McMullan, Francis (1835–1867)

By: William C. Griggs

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

Francis McMullan, the leader of a group of Texans who moved to Brazil rather than remain under a Reconstruction government, the son of Hugh Milton and Nancy (Dyer) McMullan, was born in Walker County, Georgia, in 1835. His father was an early landowner, lawyer, and stockman in Hill County, Texas. Frank attended McKenzie College in Clarksville from 1858 to 1860. He was described by a contemporary as "a man of cool courage...and undaunted resolution" who served as an officer under William Walker in the unsuccessful 1857–58 campaign to capture Nicaragua. After serving the Confederacy in Mexico during the Civil War, McMullan joined William Bowen in a plan to take advantage of liberal Brazilian immigration terms and take 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 harassment by port authorities in New Orleans and Galveston, the colonists sailed on the brig Derby on January 25, 1867. A mutiny occurred when it became known that the ship's captain had been a party to the delays in sailing and illegal fines of colony leaders. A tropical storm resulted in shipwreck on the coast of Cuba on February 9, 1867. McMullan subsequently led his charges to New York, where they boarded the steamer North America on April 22, then sailed for Rio de Janeiro. McMullan 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. Frank 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. He never married. He was a Mason and Methodist. He died at Iguape, Brazil, on September 29, 1867.

Ballard Dunn, Brazil, The Home for Southerners (New Orleans: Bloomfield and Steel, 1866). William C. Griggs, Frank McMullan's Brazilian Colony (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Tech University, 1982). Lawrence F. Hill, "The Confederate Exodus to Latin America," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39 (October 1935, January, April 1936).

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William C. Griggs, “McMullan, Francis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 28, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995