Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 19
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
Davis should not "suffer for only killing a nigger" and despaired "that no man can be
convicted in the County as it at present stands." Davis apparently went free, even though
he was also suspected of killing another freedman in Fort Bend County.38
Stevenson had to deal with all manner of scoundrels. A man by the name of
W. W. Lancaster, who was described by a local resident as a "scoundrel and a thief," sup-
posedly stole $1000 and became involved in a row in Navasota. Two black men were
wounded but recovered. Lancaster, though, had apparently also killed two United States
soldiers. Lancaster was arrested and taken into custody by the Colorado County sheriff.
Stevenson passed on the information to his superiors. Lancaster was hanged in October
Other cases of murder arose under the tenure of both Harris and Stevenson.
Once in Eagle Lake, and once four miles south of Columbus, one freedman killed another.
A white man, J. Wallace Foote, slew a freedman named Stephen King, but escaped. Other
freedman seem to have been shot and killed throughout the sub-district, although the
information is very sketchy. What was perhaps the capstone of the violence occurred in
August 1868, when a white man named John Bowen was confined in the Columbus jail and
chained to the floor. His crime must have been an exceptionally horrible one in the white's
eyes, as he was taken out of the jail by a party of masked men and hanged.4
There were three rape cases reported by Stevenson. One of them involved a
freedman named John Thomas. A German woman named Ann Thanheiser swore positively
that Thomas came to her house on the morning of May 10, 1868, choked, beat and bruised
her until she became exhausted, then violated her. In her testimony she described the color
of his pants and shirt, and observed that his pants were short. Thanheiser later went to a
neighbor's house to report what happened, and said it had been a black man who committed
the atrocity. She did not know John Thomas, never having seen him before. John Phillips,
another black man, was arrested and accused and almost hanged, until Thanheiser
recognized Thomas as the guilty party. On the day the sexual assault occurred, Thomas had
38 Enon M. Harris to Joel T. Kirkman, June 17, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, pp. 147-148; Harris
to William H. Rock, June 17, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 149; Harris to Kirkman, June 28, 1867, Field
Records, vol. 73, p. 159; Harris to Kirkman, July 1, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, pp. 170-171; Harris to
Kirkman, July 24, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 203; Harris to Kirkman, July 25, 1867, Field Records, vol.
73, p. 204, all in BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
39 Louis W. Stevenson to acting assistant adjutant general, June 16, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71,
p. 88; Endorsement, Charles A. Vernou, June 20, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 89; H. Ledbetter to
Stevenson, July 1, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 92; E. C. Phelps to Stevenson, July 13, 1868, Field Records,
vol. 71, p. 96; F. P. Wood to Stevenson, July 13, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 96, all in BRFAL, RG 105,
40 Enon M. Harris to Joel T. Kirkman, March 19, 1867, Field Records, vol. 72, pp. 62; A. K. Foster
to Louis W. Stevenson, June 13, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 86; T. J. Walker to Stevenson, May 6, 1868,
Field Records, vol. 71, p. 78; Stevenson to Charles A. Vernou, August 31, 1868, Assistant Commissioner,
Operations Reports, S-279, 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/m1/19/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed December 12, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.