Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 5
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
Many black children had been retained by white families, and bureau agents
were required to retrieve them when relatives were found. When Stevenson wrote to
Phineas Stevens, the Hallettsville agent, that Nelly Toburn wished the return of her son,
Stevens refused. The boy, he said, did not wish to live with his mother, and was old enough
and able to take care of himself. Moreover, he had a signed a legal contract with his
employer, a man named Harris, and Stevens agreed that the boy was better off where he
was. In another child detention case, Jane Rhodes, a freedwoman, complained that Mrs.
H. J. Gibbs of Hackberry in Lavaca County retained her son and daughter, John and Louisa.
Gibbs was notified by mail, but the letter was lost when the bag it was being carried in floated
away on the Navidad River. Nevertheless, Gibbs brought the girl, Louisa, to the office.
Louisa declared her intention to stay with Gibbs rather than return to her mother. Gibbs also
declared that she was more than willing to send Louisa to her mother, but that she could
not afford the expenses. John, the son, had earlier been returned to Rhodes by Gibbs'
brother. In yet another case, Martha Scroggins enlisted the bureau to retrieve her son
Franklin, age 14, from Marion Forbes at Eagle Lake. Forbes, reportedly, had threatened
to kill the boy if he tried to get back to his mother. Stevenson looked, but could not locate
Forbes. Each case was different. When Henry Harrison tried to retrieve his brother from
Oakland area resident John Marshall Carson, Carson replied that the boy wished to remain
with Carson, but Harrison refused to allow it. Stevenson entered the disagreement and
ordered that the boy stay with Carson and in his employ until he could talk to the parties
and investigate the case. In yet another case, Stevenson received a request from the
Brenham agent about Osborne Upton, a freedman, who had abandoned his wife, Emily,
and five children. She sought relief. He supposedly worked near Alleyton, but after making
inquiries and a search the Columbus agent was unable to locate him.5
Blacks continually discovered that whites only reluctantly gave up children.
For example, Caroline Green, a freedwoman, applied to Harris to recover her daughter
Rose Anna Green. Rose Anna, in the possession of William Green of Gonzales County, who
resided 15 or 20 miles east of the county seat, refused to relinquish the girl. The bureau
investigated, and Green was united with her daughter. In another case, a mother, declaring
5 Phineas Stevens to Louis W. Stevenson, March 11, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 48;
Endorsement, Stevenson, March 12, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 49; Stevens to Stevenson, March 19, 1868,
Field Records, vol. 71, p. 50; Enon M. Harris to Mrs. H. J. Gibbs, June 6, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p.
125; Harris to Joel T. Kirkman, June 27, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 156; Harris to Byron Porter, July
8, 1867, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 178; Special Order, August 5, 1867, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 220; J. R.
Fitch to Louis W. Stevenson, December 2, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 120; Endorsement, Stevenson,
December 17, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 121; John M. Carson to Louis W. Stevenson, July 27, 1868,
Field Records, vol. 71, p. 100; Endorsement, Stevenson, July 29, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 101; F. P.
Wood to Stevenson, November 12, 1868, Field Records, vol. 71, p. 118, all in BRFAL, RG 105, National
Archives. Gibbs had originally brought Louisa to agent John T. Raper, but he ordered her to hold the girl until
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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/m1/5/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.