Reconstruction Period Research Forum
Freedmen's Bureau labor contracts, Texas
FREEDMEN'S BUREAU LABOR CONTRACTS: WORKERS & EMPLOYERS IN TEXAS
Records transcribed below are a sample of what is available at the National Archives regarding the transition of African Americans from enslaved to free workers during Reconstruction.
While searching for Mitchell, Marshall, Holmes, Foster, and Willis families in Freedmen’s Bureau records at the National Archives, I copied a few pages from ledger books for Texas counties of Fort Bend (Richmond and Sugar Land) and Brazoria (Columbia). These records include many names of freed people and their employers. In addition to recording letters regarding disputes between emancipated African Americans and their neighbors and employers, agents also listed the parties in labor contracts that bureau agents helped to negotiate. The handwriting is pretty legible, but it’s often difficult to distinguish lowercase R’s and N’s. The names, handwritten in pencil, are sometimes difficult to read, especially on ledger pages that were written over with other notations. I wish I’d had more time to sort through and copy more records on the machines in the reading room at the archives. I also wish it had been easier to get copies that are “just right” instead of either too dark or too light. From pages copied I have transcribed names of workers and employers to the best of my ability. I’ve used square brackets [ ] to indicate where I have summarized, paraphrased, interpreted, or guessed what the text says. This is only a partial list of names recorded. Apologies for any omissions or errors.
FORT BEND COUNTY RECORDS
p. ? // 1866? // Claim of freedman Henry Willis [and others] against Felix Secrist for failure to pay wages.
Freedmen: Wiley Mitchell, Adam Foster and his wife Pheby [Phebe, Phoebe], Clarence Johns, Peter Jenkins, Amanda Jenkins, Emma Jackson, William Jackson, Mary Duval, Emily Mitchell, Adaline Walker and children, Ben Williams. [Others may be listed on pages not copied.]
Remarks: Contract provides for Milly Mitchell’s five children…Wiley Mitchell’s three oldest children…two suits of clothing, good quarters, food, fuel, and medical attention. Clarence Johns $10 per month, Peter Jenkins $12 per month, Amanda Jenkins $10 per month, Emma Jackson $10 per month, William Jackson $6 per month, Mary Duval $10 per month, Emily Mitchell and children $6 per month, Adaline Walker and children [unreadable], Ben Williams $6 per month. All specie payments during cotton picking time. They have 50 cents per hundred.
Freedmen: Olliver [Oliver] Williamson, Dilsey Davis.
Remarks: Olliver Williamson twelve dollars, Dilsey Davis ___dollars, with specie payments to be paid monthly. Good quarters, food and fuel. [This section is difficult to read because horizontal lines have been written over with vertical lines of text. It appears to be the usual remarks specifying terms of the contract the planter makes with each worker.]
Freedmen: George Washington, [Houston] Burrell.
Remarks: [This section appears to be the usual notation of terms of the labor contract. It is unreadable on my copy, but may be more legible in the original document.]
Freedmen: [Tony, Terry] Young, Henry Hall, Littleton Wallace, Mingo Michel [Mitchel, Mitchell], Dick Michel [Mitchel, Mitchell], Jessie Thomson, Beverly Homes [Holmes], Clark Johnson, [Erin] Johnson, Harrison Miller, Austin Kerney, Dick Jackson, Thomas Taylor, Rachel Taylor, [Saldy, Seldy] Taylor, Sillen [Resless, Reslerr, Reslen, Keslerr], Pheby [Phebe, Phoebe] Thomson, [Haring, Waring] Atkins, Susan Atkins, Vinnie Thomson, Lizzie Young, Ana Homes [Anna Holmes, Annie Holmes], Louisie Johnson, Adam Thomson, [Hennetie, Harriette, Henriette] Thomas, [Margret, Margaret] Kerney, [Harritt, Harriet] Jackson, Nancy Hide, John Johnson, Jack Green, Jo Lucker, Anty Carter, Milley Michel [Mitchel, Mitchell], Burk [Burke] Michel [Mitchel, Mitchell], Miller Jasper, Eliza Jasper, Elly Kyle, Jo Harris, Mariah Harris, [Lane, Cane] Harris.
Remarks: This contract provides for one-fourth of the entire crop, sufficient [good and wholesome?] food, medical attention, and quarters free of charge.
Freedmen: Adaline [Adeline] Brevard [and others]
Remarks: [Workers promised one-fourth of entire crop as well as food, quarters, and medical care.]
Freedman: Frank Mitchell.
Party or parties of the second part [workers]: [Jordan, Jordon]Absalom, John George, Charlotte Smith, [Edenton, Edanton, Edonton] [Thomas], Hamp [Graydon, Grayson], Arthur [Bones, Boner], Sarah Williams, Rebecca Collins, Alice Thomas, [Idelnia, Gelnia, Selvia, Selma, Selina] Williams, Ellen Mitchell, Melvina Mitchell.
Party or parties of the second part [workers]: Jack Goodman, Berry Richardson.
Party or parties of the second part [workers]: [Reason, Rearson] Buchannan, Jonas George and two daughters, John Dickerson, Wash Hadin, Raleigh Malone, Samuel Edwards.
Party or parties of the second part [workers]: Bill Moore, Aaron Moore, Henry Moore, Napoleon Moore, Mingo Mitchell, Isaiah Heath, Henry Clay, Alice Clay, Harriet Clay, [Gadens, Gadsen, Gadson] Gambler, Riner [Gadson, Gadsen], Moses [Gadson, Gadsen], [Toney, Tony] [Gadson Gadsen], Bill [Hollman, Holman], Reddick Goodman, Eliza Lucker, Jo Lucker, [Hay, Way] Moore, Garland Lindsay [Lindsey], Bill Brown, Israel [Dobins, Robins], Nelson [Dobins, Robins], Fred Adkins.
Party or parties of the second part [workers]: Dominick Richardson, Clark Johnson, Tom [Baylor, Taylor], Rachel [Baylor, Taylor], Phoebe [Baylor, Taylor], Marshall [Green, Greene], Dick Snowden, Mela Snowden, Noble Grant, Sandy Grant, Jerry Thompson, Oscar Washington, Margret [Margaret] Washington, Adaline Sabine, John Nelson, Millis Mitchell, Anthony Carter, Henry Kelsy [Kelsey], Nancy Hide, Caine Harris, Hiram Adkins, Joe Harris, Robert Butler, Burke Snowden, Roy Rice, Ellen Mitchell, Amy Kyle, [Hildy, Tildy] Butler, [Grace, Lace] Green, Adam Thompson, [Vina, Vine] Thompson, ____ Johnson, Dick Snowden.
These are partial records from quick notes made while skimming through records looking for ancestors. Apologies for any omissions or errors.
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 and Haldy Brooks for one-fourth of corn and cotton crop.
George A. Smith contracted with freedman George Mitchell.
Walcott Dexter contracted with freedman Nelson Mitchell.
Levi Jordan contracted with freedwoman Laura Holmes.
Thomas Avery contracted with freedman Oliver Holmes.
John H. Herndon contracted with freedwoman Mary Holmes.
Remarks: Payment $5.00? One-fourth of corn and cotton crop.