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African American Research in Trinity County

Introduction

I hope to add more history and family information to this page, as it is an on-going research project.  I am also collecting Trinity County African American family genealogy and if you have information, photos or stories you wish to share please contact me at tchcmuseum@windstream.net.  Please feel free to contact me for further information. 

Say My Name
This page is dedicated to African American's that I have researched and from families who have contributed their family histories.  You'll find family group sheets, and other biographical materials.  It is a work in progress and I hope to add many more to the site.  If you wish to include your African American Trinity County family on this site, please contact me at tchcmuseum@windstream.net
 

Photos, Obituaries and Scrapbook Memories
Collection of photos, obituaries and articles

Freedom Colonies in Trinity County
Nigton was one of the first and longest lasting freedom colonies located in Trinity County.  In the 1870 census there were about 100 African American's enumerated in this location, many of whom had been freed in 1865 by white slave owners who also resided in the Apple Springs vicinity in the northeastern part of the county.  Many residents continued to stay on after 1865 as farm laborers for their former owners share-cropping, but soon began to acquire their own property and began making Nigton a prosperous and productive and well respected community.  In 1880, the first African American to be enumerated as a school teacher was Jefferson Calhoun Carter and it is thought that school was probably held in the church.  By 1884 the school was named Pine Island, White District 5 School 5 with R.D. Crow, R.L. Longino, and M.D. White as trustees and J.C. Carter teacher.  The first school was built in 1916, by V. White and J.B. Eastep for a total of $919.00, and was a two-story building. Later in the 1927, a new school and shop were built with funds contributed by the Rosenwald Foundation.  The school was considered a County Training School.  In 1894 the first Post Office was established with Robert H. Massie postmaster, succeeded by Sarah A. Carter April 27, 1900, Elsie H. Johnson, July 27, 1929 and discontinued in 1932, mail to Apple Springs.  It is said that Nigton had outstanding livestock and vegetable production during it's most prosperous time. 

Through the years the citizens built a community center, a Masonic Temple, and several businesses.  Churches established early on were the Mayo Baptist Church and Ligon Chapel CME Church and established the Nigton Cemetery. 

In 1929, Nigton had the Negro Business League, whose slogan was "A better community for the people, by the people".  The officers were J.C. Carter, President, W.E. Davis, Vice President, W.H. Harrison, Secretary, H.W. Dixon, Assistant Secretary, J.W. Mark, Treasurer, and Nixon, Chaplain. 

Many descendants of the early settlers of this community are still living in the Nigton area and hold a reunion every year. 

Information obtained from Trinity County Beginnings, Patricia and Joseph Hensley, 1986 and research by Susanne Waller, Trinity County Historical Commission.

Lacy was also located in the central, northeastern part of Trinity County.  Named after African American, Amos Lacy, Sr. who settled there after 1865, this community had a population of about 100 people by the 1870 US. Federal Census.  The community, similar to the Nigton community prospered for many years and today all that is left is the Lacy Cemetery. 

 

Brief African American History in Trinity County
It is clear in our county's history that African American's were here in Trinity County as early as the 1840's, and possibly the late 1830's, as southern state plantation owners began migrating to this area.  In that time, this area was a part of Houston County.  Trinity became a county in 1850, the residents in the area of Trinity County at the time of enumeration were enumerated in the 1850 US Federal Census for Houston County.  The 1850 Slave Schedule was also enumerated in Houston County.  Later in 1860, Trinity County’s Slave Schedule was enumerated in Trinity County, showing a total of 136 Slave Owners and 955 slaves. 

Early white settlers came to the area and settled around the Alabama Creek area and the first County Seat, Sumpter, was located just south of that creek.  Many of the slave owners listed in the 1860 Slave Schedule lived in this area, others settled a bit further north in the area now known as Apple Springs and many more through out the rest of Trinity County. 

A wealthy slave owner named F.B. (Franklin Bolivar) Sublett, established his plantation on 2 thousand acres on the Trinity River bottom, located between the now city of Trinity and the Trinity River in the Elijah Roberts Survey.  He is noted to have one of the largest number of slaves in the county (117) and in the state of Texas at that time.  The Sublett's arrived in Texas in the early 1820's, first settling in San Augustine County.  Franklin Bolivar Sublett and his mother, Ester J. Roberts Sublett and younger brothers, Philip A. and Henry W. appear in the 1860 US Census for Trinity County.  Ester Sublett and sons are also shown in the 1860 US Census for San Augustine County and Ester is shown on the 1860 San Augustine County Slave Schedule (pages 18-19) as owning 46 slaves in that county.  The Sublett plantation here in Trinity is thought to have been established in the 1850's after Ester Roberts Sublett inherited the property from her father Elijah Roberts.  Franklin B. Sublett died in about 1867 and after his death his younger brother, Philip A. Sublett (Jr.) took over the plantation operations until his death in about 1873.  Other plantations were established around the Pennington area and various places that were conducive to agriculture. 

Another large slave owner enumerated in the 1860 Trinity County Slave Schedule was J. T. Evans.  In the book, A History of Trinity County, Texas, 1827 to 1928, by Flora G. Bowles, beginning on page 23, she writes about the J.T. Evans plantation. This book is available online through The Portal to Texas History website:

 http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth61097/m1/1/?q=History%20of%20Trinity%20County%20Texas

In the 1870 US Federal Census, there were 3 districts enumerated; Sumpter, Pennington and Trinity County.  At that time there were 41 blacks enumerated in Sumpter, 11 in Pennington District and the remaining 1017 in Trinity County.  Of the remaining 1017, there were approximately 100 African American people living in Nigton area and 100 in the Lacy Community.  

Emancipation in Texas became law on June 19, 1865.  Soon after small communities of blacks began to develop.  Nigton, which is located within a few miles of Apple Springs was one of the first and largest African American Freedom Colony to be established by the former slaves.  This land was in close proximity to several of the slave owners as they were listed in the 1860 Slave Schedule and 1860/1870 US Census.  Many black families were beginning small farms, purchasing property, and or working or share cropping for the white farmers which were probably previous owners.  (See Nigton narrative above).  Another area close to Nigton was known as Lacy, named after the Lacy's who began farming in the area.  You'll find most of the African Americans who lived in this broad area enumerated on pages 26-30 (approx) in the 1870 Trinity County Census. 

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (The Freedmen's Bureau) located a field office here in Trinity County at Sumpter by at least 1867.  Records for Sumpter begin in 1867-1868.  Freedmen during the period of Reconstruction were encouraged to stay where they were and to enter into written contract labor agreements with their former masters.  Contracts were for at least one month, but no longer than 1 year.  They were to list the head of household and all capable of working under the contract.  Wages were not set, but had to be approved by the Sub-assistant Commissioner and unfair wages were not acceptable.  Wages ranged from $2.00 to $15.00 a month according to sex and quality of workers.  Employers generally provided food, quarters, fuel, and medical attendance for the entire family.  If families worked a plot of land (acreage) they were usually allowed 1/3 of the crop and wages.  Unfortunately, I haven't found any such contracts for this area yet.  When viewing your ancestor in the 1870 census it is helpful to view white persons in the general area as that might have a connection. 

There was one Index of Contracts in the Sumpter records found in Volume 160, image 41.

Contracts for 1868
April 7, Jno. D. Foster wh. and Susan f.g (freedgirl)
April 18, Wm. Cox wh. and Wade Hampton f.b. (freedboy) [Find William Cox in Trinity County 1860 Slave Schedule]
April 18, David Chandler wh. and Nancy f.g.
April 24, F. Norton wh. and Tobe Lewis f.w. (freedwoman)
May 24, A. Frisby wh. and Louisa f.w. [Find A. Frisby in Trinity County 1860 Slave Schedule]
May 24, W.B. Lankin wh. and Allen Fisher f.w.
May 24, T. ? Turner wh. and Stephen Balls and Thomas Talliote f.m.

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 (Freedmen's Bureau) records are now available to view online (for free for the time being), thanks to FamilySearch.com!  These records are so valuable and may be helpful in researching your ancestors.  The link below will take you to the page listing the different Field Offices that were here in Texas.  To view the 4 volumes of records that apply to Trinity County, choose the Sumpter location.  I have read all the volumes and there is a lot of interesting records and names of Freedmen, but unfortunately it is not yet indexed.  However, I will warn you some of the information contains criminal activities and crimes committed during that time period. 

https://familysearch.org/search/image/index#uri=https://familysearch.org/recapi/sord/collection/1989155/waypoints

For more information about the Freedmen's Bureau in Texas, read the "Descriptive Pamphlet" at the top of the Field Office Index page. 

The lumber business came to Trinity County in the early 1880's and many able bodied black men began working for the mills and in the logging fronts, and other occupations as farmers, laborers, draymen, barbers, servants, cooks and blacksmiths.  Woman reared their families and worked as farm laborers, mid-wives, servants and wash women.  New mill communities began to develop in Groveton, Willard, and Trinity, Westville, Friday, and Josserand during that time. 

Another area where a number of African Americans appeared in the 1870 Census was around the Sublett plantation near Trinity.  You'll find that area enumerated on the census pages 54-60 (approx).

In 1870, when African Americans first appeared on the US Census, Trinity County’s population of Blacks, according to the enumeration, had grown to approximately 1069.  In this enumeration the place of birth was stated and recapped as follows:

 

Total Born in Africa

1

Total Born in Alabama

69

Total Born in Arkansas

29

Total Born in Florida

6

Total Born in Georgia

34

Total Born in Kentucky

11

Total Born in Louisiana

75

Total Born in Maryland

2

Total Born in Mexico

1

Total Born in Mississippi

144

Total Born in Missouri

14

Total Born in North Carolina

31

Total Born in South Carolina

31

Total Born in Tennessee

16

Total Born in Texas

571

Total Born in Virginia

34

Total Black Population in 1870

1069

 

From this chart, a total of 571 (as enumerated) people are stated as being born in Texas, 362 of these people were born in 1865 or earlier. 
1870 Index Chart indexed by place of Birth

I have prepared a chart with African Americans indexed alphabetically, showing where found (line and page number) on 1870 US Census.  I provide these references only as a clue to help with your research, and are not necessarily exact. 

1870 US Federal Census African American-Alpha Index   Please note, this page is a big file and may take a minute to upload.

In the1860 Slave Schedule Chart I have included the white owner's place of birth, and wife's place of birth as possible links to further explore .  This Chart shows slaves age, and I have included the approximate year of birth, and how old they would have been in 1870. 

1860 Trinity County Slave Schedule Chart  Please note, this page is a big file and may take a minute to upload.
I have included some of my research notes for Slave Owners. 

1880 US Federal Census-African American Index  Please note, this page is a big file and may take a minuet to upload.  The African American population had increased to approximately 1135. 

1880 US Federal Census African American-Alpha Index   Please note, this page is a big file and may take a minute to upload.

1880 US Federal Census African American-Place of Birth Index   Please note, this page is a big file and may take a minute to upload.

In the 1880 Census there were four enumeration districts:  Subdivision 108 & 108 (an area that covered the southwest part of the county which included the town of Trinity); Pennington (middle area of Trinity County); Justice Precinct 1 (included area southeast of county, including the Lacy community); Justice Precinct 4 (included northeast area of the county including Apple Springs and Nigton).

1867-1868 Voter Registration (Index of African Americans registered to vote)
 

African Americans were included in Trinity County Marriage Records, which begin here in 1876.  

African American cemeteries may be found on our Trinity County Cemetery page:  http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txtrinit/cemetery/cemindex.htm

African American Churches
Trinity AME Church, Trinity, Texas
Ligon CME Chapel, Nigton, Texas

 

Historical Narrative about George Washington Carver School, Groveton, Texas

 

Updated 12Jan2016/skw