Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 27
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
pointed out that several eyewitnesses, namely Smith, Sherrill, Tooke, Howat, and Howell,
had testified to that effect. Nonetheless, Darden set his bail at $1000, and ordered him to
appear at the next session of the district court on the charge of "an aggravated assault on
the person" of James Moore. There was obviously an underlying hostility to Taylor in the
prosecution of this case. Darden may have been miffed at Freedmen's Bureau agent Enon
M. Harris for some unexplained reason, for Moore stated that he had overheard Darden
say that he would not have established such a heavy bond on Taylor if the bureau had not
appeared as Taylor's "friend." The complaint probably originated with Isam Tooke, Sr.,
and may have been motivated by the labor dispute he had had with the Taylors earlier in
the year. Harris submitted additional affidavits in the case to headquarters, which included
Moore's, who reiterated that he had made no complaint against Taylor and was as surprised
at the result as everyone else. Both Moore and H. H. Foster, who was the clerk of the board
of registrars, declared that the bureau's role in the case had led to the excessive bail.6'
In mid June 1868, Stevenson became embroiled in a controversy over the
jailing of a freedman named William Lewis, alias William Walker. Although the facts
surrounding the case are somewhat confusing it seems that Lewis was arrested for stealing
a mule and was subsequently released by Judge B. F. McFarland on a writ of habeas corpus.
Believing the evidence demonstrated otherwise, Stevenson ordered the sheriff and his
deputy to rearrest Lewis, who was again incarcerated. Stevenson believed that the writ
which released Lewis was not a complete statement of the facts in the case. Lewis was also
implicated in another trial for animal theft and Stevenson had been "credibly informed" that
the bond he posted was of "no account." Stevenson went on to report that in recent months,
a half-dozen or so horses and mules had been stolen in and around Columbus, chiefly from
the "colored people," and that the "general opinion" was that a gang of thieves headed by
white men which used Lewis as "one of their tools" was behind the thievery. Suspicion,
which the agent claimed "amounts almost to evidence, " pointed to Lewis and an associate.
Lewis had a "bad character, [and] no visible means of support, " but walked around well-
dressed, with plenty of money and a good horse to ride. By holding Lewis in custody,
Stevenson thought that firm evidence might be collected to convict him and allow the
authorities to break-up the gang committing the thefts. Stevenson emphasized that there was
not a "respectable man of any means" in the town, black or white, who would post bond
for Lewis. But almost immediately, Lewis petitioned bureau headquarters to be released
61 Enon M. Harris to J. P. Richardson, December 16, 1867; Harris to Richardson, December 18,
1867, Statement of H. H. Foster, December 17, 1867, Statement of Harry Taylor, December 17, 1867,
Statement of Isam N. Tooke, Jr.; Statement of James Moore, December 18, 1867, all in Assistant
Commissioner, Letters Received, H-80, 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/m1/27/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.