Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 3
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas,
by Barry A. Crouch
Families, Children, and Public Assistance
Following the end of the Civil War, the reunification of the black family
became the focus of the Texas (and Southern) African-American community. Reclaiming
children who were detained or who quickly had been apprenticed was a priority among the
former slaves when they approached a bureau agent. Whites also entered the equation by
detaining youngsters, apprenticing them as a cheap source of labor, and, in general, placing
numerous roadblocks in the way of black adults to bring black youngsters back into the fold.
Freedmen's Bureau agents found themselves to be the center of a family clearing house for
the former slaves in the early years of Reconstruction. Agents often received directives
from headquarters to search for specific freedmen who had supposedly gravitated to the
area from other states. From the time the second bureau agent in Columbus, John T. Raper,
began apprenticing black children in 1865, until the demise of the organization, Colorado
County blacks approached bureau officers with specific family problems.
It mattered not where an agent was stationed in Texas; all received inquiries
from other sub-assistant commissioners or relatives attempting to locate children or retrieve
them from whites who refused to relinquish the youngsters. James Lowrie, the Moscow,
Texas, bureau official, attempted to discover the whereabouts of John and Louisa Shear for
their mother, whose name was not disclosed. Although Harris either could not or would
not approach the individual himself, he did refer Lowrie to Henry Gibbs, an Alleyton
resident, who had allegedly carried the two children away at the end of the war. The mother
had complained to the Moscow agent that Gibbs refused to turn over the boy and girl to her,
and she wanted them to live with her. Harris was also asked about the children of a
freedwoman named Sarah Sutton, who lived in Selma, Alabama. Her children were
reported to be with Jacob Sutton, who lived in the Richmond, Texas, area. He referred the
case to the bureau agent in Richmond, William H. Rock.'
1 James Lowrie to Enon M. Harris, February 24, 1867, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 34; George Sharkey
to Harris, March 29, 1867, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 40; Endorsement, Harris, April 22, 1867, Field Records,
vol. 71, p. 41, all in BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives. It is not clear from the limited evidence whether Jacob
Sutton was white or black, or what relationship he had to the unnamed children.
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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/m1/3/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed November 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.