Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 91
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The Freedmen 's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
request without even referring it to the War Department. More than two months earlier,
Raper had forwarded to Gregory another application, accompanied by an order from
General Wright that allowed Raper to remain in the bureau, with a request that it be
approved or denied by telegraph. He had heard nothing.63
Raper made it clear that he was unhappy with being in limbo. "I don't like
the idea of my position, one application disapproved, and the other perhaps lost, and
General Orders against me," he wrote to Gregory. He was now ready to leave the military
even though it meant losing his position in the bureau. He expressed his belief that his
departure would cause little disruption, since most of the contracting business was over
for the present. He had seen but one freedman in two weeks who had not made
arrangements for the year, and he had examined and filed at his office most of the
contracts. In short, he wrote, "everything is working smoothly with scarcely a jar.'"64
If he were mustered out, Raper felt sure that he would not be retained in the
bureau, but remarkably, he expressed the notion that he might remain in the vicinity of
Columbus and give his "leisure time and influence towards keeping up this state of
affairs." He also recommended that the county judge be given the bureau position. Raper
believed that he would accept the position, and had spoken with him on the subject and
concluded that his ideas and intentions would be "just and honorable to both parties."
Raper had made no arrangements for his own future, though he wished to leave rapidly
so that he might enter into business for himself before the growing season became
further advanced. He left the bureau position before the end of the month.65
Fred Miller of Frelsburg
While Raper was completing his duties, Gregory pondered what to do with
Fred Miller of Frelsburg. Miller aspired to be a bureau agent and, though he was never
actually commissioned by the agency, he acted as if he were. He had received
information that he misinterpreted to be a direct mandate and imprimatur to act in the
name of the bureau. Though his actions may have been misguided, Miller's observations,
in four reports to Gregory, are a compelling description of Colorado County as its citizens
adjusted to black freedom, new labor relations, and a government presence-or lack
thereof-six months after the close of the Civil War.
While bureau affairs remained muddled in Colorado County, Miller, who had
spoken with Assistant Commissioner Gregory in late November in the telegraph office
at Hempstead, requested an appointment as an agent in the "Labor Bureau for the
accommodation of this part of the community." Miller had been named by Provisional
Governor Hamilton as justice of the peace and notary public, and had often expressed
a willingness to assist in the organization of the "new state of affairs." He had resided
in the region for twenty-five years and either knew or was known by almost everyone.
63 John T. Raper to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant commissioner, Texas), January 15, 1866,
Assistant Commissioner, Unregistered Letters, 1865-1866, BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
64 Raper to Gregory, January 15, 1866; John T. Raper to C. H. Whittelsey (assistant adjutant
general, Department of Texas), January 15, 1866, Assistant Commissioner, Unregistered Letters, 1865-
1866, Texas, BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
65 Raper to Gregory, January 15, 1866; Rosters of the Freedmen's Bureau, BRFAL, RG105,
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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/m1/23/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.