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An early Portuguese graduate of Princeton Seminary, Emanuel Nathaniel Pires was born on October 19, 1838, on the Island of Madeira. Pires came to America when he was eleven years old, after his family was driven from Madeira because of religious persecution. He joined the Portuguese Church of Jacksonville, Illinois, at age eighteen and began his studies at a preparatory school in Jacksonville. Pires later graduated from Hanover College in 1863 and immediately entered Princeton Seminary. Shortly after graduating from PTS, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Sangamon and ordained as an evangelist. He subsequently traveled to Brazil, where he worked as a missionary until 1869. He was one of the first Protestant missionaries in São Paolo, Brazil, spreading the message of the gospel there.


When Pires returned to Jacksonville, he became the pastor of the Portuguese Church of Jacksonville for the next three years. He later served three other Portuguese churches in Illinois. In 1890, while on leave of absence as the supply pastor for the Second Portuguese Church of Springfield, Illinois, Pires founded churches for the Portuguese living on the Hawaiian Islands. In the second half of the nineteenth century, large groups of Portuguese immigrants, attempting to escape the desperate economic situation in Portugal, had arrived to work on the sugar plantations in Hawaii. Many of these Portuguese immigrants were from Pire’s native Madeira and possibly the Azores. As the Portuguese community there grew, it strengthened the church in Hawaii and introduced many of its traditions (including the ukulele) to local island culture. As a Portuguese Mission developed on the islands, the Hawaii Evangelical Association sought religious leaders for the Mission among the Protestant Portuguese communities in central Illinois. Pires, along with several laypersons from his church, traveled to Honolulu, where they established the first Protestant Portuguese Mission of the Pacific. Pires remained with the group for several months, as the Mission started, before he returned to his church in Jacksonville. Pires died of pneumonia in 1896 in Jacksonville, after thirty years of faithful service to the global Portuguese-speaking church.