Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 139
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
River, Caleb Joiner and Thomas J. Henderson had established plantations of more than 500
acres each, with 1850 slave populations of 14 and 16 and cotton production of 25 and 20
bales, respectively. Their neighbors included Oliver B. Crenshaw, who grew fifteen bales
of cotton on his small plantation; and Samuel Berry, John Tooke, John Duff Brown, and
Henry Terrell, the last of whom owned more sheep than any other person in the county.
The most unusual of the large cotton growers was Armstead Carter, who produced 100
bales on his plantation across the river from Columbus though he owned no slaves.40
Naturally enough, with so much of their wealth invested in them, slaveowners
spent a good bit of their time worrying about the attitudes and efforts of their slaves, and
employed all manner of ways to control them. Pinchback, whose reputation for evil among
his slaves was enhanced by a physical affliction that caused him to twitch involuntarily,
apparently believed in swift and certain punishment. He selected mates for each of his
slaves, seemingly in an effort to produce healthy, strong, marketable children, but
otherwise discouraged the development of any community or family ties among them.
Tait's administration was considerably more benign. He drafted a list of rules to follow
when dealing with slaves. Though his rules were by their very nature demeaning, they
resolutely made the case that gentler treatment brought better results. Among his rules were
"Never require of a negro what is unreasonable," and, "Always attempt to govern by reason
in the first instance, and resort to force only when reason fails." To be sure, slaves were
expected to work, and to be content though they derived little or no benefit from their work.
And, on both Pinchback's and Tait's plantations, and no doubt on others, female slaves
were subjected to the sexual attentions of overseers and/or other employees, and perhaps
40 Colorado County Tax Rolls, 1847, 1848, 1849, 1850, 1851; Colorado County Deed Records, Book
E, p. 404, Book F, pp. 27, 29, Book H, pp. 16, 355, 356, 643; Letter of William P. Jewitt, September 26, 1844;
Statement of W. W. Rives, both in Charles William Tait Papers, The Center for American History, University
of Texas, Austin, or transcriptions in Tait Family Papers, Ms. 32, Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library,
Columbus; Seventh Census of the United States (1850) Schedule 4, Colorado County, Texas. Apparently, the
altercation which led to Rives' death was precipitated when Tait expressed, in no uncertain terms, his family's
doubts about the suitability of Rives to marry into the family. Tait's sister insisted on marrying Rives, and did
so even as he lay dying of his wound.
That Washington arrived in 1850 can be deduced from the fact that he appeared on the federal census
of the county taken that summer, but not on the tax rolls, which were compiled early in the year. Washington,
who was the grandson of George Washington's brother, brought several artifacts from Mount Vernon to
The Thomas J. Henderson who moved into the Navidad area prior to 1850 is different from the Thomas
J. Henderson who with his brother, Alexander C., had purchased land from John Byrne in the 1830s. The earlier
Thomas Henderson lived his entire life in Natchez, Mississippi, constructed a palatial home now known as
Magnolia Hall in Natchez, and died there in 1863 at the age of 65.
41 Bill Stein, ed., "The Slave Narratives of Colorado County," Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal,
vol. 3, no. 1, January 1993, pp. 11-12 (or in George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite
Autobiography (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1977), vol. 5, part 4, pp. 1577-1583); Plantation
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996, periodical, September 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151398/m1/27/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.