The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985

Slavery without Cotton: Hunt County, Texas,
I846-z864
CECIL HARPER, JR.*
HUNT COUNTY WAS ORGANIZED IN 1846 IN THE HEART OF NORTH-
eastern Texas's blackland prairies. Created from Fannin and Na-
cogdoches counties, Hunt attracted white settlers as early as the late
1830os. The county was settled predominantly by people from the up-
per South, and Greenville became its first, and remained its only, county
seat. Except for a small portion of its southwestern corner, broken off
to form part of Rains County in the 187os, the borders of the county
have remained essentially unchanged since its inception.'
In the antebellum period most of Hunt County's residents neither
owned slaves nor grew cotton. According to the 186o census, only 142
families in the county had slaves (14 percent of all families) and less
than 3 percent of this slaveholding minority grew any cotton at all.
Thus the county would seem to have been on the border of what Charles
Ramsdell called "the natural limits of slavery" in his old, but still quoted,
work, and slavery would be assumed to have been relatively weak and
unimportant in Hunt County.2
In Black Southerners, John B. Boles referred to the Old South as being
in reality two societies with two economies: one a society where "com-
mercial agriculture was a key to the economy" and another where "yeo-
man farmers owned their land, grazed cattle and hogs, grew most of
their foodstuffs, and lived, self-sufficient, with little to do with the out-
side world." Hunt County, without easy access to navigable waterways,
*Cecil Harper, Jr., is a graduate student at North Texas State University The author would
like to thank Professor Randolph B Campbell for his aid
'Walter Prescott Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and Eldon Stephen Branda (eds.), The Handbook of
Texas (3 vols.; Austin, 1952, 1976), I, 864-865 W. Walworth Harrison, The History of Greenville
and Hunt County (Waco, Tex., 1976) Is the best general history of Hunt County.
SUnited States Eighth Census (1860), Schedule 1: Free Inhabitants, Schedule 2: Slave Inhabi-
tants, Schedule 4: Productions of Agriculture (manuscript returns, microfilm copies); Charles
W. Ramsdell, "The Natural Limits of Slavery Expansion," Mississippi Valley Historical Review,
XVI (Sept., 1929), 151 (quotation), 152-171. Of course, not all historians have agreed with
Ramsdell; see, for example, Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution- Slavery in the Ante-
bellum South (New York, 1956), 388, 396. All percentages and numbers in this article have been
rounded off to the nearest number

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/. Accessed September 18, 2014.