Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, January, 1998 Page: 9
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
Though Kiddoo had promised the Columbus freedmen that if they raised $100
he would furnish a building, after his removal, the superintendent of education, Joseph P.
Welch returned the money. Harris used it to pay some bills that had been incurred by the
trustees, then returned the balance to Welch to procure lumber. Nothing was ever heard
of the money again. The freedmen proceeded to purchase a lot and increase the amount of
cash they had on hand to $200. Harris desired to issue a contract for $750 so work could
begin. Once work began, he thought he could collect an additional $1200 to $1500 of an
amount that had been subscribed. He believed that once finished, the school could accom-
modate 200 pupils "without any further trouble by the contributions of the freedmen."'4
But the Columbus freedmen were not the only group active in promoting
education. Another freedmen who had begun teaching in the county had not been seen yet
by Harris. This was in addition to the two about whom he had already informed headquar-
ters. D. T. Allen promised more teachers, but the freedmen were reluctant to build a
schoolhouse unless they received an official promise that the bureau would arrange for
instructors. Various schools, however, were already in operation. Miss L. I. Wheeler
taught in Alleyton, Miss Ada S. Chittenden in Columbus, and Edward H. Adams and
Walter Bonner, who was a black man, at plantation schools near Columbus. By early 1867,
Harris reported that Colorado County had a total of 268 black pupils. The same year, a Miss
Matthews and her sister taught a school at Eagle Lake, and John McCarty desired to
establish a freedmen's school near La Grange. Throughout the area, only one school
remained outside the bureau's supervision. Located in La Grange, the instructor was a black
woman who had 10 or 12 pupils.'5
As the school terms reached the mid-point of 1867, the yellow fever epidemic
struck. As a result, rumors began that all the schools for freedchildren would be closed at
the end of June. Unbeknownst to Harris, Allen sent Chittenden an order to close her school.
Though Harris had had some problems with Chittenden, and felt that her school was too
large for one person to control, he admitted it was well organized. Wheeler, apparently
afraid of the epidemic, or perhaps ill herself, closed her school after only one week and left
for Galveston without giving Harris any notice. Harris requested that the replacement for
Chittenden be under bureau control. After working hard for the past six months to instill
14 Enon M. Harris to Joel T. Kirkman, August 23, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, pp. 247-248, 250,
BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
15 Enon M. Harris to Edwin M. Wheelock, February 11, 1867, Field Records, vol. 72, pp. 39-40;
Harris to Joel T. Kirkman, March 23, 1867, Field Records, vol. 72, p. 64; Harris to Kirkman, May 6, 1867,
Field Records, vol. 73, p. 27; Harris to Charles Garretson, May 9, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 39; Harris
to Miss Matthews, May 13, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 48; Harris to Jesse Rodgers, freedman, May 20,
1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 67; Harris to Kirkman, June 4, 1867, Field Records, vol. 73, p. 114, all in
BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives. The schoolhouse at Alleyton, it is worth noting, was rented by the bureau
from E. A. Willard at $15 currency per month. The contract dated from April 4, and the lease was for four
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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/m1/9/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.