Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 59
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
under the editorial guidance of Fred Barnard, wasted little time in viciously attacking the new
school system and the legislature's choice for state school superintendent, former Union
soldier and Freedmen's Bureau official Jacob Carl Maria DeGress. Of the schools, the
Citizen prodded, "white men, remember that the Radical party intend through the public free
schools, to compel you to send your children to the same school with negro children," and of
DeGress "he is imminently qualified to boss the job of teaching the negroes to be impudent to
the white race" and "he may enjoy the transcendant pleasures of seeing the children of the
white rebels commingling on terms of equality with their former proteges, under the rod of a
buck negro school teacher." 75
In the fall of 1871, public schools opened around the county. However, the most
substantial school building in the county, the Colorado College building in Columbus, con-
tained a private school. The building was purchased by the local Odd Fellows lodge in early
1871, and they rented it to a teacher named E. E. Post. Post's private school was so suc-
cessful that for the term beginning in January 1872 he hired three more teachers, one of
whom, Kate Oakes, had conducted a public school in the previous term. After Oakes's
closed, the county was left with sixteen public schools with an average enrollment of 73
students. The largest, apparently, was the one at Columbus, with more than 200 students.
Years later, one citizen remembered that because of "an unsocial atmosphere which pre-
vailed in Columbus and ... the inability to find agreeable lodging and boarding places," white
teachers quit the local public schools, leaving them to be conducted by blacks.76
The following year, Post left town, and the Odd Fellows leased the college
building to the state for use as a public school. More importantly, the more-liberal minded
Benjamin M. Baker, who would become a strong advocate of good schools, and who seemed
to be little concerned whether or not they were public, took over as editor of the Citizen. He
began his campaign to establish a single, high-quality school in Columbus with an editorial
75 Frederick Eby, comp., Education in Texas Source Materials (Austin: University of Texas,
1918), pp. 516-535; Colorado Citizen, May 11, 1871. The Constitution of 1869 had required that the
legislature compel all children between six and eighteen years old to attend either a public or a private
school for at least four months each year. The 1870 law attempted to do so, but provided only the
weakest of penalties, stipulating that if its children failed to attend school, the county would forfeit its
"interest in the school fund for the time being," but affording no punishment for the parents.
76 Colorado Citizen, May 11, 1871, October 5, 1871, October 12, 1871, November 2, 1871,
January 18, 1872, February 15, 1872, February 29, 1872; "Reminiscences of Mrs. F G. Mahon," Nesbitt
Memorial Library Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, January 1999, pp. 45-46; Dewey Homer Brown, The History of
Education in Columbus, Colorado County, Texas (Master's thesis, Sul Ross State Teachers College,
1942), p. 68. Though public schools were not popular with the Colorado Citizen, the newspaper did
find it proper to praise new history textbooks which were adopted, complaining that the old ones
taught "that the Southern people were heathens, murderers, and traitors" (see Colorado Citizen,
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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/m1/59/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.