Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 41
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
side of Crockett Street for its side track. On August 31, the city authorized the railroad to
build a second track on Crockett Street, and to move their freight depot to a site about one
block west of their passenger depot on the new side track. Jones and Smith, one must
suppose, vigorously opposed allowing the railroad to have a right of way along Crockett
Street. Jones, however, had moved to Galveston, and could do little from his home there.
And, because of his previous political positions and racist attitude, Smith's protests certainly
fell on deaf ears. The mayor and aldermen who granted the right of way had been appointed
by the Republican governor, and three of the five aldermen were black. Smith, it turned out,
had little time to fume over his lost revenue, or over the control of the city government by
On October 11, 1873, a Wharton County Deputy Constable named James Roan
arrested a black man in southern Colorado County. The man resisted arrest, and Roan
struck him over the head with his revolver. That night, when neither Roan or any member of
his family was there, a number of bullets were fired into his home. The next night, two black
brothers named Wright left the plantation where they worked to go to Eagle Lake to sell
pecans, and never returned. When eyewitnesses placed Roan and a party of men in the area
on the night in question, about 75 or 100 local blacks secured arms, and resolved to find the
Wrights and to take action against Roan if it was warranted. Sheriff John R. Brooks got
wind of the gathering and went to Eagle Lake with a posse. He spoke to the assembled
blacks, imploring them to disperse, then returned to Columbus to await developments. Soon
the bodies of the missing Wright brothers had been found. On October 16, Brooks returned
to the area, discovered that many of the armed blacks had gone into Wharton County,
seemingly to look for Roan, and was taken to the spot where the bodies of the Wrights still
lay, about three miles southeast of Eagle Lake. The two men had been tied together and
coldly shot dead. The next day, United States Marshal Thomas Peck Ochiltree dispatched
his deputy, M. K. Canfield, to Colorado County to investigate the incident and quell what had
been depicted in the press as a potential riot. There was to be no riot. On October 19, a black
man named John Wesley Brown was walking on a road about four miles from Columbus
when he noticed two white men on horses. Brown recognized one of them as Thomas J.
Humphreys, a man who had threatened him only the day before because he had not paid a
grocery bill. To avoid confrontation, Brown left the road. Humphreys, though he seemed not
to have recognized Brown, nonetheless regarded his conduct as suspicious, and followed.
As he approached, Brown turned, produced a pistol, and shot Humphreys two or three
times. Humphreys died the next day. His death may have assuaged the hostility raging
53 Colorado County Bond and Mortgage Records, Book I, p. 220, Book K, pp. 256, 257;
Colorado Citizen, April 9, 1874, April 16, 1874, August 27, 1874; Colorado County Deed Records,
Book Q, p. 578. The railroad had purchased the twenty-acre farm because the owner would not give
them a right of way through it.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000, periodical, January 2000; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151408/m1/41/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.