Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 7
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
The evidence suggests that the local freedmen supported the bureau agent in his endeavors
and in his altercation with the instructor. But, concurrently with all this, Harris was
embezzling money from the school fund. When Harris assumed direction of what would
later become the 14th Sub-district, he did not seem to evince any particular interest in
education. Perhaps he was traveling throughout the area, contacting blacks about their
school plans, and determining what progress, if any, had been made in establishing schools
for blacks. Harris, however, did desire that the Superintendent of Education Edwin M.
Wheelock visit a school conducted by Miss Maggie Hartnett and assess how it was
developing. Harris wrote that the citizens proposed a number of ideas in relation to schools
which, if accomplished, would be of great advantage to the freedmen, "but as the school
is at present organized nothing will be done. "8
Harris, like most local Texas bureau agents, encountered difficulties in locating
housing and boarding for female teachers. In January 1867, he searched for suitable
arrangements for the impending arrival of some women instructors who were being sent
to his district, but he failed to locate any suitable accommodations. He solved the problem
in a unique way. Somebody proposed that the trustees of the church could build a box house
attached to the side of Harris' rented dwelling. Harris' landlord agreed. The trustees
promised the house would not cost the bureau anything beyond material-around $125.
Harris would board the ladies in his own family.9
Although there may have been some individual and private efforts to establish
schools for black children in Colorado County once the war ended, the first official school
opened by the Freedmen's Bureau opened in Columbus on March 1, 1866. However, the
bureau did not sponsor the instructor, a fact which would eventually lead to personal
animosity and bitter feelings. The teacher at the school, Maggie Hartnett, who was white,
had been transferred from Galveston. She was a member of the Missionary Aid Society,
and received a salary of forty dollars per month. She opened her school in a building rented
from Julia B. Nelson for twenty dollars a month.'0
Hartnett was not a popular teacher. Shortly, she became involved in a dispute
with the local bureau agent, Harris. Harris, in reporting on the conflict, wrote, "It is
anything but pleasant to have a quarrel with a female." However, he went on to criticize
her conduct toward him and request that she be removed from the school. The local black
trustees of the school, led by Benjamin F. Williams, also filed a written protest and seem
8 Enon M. Harris to Edwin M. Wheelock, November 9, 1866, Field Records, vol. 72, p. 22, BRFAL,
RG 105, National Archives.
9 Enon M. Harris to Edwin M. Wheelock, January 18, 1867, Field Records, vol. 72, p. 27, BRFAL,
RG 105, National Archives.
10 Velva Burrell Papers (Ms. 26), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus; Enon M.
Harris to Edwin M. Wheelock, February 15, 1867, Field Records, vol. 72, p. 41; Harris to Joel T. Kirkman,
August 23, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, pp. 247-248, 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/m1/7/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.