Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 93
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The Freedmen 's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
According to Miller's observations, many of the freedmen had already found
housing and been employed by Germans and "Bohemians," the two ethnic groups which,
Miller wrote, comprised at least one-half of the white population of Colorado, Austin,
Fayette, and Washington Counties. From what Miller had observed of black labor and
migration patterns in his area, the freedmen evinced a wish for change. They had a
"general desire" to leave their old homes and seek new ones, he told the bureau
commissioner. Miller also contended that the freedmen appeared to be willing to work
for low wages among the German denizens rather than to accept higher pay from their
former owners, where they did not "feel free."71
Without a bureau agent present, Miller went on, and in an attempt to keep
agriculture functioning, some of the justices of peace took the liberty to execute and
approve contracts with the freedmen. Miller informed Gregory that he would continue
to keep his "office" in operation until he heard from the assistant commissioner and gave
assurance that no contracts would be made or approved unless justice prevailed for both
parties. Miller stated that he had always opposed the leaders of secession and continued
to do so with "some obstinacy, but by gentle means (no other at command)," and that
by this means he had overcome numerous obstacles. Much remained to be done and
Miller needed to know what his precise status entailed.72
Miller asked Gregory to address his mail to Frelsburg, because he believed
that it was the only post office where he could get his mail "with a degree of certainty."
He also asked whether contracts made and approved by justices of the peace should be
officially recognized, and requested Gregory's opinion regarding the validity of contracts
made by citizens and duly signed by witnesses. He had discovered that the latter
agreements often were made "to favor the employers," and felt that such proceedings
needed to be counteracted. Miller suggested that he was willing to perform that duty.73
In response to an inquiry from Gregory regarding the status of the former
slaves, Miller first suggested that the blacks labored industriously, then exhibited
ambivalence about the freedmen and their attitude. Miller seemed to contradict himself
when, after stating that blacks accepted lower wages to escape their old masters, he
claimed that many of them were indisposed to hire themselves out at a reasonable rate.
In fact, some black laborers may have quickly realized how valuable a commodity they
commanded. Miller's remark that "as a general thing it is the most ignorant part [of the
black community] which demands exorbitant prices" may signal his perception of an
emerging class structure among the freedmen.74
Another situation had also drawn Miller's attention. Every abandoned house,
he stated, was full of black women and children who had left their "mostly good homes"
and now lived in "poverty and vice." How were they, he asked, to "get their living?" If
ordered out of these houses, they would simply move to another one, "still more
73 Ibid. On one letter Miller gave his address as Post Oak in Austin County. His instructions regarding
the delivery of his mail to Frelsburg were probably to clear up whatever confusion he may have thought that
caused. He may also have believed, incorrectly, that the bureau had sent him mail, but that it had not reached
him. In fact, the bureau seems never to have mailed him anything.
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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/m1/25/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.