Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 18
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
about one mile from Columbus. Smith had escaped into the woods, but a few days later,
Harris found and arrested him. He immediately turned him over to the sheriff. The sheriff,
to Harris' dismay, without even a preliminary hearing, accepted bail in the sum of $1000
for Smith's appearance at the next term of the district court.36
Harris also reported that in Alleyton, John Rodgers, a white man, murdered
Ben Johnson, a freedman, but had been acquitted by the court. Tony Williams, a freedman
and a porter at the Globe Hotel in Alleyton, testified that on the night of February 9, between
11:00 and midnight, while Rodgers was in the kitchen talking with the cook about getting
some supper to two people, Johnson came into the room. Rodgers told Johnson he was
drunk and to go home to bed. Johnson responded with, "No g _ d _ _ n you I am not drunk."
Rodgers then pushed Johnson against the window, breaking a pane of the glass with his
head. Rodgers drew his pistol and hit Johnson three or four times over the head. They
struggled and fell outside. While Johnson was on top, Rodgers fired his pistol. Williams
intervened, catching the gun and pushing Johnson off Rodgers, then holding the pistol until
Rodgers left. Johnson, mortally wounded by Rodgers' gunshot, died a few days later. As
soon as Harris heard of the fracas, he had the civil authorities arrest Rodgers. Rodgers was
subsequently released on bail to appear at the next term of the district court. The grand jury
returned an indictment for first degree murder. During the trial, Rodgers, Harris lamented,
was under no restraint except bail, coming and going as he pleased. Rodgers was acquitted.
Although Harris suggested to headquarters that the assistant commissioner fine Rodgers for
the benefit of Johnson's family, nothing ever seems to have come of the idea.37
In Lavaca County, on June 8, 1867, Daniel G. Davis murdered a freedman
named John Picker. Davis was brought to Columbus for incarceration, but he broke out of
jail. With his guards, Harris pursued Davis about twenty-five miles without locating him.
The agent alerted the county and offered a reward of $25 for Davis' capture. The sheriff
summoned a posse, but not a single white man responded. A number of blacks, however,
pursued Davis, and four of them soon apprehended him and returned him to Harris. Harris
had Davis chained to the floor, and recommended that, if he was to be tried before a military
commission, he should be transferred to Galveston, as the jail in Columbus was insecure,
and the Columbus people so sympathized with Davis they might help him escape. Davis
apparently had good connections. The district commander applied to have him released on
bail, much to the consternation of Harris. Harris reported that many had remarked that
36 Enon M. Harris to Joel T. Kirkman, March 19, 1867, Field Records, vol. 72, pp. 60-62, BRFAL,
RG 105, National Archives.
37 Enon M. Harris to Joel T. Kirkman, March 19, 1867, Field Records, vol. 72, pp. 60-62; Affidavit
of Tony Williams, freedman, April 17, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 7; Harris to Kirkman, April 22, 1867,
Field Records, vol. 73, p. 6; Harris to Phineas Stevens, April 30, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 19, all in
BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998, periodical, January 1998; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151402/m1/18/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed March 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.