Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 81
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
"taken a step in the right direction" when they "took it upon themselves to admit the
testimony of freedmen in opposition" to some prominent local officials, and in some
cases "found true bills." He believed that the grand jury's action would have "some moral
effect" and if the indictments were tried "upon their merits" in district court the "accused
parties will at least sustain some inconvenience and expence, which may caution them
for the future, and sow some good."35
He also reported that the freedmen experienced "a great hardship" because
they had no standing "in our Civil Courts," and therefore "no legal remedy" when
employers drove them off without paying them for their labor. They could not seek
redress through the Freedmen's Bureau because there was no local official. Grasmeyer
expressed the opinion that the bureau produced "no favorable effect upon" freedmen's
interests because it was in such an "insulated position" that they could not "reach it for
protection," and that accordingly, the freedmen were getting "more and more confused,
and are daily losing confidence in the promises of white men, a state of things to be
lamented." For blacks and "honest" whites who desired to enter into fair contracts,
Grasmeyer went on, the situation "loudly" demanded the interference of the bureau
without "any further procrastination. "36
However, when the bureau did make its presence felt, in attempts to protect
the freedmen against the machinations of their employers, planters and small cotton
producers frequently complained about its intrusion. As the terminus of the Buffalo
Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railroad, Alleyton had achieved some importance as a
center for the shipment of cotton in the area. Thus, it had enormous economic impact
when, on November 18, 1865, the railroad agent at Alleyton received an order from the
provost marshal that prohibited the further shipment of cotton from that point unless
receipts or certificates from the freedmen in the employ of the producer accompanied
the cotton. Though it had received Gregory's approval, the directive had not emanated
from the Freedmen's Bureau. The man who had issued the order, Jacob C. De Gress,
was the provost marshal for the Eastern District of Texas. De Gress mistrusted the
planters and asserted that they "had probably forgotten that Rebel Rule had ceased to
exist." He dispatched a number of his agents into various counties to prevent the
freedmen from being swindled out of their crops.37
One of De Gress's emissaries, J. D. Whitall, had gone to Alleyton to
investigate certain cases relating to the failure on the part of certain cotton planters to
pay the freedmen in their employ. Whitall proclaimed the November 18 order, and made
it clear that he was in the vicinity to withhold permits for the shipping of cotton if the
producers did not have the papers required by the decree. De Gress, through his agent,
Whitall, ordered that planters or employers give black laborers ten percent of the crop
that they produced. This may have seemed onerous to the planters, but it was a far cry
35 Frederick W. Grasmeyer (La Grange) to Andrew J. Hamilton, November 22, 1865, Governor's
Papers: Hamilton, Texas State Library.
37 Walter Prescott Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and Eldon Branda (eds.), The Handbook of Texas (3
vols.; Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1952, 1976), vol. I, pp. 33, 446-447; Richter, Overreached
On All Sides, pp. 28-29.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995, periodical, May 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151394/m1/13/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.