Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 140
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
To track down runaways, Pinchback, at least, kept a pack of dogs. To assist
the slaveowners in finding escaped slaves, and to limit intercourse between slaves on
neighboring plantations, on April 4, 1845, the commissioners court had created five
patrols, captained by Isam Tooke, Hardy King, Harrison Gregg, Phillip Melor, and Elijah
Mercer. Each patrol had been assigned an area, ordered to patrol it at least once a week,
and directed to give slaves caught away from their plantations who could not produce a pass
from either their owner or some other person who was authorized to issue one, a maximum
of 39 lashes.42
The distinction between the German farmers and their slaveholding neighbors
became abundantly clear in November 1850, when the county was given an opportunity to
vote on the bill introduced by Senator James Alfred Pearce of Maryland. The bill, which
set the western boundaries of the state of Texas, was opposed by slavery extremists. The
Germans at Frelsburg voted universally in favor of it and the few large slaveholders to the
south of Columbus voted universally against it. Though Columbus went nearly two-to-one
against the bill, the German vote allowed the proposition to pass in the county by a slim,
five-vote margin. The election was a harbinger of things to come.43
By 1850, most of the county's farmers had established relationships with
markets in Houston, to which they took their crops by road. The Colorado River above
Columbus had proven to be navigable only part of the year, generally from autumn to
spring, and a move to construct a plank road from the interior settlements to Palacios or
Rules; Charles William Tait to James Asbury Tait, August 12, 1850; Charles William Tait to James Asbury
Tait, October 2, 1850, all three in Tait Family Papers, Ms. 32, Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library,
Columbus. Two sets of Tait's plantation rules have been located. Each begins with ten general rules. One copy
follows with sixteen particular rules; the other with nineteen. The general rules are substantially the same in
both copies; the particular rules substantially different. The sixteen-rule version uses the names of particular
slaves, and assigns them particular tasks. The nineteen-rule version does not (see Plantation Rules, Tait Family
Papers, Ms. 32, Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus; Plantation Rules, Charles William Tait
Papers, The Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin). One must suppose that miscegenation
had been fairly common in the county for years. The first known report of it occurs on August 7, 1833, when
Benjamin Lundy visited the home of the two Alley brothers (meaning apparently Abraham and William Alley,
since John, Thomas, and Rawson had by then died). He found them living with "a handsome black girl, who
has several fine-looking party colored children--specimens of the custom of some countries" (see Benjamin
Lundy, The Life, Travels and Opinions of Benjamin Lundy (1847. Reprint. New York: Negro Universities Press,
1969. Reprint. New York: Augustus M. Kelley Publishers, 1971), p. 41).
42 Stein, ed., "The Slave Narratives of Colorado County," Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, vol.
3, no. 1, January 1993, p. 11; Colorado County Commissioners Court Minutes, Book 1, pp. 3-4. On May 9,
1846, a little more than a year after the Colorado County commissioners created the patrols, the state government
passed a law which authorized the various counties to create them. The law specified that slaves could be given
no more than 25 lashes, and allowed the patrols to arrest whites who were "found in any assemblage of slaves,
or in or about any negro quarter" (see Gammel, ed., The Laws of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 2, pp. 1497-1501).
43 Texas Monument, November 6, 1850. The vote at Frelsburg, still called Cummins Creek by the
newspaper, was 35 to 0 in favor of the bill. In Columbus, 24 persons voted for the bill and 45 against. The large
slaveholders voted 9 to 0 against the bill at Thomas Ware's 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/m1/28/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.