Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 25
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
The Harry Taylor Case
In December 1867, the Harry Taylor case caught the attention of the Columbus
community. Taylor, a freedman "of more than ordinary intelligence and possessed of
considerable property," was arrested and charged with assault and battery upon Isam
Tooke, Jr. and James Moore, both freedmen. Tooke was also indicted, but the charges
against him were dismissed. Taylor's bail was set at $1000, and he was ordered to appear
at the next term of the district court. Harris, who had been present at the inquest, informed
headquarters that he felt the verdict was contrary to the evidence and the bail excessive. He
viewed the case as an effort to extort money from Taylor.56
The incident had started on Thursday evening, December 12, 1867. Sigh
Howell, a freedman, was leaning on a signpost in front of William M. Smith's store. Howell
was about eight feet from James Sherrill, who was sitting in a chair next to the door with
his back against the wall and talking about cotton seed in a "low tone" to Harry Taylor.
Taylor was squatting in front of Sherrill. Isam Tooke, Jr., whom the proprietor believed
was drunk, came out of the store and either fell upon or pushed Taylor. There was already
some animosity between the Taylors and the Tookes because of a labor dispute some months
earlier. Tooke exclaimed, "go home old man you are drunk." Taylor remarked he was
attending to business, dismissed Tooke as a "boy," and declared that he would depart when
Tooke replied that he would get the police and force Taylor to leave. He
grabbed Taylor's arm and attempted to force him away from Smith's store. At this point,
James Moore, intervened. Moore, a freedman who was in some way affiliated with the
Columbus police, was walking along Spring Street near Smith's establishment when he
heard "loud and profane" words pass between Taylor and Tooke. Tooke allegedly told
Moore to "slap Harry in jail and make him pay $10." Moore grabbed Taylor and said "old
man come along with me." Moore claimed that after he and Taylor had gone a few steps,
the latter broke loose and struck him across the shoulders with his walking stick, and
exclaimed "God d_ n you I wont go home with you or any other man until I get ready."
Another witness, Sherrill, agreed that Taylor swung around and told Moore not to bother
him. But he also stated that although Taylor had apparently been drinking, his conduct was
"orderly." Further, Sherrill stated that he had observed the two men throughout their
confrontation but saw Taylor strike no blow. Smith agreed that Taylor had done nothing
56 Enon M. Harris to J. P. Richardson, December 16, 1867, Assistant Commissioner, Letters
Received, H-80, all in BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
57 Statement of Sigh Howell; Statement of Harry Taylor; Statement of William M. Smith; Statement
of James Sherrill, all on December 17, 1867, Assistant Commissioner, Letters Received, H-80; Enon M. Harris
to J. P. Richardson, December 16, 1867, Assistant Commissioner, Letters Received, H-80, 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/m1/25/?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.