On this day in 1867, Francis McMullan, the leader of a group of Texans who moved to Brazil rather than remain under a Reconstruction government, died at Iguape, Brazil. McMullan was active in politics in Hill County before the Civil War and served as a delegate to the Texas Democratic convention in Galveston in 1860. After serving the Confederacy in Mexico during the Civil War, he joined William Bowen in a plan to take advantage of liberal Brazilian immigration terms and move a colony of 154 from north central Texas to South America. McMullan and Bowen left for Brazil in late 1865 to locate lands and decided on fifty square leagues on the headwaters of the São Lourenço River south of São Paulo. McMullan returned to Texas in June 1866. After a series of delays and misadventures, he guided the emigrants to colony lands before becoming terminally ill with tuberculosis. His colony is credited with introducing the moldboard plow and modern agriculture to Brazil. In addition, colony members established a Baptist church there and made major contributions to Brazil's educational system.
On this day in 1864, Milton Holland, of the Fifth United States Colored Troops, earned the Medal of Honor for action at Chaffin's Farm and New Market Heights, Virginia. He was born a slave in either Carthage or Austin, Texas, in 1844. After enlisting in the United States Army in 1863, he rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major and led his regiment after all its white officers were either wounded or killed. He received the Medal of Honor on April 6, 1865, and was mustered out of the service on September 20 of that year.
On this day in 1856, Father Leopold Moczygemba consecrated the first Polish Catholic church in the United States at Panna Maria, Texas. Father Moczygemba, a native of Silesia born in 1824, came to Texas in 1852 and began urging his fellow countrymen to leave the harsh economic conditions of their homeland and settle in Texas. In 1854 Polish immigrants had journeyed to Karnes County in South Texas and celebrated Christmas Mass with Moczygemba under a live oak tree at the future church site. They founded the community of Panna Maria, Polish for “Virgin Mary.” In addition to the church, pioneers also established St. Joseph’s School, the first Polish school in America, and new waves of immigration after 1865 led to the settlement of other Polish communities in the area such as Cestohowa, Kosciusko, and Falls City. Panna Maria remained a rural hamlet in the twentieth century but enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest permanent Polish settlement in the United States.