Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 21
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
steaming water on the trespasser. Charged with simple assault, he was fined for his efforts.
Although the cases may seem somewhat trivial, it was important to blacks that the system
On April 14, 1868, Hunt Terrell, a white man, assaulted J. J. Ridge, a
freedman, without provocation, and attempted to cut him with a knife. Failing to achieve
his purpose, Terrell attempted to procure a pistol to shoot the "D _ _ _ Nigger." The town
constable and mayor heard Terrell vow to shoot Ridge, prompting the mayor to intervene
and lead Terrell away. In less than an hour, Terrell returned, with a gun, in search of Ridge.
Only then was he taken before the authorities, where bail was established at $500. He could
not make the bail, and was put in jail. When Stevenson protested to the marshal that if Terrell
had been a freedman who threatened a white man, he would have immediately been jailed
and passed the night there, the marshal flippantly and mysteriously replied, "Yes, but you
would not have put him in jail with a nasty crazy Nigger wench." Terrell was subsequently
released from jail, with Ridge's agreement, provided that he leave town. In defiance of the
agreement, Terrell remained in town at least through the end of the month.45
Drunkenness frequently led to physical violence, although the agents some-
times described the people involved as "crazy." Because of the way the agent depicted the
event, the case of J. H. McWilliams is worth recounting. McWilliams, labeled a Mexican
and a "very powerful man," got drunk. McWilliams caught a black man named Peter
Simms, whom Stevenson described as "crazy" because he believed his legs were full of
snakes, conversing with his laborers, and ordered him away. Then, without further
provocation, McWilliams drew his revolver and shot Simms through the arm. McWilliams
was arrested and placed under a $1000 bond.46
Freedmen might be beaten when they refused to relinquish their guns. Some
were beaten "unmercifully" and shot for their refusal. The freedmen, of course, were not
entirely innocent. One beat his wife with a six-shooter in the presence of witnesses. Though
the woman asserted that her husband had not struck her, George Metz, a justice of the peace
had been called to quell the difficulty. The husband was fined $100, but the governor later
remitted the fine. Mary Wright, a freedwoman, assaulted fifteen year old William Wright,
who was white, "injuring him for life." She was fined only $1.00 and costs. One freedman
struck another with a stone and was fined $10 and costs. Two freedmen shot each other,
44 Louis W. Stevenson to J. P. Richardson, April 30, 1868, Assistant Commissioner, Operations
Reports, S-190; John Knipscher to Stevenson, March 18, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 50, both in BRFAL,
RG 105, National Archives.
45 Louis W. Stevenson to J. P. Richardson, April 30, 1868, Assistant Commissioner, Operations
Reports, S-190, BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
46 Louis W. Stevenson to Charles A. Vernou, May 31, 1868, Assistant Commissioner, Operations
Reports, S-211; Stevenson to Vernou, September 30, 1868, Assistant Commissioner, Operations Reports, S-
301, both 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/m1/21/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.