The Witzels of Rio Claro
Immigration in Brazil
he process of international coming of productive forces to the country was especially strong in the south of the national territory. But in the State of São Paulo, the influences of the Germanic culture can be seen even today. In São Paulo, the coming of immigrants from Germany started in 1829 when Germans went to the city of Santo Amaro. For the Witzel family name, it is important the study of the production of the coffee.
This product has been developed during the 19th century in east of São Paulo in a region called “Oeste Paulista” and very known. There, the production was maintained for a long time, but about 1850 the coffee’s production started to go to the west of the country because the demand started to be each time bigger. At this time, the immigration to country was increased. During those times, Brazil was a country which based its production on the hands of the slaved men came from Africa, but since 1830 the international English pressure for the end of the slave’s traffic forced the great land’s owners to look for new forms of works.
The initiative came with the big farmers from the new lands where the coffee was been planted. One of the most important was the “Senador Vergueiro”, an influent farmer which created the idea of the “Colônias de Parceria” (Parcery colonies, where the colonist earned 50% of the profit obtained with the production).
With this initiative came to Brazil about 350 families of German immigrants, the biggest part was leaving their homeland because of the unification’s war.
One of these 350 families was the Witzel’s one.
So came to Brazil the brothers Konrad (Conrado was the similar name in Portuguese) and Jakob (Jacó) Witzel. There is not much information if they came by themselves or with any parents. But my family oral tradition (my mother listened it from her grandmother) says that they were also brothers of Johannes Witzel (João). I personally think that there was a man called Johannes Witzel which was their fathers, but until now I did not achieve any proofs of that. The only info I have is that the family says that there was a João Witzel, who was a Prussian soldier. Other info says that Jakob and Konrad were sons of Adam Witzel (which could be also called Johannes Adam) and Margarida Maria Witzel.
But the “Colônia de Parceria” did not work because the farmers were accustomed with the slavery. They wanted to keep the immigrants in the land, so they started to charge a big amount of money for the primary products sold in the local warehouse (which belonged to the farmer). Soon, the revolts started. The initial immigrant process stopped for a time. It would restart in 1870, when the number of slaves was pretty smaller. By this time, the immigration was a process which was developed by State, so it worked very well (coming specially Italians).
The immigration process of the South of the country was different, because the main idea there was to colonize the lands. So the immigrants received there their own lands to product.
The “Lei de Terras” (Land’s Law) and the Witzel in Rio Claro
The law concerning about the land’s ownership was promulgated on 1850, about the date in which the Witzel came to the country. By this law, it was established that the land’s ownership was not anymore a question of the State, that means: it was no longer under the control of Imperator D. Pedro II, which had power to donate lands (process similar to the colonize period when Brazil was a Portugal’s colony).
The objective of this law was to restrict that the immigrants coming to the land could obtain lands on their own, because if it was possible, they would prefer to work on their own than to a farmer.
So, it established that the land could be obtained only by free man whose could buy it. It was very restrictive, because the biggest part of the population did not have enough money or were African slaves.
But the family Witzel surpassed it. Johannes Witzel, son of Konrad, which was born in Brazil had acquired a large number of lands here. The family moved from Limeira, where was “Ibicaba” the farm of Senador Vergueiro to Rio Claro, which was a big city on those times. Here in Rio Claro, the family developed itself.
The two immigrant brothers and their parents did not achieve the objective of owning their own land. But João Witzel (son of Konrad) did. He obtained a large number of lands here by the “demandas”. He alone owned the part of the city which nowadays is called “Claret”. Totally, he did 21 “demandas” (a way to obtain land by the legal process).
The professions in the homeland and the new activities in America.
There is a family reference which claims João Witzel as a Prussian soldier. It means that he was born in Prussia, and was not Brazilian. By this evidence, I think that Adam Witzel (called to be Jakob and Konrad Witzel’s father) is actually called Adam Johannes Witzel or Johannes Adam Witzel. This fact is on accord with the registration of the immigrant’s professions’ on the homeland. On this list there are just the professions, but not the names. There are indicated 3 soldiers.
Jakob and Konrad were about 17 when they came to Brazil. On Germany Konrad was a painter (the list mentioned above list one painter between the immigrants). There is no mention about what Jakob did in Germany, but in Brazil I think that he was the most successfully.
In Brazil they started working at Ibicaba. All immigrants had been called to work as farmers. But after the moment they left the farm, a large number of activities had been done by them.
Konrad worked after that in “Paulista”: a railroad company which was very increased by the profits obtained with coffee.
In 1873 Rio Claro’s register, there are just two people with Portuguese names between the car’s renters. The other are called Jakob Witzel, Jorge Hellmeister, Mathias Hartmann, Adam Hebling, Mathias Pott and Ferdinand Hartung. He was also the owner of a building in the called “Rua Direita” (which now is called Avenida III, ruas 3 e 4) where he lived and where he created a warehouse where was possible to find food, wares and other things like these. At the back of the building there was a garage where were the trolys (a kind of old car which was pulled usually by two horses).
Jakob really liked the Brazilian monarchy and was a great adept of the Imperator D. Pedro II. Once he visited Rio Claro and Jakob transported him in one of his trolys. It was a great honor.
When the monarchy was substituted by the Republic, Jakob went to the local prison, said to all the guards to go outside and then put a black flag on it, as a protest about the proclamation.
A familiar marriage and the most interesting family character.
Jakob Witzel married two women. From the second marriage with Gertrudes Gonçalves was born Gervina Witzel. From the other side of the family, Konrad Witzel married Catarina Helsdorf , one of their sons was João Witzel, the most detached man in the family’s history here in Brazil. His history is not very known although been really detached. It was transmited to me specially bu the oral tradition in the family, but there are facts which can be determined with historical proofs (I will look for them soon).
João Witzel then married his relative, Gervina, son of Jakob.
João helped to create the “Santa Casa” (a free hospital) by selling actions of it. Actually, he was a tinker, however he made fortune by the “demandas”, getting loads of farms by 21 of them. He also had a Bible written in German and new the language, but his wife did not allow him to teach it to his sons.
Because of his “demandas”, he had lots of arguments with the family “Telles”. One of the most detached Telles was a farmer and even threatened Witzel about killing him.
In his lands, João Witzel used the slaves came from Africa, which were, at this time, extremely expensive. His daughter, Sofia (Sophya) Witzel was the one who chosen the slaves. When the slavery was abolished, he put a flag in the front of his property, it reads: “Hail Hail the Freedom!”.
He worked at his farm. He specially liked to create cows from the “holandesa’s” race, and also created bees (one of his sons, Egidio, would keep this creation – officially he died from a cancer, but the family tells that his situation had gotten worse when a bee tricked him – perhaps he was allergic to it, a characteristic which is also seen in me and was in my grandfather). Every day he milked the cows and sent the milk to the “Santa Casa” by his son, who had to go to the city.
The family was also detached by its religiosity concerning about the Catholicism. The Witzel had not been buried in the Protestant local cemetery (which was created just because of the immigration, because during the 19th century, the religion and the State were linked in Brazil). João was especially religious: he went to the church every week and if the priest made any mistake, he strived for his removal from the local church by the influences he had.
The most curious episode of his life was about a church: the “Santa Cruz”. There, he stole the project of the building because he did not agree with the way it was going to be constructed. He did not want that the tower initiate itself after the roof. Nowadays, the church is in the model he wished.
In the end of his life, in the year of 1926, he broke a leg. He then moved away from the family and friends and started to live near his animals, specially his goats. Before his death, he donate everything he had to the local church. The 21 demandas passed to the control of the Catholicism.
João Witzel, Konrad’s son who married Gervina.
Egídio Witzel – My grandfather’s father. He was son of Gervina and João Witzel.
My Grandfather – José Gabriel Witzel (Egídio’s son).
Marriage from José Gabriel Witzel and Maria Aparecida Andriolli.
From a Newspaper – Death note about Gervina, there are listed her sons and daughters.
Witzels of Rio Claro
6 - 9 - 2007