Rice farming in
, had its beginning
around 1899 or 1900. Teams of mules, horses or oxen were used to ready
the land into rice acreage. The more modern equipment had not been
Canal companies came into existence and irrigation pumps were
utilized. Water was pumped from the
through canals and bar
ditches, so that the rice farmers could contract and have access to
water for irrigating their crops.
Around 1901, rice mills and warehouses were in operation.
Farmers, gathering their crops, could haul them to these places for
storage until a buyer came along.
African-Americans worked in the rice fields from the time of
preparing the land for planting until the crops were harvested. They
worked for others who actually were the owners and reaped the end
results; however, there were a few African-Americans who were the actual
owners, and did reap the end result of the rice crops.
August 5, 1857
, Ms. Kate Battle,
's mother gave birth
to William Duncan. He grew
up around the Van Vleck and Ashwood areas. To my knowledge, William
Duncan was the first African-American rice farmer in
He owned the land, contracted and paid his water lease,
purchased his seed rice, and in a crude way in that day and time, used
a team of horses to plow and ready the land for planting his crop.
in the end, reaped
the results of his labor.
farmed rice in the
areas west of LeTulle, Sims, Duncan and Austin Streets on the
southwest edge of
October 1, 1915
, issue of the The
Daily Tribune newspaper published the following article.
FARMER MAKES GOOD.
All success along farming lines does not lie in the path of
the white man, and occasionally if not often a colored farmer comes to
the front magnificently.
Our attention has been called to one William Duncan colored,
who, this year, farmed 80 acres of rice in the edge of town on land
that has been idle for ten years, its only use being for that of
public pasture grounds.
scraped together some
teams, not any too good, and a few implements of a second-and nature and
went to work.
He planted the 80 acres to rice and has, for the result of
his labors, over a thousand bags which will bring him over $3.00 a bag,
or about $3,500.00 for his year's work.
What this man
has done can be done
by hundreds of others of his race, and they will not all have to raise
rice either. The fact is that
worked and won; there are plenty of others who did not work
and lost. Nor is the fault in the country--it's as good for every
agricultural pursuit as any on the globe. All that is needed is more
November 19, 1996
, Earl Eidlebach was
interviewed in reference to African-American rice farmers in
. Eidlebach is known as
" He works for the
Lower Colorado River Authority and contracts and distributes water to
the rice farmers. He said he
did not know or distribute water to
. His father had the
job before him, and possibly he was the one with whom
contracted his water.
He did recall being told about a William Duncan who lived northeast of
Old Van Vleck Highway,
of the area where the
McCrosky home is located.
According to the
William Duncan married Lula Yancy of the Live Oak Community,
November 14, 1889
. Three children were
born to the couple two daughters, Roy and Ora and one son, Gifford.
was a stockman as well
as a cotton and rice farmer. In 1920, he founded the Duncan & Son
Funeral Home. Today the business is known as the Duncan & Roberts
March 13, 1938
, and his wife, Lula,
June 13, 1951
. Their remains are
, Section A-2, Row 4,
Jim Wilson, another African-American rice farmer, farmed rice
from the late 1930s until the 1950s in
. He was born
May 4, 1890
, to Adah and Jim
Wilson, Sr. and died
May 18, 1984
According to Wells Clark, Jim's nephew, Jim had one brother,
Lee Wilson, and four sisters, Ella, Louise,
and Gertrude. Ella
was Wells' mother.
The home of Jim and his wife, Millie, was located in the 2500
block of Avenue D in
He was a devoted member of the
, and made many
contributions to his church and community. He was a staunch leader in
the Black community and gave money and many hours of time to help
support the cause.
According to Eidlebach, from early childhood, Jim partly
lived, worked and was reared by Joe Mangum, the sheriff of
Sheriff Mangum owned land and farmed cotton in the Bucks Bayou
area near the
Lukefahr School Road
. Jim worked and
later farmed cotton for Sheriff Mangum.
January 8, 1997
. Giles, who is 94
years of age, said that Jim Wilson was a "dry land" farmer
on Mangum's land. Giles'
parents, Washington and Matilda Harrison Giles, also lived out there
and farmed for Jim Wilson. Giles said that this was about 1912-1916.
Jim then went from "dry farming" to rice farming.
When Sheriff Mangum began rice farming, Jim did likewise.
Sheriff Mangum told Jim that he had had enough of farming and that he
could take control. This is how Jim Wilson began rice farming on his
Jim continued to lease land from the Mangum family after
Sheriff Mangum died. He also farmed rice on land leased from the
Sherrills, the Lee brothers, and from a Mrs. Combs.
He leased the land, acquired his own equipment, paid his water
contracts, purchased his seed rice and hired and paid his own help. He
farmed rice into the late 1950s and 1960s before retiring.
Mr. Eidlebach said that one day he met Jim coming out of the
bank and asked him what he was doing. Jim said that he had just gotten
too old to keep doing this and that an old ailment with his walking was
getting to him.
Mr. Eidlebach described Jim as an easy going fellow, very
industrious and believed in working to better humanity. He said that Jim
possessed some traits similar to the teachings of Sheriff Mangum.
Jim and his wife are buried in
in Section A-1, Row 1,
Plot 1. They had no children.
Marcus Robbins, a third Matagorda County African-American
rice farmer, was born in 1902 in the Live Oak Community. He died in
1980. Marcus' father, Spencer Robbins was born
July 18, 1874
, in Caney,
, and died
August 26, 1958
. His mother, Millie
Brown Robbins, was born in 1880 and died
March 1, 1948
. John and Harriett
Robbins were Marcus' paternal grandparents, and Adam and Emma Roberts
Brown his maternal grandparents.
Marcus and his first wife, Lucille Bouldin Robbins had five
children: Lamar, A. B. Sr., Kermit S., Mildred Robbins Proctor, and
Anita Robbins Perkins.
Marcus had one brother, Cuney, Sr., and two sisters, Emma
Green Pea, and Margaret Robbins Gee.
Mrs. Gee and Mr. Eidlebach provided much of the information on
According to Mr. Eidlebach, Marcus farmed rice from the late
1940s to the late 1950s. He farmed on the LeTulle farm in what is now
area, and later, in
the 1950s farmed rice east of
off Farm Road 457 on
property belonging to the Kilbride family.
Marcus was not an independent rice farmer as was Duncan and
Wilson. He farmed on a percentage. That is, when the crops were
harvested and sold, he received a percentage of the income; whereas,
Duncan and Wilson owned the rice and received the total income.
The home of Marcus and Lucille Robbins was located on the
Robbins property in the Live Oak Community. He later married
Ida M. Lane
and their home was on
the corner of Avenue C and Third Street in
Marcus attended school in the Live Oak Community in the old
. In later years, he
became a city policeman for the city of
Marcus and Ida are buried in
, Section B-2, Row 1,
Plot 12 and Lucille is buried in Section B-2, Row 3, Plot 60.
July 25, 1896
, in the
Roberson, Sr., another African-American rice farmer in
, was born to Thomas
and Eliza Patterson Roberson.
Carlyle was one of twenty-two children born to this couple. He
grew up in the
area, met and married
Harriette Henderson. To this couple nine children were born, six girls:
Alonia, Eliza, Almater, Vinella, Eva Mae and Magaline; and three boys:
Lee Andrew, Caryle, Jr., and Thomas.
Carlyle was a parent, a cotton farmer, a country preacher, a
school bus driver, a stock raiser and a rice farmer.
According to Mr. Eidlebach, Carlyle was one of the finest men
that he had ever met. Carlyle could hold any man to his prize of being
fair and honest, and shared his possessions with many others. He was a
very intelligent man with a lot of common sense, even though he could
not read or write. He was a country preacher who believed and taught the
Bible to others. As a member of the Masonic Lodge, he led a productive
life in his community.
Late in life, Carlyle Roberson moved to Bucks Bayou and then
area on the
. He helped establish
on Bucks Bayou. When
most of the people who attended the church moved to
, he, with the help of
others, loaded the building on poles used for a slide, and with his
tractor, moved the building to the corner of Avenue C and
Carlyle farmed rice for ten to fifteen years. In the late
1940s he bought about 100 acres of land on the
from a Mrs. Wates
whose husband had died. He farmed cotton, raised stock, drove the school
bus, and leased about 50 to 75 acres from LeTulle to farm rice.
He made an X for his signature, and many times, one of his
sons or Mr. Eidlebach signed for him after his X.
Carlyle leased his land to farm rice, signed his lease to
contract water for irrigation, purchased his farm equipment, paid his
help, and reaped the total percentage for his crops.
His former house, a two-story building, burned and his later
house that he built still stands about 10 miles southeast of
. The land is still
owned by the Roberson heirs.
This information was provided by: Mr. Earl Eidlebach, the
"Water Man:" The Rev. James Roberson, a grandson of Carlyle's
who escorted the writer out to the land; Lee Andrew Roberson, a son of
Carlyle's; Helen Edison; Carlyle, Jr.; Ms. Pearl Roberson, a member of New
Hope Church; and Mrs. Magaline Roberson Barnes, a daughter of Carlyle's.
June 14, 1975
, and his wife,
December 26, 1965
. They are interred in
, Phillip Merchant,
Sr. was born to Hammie and Ophelia Duggan Merchant. He grew up in the
area and went to
In 1923, in
As a young lad, Phillip learned to work with farm equipment
and gained an enormous amount of knowledge on the mechanical operation
of the equipment.
Phillip and Pearline Merchant were interviewed three times by
the writer at their home.
Mrs. Merchant would often ask if the information was going to be in
the paper, but she passed away before the presentation was made at the
February meeting of the Matagorda County Genealogical Society.
Phillip, Sr. married Pearline Smith in 1941. His father,
Hammie Merchant (1900-1978) was born in
, and married Ophelia
Duggan (1903-1958) in 1922. Phillip's paternal grandfather, Jack James
Merchant, a slave, was born in 1865 and died in 1963 in
at the age of 97.
Jack's wife, Angeline Austin Merchant was born in 1859 and died in 1964
at the age of 105.
Will and Willie Duggan were Phillip's maternal grandparents. Will died
and Willie in
. Phillip's paternal
great-grandparents were Cheat March Merchant, who died at the age of
108, and Joyce Merchant for whom Phillip named his daughter.
Phillip's wife, Pearline Smith Merchant was born in 1924. Her
parents were John and Peggy Smith of
As a rice farmer, Phillip worked for C. L. Burkhart. He
actually ran the rice farm, but only received a percentage. Mr.
Eidlebach said that when he went to the Burkhart farm, he conversed with
Phillip. When Mr. Burkhart died, Mrs. Burkhart turned everything over to
Phillip and he received a percentage after the harvest.
Phillip holds the record of having the best rice crop and the
most rice per acre of any farmer in the county in present times. He did
it all the work including running the machinery, planting the crops and
gathering the rice.
The news clippings, photographs and certificates review the
many accomplishments made by Phillip, Sr. and his rice farming on the C.
L. Burkhart acreage and elsewhere from 1960 until the 1980s.
Phillip and his wife, Pearline had three children: Phillip,
Jr., a chemical engineer with Exxon; Marsee, a chemical manager with
Celanese; and Joyce a home economic major with a B.A. degree.
Phillip's wife, his parents and grandparents are interred in
near the Bethlehem
There were two other African-American rice farmers that
farmed rice in
, but lived in
Little information was available on them except that a road
southeast of Highway 60 between Magnet and
was named in their
honor. Several miles down the road were four houses in which the
brothers and some of their heirs lived. The brothers are now dead, but
it is understood that some of their heirs still live in the area.
This information was furnished by Mr. Johnny Hahn, Mr.
Eidlebach and Mr. L. McIntosh of Wharton.
All in all, African-American rice farmers not
only farmed rice on
St. Helena Island,
Carolina, but also in and
around the small town of