Family History by Robert Monroe Fleming (Sr.)

Notes on Fanily History by Iva Causey Fleming
(Part 17)

Transcribed by Robert M. Fleming Jr.

It had meen mentioned in a preceeding chapter that Uncle David died May 30, 1836. There upon my parents moved back to his home and took charge of his estate. Then became theirs by inheritance. During the ensuing year a gentleman from Alabama named McDonald came into our neighborhood and offered to buy with cash the 500 acre tract which my Father had improved. The offer was accepted and the money paid. African slavery was now recognized and established by law in Texas. And my Father sent, by Mr Bell, the money to the Unites States to buy two slaves, a young man and a young woman. These arrived the last week in December 1837. In the bill of sale the man was described and his age stated to be twenty one years, But the man said that he was twenty four years of age. His name was given as Sampson only. But he said his full name was Sampson Brown. The woman, who was younger, was named Mandy. If she claimed a fuller name I do not recall it. Both the man and woman were born and reared in Maryland. Sampson had been taught in his boyhood by the son of his master, to read and to write fluently and well. He also knew well all the elementary tables and rules of arithmetic. He was an intelligent, earnest, christian. He had felt, and he continued to feel, in his soul, the apostalic burden, "Woe unto me if I preach not the pospel". He was preparing to take passage on the "Underground railroad" out of Maryland to the Free States, or Canada, when his purpose was discovered and prevented by shipping him to New Orleans. He was to us a faithful servant, honest, truthful, industrious, and skillful. He was a pur negroe of medium size, very strong, enjoyed perfect health, and was apparently in the prime of manhood when my Father died in January 1865. He had my Father's promise that he should never by constrained to render involuntary service to any other master. Of which my Mother promised she had full notice. The promise went further, to the extent that Sampson should be permitted to retain the exclusive use of his cabin. Should be clothed and fed and cared for as formerly. And enjoy all the freedom that the public regulations would permit. All of which was promptly and cheerfully recognized as binding and complied with by my Mother. On June 19, of that year the emancipation proclamation took effect in Texas. Sampson was then only a little over fifty years of age. He at once commenced a missionary circuit preaching and teaching among the freed men. A few years later he had extended the field of his labors to Milam County. Where he got into some jeopardy with the so-called Ku-Klux Klan. He made his escape from this peril and came to my house for succor and security. When the period of this persecution had passed he resumed his ministerial missionary labors. When I last heard from him he was in Fort Bend County, Texas, hale in health, prosperousing in his work as a teacher and preacher, and enjoying the respect and esteem of the good men of the county.

My Father sold a large part of Uncle David's stock of cattle, mostly on a credit, to Hap Johnson who then lived on Chance's Prairie, had a considerable farm and squal of slaves and was much given to indulging a tastefor fine horses and the hazards of the turf. His principal jockey and general manager was Samuel Hinkle, an honest, worthy man. Who was then and ever after till his death, my Father's friend. Mr Johnson's affairs beun to gallop towards insolvency.And wether at his instance or with his knowledge I do not know. But in the nick of time, Mr Hinkle gave my Father warning and he got for the debt due him four slaves, which Mr Hinkle brought to our house in January 1838. These were a woman named Rachel, about thirty years of age, and her two children.A daughter named Mary of seven years and son named, Joe, a year younger than Mary. And a lad no kin to the others, about twelve years of age named George, who said his full name was George Davis.

My Father, who thought with Dr Franklin that,"He who by the plow would thrive must either hold the plow or drive", continued to hold the plow himself and to labor with his few slaves. Still hiring white laborers to help in the peak of the cultivating season and in gathering the crops. The seasons were good and crops of cotton averaged a bale of 500 pounds weight to the acre until 1842. When for the first time the cotton caterpillar attacked our crops. We only made eleven bales that year. The next year (1843) was equally disasterous, to cotton. The evils of paper currency then almost worthless and the aftermath of the great panic in the United States, made "hard time" in Texas in 1842 and 1843. Colonel Morgan Smith, late the colonel of the noted New York Seventh Regiment, came to Columbia in 1838 and opened and conducted there a large mercantile business. Chiefly selling family and plantation supplies on annual account. And receiving cotton there on at the end of each calendar year. He extended his credits with families, plantations, planters, and local dealers through out all the settlements West of Trinity River. He and my Father were near the same age, were congenial and soon became close friends. In 1842 Colonel Smith's cotton receipts fell off fearfully and he had to begin looking to other property of his customers for payment and security. To facilitate that which he started, the plantation near the town of Columbia, on which, after Annexation, he concentrated his attention, and giving it the name of "Waldeck". He developed it into the best sugar estate that was in Texas during the slavery times. In 1842, and until Annexation he used it only as a self sustaining recruiting camp to which he sent negroes and work animals which he was forced to buy in making his collections. In the Spring of 1844 the heavy rains came early and made and kept the ground to wet to plow until cotton fields became over grown with a carpet of weeds a little higher than the young cotton plants. Making it difficult to work when the ground first got so it could be worked or plowed. And threatening to soon make it impossible to save the cotton plants from the weeds. While things were in this condition and my Father with me and the servants was fighting the weeds like one killing snakes or fighting fire; Colonel Smith on his way from Matagorda stopped at our house for dinner. He had with him a young negroe man named Jim, whom he had bought in Matagorda at forced sale on a debt he held against the ownder. In slave market phrase the negroe was"very likely". Colonel Smith took in the situation presented by our fight with the weeds. And offered to sell Jim to my Father at a price he named, which was not large or above the slave market value My Father declined the offer with thanks. Saying he was not prepared to buy property. That he was doing his best to save his cotton crop to meet his merchandise account. Colonel Smith said "I will let you have this man at the price named, and charge it to the Merchandise account". With his help you can save your cotton crop and meet your merchandise account". This was reasonable, was kind, and the bargain was struck.

We worried the weeds roughly under as fast as we could. Then gave the ground a good working over and soon got the cotton field in order and the plants growing nicely. Just when we had affected this the communion season in the Columbia Church occured. It was then the custom in that church to have at such seasons protracted morning and afternoon preching services. Beginning on Friday and continuing until the celebration of the Sacrament of the supper at the close of the Sunday morning services. My Father, being an elder, went up with his family on Friday,to stop at Madam Bell's near the church during the continuation of the meeting. Our servants were to come up Sunday morning. A few minutes before the opening of Sunday morning services Sampson arrived at the church with all of our servants except Jim. Sampson, with an anxious look sought out my Father who was within, probably(I do not recollect certainly) in the Session room. Word was got to him. And when he came out Sampson said that just as they were leaving home that morning a man, whom he named, and claimed to be the true owner of Jim, came with two assistants and took Jim away. Mr Benton H McNeel. A younger brother of Captain [this is the last line visible at the bottom of the page. There is a break in continuity to the first line of the next page. I suspect there is one more line not visible at the bottom of the page] promptly saying, "I will attend to that matter". He bade my Father have no anxiety or trouble himself about it. Mr McNeel found in the gathering congregation two suitable assistants. Set out at once and in due time recovered possession of Jim. The contest over title to Jim Colonel Smith said was his affair and there for by mutual consent he took Jim and in exchange gave us a man named Prince Monroe. A few weeks before my Father's death, in a general talk over his affairs among other things he said to me in refernce to Prince Monroe, "I have owned him more than twenty years. The most of the tha time he has been the manager of my plantation. And if he had ever deceived me or told a falsehood I did not detect it or suspected it." In 1844 the cotton crop on the coast of Texas was good. And Annexation was assured by the election of Mr Pok. In 1845 the cotton crop was fine and Annexation was vitually accomplished. In December of that year (1845) my Father sold 1000 acres of his land including his cultivated farm and his home at a fine price. A higher price than could be obtained now for the same land. Ever after this sale his pecuniary circumstances were as independent and affluent as he desired. He gradually increased his force of slaves and opened a larger farm on the remaining D. McCormick league. Putting to cultivation only the best land. Which was a strip about one quarter of a mile wide estending two miles and a quarter along the river front. Giving a little more than 300 acres. Which one line of fence one mile and a half in length would with the river entirely and securely enclose. Adjacent to this he sti owned two thousand acres of woodland and prairie pasture. It was not a larg plantation. It was well located, well organized and fully equiped. The dwelling house for master and laborers with the gin and mill house the cribs, stable and stock-pens were located immediately on the river bank and nearly midway of the strip of cultivated land. Here a space unenclosed let into the river and ferry, stock and travel and seperated his cultivated lan into two fields. The most remote part of the large field being a little mor than a mile from the dwellings. He kept on this farm a small herd of stock horses out of which the better colts were readily sold at two years old fo one hundred dollars each (American gold). Also a small herd of horned cattl to supply the family master and servants with beef, mile and butter. This herd was kept down to the limit of one hundred head by selling out of it milk cows and work oxen as a surplus of cows and steers developed. There was active local demand for these cattle at twenty five dollars for a fresh cow. That is one with a calf under two months old. And at twenty five dollars each for steers four years old and broke to work as oxen. He had also a stock of hogs which furnished annually fatted hogs for slaughter to supply the family with the fresh pork, bacon and lard. Cotton, Indian corn field peas, yams, potatoes, and turnips were the field crops. The climate and soi werenot favorable to the small grains, wheat oats, rye and barley. When emancipation came the company of slaves embraced 13 men, 11 women, and 14 children. The only deaths that had occured among the slaves were a child of Rachel's named Moses who died at the age of six month in 1844. And two of the children of Ann the wife of Prince. One of whom died in 1858 at the age of ten months and one 1860 at the age of eight months. The only slaves ever sold were Sam as already stated because he could not be brought into Texas. And Mandy the woman brought with Sampson in 1837. Who for insubordination in 1847 such as could not be forgiven was sent to New Orleans and sold. She was not other wise punished. During all the successive years a white man was accasionally employed by my Father to work with the slaves and direct their work, until June 1, 1858. This man was to do and did do regular field work every working day to the full measure of a man's duty. He lived in the mansion house, ate with the owners and was treated with as respectful courtesy and was required to observe the same decorum as was extended to or expected of [rest of bottom line illegible below bottom of carbon paper] with him. And commiited to him, except the enforcing of obedience from the slaves. That was always reserved to the master and judged of and acted on by him alone. No overseers of slave driver's whip was ever used on the place. "The lash" as it is called was never used during the last twenty years to get work done. But only to conserve the peace and secure decorus deportment. I have often heard my Father say that he had learned that the man who resorted to the lash to get slaves to work was not fit to own or control one. He believed in work and had full work and better work than those could get who let the force of the lash take the place of superior intelligence and moral power. Price was the general foreman. Joe had better faculties as a boss but was not up right and truthful. He made a good lieutenant. Sampson was the best axeman, lowman and hoeman and led in the other of these lines in which he was given time as most needed. In the cultivation season he led the hoes, in breaking up and planting he led the chopping axes. He was not called on to do any chores after the family got to large to supply it with corn meal made daily on a hand mill.Any of the children who went to the field to work could pick more cotton that he. There for he did not pick cotton at all for the last wenty years that he was in bondage. He and Rachel were married but in that relation their tempers proved to be incompatible and my Father permitted them to live apart. He built a good house the best in the quarters, for Sampson in which he lived alone. Rachel or her daughter Mary being required to keep it and his wearing apparel in good order. Mary was the best cotton picker. She had intelligence and the bossing faculty equal to that of her brother Joe. And was more trustworthy. When ever there was work for a "trash gang" that is irregular lighter work for women and children, Mary was the lieutenant commanding and leading it. All the women were trained to cook and to wash and iron and to keep house. Rachel was the queen regnant in the kitchen. But Ann Filda Marie and Frances were first class at all such work. And the others good second class. The plantation was a little world within itself. A little world indeed but it's owners saw it was a very ample and happy one.

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©2009 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last revised on 11 October 2009.