Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 118
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
conveyed the land to the younger Ross, and won the right to sell the land at auction. McNeill
first secured a deed from the younger Ross, then again bought the land, a full league, at
Burnam's auction. McNeill, however, was under legal attack by William Jefferson Jones.
Attempting, evidently, to "hide" the land from the court, on June 7, 1845, he sold it to
Trowbridge Ward, who immediately conveyed half of it to McNeill's wife, Rebecca Jane.
Undeterred, on October 10, 1845, the district court in Austin County ordered that the land,
plus 30 slaves, be sold at auction. On November 4, 1845, Herbert, who had been McNeill's
partner in the cotton grown on the plantation, bought both the land and the slaves for $1000.
A month later, he conveyed it all back to a trust that had been set up for the benefit of
Rebecca McNeill. Herbert had begun piecing together what would become his own
enormous plantation in February 1845, when he purchased 1172 acres from James McNair.
Two years later, he purchased more than 1000 more acres nearby and downriver, and, in
1848, added a substantial amount of land upriver.5
These six large plantations were rimmed to the north by two farms of less than
200 acres each, one belonging to James Dickson, who owned eleven slaves, the other to
Etheldred W. Perry, who owned five, and to the south by that of George Washington
Thatcher, who had 840 acres and ten slaves. Thatcher, like his father-in-law, Montgomery,
had to go to court to secure final title to his plantation. On June 23, 1837, David Bright had
agreed to convey the land to him. Unhappily, Bright died before he could do so. In entirely
friendly proceedings initiated by Thatcher in April 1840, Bright's daughter Sarah, and his
son-in-law, William Demetrius Lacey, acknowledged that the land ought to be Thatcher's.
The title was not finally conveyed, however, until May 31, 1841.6
Another, but decidedly smaller, cluster of plantations and slaveowners had
developed just south of Columbus, on the west side of the river, in the vicinity of the site
of Beeson's Crossing. There, John F. Miller had an 820-acre plantation and fifteen slaves,
John Pinchback 680 acres and eight slaves, William Alley 640 acres and thirteen slaves,
5 Colorado County Deed Records, Book D, p. 214, Book E, pp. 88, 274, 313-318, 382, 383, 491,
Book F, pp. 194, 372, Book G, p. 172; Tax Rolls of Colorado County, 1846, or, for some of the slaveholders
mentioned above, Bill Stein, ed., "The Slave Narratives of Colorado County," Nesbitt Memorial Library
Journal, volume 3, number 1, January 1993, p. 30. McNeill had come to Texas from Adams County,
Mississippi, in 1835 with his friend of ten years, James Bowie (see Colorado County District Court Records,
Civil Cause File No. 2111: M. A. Veramendi, et al. v. W. J. Hutchins, et al.). He was, apparently, already a
wealthy man. Though it seems unlikely that he was able to generate significant income in revolutionary Texas,
he still had enough money to, in December 1837, through a series of transactions, purchase a ten percent interest
in all the remaining unsold lots in the newly-created city of Houston (see Harris County Deed Records, Book
A, pp. 229-231, 441, 460).
Because of two odd transactions, the meanings of which are unclear, it seems that Herbert's slaves
actually were owned by his wife, Mary. On June 27, 1844, Herbert conveyed 38 slaves to Henry R. W. Hill
of New Orleans. Four months later, on October 30, 1844, Hill conveyed the same 38 slaves to Mary Herbert
(see Colorado County Bond and Mortgage Records, Book C, pp. 99, 113).
6 Tax Rolls of Colorado County, 1846; Colorado County Deed Records, Book C, pp. 179-191.
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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/m1/6/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed May 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.