The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 50
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
in private hands, their owners often unaware of their importance.
Thus, historians of slavery may still hope to uncover valuable new
sources while they investigate and interpret the institution itself. Our
research on the society and economy of antebellum Harrison County
was rewarded by just such a "find"-the plantation journal of John B.
Webster for the period from February 17, 1858, to November 5, 1859.
John B. Webster's plantation journal is now the property of Douglass
V. Blocker, a great grandson of the original owner. An edited version of
the journal in its entirety runs to 139 pages, including notes; therefore
only excerpts are published here. The original manuscript and an
edited copy will be preserved in the East Texas Baptist College Library.
The excerpts, spaced at intervals of two to three months between Feb-
ruary, 1858, and November, 1859, give an adequate idea of the contents
of the journal. The daily rhythm of plantation life is there-the day-
by-day performances of each slave in the cotton harvest are meticulously
recorded, for example-and the great variety of slave jobs and skills is
demonstrated. Historians should be able to use this journal profitably
with little or no introduction beyond that already presented, but we
feel that the journal will be enhanced by some additional information
concerning John B. Webster, his slaves, and his plantation.
The Webster family arrived in Harrison County during the period
of the Republic, probably in 1839. John Johnston Webster, a native of
Virginia who had become a prominent building contractor in Tusca-
loosa, Alabama, soon established a cotton plantation in this wooded
upland area of northeast Texas. Although not so favorably situated for
cotton planting as the lower Brazos and Colorado river counties, Harri-
son had good soil and adequate transportation connections with New
Orleans via Shreveport and the Red River. It was destined to become a
center of the state's agricultural economy during the antebellum peri-
od, having the largest slave population of any Texas county and rank-
ing near the top in cotton production in both 1850 and 186o.3
John Brown Webster, the family's oldest child, was born at Tusca-
3lInformation on the Webster family's pre-'I exas background is found in Woolsey Fin-
nell, Sr. (comp.), "The Reverend Daniel Brown of Culpeper County, Virginia, and Allied
Families . . . Compiled . . .during the Period 1948-1954" (unpublished and unpaginated
genealogical booklet in the possession of Douglass V. Blocked). For a description of slavery
and agriculture in antebellum Harrison County, see Randolph B. Campbell, "Human
Property: The Negro Slave in Harrison County, 1850-1860," Southwestern Histoutcal
Quarterly, LXXVI (Apr., 1973), 384-396, and Randolph B. Campbell, "Planters and Plain
Folk: Harlison County, Texas, as a Test Case, 1850-186o," Journal of Southern History,
XL (Aug., 1974), 369-398.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/70/: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.