Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999 Page: 24
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Few Colorado County freedmen seem to have been accorded land by their grate-
ful past owners for little or no money. In fact, only two instances of such largesse are known
to have occurred; and only one of those involved a former slaveowner from Colorado County.
On February 8, 1866, Joseph Worthington Elliott Wallace gave a lot on the western edge of
Columbus to a freedman named Stephen Wallace. Presumably, the one Wallace formerly
owned the other. The second instance involved the transfer of more land to blacks than all
the other pre-1870 transactions combined. Perhaps the most significant early black rural
landowners were eighteen people who were set up in an isolated community by a benefac-
tor named Swen (or Swante) Magnus Swenson. Swenson was an early Texas merchant,
landowner, and slaveowner whose anti-secessionist sentiments drove him to leave Texas
during the war. He made it a habit to acquire land certificates during the heyday of his
Austin store in the 1850s. In 1861, he had been granted some 1420 acres in southwestern
Colorado County by virtue of a certificate he had acquired from Thomas J. Smith. On
December 24, 1869, he laid out nineteen tracts, eighteen of forty acres each and one, in the
center of the community, of twenty acres, then conveyed each of the forty-acre tracts to a
former slave. He also authorized each of the eighteen new landowners to select a one-half-
acre site within the twenty acre tract to build a home. The remainder of the twenty-acre tract
was to be devoted to a church and a school for the community. Eleven of the eighteen
beneficiaries of Swenson's charity adopted his surname as their own. A week later, one of
the new landowners who did not adopt Swenson's surname, Mary Johnson, bought the
remaining 680 acres in the survey from him for $300. Despite this promising start, Swenson's
community did not produce any notably prosperous black citizens. In fact, it seems likely
that the community never had either a church or a school, and few if any houses.37
the money and refused to sign a deed, whereupon Bacon filed suit. On October 19, 1872, the district court ruled
in Bacon's favor, stipulating that she must pay the $12 due and all court costs. On October 7, 1874, after she
complied with the terms of the settlement, Alley's estate transferred title to Bacon.
37 Colorado County Deed Records, Book L, p. 645, Book N, pp. 667-670, Book O, p. 76. In later
years, the community that Swenson set up acquired an informal name. However, the name is so informal that it
seems never to have been written down, not even in the hundreds of transactions regarding the land that are
recorded in the Colorado County courthouse. It occurs in several variations; Judyville, Judaville, Juniorville,
and Jewittville being four. If the original version was Judyville, the name may derive from that of one of the
original eighteen grantees, Judy Swenson.
There are many other mysteries regarding this community. Swenson lived in New York at the time he
set it up. He specified in the deed that the persons who were to receive the land were black and had rendered
"faithful services," presumably, though he does not say so, to himself. However, at the time the land was con-
veyed, Swenson is not known to have owned any slaves for about twenty years (see Larry E. Scott, The Swedish
Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1990). pp. 57-59). The land was con-
veyed in 1869, but none of the persons who received it appear on the 1870 federal census of Texas or on the
1870 Colorado County tax rolls.
On June 30, 1874, three of the original grantees conveyed their 40 acres to two men in return for legal
services rendered on behalf of Leonard Robinson, who had five criminal indictments pending against him. The
others seem to have retained their ownership for many years longer (see Colorado County Deed Records, Book
T, p. 2).
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999, periodical, January 1999; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151405/m1/24/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed August 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.