Friday, March 3, 2017

The Wild Reconstruction era in Texas


Micajah Clack Rogers (my great great grandfather) asked the President (Andrew Johnson) for amnesty, according to the formula President Johnson provided former Confederates. As I posted on Sat. here.

Micajah Rogers lived in Huntsville, Walker County, Texas.

The Texas State Historical Association gives different accounts of the lawlessness during Reconstruction, for which Texas is notorious.
WALKER COUNTY REBELLION. In 1870 anarchy prevailed across much of Texas despite years of military occupation. The Radical Republican-dominated Twelfth Legislature approved sweeping anticrime measures proposed by Governor Edmund J. Davis. Crucial components, such as the State Police and state militia, brought criticism to Davis and his supporters. These instruments of order also brought the administration into conflict with localities even as Davis tried to protect key political constituencies and solicit the support of those who viewed him with suspicion.

A major challenge to Davis's authority followed the murder of Walker County freedman Sam Jenkins in December 1870. Jenkins had testified against several whites in a case of assault, and his corpse appeared along a road outside Huntsville several days later. An investigation by State Police Capt. Leander H. McNelly led to the arrest of four whites: Nathaniel Outlaw, Joseph Wright, Fred Parks, and John  "Mac" McKinley Parish.

With tensions high, state district judge J. R. Burnett acquitted Parks, finding the others guilty on January 11, 1871. Before the men could be escorted to jail, gunfire broke out in the courtroom, and both Wright and Parish escaped with the aid of Huntsville citizens. Outlaw failed to escape and was taken into custody by the State Police. Despite cautions from Burnett that draconian measures might only inflame tensions in Walker County, Davis considered martial law early on. By February 6 Burnett himself begged for troops as tensions rose in the area.

State senate reaction to Davis's handling of the Hill County Rebellion prevented immediate reaction. On February 15 Davis ordered Adjutant General James Davidson to Huntsville with orders to declare martial law upon arrival. Arriving on February 20, Davidson imposed martial law on Walker County with the authority to try citizens before a military tribunal.

On February 22 the adjutant general established a court martial. In the trials that followed ten citizens faced charges, resulting in seven convictions. Crimes ranged from aiding the escapees to not answering the call for a posse. Nathaniel Outlaw received five years imprisonment. Sheriff Cyrus Hess, accused of negligence in allowing the jailbreak, received a fine of $250. All the defendants, except Hess, received pardons by the end of March 1871. Outlaw sued the governor and adjutant general, winning a $20,000 judgment that was overturned in 1872. Taxes assessed Walker County to defray martial law costs amounted to $7,621.09, or seventy-five cents per person.

The actions of the Davis administration in Walker County, especially the ultimate pardon of Nathaniel Outlaw, drew fire from various quarters. Davis's desire to bring order to Texas conflicted with his own efforts to improve his popularity. Moreover, the imposition of martial law- however justified- served to fuel accusations of tyranny against Davis and the Republicans.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:  Barry A. Crouch, "A Spirit of Lawlessness: White Violence, Texas Blacks, 1865–1868," Journal of Social History 18 (Winter 1984). Ricky Floyd Dobbs, `A Slow Civil War': Resistance to the Davis Administration in Hill and Walker Counties, 1871 (M.A. thesis, Baylor University, 1989). Carl H. Moneyhon, Republicanism in Reconstruction Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980).
And on my mother's side of the family, great great grandfather William Lewis Booth raised his family in Hillsboro, Hill County, Texas. On Ancestry, my cousin Richardson has cited the last source in the following bibliography as having been written by W.L. Booth, though no author is listed below.
HILL COUNTY REBELLION. During Reconstruction Governor E. J. Davis and the Radical Republican-dominated Twelfth Legislature of 1870 attempted to control crime in the state. In October 1870 Davis threatened Hill County with martial law for its tolerance of criminals.

Conditions in the county seemed improved by late 1870, but in December a freedman and his wife were murdered in neighboring Bosque County, and State Police Lt. W. T. Pritchett moved into Hill County chasing suspects James J. Gathings, Jr., and Sollola Nicholson. Pritchett raised the ire of James J. Gathings, Sr., by seeking to arrest his son.

The elder Gathings, Hill County's largest landowner, incited a mob that pushed county officials to arrest and detain the State Police troopers in Hillsboro in early January 1871. On January 11 Davis declared martial law in Hill County and dispatched adjutant general James Davidson and the State Militia to rescue the jailed police. Davidson arrived on January 15 with fifty state militia troops from Georgetown, commanded by Capt. E. H. Napier. Davidson arrested the elder Gathings, his brother Phillip, and his sons-in-law, James Denmember and Dr. A. M. Douglas, for hampering Pritchett's investigation.

The adjutant general fined the four $3,000, rather than assessing the entire county as mandated by law. Martial law ended on January 17. Controversy over incidents in Hill and Walker counties led to an investigation by the state Senate committee on militia in February 1871. The committee supported Davis's actions; the senator from Hill County, G. P. Shannon, a Democrat, was the lone dissenter. In 1874, despite a strained budget and Democratic attacks upon Radical extravagance, Governor Richard Coke signed a bill that returned Gathings's money.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Ann Patton Baenziger, "The Texas State Police during Reconstruction: A Reexamination," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969). Barry A. Crouch, "A Spirit of Lawlessness: White Violence, Texas Blacks, 1865–1868," Journal of Social History 18 (Winter 1984). Ricky Floyd Dobbs, `A Slow Civil War': Resistance to the Davis Administration in Hill and Walker Counties, 1871 (M.A. thesis, Baylor University, 1989). Hill County Historical Commission, A History of Hill County, Texas, 1853–1980 (Waco: Texian, 1980). A Memorial and Biographical History of Johnson and Hill Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1892). 
In case you don't remember, black former-slaves were called "freedmen" during reconstruction. So these were racial crimes.

Also of interest to me is that William Lewis Booth was among the Republicans who promoted Republican, E. J. Davis for Governor of Texas in 1873, when he was not elected again. (See my blog with news article in 1873.)  link to biography of E.J. Davis.

And there is an excellent long article about Reconstruction by the TSA HERE.

It covers the political and economic climate, the changes in government and the new state constitution, and the societal changes that slowly included a free black population, including finally their getting to vote as per the 14th Amendment.  President Johnson and the Legislature in Washington left the question of suffrage of black men to the states to decide following reconstruction. This was partly because the northern states still were hesitant to have free black men voting, as well as southern states just finding out the voice of former slaves.  There were many "Jim Crow" laws enacted which made it difficult for blacks to vote. I was going to say up until Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, but unfortunately they are still with us in 2017.

Today's Quote:

Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. Friedrich Nietzsche

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