sickness, and a considerable pain in the lower part of my forehead, but worse than all I found my memory almost gone, for after many attempts I could not recollect in the smallest degree where I had been, or where I was going. I recognised my companions perfectly, but could not remember their names, and though often spoken to felt no inclination to answer. In this state of darkness and confusion I rode on in silence, unconscious of where I was going, and under the impression that I was just roused from a long sleep. It was dusk when we reached the town, and though aware of having been there before, I could not remember its name, nor did it occur to me that it was then my place of residence. On parting with my friends I should not have known where to go had not Pedro been waiting for me at the end of the street, for all my recollection of places was completely obliterated. Immediately on reaching home, feeling myself very unwell, I lay down and soon fell fast asleep, and on awaking late on the following morning, found myself still labouring under a severe headache; a confused recollection of where I had been now came over me, but I could not yet remember the name of the place, and had only a faint reminiscence of having fallen from my horse. I learned, however, from Senhor Machado, who called to enquire after me, that upon falling to the ground I remained there some time in a state of insensibility, but that after a while I arose, and without speaking to any one mounted my horse, riding behind my companions all the way to the town, and answering nobody when spoken to; many days elapsed before I felt myself perfectly recovered from this accident.

[164]

Understanding that a very large deposit of fossil fishes existed at a place called Mundo Novo, about three leagues to the west of Barra do Jardim, I determined on making an excursion there prior to my departure. To effect this object it was necessary to cross a branch of the Serra de Araripe, at a point where as on the road to Maçapé, the ridge tends north and south; it is here, however, only about two leagues and a half broad. On my way I found two or three trees quite new to me, one being of large size, the Copaifera nitida, Mart., then covered with a profusion of small white flowers; its trunk yields an abundance of oil, which is employed in the cure of ulcers, and for frictions in cases of rheumatism. After crossing the Serra, I found the country still more dried up than at Jardim, the sides of the mountain exhibiting only a few green trees; along the foot of the Serra some fine large trees were seen, but as they were then destitute of both leaves and flowers I could not ascertain to what tribe they belonged; they are called Braúna by the natives, and afford an excellent timber, which is both hard and durable, being employed in the construction of sugar-mills, particularly for rollers. I also now saw for the first time, the remarkable Chorisia ventricosa, Nees et Mart., called Barriguda by the inhabitants, from the shape of its stem, which swells in the middle to five times the diameter of its upper and lower portions. About half a league to the N.W. from the foot of the Serra, we reached the first habitation on the way, which belonged to the person to whom I was recommended; he received me very kindly, and invited me into the house, which was little better than a mere hut; upon learning the object of my visit, he kindly offered to accompany me to the spot. After partaking of breakfast we started, and in about half an hour reached the place; as in all the instances I had before met with, it occupied an isolated spot of considerable extent on the gentle slope of a low ridge, which runs along the base of the Serra: here also, as in other places, almost every stone contains the remains of a fish in a more or less perfect condition; most of the smaller ones, that were only four or five inches long, were perfectly entire, but the larger ones, some of which measured fully[165] six feet,[7] were always in fragments. After three hours labour, I collected many tolerably perfect specimens, but no species different from those already obtained in other places. On returning with my companion to his house, an excellent dinner was prepared, for which he refused any recompense. The kindness I received on this occasion was indeed greater than could be expected from a person in his poor circumstances; I was glad, however, to have an opportunity of returning his civilities in town on New Year’s Day, and in presenting him with several useful articles: assuredly I shall never forget the kindness of Antonio Martins of Mundo Novo.

There are two small tribes of uncivilized Indians living within the district of Barra do Jardim, but their numbers are fast diminishing: the one consisting of eighty individuals called Huamaës, generally reside seven leagues to the south west of that town: the other, called Xocos, amounting to about seventy persons, have their usual place of abode thirteen leagues to the southward. Though generally inoffensive in their disposition, they had a short time previous to my visit been detected in robbing cattle from the neighbouring farms; they have occasionally made their appearance in the Villa, and are said to be dirty in their habits, and that when in want of better food, they will devour the rattle-snake and other serpents.

In various parts of Brazil, I met with many individuals belonging to that remarkable sect called Sebastianistas; they take this appellation from their belief in the return to earth of King Don Sebastian, who fell in the celebrated battle of Alcazarquebir, while leading on his army against the Moors. Those who profess this belief, are said to be more numerous in Brazil than in Portugal: on his return, they say, that Brazil will enjoy the most perfect state of happiness, and all that our own millenarians anticipate will be fully realized.

[166]

During my stay in Pernambuco, there occurred in connexion with this belief, one of the most extraordinary scenes of fanaticism which modern times have given birth to, and were it not well authenticated, would be almost incredible. Although much the subject of conversation in Brazil at that time, I am not aware that any public account of it has reached Europe. The following letter which is translated from the “Diario de Pernambuco” of Monday the 16th of June, 1838, was officially addressed to Senhor Francisco Rego Barros, then President of the Province:—

“Comarco de Flores, 25th May, 1838.

“Most Illustrious and most Excellent Sir,

“In this first letter that I have the honour to address to your Excellency on the state of this Comarco, which is at present tranquil, I have to lay before your Excellency the most extraordinary, terrible, and cruel circumstance ever heard of, and one which is almost past belief. It is now more than two years since a man, called Joäo Antonio, an inhabitant of Sitio de Pedra Bonita, a place about twenty leagues from this town, surrounded by woods, and near which are two large rocks, called together the people, and told them, that within those rocks there was an enchanted kingdom which he was about to disenchant, and that immediately afterwards King Don Sebastian would make his appearance at the head of a great army, richly adorned, and that all who followed him would be happy. He went on beautifying this place till the month of November of last year, when at the recommendation of the Missionary Francisco José Correa de Albuquerque, he made a journey to the desert (Sertäo) of Inhamon, whence he sent back one Joäo Pereira, a man of the worst passions, who on his arrival at Pedra Bonita proclaimed himself King, and began to instil superstitious notions into the minds of the people, telling them that for the restoration of the enchanted kingdom it would be necessary to immolate a number of men, women, and children; that in a few days they would all rise again, and remain immortal; that riches would abound among all classes, and that all those who were either black or of a dark colour, would become as white as the moon herself. In this manner he brought over many of the ignorant people to believe in his false assertions and evil doctrine, so much so that some fathers delivered over their children to the knife of the sanguinary tiger.

“On the fourth of the present month, he began his present sacrifices, and, in the course of two or three days, not less than forty-two human beings gave up their lives under his hands, twenty-one being adults, and twenty-one children; he also married every man to two or three women, with superstitious rites in accordance with his otherwise immoral conduct, this also being part of his idolatry; the result, however, was lo him melancholy, for Pedro Antonio, brother to Joäo Antonio, the promulgator of these ideas, becoming impatient of this madness, or perhaps ambitious[167] of becoming King himself, determined on assassinating him, which he carried into effect on Friday the seventeenth. It was on this day that the inhabitants, flying from place to place, gave notice of the proceedings to the Commandant Manoel Pereira da Silva, who immediately collected a small force of twenty-six national guards and countrymen, and setting out the following day, they met near the place, Pedro Antonio crowned with a wreath of flowering creepers, taken from his predecessor, and accompanied by a group of men and women, who cried aloud—‘Come on, we do not fear you, we shall be assisted by the troops of our kingdom.’

“They then advanced upon them with the bludgeons and swords they carried, killed five soldiers, and wounded five more; but being briskly attacked, twenty-six men and three women were instantly killed; and three men, nine women, and twelve children were made prisoners. The remainder, many of whom were wounded, fled to the woods. It was only on the evening of the eighteenth, that I just had notice of these disturbances, when I immediately got together forty men, and marched off at the head of them, but on my arrival, I found every thing had been quelled in the manner above related. The prisoners were conducted by my troops to this town, and the twelve children will be taken care off till the orders of your Excellency arrive respecting them.

“God protect your Excellency.

“Francisco Barbosa Nogueira Paz.”

The district of Flores lies considerably to the south of the Villa do Crato, near the Rio de San Francisco, and in the province of Pernambuco. The occurrence was much spoken of during my stay in the neighbourhood of Crato, and I have conversed with the relatives of some of those who fell victims.

On the 31st of December, a very heavy thunder-storm occurred at Barra do Jardim, followed by about two hour’s rain, the first that had fallen that season, and the same again happened on the 2nd of January, indicating that the period of the rains was on the point of setting in; I observed that in the confidence of this, the inhabitants had commenced their plantations of rice, and therefore lost no time in making my arrangements for returning to Crato in order to prepare for my journey into Piauhy. My departure from Jardim was fixed for the 3rd, for which purpose my horses were brought the night before from the pasturage and tied securely to some orange trees, with abundance of fresh grass, on which they could feed till morning, but at daybreak two of the animals had disappeared; at first, I was apprehensive they[168] had been stolen, but I despatched Pedro in search of them, and was glad to see him return, bringing the missing horses which had escaped to their old pasturage. Without any further delay I therefore started about noon, after taking leave of my friends, and reached Crato the following day.

eCommerce Basis


You may also like