When Freedom Cried Out
The Freedmen's Bureau in Texas

Handbook of Texas Online Notes


AFRICAN AMERICANS The establishment of the Freedmen's Bureau in the state aided this transition from slavery to freedom. But given the continuing racial animosity that separated blacks and whites after the war, this was not an easy task.
AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHURCHES Through its relationship with the Freedmen's Bureau , however, the ME Church was able to secure ownership of church buildings, a valuable asset in the Methodist competition for black adherents who owned little property.

During years immediately after emancipation, black Texans sought to satisfy their hunger for education. Officials in Washington recognized that appetite, and many education-minded private citizens in the North insisted that schooling was essential to the freedmen's progress and social order. Accordingly, the Freedmen's Bureau joined hands with such groups as the American Missionary Association and negotiated with church officials for the use of their buildings as schools.
ALLEN, RICHARD In 1868 he served as an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau and as the supervisor of voter registration for the Fourteenth District of Texas.
AUSTIN COUNTY Capt. George Lancaster, head of the local Freedmen's Bureau office in 1867, declared that racial animosities in the area were so intense that only a spark was needed to set off an explosion.
BAKER, CULLEN MONTGOMERYSomewhat later, the Union Army and the Freedmen's Bureau came to the area, and Baker focused his attention upon harassing and killing employees of the Bureau and their clients. In December 1867 Baker also wrought havoc upon Howell Smith's family because of their alleged "unorthodox" relations with the black laborers they employed. He was wounded, but the local citizenry and the army failed to capture him. Baker returned to the Reconstruction scene again in mid-1868 as the leader of various outcasts and killers. He and his group are credited with murdering two Freedmen's Bureau agents, one in Texas and another in Arkansas, and numerous black men and women, all the time eluding the army.
BARKLEY, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN After the war he was named to the Tarrant County Registration Board, and in November 1867 he was appointed county judge, a position he held until 1870. He also served as subassistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1867-68.
BARTHOLOMEW, EUGENE CARLOSWhen the army was disbanded, Bartholomew worked for the Freedmen's Bureau at Galveston and Austin, his duty being to establish schools. In July 1870 he was appointed superintendent of education and second assistant clerk of the House of Representatives.
BEXAR COUNTY In the late 1850s and 1860s several additional schools were opened, including the German-English School, St. Mary's Hall, and a Freedmen's Bureau school for the children of newly liberated slaves.
BLACK CODES A variety of sources provided the pattern of the new codes. Antebellum southern laws that regulated free blacks and the laws of northern states designed to do the same furnished the model for regulation of black civil rights, while directives of the Freedmen's Bureau and the legislation of other Southern states supplied examples of statutes that attempted to control black labor.

The black codes never fully accomplished their goals. On January 3, 1867, Gen. Joseph B. Kiddoo of the Freedmen's Bureau declared the contract law biased against freedmen and prevented its enforcement. This made the other labor codes useless.
BLACK COLLEGES During the initial phase of Reconstruction, the Freedmen's Bureau took the lead in establishing elementary and secondary schools for the former slaves. By May 1866 the Bureau had set up more than 100 schools across the state. Though staffed primarily by white Southerners, Bureau schools were an affront to many white Texans and were the object of much criticism and hostility. Where funds and volunteers permitted, white Northern religious denominations also established elementary and secondary schools. Groups such as the Freedmen's Aid Society, the American Missionary Association, and the American Baptist Home Mission Society were in the vanguard of these early efforts.
BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS It opposed a request for funds, which presumably would benefit former slaves, by Episcopal bishop Alexander Gregg, who did not have the trust of the committee. Instead, committee members expressed their preference for the work of the Freedmen's Bureau
BOWIE COUNTY The soldiers were under the direction of William G. Kirkman, a former Union Army captain who was to act as an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau for the district. The number of troops in the county was just large enough to provide a galling reminder of the legal authority vested in the army of occupation, but not large enough to provide protection for area African Americansor Unionists.
BRAZORIA COUNTY During Reconstruction, federal troops were stationed at Brazoria and Sandy Point. A Freedmen's Bureau agent arrived in the county in 1865, the Union Leagueorganized and registered black voters by the mid-1870s, and voters elected black legislator George T. Ruby as early as 1870 and Nathan H. Haller as late as 1894.
BRAZOS COUNTY County blacks and white landowners struggled to work out their new economic and social relations, and a series of Freedmen's Bureau agents, occasionally backed by small numbers of federal soldiers, attempted to mediate between the groups.
BRYANT, CHARLES W. Charles W. Bryant, who represented Harris County at the state Constitutional Convention of 1868-69, was born a slave in Kentucky around 1830. He arrived in Texas after the Civil War and served as a Freedmen's Bureau agent and a minister before winning election to the convention.
BURLESON COUNTY The eastern half of the county, in which the black population was concentrated, fell within the twentieth subdistrict of the Freedmen's Bureau ,variously headquartered in Grimes and Brazos counties. The records of the subassistant commissioner include numerous reports of violent crimes committed by whites against blacks in Burleson County.
CARPETBAGGERS Honey, a clergyman and chaplain of the Fourth Wisconsin Cavalry, Ruby, a black newspaperman and teacher, and Wheelock, a Unitarian minister and teacher, all came to Texas in 1865 as employees of the Freedmen's Bureau school system. Only Walker and Davidson came after 1867, but both were in the United States Army and assigned to units that were already in the state.
CASS COUNTY Throughout 1867 and 1868 there were repeated reports from agents of the Freedmen's Bureau in Marshall that freedmen were being cheated and physically abused in Cass County, but neither federal troops nor an agent of the Bureau was ever stationed in the county.
CENTERVILLE, TX During Reconstructiona Freedmen's Bureau agent and an infantry company were stationed in Centreville.
CHAMBERS COUNTY The Freedmen's Bureau opened a black school at Wallisville in 1869, and other black and white schools opened in 1871.
CHAPPELL HILL, TX From 1868 to 1870 the town had a Freedmen's Bureau school.
CHIRENO, TX The Freedmen's Bureau organized a branch in Nacogdoches, and by 1866 black soldiers had been sent to Chireno to ensure propriety in elections.
COLORADO COUNTY Columbus was occupied by federal troops in June 1865, and was intermittently the site of small garrisons through 1870. Freedmen's Bureau agents stationed in Columbus opened schools for black children and attempted to mediate labor contracts between planters and freedmen.
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1868-69 George T. Ruby, a black agent for the Freedmen's Bureau schools, led the fourth block and supported black civil rights and free education.
COOMBES, ZACHARIAH ELLIS Coombes and the other Dallas County elected officials were removed in November 1867 as "impediments to Reconstruction" after repeated assertions by the local Freedmen's Bureau agent that they refused to protect black lives and property
DAVIDSON, JAMES He actively supported efforts by the local Freedmen's Bureau agent to educate and protect freedmen. During his service in northeastern Texas he became associated with prominent Republican politicians Amos Morrill and Albert H. Latimer.
DEGRESS, JACOB CARL MARIA DeGress entered Texas as General Mower's aide-de-camp in June 1865. He assumed the duties of assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau of the eastern division of the state. From 1865 to 1868, in positions at Galveston, Houston, and New Orleans (where he became secretary of civil affairs as well as inspector general of the Freedmen's Bureau ), DeGress helped administer the Bureau during the first years of radical Reconstruction
DEWITT COUNTY From April 1866 until December 1868 a subassistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau served at Clinton.
EDUCATION The Freedmen's Bureau brought in teachers from the American Missionary Association, primarily from the North, to teach in black schools. Later, some white Southerners and educated blacks taught, but the early African-American schools were often the subject of controversy and suffered discrimination and intimidation
EVANS, IRA HOBART Evans then joined the Freedmen's Bureau at Wharton but resigned on January 31, 1868, angered by his superiors in the Bureau , whom he considered incompetent.
FARM TENANCY Most tenants in the period just after the Civil War were black, and the Freedmen's Bureau supervised the signing and implementation of tenant-farming agreements in areas where it had local agents until it closed its local offices in December 1868. Although the agents sometimes complained that black women did not want to work as long in the fields as they had before the war and that many blacks did not want to work as many hours as they had as slaves, they generally reported that African Americansworked well as tenants when treated fairly.
FOURTH WARD, HOUSTON The Fourth Ward's role as a center of education was strengthened in 1870, when the various Freedmen's Bureau schools in the city were consolidated at Gregory School, the first public school for blacks in Houston.
FREEDMEN'S Bureau Second, the size and shape of the districts were determined by the ability of the Bureau to provide protection to the agents rather than by the ability of the agents to fulfill their duties in their districts. Matthew Young, stationed at Belton in August 1867, for example, was responsible only for Bell County. Lt. Adam G. Malloy, on the other hand, stationed the same month at Marshall, was responsible for Harrison, Marion, Panola, Rusk, Davis, and Upshur counties.
GALVESTON COUNTY E. M. Gregory, assistant Freedmen's Bureau commissioner for Texas, established a Bureau headquarters in the Galveston customhouse on September 5, 1865. With tuition eliminated and eight Bureau teachers active in Galveston city schools, school attendance increased by 400 percent in 1867, despite the schools' poor condition and the return of yellow fever in that year.
GODDIN, MORTIMER H. Provisional governor Andrew J. Hamilton appointed Goddin to the position of justice of the peace in Polk County in October 1865. Goddin won election to the same office on June 25, 1866, and served until December 1867. In the meantime, on April 1, 1867, he accepted appointment as subassistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in Polk County. His tenure as a Bureau agent had few calm moments. His efforts to aid freedmen and his sneering smugness at the defeat of the Confederacy drew the wrath of white conservatives and led him to fear for his life and threaten to arm blacks and use them to uphold the law. One Polk County Republican commented that local newspapers made Goddin seem non compos mentis but that in fact he was a "terror of the Rebels in this county." A Bureau agent in neighboring Tyler County, however, criticized Goddin's judgment in dealing with Southern whites and contended that he had such bitter personal feelings that he introduced politics into all relationships. The Bureau removed Goddin from his post in September 1867, and soon thereafter he was assaulted by four armed men and "compelled to beg for his life."
GREGORY INSTITUTE Gen. Edgar M. Gregory,first assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in Texas. after the institute's incorporation, all of the schools established by the Freedmen's Bureau in Harris County were abolished, and the pupils attending them were transferred to Gregory Institute. Largely as a result of the institute's status, Harris County had the largest number of black students in school in Texas in 1871-734 males and 760 females.
GRIMES COUNTY To assist the county's large population of freedmen in their transition to citizenship, an office of the Freedmen's Bureau was established in June 1866. Most of Grimes County was placed within the Bureau 's Twentieth Subdistrict, which was variously headquartered in Courtney, Navasota, Millican, Anderson, and, finally, in Bryan in Brazos County. The Freedmen's Bureau established a court system to dispense justice to the former slaves, protected the freedmen in their exercise of the franchise, and supervised the signing of labor contracts. Many of the first educational institutions for African Americans established in the county were created during these years by the Freedmen's Bureau , which founded schools in Courtney, Anderson, and Navasota. Reports filed by the subassistant commissioner describe a general breakdown of law and order in Grimes and surrounding counties and make clear that though considerable violence was perpetrated by whites against whites, blacks against blacks, and blacks against whites, most of the violent crime in this period was committed by whites against blacks.
GUADALUPE COUNTY A Freedmen's Bureau office opened in Seguin in 1866 and supervised work contracts between former slaves and area farmers until 1868.
HAMILTON, JEREMIAH J. In 1866 he served as a secretary for the Texas State Central Committee of Colored Men, which opposed white paternalism and worked with the Freedmen's Bureau .
HEALTH AND MEDICINE He became the City Hospital physician and admitted poor patients authorized by the city or county of Galveston, sailors and foreign nationals authorized by the customhouse and foreign consuls, African Americans sent by the Freedmen's Bureau ,and a few private patients.
JEFFERSON COUNTY Though outside the jurisdiction of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1865, the county was made a subdistrict of the agency by 1868 to help blacks learn to read and write.
JUNETEENTH In the state capital Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1867 under the direction of the Freedmen's Bureau and became part of the calendar of public events by 1872.
LA GRANGE, TX La Grange was occupied by federal troops in 1866, and an agency of the Freedmen's Bureau was established there to protect the rights and welfare of the many freed slaves in the surrounding area. Friction between the federal authorities and ex-Confederates in the town led to a number of altercations that sometimes, as one source put it, "reached the
proportions of a first-class riot."
LATIMER, ALBERT HAMILTON In 1867 he was appointed supervisor of voter registration for North Texas. From April to August of that year he served as a subassistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau ;he resigned the position to accept an appointment as associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court.
LAVACA COUNTY Although a detachment of federal troops and a Freedmen's Bureau agent were stationed in Hallettsville, relations between local whites and the soldiers and governmental officials were generally peaceful, and most of the county's citizens occupied themselves with rebuilding their lives.
LEON COUNTY Two companies of black federal soldiers stationed just outside of Centerville to assist the Freedmen's Bureau representative were the target of several violent attacks.
LIBERTY COUNTY The Freedmen's Bureau operated in Liberty from 1866 until 1868, with Dr. J. Orville Shelby and A. H. Mayer serving as the Bureau representatives for most of the period.
MARSHALL, TX Reconstructionafter the war was bitterly controversial, as the town became not only the base for occupying forces but the home for an office of the Freedmen's Bureau as well.
MILITARY HISTORY The army also backed the Freedmen's Bureau ,which helped former slaves secure labor contracts, established separate courts, and set up a rudimentary education system.
NELSON, JULIA BULLARD However, by the time Julia Nelson came to Texas, the Freedmen's Bureau had made education one of its top priorities; by 1870 it had sixty-six schools in the state. Although the Bureau officially ceased its educational work in Texas soon after Nelson arrived, schools for blacks remained, and teachers like her continued to be sent to staff them. In Columbus she was initially the only teacher in the black school, and she met the expected opposition from local whites to her work.
PRAIRIE LEA, TX Reconstructionbrought hardship to the town. Neither the stationing of troops nor appeals to the Freedmen's Bureau could fully establish order or prevent violence.
POE, CAROLINE In Marshall, Texas, she organized one of the two Freedmen's Bureau schools for blacks in Harrison County and taught a monthly average of fifty students in 1868-69 despite the lack of support from the white community, the financial limitations of local blacks struggling in a year of poor crops, and the absence of a salary from the Bureau . In 1869, along with the other Bureau teacher, William Massey, she helped found a new school building to replace the two rundown schoolhouses that had been the only places of education for black children in Marshall. Despite the end of the Bureau 's educational efforts in Texas in 1870, the fall of 1871 found Caroline Poe back in the schoolroom as one of twelve teachers hired for Harrison County following the passage of the Texas public school law of 1871.
RED RIVER COUNTY Finally, after Charles F. Rand, Freedmen's Bureau agent and winner of a Presidential Medal of Honor for bravery in action during the Civil War, fled from the county fearing for his life in August 1868, a detachment of federal troops under Maj. George Starkley was stationed in Clarksville.
RICHMOND, TX After the end of the war, many emancipated slaves from surrounding plantations began to move into Richmond's environs; in 1866 an agency of the federal Freedmen's Bureau was established at Richmond, and in 1867 a company of federal troops were stationed there. Allied with white Republicans, the area's blacks controlled local politics until 1889, when whites in the area seized control after the Jaybird-Woodpecker War.
ROGERS, CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS Rogers seems to have established a reputation as a violent opponent of Reconstructionby beating up John H. Morrison, a Freedmen's Bureau agent, and by murdering Dan Cary, a Republican marshall of Palestine.
RUBY, GEORGE THOMPSON He joined the Freedmen's Bureau at Galveston, began administering the Bureau 's schools, served as a correspondent for the New Orleans Tribune, and taught school at the Methodist Episcopal Church of Galveston at a salary of $100 a month.
SAN AUGUSTINE COUNTY In 1868 a mob drove the black registrar out of the county seat and harassed the local Freedmen's Bureau agent.
SHELBY COUNTY During ReconstructionShelby County received little attention from federal political or military authorities. Neither federal troops nor an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau was ever stationed in the county.
SMITH COUNTY In 1867 Tyler became the headquarters of a subdistrict of the Freedmen's Bureau ,and the Bureau 's agents, occasionally supported by small military garrisons, attempted to secure voting rights, fair labor contracts, and educational opportunities for the blacks of Smith County and its environs. Race relations rapidly deteriorated as the white citizens resisted these initiatives. Smith County authorities refused to cooperate with the agency in enforcing labor contracts violated by white landowners and in investigating the numerous cases of violence against blacks. By 1868 the Freedmen's Bureau subcommissioner complained that a white "reign of terror" characterized the district, and he and several agency personnel were personally involved in a shootout with local toughs. In June 1868 white citizens attacked schoolchildren attending the year-old black school in Tyler, forcing temporary suspension of the school. The Bureau closed in 1869, but racial tensions continued to disrupt the county.
SMITH, GEORGE W. He and his troops became embroiled in a controversy between the local newspaper editor and the Freedmen's Bureau representative.

Two and one-half years later Smith was accused of theft of Freedmen's Bureau funds and convicted by a court martial board.
TITUS COUNTY Moreover, two companies of the Sixth United States Cavalry, under the command of Maj. Samuel Henry Starr, were stationed in Titus County in May of that year. As troop commander in an area not covered by the Freedmen's Bureau ,
WACO, TX Lt. A.F. Manning, the Freedmen's Bureau agent assigned to the town, complained in 1867 that a local grand jury refused to indict a white man accused of killing a freedman.
WALLER COUNTY An agency of the Freedmen's Bureau was established at Hempstead in 1866, and in 1867 two companies of federal troops were assigned there. The emancipation of the area's slaves disrupted the local economy and led to the breakup of many of the large plantations; cotton production plunged, and as late as 1870 remained significantly below prewar levels.
WASHINGTON COUNTY Because of the area's large population of ex-slaves, an agency of the Freedmen's Bureau was also established there. Relations between the federals and the white population were often tinged with hostility. D. L. McGary, the editor of the Brenham Banner, frequently attacked the Freedmen's Bureau in his paper, and his arrest by federal authorities in 1866 led to increased tensions.
WHARTON COUNTY Freedmen's Bureau schools operated after 1865, and in 1868 the Reconstruction convention set land aside for public schools required to serve at least four months of the year.
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