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Lansford Warren Hastings


   Lansford spent the winter of 1843 writing. During 1844 he returned to Ohio, and the next year his book was published in Cincinnati. The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California served for those bound for Oregon, but also included in the instructions was an alternative “cutoff” that would bring the traveler to northern California rather than Oregon. The Hastings Cutoff was admittedly somewhat shorter, but involved traversing some considerably rougher mountain terrain as well as the Great Salt Lake Desert.

   The first large party to use the Hastings Cutoff was the Donner party in 1846. The large caravan of families traveling by wagons, with much livestock, found themselves in the high Sierras late in the winter of 1846-1847, unable to proceed. At least half of the party of more than 80 persons died.

   Historians generally are critical of Lansford Hastings for his part in the tragedy. DeVoto, in The Year of Decision, says he was “a smart young man who wrote a book . . . without knowing what he was talking about.” He further asserts that he ignorantly or knowingly misrepresented the benefits of his route. It is true that he had traveled the trail, at least in part, but it had been with a party of men on horses rather than a party of families traveling in covered wagons drawn by oxen. It must be admitted that Hastings was overly zealous, though working for what he thought was a good cause - the populating of California.

   Lansford Hastings continued his political activities in California, working as a lawyer and judge in Sacra-mento. He was married three times and is known to have had several children. During the Civil War he was a major in the Confederate Army. After the war he went to Brazil to establish a colony for refugees from the Confederacy. He published The Emigrant’s Guide to Brazil in 1867, and was able to guide one shipload of people to their new homes in South America. He died in 1870 being taken ill at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands probably from Yellow Fever while en route with a second group to Brazil.




Lansford Hastings: Donner Party Villain?


 Mark McLaughlin


March 22, 2017


This winter marks the 170th anniversary of the tragic tale of the Donner Party. Many mistakes were made by a variety of people, but historians have labeled California land promoter Lansford Hastings as the villain in the story. Hastings was the man who steered the Donner Party wrong, enticing the wagon train to take a primitive, untried trail through the rugged Wasatch Mountains of Utah as a shortcut to the Pacific Coast. The subsequent delays and loss of supplies, livestock and wagons culminated in the pioneers reaching the Sierra too late to cross due to early snow. Hastings’ role in that decision is well understood, but the leading members of the Don-ner group also spurned sober advice from experienced mountain man James Clyman who warned them the new route was dangerously risky. Donner Party leader James Reed possessed a similar character flaw as did Lansford Hastings – both men overestimated their own leadership abilities while underestimating the chal-lenge of western terrain.

Hastings was the “expert” who briefly mentioned a new shortcut to California in his popular 1845 guidebook, “The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California.” Technically, there should have been nothing wrong with Hastings promoting a cutoff that would save time and miles on the overland trip to California. Others were also developing alternate routes and parts of the California Trail changed frequently during the 1840s. Hastings’ mistake was that he spoke confidently about a route that he had never seen himself; one that included forcing oxen-drawn  wagons  down  a  narrow,  rugged  canyon  and  then  crossing  a  deadly  salt  desert  with no water.

Donner Party leader James Reed possessed a similar character flaw as did Lansford Hastings – both men overestimated   their   own  leadership   abilities   while   underestimating   the   challenge   of   western   terrain.

Ultimately, early snowstorms hit the Tahoe Sierra in October 1846, trapping the group. Hastings’ uninformed suggestion that emigrant families could negotiate the cut-off was a reckless gamble and history has never forgiven him for it. 

So, who was this overly ambitious lawyer from Ohio who dreamed of his own empire in Mexican-controlled California? Born in 1819 in Ohio, Lansford Warren Hastings graduated from law school and practiced as an attorney; twice he was appointed a judge. In 1842, Hastings decided to travel to Oregon Country in the Pacific Northwest. He apparently left his wife and children in Ohio and joined an emigration party captained by Dr. Elijah White and piloted by the legendary frontiersman Thomas Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick had just returned from California after leading the 1841 Bidwell Party in a first, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bring loaded wagons into California.

As the White-led party traveled west, the doctor was rejected as captain after an altercation involving the killing of barking dogs. Hastings was only 23-years-old, but the young lawyer suddenly found himself captain of a wagon train comprised mostly of frontier farmers with women and children. Ironically, Hastings almost didn’t survive his first leadership role. When the wagon company reached Independence Rock (Wyoming), they all stopped to scratch their names in the sandstone surface. Hastings and another man spent so much time on their autograph for posterity that the wagon train moved on without them. A band of hostile Indians attacked Hastings and his companion, stealing their clothes and threatening to scalp them. Instead of killing them the Indians decided to hold them for ransom for more valuables from the main party. Mountain man Fitzpatrick saved the day, however, by trading some food and shiny trinkets in exchange for the two frightened young men.

After reaching Oregon City, Hastings spent the winter acting as the attorney for Dr. John McLaughlin, the gen-eral manager of Fort Vancouver. In 1843, Hastings traveled to Sutter’s Fort in the southern Sacramento Valley. John Sutter, a Swiss national, and Hastings (the first trained American lawyer to enter California) became friends. Both agreed that Alta (Northern) California should shed Mexican rule and become an independent republic. Both were strong-willed entrepreneurs who recognized that the region offered tremendous oppor-tunity for men with the vision to grab it for their own. 

Sutter and Hastings feared a British or French takeover of California, and they wanted to persuade the native Californios that an alliance with the United States would be in their best interest. The two men also wanted Americans to head west to populate northern California, where Sutter and Hastings could be leaders of an independent state and provide the American newcomers with jobs and land. It was a grand vision; one that Sutter called New Helvetia or New Switzerland.

Sutter, who had arrived in the late 1830s, had been working toward establishing his own republic for several years. After his arrival in California, he had obtained a large land grant from the Mexican government and was in the process of building a substantial fort at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers. After seeing Sutter’s fledgling dream taking root, Hastings decided to establish his own city called Montezuma, located near the mouth of the San Joaquin River. Before Hastings’ could start building Montezuma, however, he sailed to Mexico during the summer of 1844, made an overland crossing to the Gulf of Mexico, and then returned to Ohio to promote American emigration to California. 

Back in Ohio, Hastings wrote his “Emigrant’s Guide,” but he was unable to get it published. He raised money to print the book by giving a series of presentations on the benefits of western emigration; his efforts paid off when the book was released in Cincinnati in early 1845. Sales of Hastings’ book was surprisingly good and his promotional circuit took him to New York where he met Sam Brannon, a Mormon leader who was organizing a contingent of the faithful to sail for California. Hastings’ told Brannon about “Montezuma” and encouraged him to bring the Mormons to northern California. 

In August 1845, Hastings returned to Sutter’s Fort so that he could meet Mormons and other emigrants who he anticipated traveling to California the following year. In the spring of 1846, Hastings’ headed east along the California Trail and finally saw how dangerous his shortcut was. Tragically, his confidence was not shaken at the thought of families breaching mountain canyons and stumbling across parched deserts. It was a reckless decision that led to the Donner Party meltdown and their demise in the Sierra snow. Just 20 years later, follow-ing the Confederacy’s loss in the Civil War, Hastings wrote another guidebook and established American plan-tation colonies in Brazil, but that’s a story for another day.

Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-win-ning books are available at local stores or at You may reach him at: Check out his blog at or read more at

     Lansford Warren Hastings was an important writer because he wrote a book that was considered significant in the history of the American West. He was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1819, the son of Waitstill and Lucinda (Wood) Hastings. Lansford studied law and in 1842, at age 24, was a practicing attorney in Mount Vernon. During that year a Dr. Elijah White came through Knox County with a company of emigrants on their way to Oregon. Hastings joined the group. He readily adapted to the pioneer life style, and he soon became a leader in the company. 

     Hastings’ activities are well recorded in the lore of the early west. Irving Stone, in Men to Match My Mountains says, “About June 20, 1843, a twenty-four year old lawyer by the name of Lansford W. Hastings from Mount Vernon, Ohio, a bright, handsome, strong-jawed, fast-talking opportunist, reached the northern California border.”

   Actually Hastings arrived first in Oregon where he assisted in laying out and planning Oregon City, the first American town on the Pacific coast. He also tried his hand at fur trading and salmon packing. Finally he moved to northern California Territory where he became a business partner of John Sutter and became involved in land development. The success of his endeavor depended upon attracting emigrants to Cali-fornia. What was needed was a guide book that would show the way, and Hastings accepted the task.

The Emigrants’ Guide to Lansford Hastings

California was the “Promised Land” in the mythos of the American West.  In the mid-nineteenth century, reports of its beautiful open lands and precious metals captivated would-be settlers seeking prosperity and renewal.  From 1846 to 1854, the non-native population swelled from 8,000 to 300,000. After 1848, gold mania was the largest contri-butor to the boom, but in earlier years, the catalyst was a single individual: young Ohio-born lawyer Lansford W. Hastings.

Prior to 1846, Oregon, not California, was the apple of the pioneer’s eye.  The Oregon ter-ritory, then disputed by Britain and the United States, was popularized by the famed Oregon Trail and considered to be a more stable alternative to Mexican rule in California.  Hastings abandoned his old life and career for Western adventure just as earnest debate over the relative merit of the two regions was beginning.  The young newcomer led overland exped-itions into both Oregon (1842) and California (1843), reinventing himself as a trusted auth-ority on western migration.


































It was not uncommon for California and Oregon emigrants to carry Hastings’ guidebook among their belongings. Jacob Donner (who died in the ordeal) was said to have kept a marked-up copy in his saddlebag, though the item was never recovered by rescuers. Story-tellers continue to assert that the Donners fell behind because they took a disastrous short-cut “promoted” by the book. This so-called “Hastings Cutoff” directed emigrants to leave the main California Trail at Fort Bridger and travel southwest around the Great Salt Lake, saving 400 miles of journey.

The claim of the guidebook’s influence is based on weak evidence. Only one sentence in the text references a Salt Lake shortcut, and represents only the author’s speculation, not his personal experience: “The most direct route, for the California emigrants, would be to leave the Oregon route, about two hundred miles east from Fort Hall; thence bearing west south-west, to the Salt Lake; and thence continuing down to the Bay of San Francisco.” Vague references to a “route via Salt Lake” were common in American travel literature during the time.

That spring, after learning that military officer John C. Frémont had actually explored a viable Salt Lake cutoff, Hastings resolved to personally guide wagons from Fort Bridger through this alternate route. Under his leadership, the Harlen-Young party painstakingly trail-blazed a real “Hastings Cutoff” and pushed into California. The Donners, however, arrived a week too late to travel with Hastings. The explorer pinned notes to rocks and trees to advise the stragglers, but the party fell more and more behind amidst the grueling and unsafe terrain of the Wasatch Range and the western Utah salt flats.


It is said that surviving members of the Donner Party cursed Hastings’ name when they emerged traumatized from the mountains the following spring, despite the fact that several others (including famed mountain man Jim Bridger) had also encouraged the party to take the shortcut. The vitriol has continued into the present day: Frank McLynn, author of Wag-ons West: The Epic Story of America’s Overland Trails (2002), calls Hastings an “irres-ponsible liar and fantasist.”  He has also been dubbed “the Baron Munchausen of travelers” and “the Sam Houston of California.” The latter charge originates from a single hearsay account that Hastings met with Sam Houston in Texas for advice on how to establish Cali-fornia as an independent republic under his own rule.  In 1970, historian Thomas F. And-rews proved that it was extremely unlikely Hastings and Houston conspired together, but the rumor persists in current accounts. In depicting Hastings as a man who put ambition before safety, Donner Party storytellers have a convenient scapegoat for “the most bizarre and spectacular tragedy in Californian history.


Western history’s obsession with the Donner Party has distracted almost everyone from the actual consequences of Lansford Hastings’ existence.  His role in directing significant pre-Gold Rush settlement to California marked a turning point in Western migration, and his maligned cutoff was eventually used again by early Mormon pioneers, permanently swaying the social demographics of the region. Yet the misconceptions do not always correct in his favor. Hastings was also an opportunist, a contrarian, and a scoundrel, but for far more interesting reasons than are commonly parroted in Donner Party accounts. Later in his life, Hastings became one of American history’s strangest enigmas: the non-Southern Conf-ederate.

domain for the new “Confederados.” He then returned to the United States to publish a new book: The Emi-grants Guide to Brazil. Under Hastings and others like him, 20,000 ex-Confederates sailed to various settle-ments in the South American rainforest to start anew. Hastings attempted a second voyage in 1870, but died of a fever at sea.

Hastings’ plan for Brazilian migration directly mirrored the one for California two decades earlier, down to the identical titles for his guidebooks. As in California, Hastings’ followers lingered at their new land. In 1940, a writer was able to track down three of the original Santarém emigrants. Thousands of descendants there and at other “Confederado” settle-ments remain today.  All have assimilated completely into Brazilian culture except for one thing: an affection for the Confederate battle flag. At Santarém, and more famously, a town called Americana, bars and homes proudly display it.


Once in a while, a character surfaces in history who almost needs to be seen to be believed. Lansford Hastings was one of these riddles, and the lesser-known aspects of his life are arguably more fascinating, impactful, and even sinister. Critics of Hastings continue to misplace their attentions on the Donner Party incident when rendering judgment on his character. This judgment, even if near the mark, cannot be made without an examination of the fuller picture.









Thomas F. Andrews, “The Ambitions of Lansford W. Hastings: A Study in Western Myth-Making,” Pacific Historical Review, 39:4 (1970), 473-491

Thomas F. Andrews, “Lansford W. Hastings and the Promotion of the Salt Lake Desert Cutoff: A Reappraisal,” Western Historical Quarterly, 4:2 (1973), 133-150

Cyrus B. Dawsey and James M. Dawsey, eds., The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil (University of Alabama Press, 1995)

Lansford W. Hastings, The Emigrants Guide to Oregon and California, 1845

Frank McLynn, Wagons West: The Epic Story of America’s Overland Trails (New York: Grove Press, 2002)


In 1845, Hastings published one of the earliest overland guide books, The Em-igrants’ Guide to Oregon and California.  To cover publication costs, he traveled across the Midwest giving temperance lectures, one of many testaments to his astounding knack for travelling.  Has-tings ultimately “chose” California as the place he recommended personally to travelers beginning their journeys on the Missouri frontier.  According to one Western historian, Hastings and his guidebook “had focused attention upon California as no one had before.” The result was the “overland exodus of 1846,” the first mass migration since 1841 to focus exclusively on California.

Bringing up the rear of the 1846 wagon train was a small group headed by the families Donner and Reed. Because of a series of delays after setting out from Fort Bridger, Wyoming in late July, the pioneers became trapped by winter snowfall in the high Sierra Nevada mountains. Before their rescue the following March, many of the group resorted to cannibalism. Lansford Hastings’s supposed role in this tragedy villainized him to the point where even persuasive attempts at rehabilitating his character have been ignored by recent historians.

In 1864, Hastings, born a “Northern Yankee” and friend of some of the West’s staunchest Unionists, traveled to Richmond, Virginia to meet with Confed-erate president Jefferson Davis. The “schemes” that the explorer could be acquitted of in the 1840s were now a real ambition: he hoped to capture “the most valuable agricultural and grazing lands” of the Calif-ornia and Arizona territories and annex them into the Confederacy under his leadership. The War Depart-ment never granted funds for the plot, but Hastings was commissioned as a major in the Confederate army as consolation.

The war ended just a year later, but Hastings surpris-ingly stuck to the “Lost Cause” for which he had no natural or coherent attachment. In 1866, with the permission of Emperor Dom Pedro II, Hastings re-cruited disgruntled Southerners to migrate to Brazil and set up new communities. The explorer chose San-tarém, Para, near the Amazon River, as his personal 

Lansford W. Hastings
By Lee O. Pendergraft
hASTINGS 1.jpg

The son of Waitstill and Lucinda Wood was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio in 1819.  He was a remarkable man whose scurrilous lifetime of adventures reads more like fiction than truth.  Lansford Warren Hastings began his adult life practicing Law in his home town in 1842.

In 1842 Dr. Elijah White, Columbia Lancaster, Lansford W. Hastings, and Asa L. Lovejoy were selected as a “scientific corps” to lead an expedition to Oregon.  Hastings was elected as the leader of one of the first wagon trains to journey into Oregon.  At the early age of 24, Lansford joined a company of pioneers organized by Dr. Elijah White en-route West to Oregon.


During this historic episode both he and trail guide Asa Lovejoy were captured by Indians while etching their names on the face if Independence Rock near Alcova in southwestern Wyoming.  Members of the wagon train paid the Indians a ransom to save both men.  Once in Oregon, Hastings was hired by the head of the Hudson Bay Company as a surveyor where he assisted Dr. John McLaughlin by laying out the plan for Oregon City on the Willamette River. The town was America’s first official development on the Pacific coast.  Lansford Warren Hastings is also credited with significant influence convincing settlers in Oregon to join the United States.

While there, Hastings delved in salmon packing as well as the fur trade.  He also met John Sutter and ventured into his first effort as Sutter’s land development partner by recruiting fifty three emigrants to settle in California.  Then he traveled to California, where he saw an opportunity for leadership and power.  He had grand dreams.  Hastings yearned to emulate the late bombastic Texan, Sam Houston, and to become the leader of a new nation by bringing settlers to the West Coast of North America.  He sought support to overthrow Mexican rule in a quest for the Presidency of the new California Republic.  

During their journey, these settlers were attacked by Indians.  The beleaguered group finally arrived at Sutter’s Fort in July and Hastings immediately decided to speculate on the future by making land claims.  He posted a Mexican land grant claim in an upper Sacramento River canyon, which would eventually become Shasta County.  However, his claim was not granted because Hastings refused to forfeit his American citizenship.  Hastings extolled the virtues of the region and was successful in attracting hundreds of families to settle in Northern California.  He clearly believed American pioneer settlement to be essential to his designs for independence from Mexico.  

In the winter of 1843 - 1844, Hastings spent his time writing after which he returned to Ohio and published The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California (1845).  His pamphlet included instructions for using the alternative “Hastings Cutoff” through the mountains in-route from Utah to Northern California, now more infamously identified as the Donner Pass.  

In 1844 Hastings left California and traveled to Washington D.C. and New York City.  There was speculation that he also met with President Polk to discuss future plans for developing California.  As a result, he gained national notoriety as a young man for leading a group of American settlers from Oregon to California in order to occupy territory already belonging to Mexico.  There are historians who also believe that Hastings originated the idea of leading the movement to make California an independent country.  As it happened, despite Hastings dreams; after the 1846 war between the United States and Mexico the region was annexed to the North-American federation.  Hastings also served as a Captain in the California Battalion during the Mexican-American War. 


Tragically, Hastings also played a major role in the nefarious events of the Donner Party disaster. While the cutoff was somewhat shorter, it involved crossing through significantly more difficult mountain terrain, at a higher elevation, as well as the Great Salt Lake Desert.  In 1846 he and two companions stopped at the Sweetwater River, where they waited for the year's emigration to arrive.  An eastbound traveler agreed to carry Hastings' open letter to emigrants on the trail, inviting them to meet him at Fort Bridger.  From there, Hastings said he would lead them on a new route that would significantly reduce the time and distance.  Hastings also fell ill while attempting to traverse this narrow and treacherous shortcut he had recommended in his Emigrants Guide


Sixty to seventy-five wagons traveled with Hastings on this cutoff and arrived safely in California.  However, the Donner Party, which came after him, did not. Their large caravan of families was caught by heavy snowfall in a late winter storm of 1847.  Trapped in the high Sierras, at least half of the contingent of about eighty perished.  It was reported that a member of the party had to be physically restrained to prevent him from killing Hastings after the starving survivors were rescued.  Without question this tragedy marked an end to Hastings dream for political power in the American West.  Subsequently, writers and historians have been justifiably critical of Hastings for claiming covered wagons could traverse the mountain pass he had only explored on horseback. 1


Hasting’s first wife was Catherine McCord.  There are no other recoded details.  His second marriage was to Charlotte Catherine Toler at Sutter’s Fort near Sacramento in California on July the 19th of 1848.  Charlotte was born into a diplomatic family.  Her father originally came from Virginia.  She was born in Venezuela while her father served as U.S. Consul.  Her mother was from Buenos Aries, Argentina.  Still influential in territorial affairs in 1849, Lansford was sent a delegate to the California Constitutional Convention.  In the late 1850’s the family re-located to Yuma, Arizona, where he serve as a territorial judge and postmaster.  Lansford and Charlotte had several children.  


During the War Between the States, Lansford served in the Confederacy.  In 1864 Hastings met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond to solicit support for separating California from the Union.  President Davis also promoted him to the rank of Major in the Confederate States Army during their meeting.  After the War, Hastings revived his dream of Empire building with an overly ambitious plan for a new colony in the Amazon.

Hastings married for a third time to Janice (Jennie) Mendenhall, on March the 5th of 1862 in Alabama.  A little more than three years later Hastings recruited a group of forty-two disaffected Alabamians and set sail aboard the schooner Neptune from New Orleans for Brazil on December the 27th in 1865.  His bad luck continued to stalk the entrepreneur, however.  On January 4th the ship was driven aground during severe storm only twenty-six miles from Havana on the Cuban coast.


Unlike other entrepreneurs who spent months planning the trip to Brazil and made every possible arrangement with the government before venturing for South America, Hastings was in no mood to delay his fervor to exit the United States.  Undaunted by the wreck of the Neptune, Hastings organized yet another group of thirty-five Alabamians who boarded the steamship Marker on March 26th in 1866.  They set out from Mobile for the Amazon.  And, once again tragedy struck.  Within days of departure, smallpox appeared on board. Hastings ordered the ship to return Mobile where they were immediately placed into quarantine. The sickness claimed eleven lives among the would-be immigrants.


Not to be deterred, before Hastings departed for Brazil, this time without a sponsor. He had conferred with the Brazilian consul in New York, presenting credentials from Californian Senators as a preemptory introduction aimed at further seeking influential persons with political connections in Brazil.  Hastings departed from New York on the North America on April 30th and arrived in Pará (Belém) on May the 16th where he was provided with an interpreter.  This American was identified by Hastings only as Mr. Colyer.  Hastings left for the interior on the steamer Alice that same evening.  Four days later, the ship docked in Santarém.  He proceeded to explore regional locations which showed great promise for the site of his colonial venture.  Hastings was not content to only consider the immediate surrounding countryside, however.  He continued up the Amazon River until May 23rd and then went back down River to the Atlantic port city of Pará (Belém), where he made independent arrangements with the Imperial Governor from the Provence if Pará to obtain a land grant in Santarém. 


Successful in his endeavor, he returned to the U.S. and acted as a self-appointed promotor and agent, recruiting colonists for his venture in the Amazon.  Publically known for his CSA service record, Southerners were highly influenced by his publication of The Emigrant’s Guide to Brazil (1867).  Exaggerated descriptions about the Amazon made the region seem to be a highly favorable alternative for settlement; enticing the both former Confederates and other international immigrants to join his fledgling enterprise. 


His efforts were minimally successful.  The first, small contingent of emigrants to Brazil departed aboard the steamer Margaret which sailed from Mobile Alabama on the 24th of March in 1866 under Capitan W. Mathews. Passengers aboard included the Daniel, Graham, and Harrison families and four single men – named Perry, Routh, Simmons, and Sparks. 2


Hastings sailed again from Pará, for Rio de Janeiro on June 28th, arriving at the capital city on July 16th where he presented letters of introduction from the Brazilian Consulate in New York and the Governor of Pará to Imperial Government officials ln order to obtain approval for the conditions specified in his land grant contract from the Brazilian Secretary of Agriculture.  With his business in Rio complete, Hastings sailed again for Pará where he finalized his agreement with the President of the Province.  


Once negotiations were satisfactorily completed, Hastings sailed once again for Santarém on the steamer Ideas along with some of the Texas passengers from the Margaret which including Messrs. Barr, Carr, Chafee, and Sparks, along with Felix Demarest from Louisiana.  These men proceeded to conduct a thorough survey of the region around Santarém.  


In Confedrados Em Santarém, Norma Guilhon wrote: Following a dinner in honor of the prospective immigrants, “one Brazilian woman expressed her heartfelt sympathy for the Americans who were compelled to abandon the homes of their fathers, and openly declared their trust in God that they may find a home of peace and quiet to in this prosperous and happy country”.  Hastings traveled back to the Capital in the Province of Pará on November the 7th where he signed a contract with the president of Pará.  The contract validated establishment of his colony in the Amazon.  Then Hastings sailed for United States on the 12th of November; arriving in New York on November 30th and then back to Mobile on December the 15th of 1866.  Hastings claimed to have traveled over 19,000 miles for this undertaking, with over 10,000 of the miles being in the Empire of Brazil.


Meanwhile, Hastings agents were busy soliciting prospective colonists as Hastings was making final provisions for his grant of sixty leagues (185,200 sq. hectares or 457,687 acres) of land just to the south of the town of Santarém.  Several advertisements had been published announcing a departure originally planned for July 10th after which Hastings was subject to a $100 per day penalty against subsidies from the Brazilian Imperial Government. Local newspapers reported about ninety persons from potential emigrant families had begun to arrive in Mobile as early as July 6th seeking passage.   


Among those assembled were his third wife and the rest of Mendenhall family were among those who joined this colonization group organized by Hastings to emigrate to Santarém in Amazon.  On the evening of July 13th in 1867, a total of 109 colonists boarded the sidewheel steamer Red Gauntlet bound for Brazil.  They quickly ran into mechanical trouble while just barely out of the bay off shoe in the Gulf of Mexico.  Their ship returned for overnight repairs on the 14th and departed again on the 15th in the morning.    


However, upon arrival at their first port of call in St. Thomas the U.S. Virgin Islands for re-provisioning, a hint of Hastings former problems returned.  The Red Gauntlet had still more mechanical issues, and likely due to the repairs made in Mobile, there were also inadequate funds available to pay the crew.  According to one account, the United States Consul in St. Thomas refused to allow the ship to continue on its journey.  He impounded the vessel and ordered it sold to pay the crew their wages.  As a result, the colonists were stranded in St. Thomas for more than a month.  Although he was reported as ill, Hasting’s eventually managed to work with Brazilian authorities to obtain sponsored passage for the colonists on the South America, a regularly scheduled mail-packet vessel en-route between New York and Pará [Belém] which then also continued on to Rio.

Somehow, after the South America sailed on to Brazil, the Captain of the Red Gauntlet must have obtained a bottomry loan for repairs.  The ship was apparently repaired because it returned to Mobile.  Hastings must have returned to Mobile as well.   


After the American colonist arrived in the Brazilian port of Pará [Belém] on September the 7th in 1867, the Brazilian Imperial Government made transfer arrangements to take them aboard the River Barge Inca.  But, due to limited cargo capacity of Amazonian based transport, they departed in two separate groups.  The first of smaller contingents, with about ninety, boarded the Inca; which departed Pará [Belém] one week later on the 14th and arrived at their final destination in Santarém on the 17th of September in 1867.   The second contingent departed on the 20th aboard an unknown smaller river steamer which arrived on the 23rd.


But, since Hastings failed to recruit the required number of Colonists for his first trip, he returned to the U.S., apparently having not continuing on with his first group to Brazil.   Somehow he coordinated a second group, which and once again departed from Mobile in aboard the Red Gauntlet at the in August.  Newspapers reported this group had also once again become stranded in St. Thomas.  This time the Red Gauntlet arrived with three dead crew members and both the Captain and Hastings were ill, likely from Yellow Fever.  After quarantine, the colonists some of the colonists also boarded the same mail packet steamer the South America about the 2nd of September.  And this time, by the end of the month, the Red Gauntlet was auctioned and sold.  When the second group of colonists finally arrived in Santarem in December of 1867, they also reported that Hastings had died of Yellow Fever in St. Thomas.  The colonists were left without a leader, and elected his father-in-law Judge Mendenhall to represent them. 





  1. Beginning of the West – Louise Berry

  2. 2)  Harter, Eugene C., The Lost Colony of the Confederacy, Texas A&M University Press, 2000

  3. - Lansford Hastings   Note: Wikipedia erroneously reports that Hastings died in 1870.

  4. - Knox County Historical Society, Mount Vernon, Ohio - Lansford Hastings

  5. - Lansford Hastings

  6. - Lansford Hastings


hASTINGS 1.jpg

The descriptions made about the Amazon were favorable, which made the region a possible alternative for the arrival of these immigrants. The initiative for this undertaking was assigned to Major Warren Lansford Hastings (1818-1868). A native of the American state of Ohio, he gained notoriety as a young man, leading a group of American settlers who traveled from Oregon to California to occupy the latter territory, then belonging to Mexico.  Hastings published a book about this adventure: The Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California. There are those who believe that Hastings thought of the possibility of leading a movement in California to make it an independent country, an idea that would have fallen to the ground after the war between the United States and Mexico in 1846, when the region was finally annexed to the federation North-American. In any case, the Pathfinder helped to expand the population of Americans relative to that of Mexicans in that territory. After marrying Charlotte Toler, whose mother was Venezuelan, Hastings moved to Arizona.  During this period he also acted as a lawyer specializing in land titles. Perhaps his interest in South America came at this time. 

Aligned with the Southerners during the Civil War, Hastings devised a plan to take Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico to the Confederates, to which he also fought. With the defeat of the Southerners, Hastings traveled to Mexico and then to Brazil, checking places to establish colonies of confederates such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo. But at that moment, as we have already observed, the prestige of the Amazon as a region to be explored, with availability of natural resources and lands, prevailed.

In 1866, Major Hastings arrived in Belém do Pará and soon afterwards he crossed the Amazon River in a steamboat of the Navigation Company of the Amazon River (belonging to Barão de Mauá), with the purpose of knowing the region. Hastings was thrilled with what he saw, the high-value woods and agricultural produce produced in the riverside towns: coffee, cocoa, sugar, rice, cotton, beans, and tropical fruits. In return, Hastings and his entourage had an excellent impression of Santarem (in the above picture, the city in 1858), considering the place in good condition to receive American immigrants.

In 1866, Major Hastings arrived in Belém do Pará and soon afterwards he crossed the Amazon River in a steamboat of the Navigation Company of the Amazon River (belonging to Barão de Mauá), with the purpose of knowing the region. Hastings was thrilled with what he saw, the high-value woods and agricultural produce produced in the riverside towns: coffee, cocoa, sugar, rice, cotton, beans, and tropical fruits. In return, Hastings and his entourage had an excellent impression of Santarem (in the above picture, the city in 1858), considering the place in good condition to receive American immigrants.

Claiming expenses and problems during the trip, Hastings demanded an extraordinary payment and that he be appointed director of the colony with the right to salary. However, it had not been able to comply with the six-month deadline for the colony's implementation. Anyway, a new contract was being arranged between Hastings and the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, where the North American would be named director of the center in Santarém and receive a good annual bonus. But an unexpected fact prevented the implementation of this new agreement. On the return trip to Alabama, in 1868, to bring in new settlers, Major Hastings passed away!  (From yellow fever in St. Thomas.)

Santarém at the time of the North American presence

USS MARGARET   -   Manifest
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16.  XXXX

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The Red Gauntlet (Built 1864) -leaving-Craigendoran, Great Britain.  After numerous problems the Hasting's Colony finished the trip aboard the South America


The Red Gauntlet

By Lee O. Pendergraft

The British side wheel paddle steamer Red Gauntlet was built to be a blockade runner for the Confederate Navy on January 3rd in 1865.  Launched from John Scott & Sons of Greenock in the Cartsdyke Yard in April of 1864; it successfully ran the Mobile blockade from Havana under Captain Lucas, early in August that same year.  The ship also served as a troop transport, only to be trapped by the Union on the Tombigbee River at Gainesville in Alabama by June of 1865. 1


Somehow the vessel made it back to Mobile by June of 1866.  It was sold at auction by John Hardy, the Federal Marshal, in the Federal District Court there.  Notices were published in the Mobile Daily Times on Friday the 22nd of June.  The Times notice also advised of the same notice being published daily in The Times and Picayune of New Orleans. 2  


On December 12th, The Evansville Daily Journal [Evansville, Indiana] published a short editorial entitled: Miscellaneous, notifying the readers that - The following blockade runners were sold at Mobile by the United States Marshal: The Mary was knocked down to Col. Martin at the insignificant sum of $66,666.  She cost the magnificent sum of 20,000 pounds sterling.  The Red Gauntlet was bid in by Charles Cameron, of New Orleans, for the small sum of $3,200.  She cost 12,000 pounds sterling.  The gentlemen who purchased these fine steamers have not yet determined to what use they will convert them.  They have laid in the river opposite Mobile since the close of the war, and the names of the Mary and the Red Gauntlet are familiar to every Confederate in “Dixie Land.”  The Red Gauntlet was originally built for the opium trade, but failed by a few knots to meet the speed required, and was sold to the Confederate Government. 3

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Hastings First Group


An advertisement promoting passage to Brazil aboard the Red Gauntlet was published in The Mobile Daily Times, on June 20th of 1867, promoting preparations for the Southern empire [Brazil]. 4 


On June 22nd J. M. Hollingsworth of 40 South Commerce Street published an advertisement in the Daily State Sentinel (Montgomery) announcing that the fast, first-class and light draught sidewheel iron steamship Red Gauntlet would sail from Mobile for Pará in Brazil on the 15th of July at 10 A.M. Passage was priced at $100.00 including freight. As booking agents would typically do, limited space was mentioned as well. 5    


The Selma Times and Messenger also published a short notice that emigrants had arrived in Mobile on the 6th en route for Brazil. The notice declared the Red Gauntlet would sail with about ninety pas-sengers for Pará on July 10th of 1867.  It further mentioned that Hastings would be subject to forfeit of $100.00 per day if the ship did not sail as scheduled.  Additionally, there was mention that more daily applications were arriving than could be accepted. [This statement was likely a promotor’s trick].  The Mobile Times was also quoted: “The emigrants that go with Major Hastings are going to a part of Brazil were, he informs us, there are neither mosquitoes, bed bugs, ticks, not fleas unless emigrants take them along.” 6


The Clarke County Democrat [Grove Hill, Alabama] published a column informing readers that the Red Gauntlet, flying English colors [Flag], under command of Major Hastings, left Mobile on the 13th with about 114 emigrants on board. The ship was in distress at about twenty miles offshore and returned to the shipyard during the evening of July 14th in 1867.  Commodore Armstrong [The Naval Officer in command of the shipyard] was quoted as stating: “all facilities were afforded the steamer to repair, and that is would require but a few hours labor” adding a quotation taken from the Pensacola Observer which commented on the 16th of July that somewhat prophetically predicted the eventual plight of about half of the passengers aboard the Red Gauntlet: “She is doubtless now on her adventurous voyage, carrying from their native soil many hearts which will ere long wish to return.” 7


On the 22nd of July, the Memphis Daily Post published a very short notice: Emigrants for Brazil. To the number of one hundred and three, known as “Major Hastings Colony” sailed on the 18th from Mobile, in the steamer Red Gauntlet. However, this number does not agree with the number of passengers reported by other sources, which claimed there were one hundred-nine. 8   


On September 24th, The Weekly Advertiser published a notice entitled By the Cuban Cable.  It read: St. Thomas Sept. 2, via Havana, Sept. 14th – The steamer Red Gauntlet vainly seeking bottomry [a loan for repairs - with the ship for collateral], her passengers went [to Brazil] per the South America. 9  

At the end of October, The Weekly Advertiser [Montgomery, Alabama] also published a column about the content from a letter written to the newspaper by Mr. R. H. Snow from Montgomery. The letter was written in September on the Island of St. Thomas, further informing the paper about the situation with the Red Gauntlet.  Mr. Snow reported that the steamer was about to be sold and passengers were proceeding to their destination aboard a very similar the side wheel steamer named the South America.  Their passage had been secured by the Brazilian Government.


Mr. Snow also informed the newspaper that there had been sickness aboard and three of the crew had died.  The deceased were listed as: Mr. Holly, a steward who had family in Mobile; George Alan, an assistant steward, also from Mobile, and Stewart Burns who was described as a coal passer [stoker].  The Captain Charles Cameron was sick; as were two of the passengers, Messrs. Kelly and Mooney. Hastings was also mentioned as being sick, but he must have recovered because he returned to Mobile and gathered an additional group for the colony in Santarém.


 Newspaper articles and notices vary in accuracy, but it appears Hasting first group departed from Mobile originally on 18th of July.  There is no further information as to where or when he was actually buried. Also note: there is no record of either Mr. Kelly of Mr. Mooney arriving at the final destination in Santarém.  Although, if they did not die or stay in St. Thomas. It is also possible they may have remained in Pará [Belém], or joined others who crossed paths in transit through that port on their way to Rio. 10

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Friday, the 1st of November, The Montgomery Advertiser posted a short notice that the editor had learned from a letter published in the Mobilian that Major Hastings Alabama colonists had arrived in Brazil after being stranded in St. Thomas.  They were in great distress because the Red Gauntlet was mechanically disabled.  This notice also mentioned an un-named New York packet [mail ship] [which we know from Mr. Snow’s letter was the South America] had brought them safely to Pará [Belém]. It further mentions that Major Hastings was sick with yellow fever and could not follow them, and it concluded by erroneously reporting: Their Place of destination is “The Tocantins” in the province of Para. 11, 12


The Louisville, Kentucky Courier – Journal also published an identical notice on November 5th about the Hastings Colonists. 13



  1.       Joseph McKenna, British Blockade Runners in the American Civil War, McFarland & Company,            Inc. Publishers, 2019 – Page 141

  2.       Mobile Daily Times, Friday - June 22nd, 1866 – Page 4

  3.       The Evansville Daily Journal, Wednesday – December 12th, 1866 – Page 7

  4.       The Mobile Daily Times, Thursday - June 20th, 1867 – Page 5

  5.       Daily State Sentinel, Saturday - June 22nd, 1867 – Page 4

  6.       The Selma Times and Messenger, Wednesday – July 10th, 1867 – Page 2

  7.       The Clarke County Democrat, Thursday -  August 1st, 1862 – Page 2

  8.       Memphis Daily Post, Monday – July 22nd, 1867 ­- Page 1

  9.       The Weekly Advertiser, Tuesday – September 24th, 1867 –Page 2

  10.      The Montgomery Advertiser, Saturday – October 26th, 1867 – Page 3

  11.       The Weekly Advertiser, Tuesday – October 29th, 1867 – Page 2

  12.       The Montgomery Advertiser, Friday – November 1st, 1867 – Page 2

  13.       The Courier - Journal, Tuesday - November 5th, 1867 – Page 3  


Errata: The image of the sidewheel steamer Red Gauntlet built in 1864 was mistakenly identified as the one built 1895.  The ship built in 1895 had an oil fired engine with a screw propeller, and lacked auxiliary sail masts.   

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