Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 5
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
ing contract from 1873 is a little more specific. It calls for thirteen tenants to cultivate "as
much land ... as they can," two-thirds of it in cotton and one-third of it in corn, and to pay,
as rent, one-fourth of the final cotton crop and one-third of the final corn crop. There was a
small additional charge (one penny for every two pounds of cotton) for the use of a cotton
gin. The 1873 contract also provided substantial penalties for allowing unsupervised live-
stock onto the corn or cotton fields ($25 per occurrence), and for engaging in fights "or other
disturbances of the peace ... (except in self-defense)" on the plantation ($50 per occur-
rence). Such fines were to be divided evenly among the other tenants.3
Some blacks attempted to acquire assets by demonstrating that they were di-
rectly descended from those who had them, their former owners. In 1871,-the complicated
dispensation of William Alley's substantial estate was further complicated by the declara-
tion, by nine former slaves, that they were the children of Alley and one of his former slaves,
Caroline, and therefore his proper heirs. The attorneys for Alley's estate responded that the
nine former slaves, who used Alley as their surname, were not Alley's children, that their
contention otherwise was only an attempt "to disgrace and defame the character of the said
William Alley," that Alley had never married, and that, far from having any undue affection
or familial feeling toward them, Alley had sold Caroline and her nine children to two other
men, George L. Perry and William Bridge. The matter came to trial on October 24, 1871, but
the jury failed to agree on a verdict. Citing "the prejudice existing against them and their
claim in this County," and saying that the same prejudice also existed in Lavaca and Fayette
3 Ninth Census of the United States (1870) Colorado County, Texas, Schedule 1; Mike
Kingston, ed., 1994-1995 Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide (Dallas: The Dallas Morning
News, 1993), p. 331; S. T. Burney to Edmund J. Davis, June 22, 1870, Edmund J. Davis Records (RG 301)
Archives Division, Texas State Library; Colorado County Bond and Mortgage Records, Book G, pp.
232, 233; Contract with Freedmen, Harbert Family Papers (Ms. 50), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial
Library, Columbus. The 1870 census listed 978 white persons and 688 black persons who owned either
real estate or other property. These white persons owned real estate totalling $1,649,035 and personal
property totalling $608,657; the black persons $9,960 and $10,479. Of these persons, 873 whites and
678 blacks were identified as heads of households. The 873 whites owned $1,474,295 in real estate and
$560,806 in other property; the 678 blacks $9,310 in real estate and $9,849 in other property. Of the
black heads of household, 572 listed no assets at all.
From 1860 until 1870, Colorado County's population grew by 5.6%. This must be considered
as very slight when measured against the state's overall population growth of 35.5%.Colorado County's
growth outpaced only one of its immediate neighbors, Wharton County, which grew by only 1.4% in
the decade. In the same time span, Fayette County grew by 43.8%, Austin County by 48.8%, and
Lavaca County by 54.2%. It should be noted, however, that local genealogical researchers hold the
1870 census of Colorado County in low regard, noting that many persons who are believed to have
been living in the county before, during, and after 1870 are missing from its pages (for state population
figures, see Mike Kingston, ed., 1986-1987 TexasAlmanac and State Industrial Guide (Dallas: The
Dallas Morning News, 1985), p. 443).
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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/m1/5/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed May 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.