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Reconstruction Period Research Forum

Freedmen's Bureau records, Texas

Information from Freedmen’s Bureau records at National Archives. For historical context see “Freedmen’s Bureau,” “Sugar Land,” “Fort Bend County,” “Slavery,” and “African Americans” in Handbook of Texas Online. Also see “The History of Imperial Sugar Company” on web pages of Imperial Sugar; and Lori Fradkin, “Texas History 101: Nearly one hundred years after its founding the Imperial Sugar Company remains sweet on Texas,” Texas Monthly, May 2004. In addition to large planters who grew sugar cane (originally brought from Cuba), farmers in Fort Bend County also grew cotton and corn.

Newspaper clipping (unknown source and date, 1866?) pasted on a page of the register of letters sent and received by William Rock, a local agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Richmond, Texas:

On Tuesday evening, the 15th inst. Gen. Kiddoo, Chief of the Freedmen’s Bureau for the state of Texas, delivered a speech from the courthouse steps, to a large gathering of freed people of Fort Bend County. The general’s remarks were pertinent, embracing good advice, stubborn facts, and gave general satisfaction to the well disposed. We hope it may be productive of much good, and in this our wish we are joined by the planters generally.

Like other agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau, William Rock assisted freed workers in negotiating labor contracts with former slaveholders, intervened in disputes between the respective parties, and helped to establish schools for emancipated African American adults and children. Rock reported hostility and violence against teachers and students at the freedmen’s school, as well as several instances of workers complaining of poor treatment by employers and other local white residents, including violence and denial of wages. Some white planters and farmers complained that freedmen refused to work, or that they abused or stole their tools and farm animals.

MITCHELL family in Sugar Land, Fort Bend County, Texas
(This is a small portion of Texas Freedmen's Bureau files in the National Archives)

Jan 8, 1865 John C. Mitchell got permission from Freedman’s Bureau to keep minor freed child Joe who had no parents. “John C. Mitchell, resident of Fort Bend County, has permission to keep and take advantage of the services of minor freedman child named Joe, having no higher legal protection…Humane treatment as would be meted out to white children under the same circumstances is expected by this bureau.” In another letter, “Mr. J.P. Foster, a planter, has permission to keep minor child of freedwoman Susan…by her consent…also Jack and Crecia [Creecy, Lucretia?] age two and three years.” 1880 census: farmer Isack (Isaac) Foster and wife Susan, keeping house, lived in Fort Bend Co. with their children, including a son Jack. 1860 census: MS-born stock raiser J.P. Foster in Richmond, TX. 1860-1900 census: KY-born attorney John C. (J.C.) Mitchell in Richmond, TX.

1865-66 In order to protect mutual interests of both planters and workers in producing a profitable crop, the Freedmen’s Bureau ruled that during the harvest season, freedmen were not allowed to leave the plantation or refuse to work from Monday through Saturday afternoon.

Jan 19, 1866 Tom W. Mitchell contracted with freed farm workers including Wiley Mitchel, Adam Foster and his wife Pheby. Tom W. Mitchell also must provide for Milly Mitchell’s five children and Wiley Mitchell’s three oldest children: two suits of clothing, good quarters, food, fuel, and medical care). Tom W. Mitchell also contracted with Emily Mitchell. In 1860 Thomas W. Mitchell, NC-born farmer of Fort Bend County, lived in Pittsville, TX. In 1870 he lived in Richmond, TX. In 1880 he was a railroad agent in Brazos, TX. In 1870 Adam and Phebe (Pheby, Phoebe) Foster lived in Richmond. Pheby Foster, widow, lived with Henry and Lissia Flemon in Fort Bend Co. in 1880.

Mar 10, 1866 R.G. Kyle contracted with freed farm workers including Mingo Michel, Dick Michel, B-----y Homes [Beverly Holmes?], Ana Homes [Annie Holmes?], Milly Michel [Millis or Mila or Emily Mitchell?], Burk Michel [Burke, Burt, or Burton Mitchell?]. TN-born farmer R. G. Kyle, 54, was counted in Galveston, TX in 1870 census. He is probably related to William Jefferson Kyle, one of the largest slaveholders in Texas and William Rufus Kyle, former co-owner of Oakland Plantation in Sugar Land, Fort Bend Co., TX. Beverly Holmes, a sharecropper in Sugar Land in 1870, by about 1890 Holmes moved to Houston where he and John Mitchell worked as draymen. In 1900, Beverly Holmes still lived in Houston with his wife Annie and niece Lewella Mitchell.

Mar 22, 1866 A.F. & E.G. Brevard contracted with freed farm workers including Adaline Brevard. Freedmen were entitled to ¼ of entire crop plus food, shelter, and medical care. In 1860, E.J. Brevard, NC-born farmer, lived near SC-born farmer Josiah King in Richmond. King was accused of beating a free African American. Adaline or Adeline Brevard may be “Adline Marshall” in Texas Slave Narratives. Adeline’s first husband is Austen Willis (Wellis); her second is Wes Marshall. Wes (Wesley) Marshall may be father of Lou Jennie Mitchell, wife of John Mitchell of Bellaire, TX. Adeline Brevard Willis Marshall, Federal Writers Project, Texas Slave Narratives:

Lord, Lord, dat sure was bad times. Black folks jes’ raised up like cattle in a stable, yes suh, only Cap’n Brevard, he what owned me, treat de horses and cattle better ‘n he do de niggers. Don’t know nothing ‘bout myself ‘cept on the Cap’n’s place down on Oyster Creek. He has de plantation ‘twixt de Borden’s and de Thatcher’s plantations, and dat’s de only place I knows ‘bout ‘til I’s freedomed …I knows I’s good size when old Cap’n calls us in from chopping and tells us we’s free, but nobody told me how old I was and I never find out. I knows some of us stays and works for something to eat, ‘cause we didn’t know no one and didn’t have no whar to go. Den one day, Cap’n come out in de field with ‘nother man, and pick me and four more what was working, and tell de man we is good workers. Dat was Mr. Jack Adams what had a place down by Stafford’s Run. He says if we want to work on his place, he feed us and give us good quarters and pay us for working, and dat’s how come I leaves old Cap’n, and I ain’t never see him or de place whar I was raised up since, but I reckon ‘cause he was so mean de debbil’s got him in torment long time ago.

Sept 25, 1866 Teacher at E. Coleman’s school complained to William Rock that children of white school trouble him and his pupils.

Feb. 27, 1867 D.S. Berry contracted with freed farm worker Frank Mitchell.

Miscellaneous records in Brazoria County: S.M. Rowe contracted with freed farm workers including Harrod Mitchell and Malinda Mitchell. W. J. & R.W. Patton contracted with freed farm workers including Conrad Brooks, Haldy Brooks for ¼ of corn and cotton crop. George A. Smith contracted with George Mitchell; Walcott Dexter with Nelson Mitchell; Levi Jordan with Laura Holmes; Thomas Avery with Oliver Holmes; John H. Herndon with Mary Holmes.

Mar 2, 1867 William W. Mitchell hired no black workers named Mitchell.

Apr 19, 1867 Freedmen’s Bureau agent William Rock requested pay for Rev. Daniel Gregory for teaching until a new teacher could be found for the school for freed children and adults. Rock had previously tested Gregory, an African-American, to be certain of his competence, and Gregory worked under supervision of Freedom Bureau employees.

Apr 24, 1867 William Rock:

I can establish a very large school on William Marshall’s place in this county about eight miles from Richmond…school would embrace eight very large plantations all within distance of a mile and one-half. Mrs. Mary Cole (widow) daughter of William Marshall has been teaching children on her father’s place—about 30 pupils. She has consented to open a day school and night school for freedmen and children in the neighborhood…She has been educated in Brooklyn, New York and is very accomplished. Her sister Miss Martina Marshall is willing to be appointed assistant [if needed]. I had very hard work to persuade Mrs. Cole to undertake the task.

In 1860 TN-born J.P. Marshall, a male schoolteacher, lived in Richmond. Joseph P. Marshall still worked as a schoolteacher in Richmond, TX in 1870.

Apr 25, 1867 John C. Mitchell, agent for J.R. Mitchell contracted with freed workers, including Ellen Mitchell and Melvina Mitchell.

Apr 29, 1867 R.G. Kyle contracted with Millis Mitchell and Ellen Mitchell.

May 13, 1867 William Rock requested “enclosed list of books” for freedmen’s school.

Jan 10, 1868 “On petition of Betsy Porter (FWC) for relief being an invalid.” William Mitchell, “having ruined himself in last year’s planting, states he cannot any longer support the within named applicant.” The disabled free woman of color, probably a former slave, Betty or Betsy Porter had applied to the Freedmen’s Bureau for relief because planter William Mitchell was financially ruined and unable to support her.

May 23, 1868 In nearby Brazoria County, several white men with shotguns entered the workers’ quarters of Capt. John D. Duncan’s plantation under orders of the Loyal League to arrest or kill a black worker named [Walt L. or A.L.] Williams. The Freedmen’s Bureau investigated the matter and the vigilantes were prosecuted.

Oct 10, 1868 William Rock requested a male teacher for Freedmen’s School in Richmond. “I have the honor to request that a school teacher be sent to this place as William Booth leaves on the 14th inst. Your own knowledge of the place will suggest the propriety of sending a male teacher if possible.”

Nov 27, 1868 Martin McInnery, new teacher at freedmen’s school in Richmond, was dragged from his house in the evening and violently assaulted by Dr. Bell or D.B. Bell who compelled a freed girl Milly to testify that Bell had defended her from McInnery.

Nov. 30, 1868 School report from William Rock: “An assault was committed on the new teacher Mr. McIlerney [McInnery?] by one D.B. Bell (without cause). I will send full particulars to A.A.A. General with action of the courts in a few days.” Bell, who attacked a teacher of the freedmen’s school, later claimed that the teacher had beaten and choked a freed girl named Milly. She at first supported Bell’s account, as her parents had worked on his farm and she was afraid of him. William Rock, the Freedmen’s Bureau agent, knew Bell’s reputation and was determined to have him prosecuted for assault.

Dec 14, 1868 Frank Mitchell VS E. Brevard: White farmer Brevard accused black worker Mitchell of theft of a horse or mule. Mitchell’s plea was “not guilty.” He claimed that the mule or mare got away from his control and somehow ended up at his house. Freedmen’s Bureau agent, William Rock, concluded that Mitchell had stolen the animal. Brevard is probably the former slaveholder, “Cap’n Brevard” that “Adline Marshall” describes in Texas Slave Narratives.

Dec. 15, 1868 Martin McInnery [or McIlerney], teacher at freedmen’s school, “represents that he was dragged from his house and violently assaulted on the evening of the 27 November 1868.”

Dec. 31, 1868 Martin McInnery resigned from teaching at freedmen’s school. [1870 census includes 35-yr-old Irish-born farm laborer, Martin McInnery, in Waltham, MA]

May 20, 1869 Freedmen requested aid of the Bureau in completing erection of their church.

1870 census information for Mitchell families in Sugar Land and Richmond, Texas

Mitchel, Richard 45 farms on shares (b. SC)
wife Mila 45 keeps house (b. SC)
dau Betsey 13 at home (b. SC)
dau Patsey 11 (b. TX)
son Jeff Davis 9 (b. TX)
dau Philisianna 8 (b. TX)
son Richard 4 (b. TX)
son Lindsey 1mo. (b. TX)
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Mitchel, Mingo 31 farms on shares (b. SC)
wife Evaline/Eveline 21 keeps house (b. TX)
son Milton 9 (b. TX)
dau Amelia 4 mo (b. TX)
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Mitchel, Millis 25 blacksmith (b. SC)
wife Emily 21 keeping house (b. TX)
son Jack 1
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Mitchel. Ellen 23 day laborer (b. VA)
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Mitchel, John 23 farms on shares (b. SC)
wife Lucy 25 works in farm (b. MS)
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Mitchell, Burton 17 works on farm (b. SC)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Marriages in Fort Bend County, Texas (Mitchell, Marshall, Holmes)

Mitchell, Millis and Williams, Emily m. 27 October 1868 (#00080169)
Mitchell, Burt and Lewis, Lucy m. August 1873 (#00124373)
Marshall, Isaac and Harris, Phillis m. 30 June 1874 (#00009974)
Phillips, Marshall (or Marshall, Phillip?) and Mitchell, Parceller (Priscilla?) m. 19 May 1879
(# 00190200)
Marshall, Wesley and Daughtery, Precilla (Priscilla?) m. 28 December 1887 (#00313988)
Marshall, Wesley and Wellis (or Willis?), Adeline m. 27 December 1889 (# 00001099)
Holmes, Jon and Mitchell, Lucy m. 19 April 1890 (#00336190)


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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