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10 things you may not know about area black history

By Gheni_Platenburg
Jan. 31, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 30, 2012 at 7:31 p.m.

Preston R. Rose's plantation home built in 1846 and since modified. It still stands near Crescent Valley.

"We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious and religious prejudice."

- Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian, author, journalist and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Wednesday begins Black History Month, an observance that started as Negro History Week in 1925.

The week was started by Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson to raise awareness to African-Americans' history, reputable achievements and contributions to civilization.

The event was first celebrated in the week in February 1926 that included both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas' birthdays.

The response was so overwhelming that black history clubs sprang up and teachers began adding the information to their curriculums.

The celebration was expanded to a month during the nation's bicentennial in 1976.

Today, the holiday is observed annually in February in the United States and Canada, but it is observed in October in the United Kingdom.

Here are 10 things you may not know about black history in the Crossroads.

1. Buena Vista Plantation

The 12,000-acre Buena Vista Plantation was one of the largest plantations in the area. Owned by rancher and cotton farmer Preston Robinson Rose, it was located about nine miles south of Victoria along Bloomington Highway and Guadalupe river.

The 1850 census reported he owned 32 slaves. By 1860, Rose was the third-wealthiest man in Victoria County, with $135,000 in property and 41 slaves.

2. Daniel "80 John" Webster Wallace

Born in Inez, Daniel "80 John" Webster Wallace was one of the most respected and wealthiest black ranchers in Texas history.

Wallace was born in 1860 to William and Mary Wallace, who were each slaves.

Tired of his job chopping cotton near Flatonia, Wallace ran away and joined a cattle drive in 1877.

He earned his nickname while branding cattleman Clay Mann's cattle near Colorado City in Mitchell County with a large "80" on one side.

Mann paid Wallace $5 a month from his $32 wage for two years and put the remainder aside to invest in his own herd, for which Mann provided free pasture.

In 1891, Wallace moved his cattle to about 1,280 acres that he had purchased in Mitchell County and started ranching.

When he died in March 1939, his estate was worth more than $1 million.

3. The Freedmen's Bureau of Goliad County

A federal government agency, the Freedman's Bureau was created by former President Abraham Lincoln to assist distressed former slaves with their transition to freedom during Reconstruction. While the bureau was open from 1867 to 1869 in Goliad, it assisted with the creation of schools and temporary labor colonies. The proceeds from the farms were used to fund the bureau.

The Freedmen's School and the Victoria Colored School

The Freedmen's School was built around December 1868, on Convent Street in Victoria. An effort of the Freedmen's Bureau, the school was built to provide adults with a formal education so they could gain jobs and, in turn, teach their children.

Bureau records showed 83 students attended the school's day, night and Sunday classes.

On Aug. 23, 1898, the Victoria school district was officially approved by taxpayers, and plans were made to build two high schools, one for whites and the other for blacks. The one for blacks was called The Colored School and was located at 702 E. Convent St. next door to The Freedmen's School, which was turned into a dormitory for teachers of The Colored School.

The Goliad Teacher's Institute

The Goliad Teacher's Institute was created in October 1885 to train more black teachers. The Institute was housed at the Lott-Whitby School House.

6. The first black barbershop in Goliad

Ed Houck established the first barbershop for blacks in Goliad in November 1885. The shop was housed on the west side of the public square.

The Jones Male and Female Institute

Located on Fannin Street across from the United Methodist Church in Goliad, the Jones Male and Female Institute opened around 1880. The Colored Baptist Association opened the school, which was originally known as the Goliad City School, to provide an education to area blacks. Charles P. Westbook, a Mississippi-born clergyman, served as one of the school's earliest presidents, while his wife, Laura Westbrook, took charge of the Victoria City School.

8. Matagorda Bay

From about 1810 to 1865, Matagorda Bay was the main port of entry for slaves from Africa and other southern states. Between 1850 and 1855 a number of slaves were brought into the country, largely by slaveholders from Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia, to work on large plantations in the bottomlands of the Colorado River and Caney Creek.

9. Madame Annie Blackley, clairvoyant and philanthropist

Born a slave in Falmouth, Va., Anna P. Blackley came to Victoria in 1882 at the age of 42. Blackley was widely known as the "Seer of South Texas" because of her clairvoyant abilities.

She was particularly adept at finding lost horses and other livestock, as well as providing advice on love affairs and business transactions. Thousands of people from all over the nation sought her services, including several U.S. presidents. It is said she not only warned Lincoln about his impending assassination, but she also predicted the end of World War II. She is buried in Washington, D.C. Today, the Annie Blackley Housing projects are named after her.

St. Paul Community

One of a handful of rural villages established by freedmen after emancipation, St. Paul was located about 10 miles west of Goliad, where Dry Creek and Manahuilla Creek converge. Many of its residents worked as farmers and stock hands for landowners in the River Valley Historic District. A self-sufficient village, St. Paul had a school, cotton patches and plentiful gardens.

It was once home to the Duncan, Shelton, Taylor and Perryman families. As of 1995, no remnants of the community remained.

Sources:

Michael Nash, Historian and librarian at the Goliad County Library

Patsy Pittman-Light, freelance historian and author and Ann Bode, historian National Register Listing of Historic Places

http://www.tshaonline.org/ handbook/online/articles/

http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/ about.html

Wilbert L. Jenkins, Climbing up to glory: a short history of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

George R. Bentley, A History of the Freedmen's Bureau (1955), old fashioned overview

Henry Wolff Jr., "Madame Blackley: Seer of South Texas." "Folklore: in all of us, in all we do."

Photo credits: Victoria Regional History Center, Victoria College/University of Houston-Victoria Library and the Institute of Texan Cultures

Freedmen's Bureau documents: Barry A. Crouch Papers, Victoria Regional History Center, VC/UHV Library.

The Limon family

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