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Edgar M Gregory--letter to Howard, 18 April 1866

[list of letters transcribed from the Texas Assistant Commissioner]
[source: National Archives, Record Group 105, microfilm publication M821, reel 1 (Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869, Letters Sent, Volume 1), pages 192-195]


Headquarters
Bureau R F and A L
State of Texas
Galveston April 18th 1866

Howard Maj. Gen O. O.
Comr &c. &c.

General,

I have the honor to report that I have just returned from an inspection tour of many miles in extent through Western Texas comprising the principal section not heretofore visited by me.

I have found everywhere the laborer steadily at work in the field and well and profitably employed.

Misunderstandings between them and their employers are becoming quite infrequent, and readily settled when they do occur by my local Agents.

The Freedom of the Negro has become a recognized palpable fact in most of Texas, and property holders are disposed to treat with an increasing degree of fairness his claims.

During the month of March and up to date, instances of Maltreatment and Violent abuse have perceptably increased, in some portions of the State. These can be readily traced to the very considerable reduction of the Military forces, and to the increasing excitement on the grave National Questions that are now agitating our Government.

It is feared by many of the loyal residents that the withdrawal of the troops from the interior will be followed by much harshness towards the Freedmen and that these cruelities [sic] will increase in a ratio proportionate to the army reduction.

The Conduct of the Southern freedmen has been [sic; sc. in] every way loyal and commendable. Any Antagonism between the races they clearly see will result to their detriment and they avoid it.

They feel their dependence upon the white race in order to commence the world aright and go on [?] right and better their condition. They are willing to labor and economise that they may become land- [page 193] owners and small proprietors. To own a little homestead is the negro's biggest ambition and the action of that principle has kept the race from idleness and excess at a time when the law had but little power to restrain and there were many inducements to transgress.

Some there are among the planters who are beginning to question the reliability of the labor of the negro when the long heats of a Southern Summer come on and the rancher may be already heard uttering their foreboding. But I entertain no doubt on the Subject. The same influence that urged the freedman to labor will operate to make them faithful to their contracts. The decision to earn wages to gather property and to elevate themselves in the world acts as an effectual countercheck against the desertion of their duties and obligations.

If a body of people can go faultlessly through the excitement and temptations of the past three months there need be but little doubt of their doing good service during the year.

In this State the rate of wages has not been fixed either as to Maximum or Minimum by any regulations from this Office. the only conditions required being that the laborer should perfectly understand what he was called upon to do. If the contract was not unfair, if the Negro understood it, and gave consent, it was enough.

Under Such arrangements the planters and farmers of Texas have put in large crops of Sugar Corn wheat and Cotton, and I hazard the oppinion [sic] that if the Season continues as favorable as at present more cotton will be made than was ever made here than in any one Year before [sic]

The health of the State continues good very little sickness being reported from the plantations.

The schools for Freedmen are reported as Satisfactory and flourishing. There are now in operation in that State, under the Aspices [sic] and direction of the Bureau, Ninety Schools for freedmen, whereof Forty-two are day schools, twenty-nine night Schools, and Nineteen Sunday schools.

The Teachers employed Number Forty-three [?], being Sixteen white Males, Thirteen White Females, and [page 194] fourteen Colored.

They report a total attendance of Forty-five hundred and Ninety Scholars of whom Twenty-eight hundred and thirty are children, and Seventeen hundred and Sixty adults, being an increase over the month previous of Fifteen Teachers and Forty-five Schools and Twenty-five hundred and forty-five scholars.

Besides the above there are Some eighteen or Twenty private Schools for freedmen Scattered throughout the State, making no reports to this Bureau and taught by Such of the Colored people as have obtained a small degree of elementary knowledge.

These are being rapidly included within the System of Supervision and monthly returns, and the incompetent displaced by responsible and qualified instructors.

The results of the past few months are gratifying. Many hundreds of the Colored Freedmen into whose hands the [illegible word; looks like princes] was first put last January can now spell with rapidity and correctness, rite [sic] neatly and read with facility in the first and Second Readers. They are learning the Geography of the World. they can keep their own accounts and are fast acquiring a Sufficient [sic; sc. grasp] of figures to meet all the demands of business and of life.

Though we were compeled [sic] to meet, in the inception of our work, all the prejudices and hostilities incident to Such an effort in this community, while every shade of opposition short of actual Violence was used against our teachers, zeal in no instance has [illegible word; looks like proved] been yielded [??], or a school once organized been suffered to be dispersed terrorized or broken up.

In the larger towns, and the more Settled and intelligent portions of the state, the distrust and hatred evinced toward the education of the Negro may be said to have measurably spent its force, and the freedmen's School is passively accepted, and in many instances recognized and welcomed.

These Schools carry no debt and have not cost [page 195] the Govt one dollar. They are wholly selfsustaining and the expences of teaching and Books being defrayed by the Voluntary Contributions of the Freedmen.

It has been my aim to cause our Schools to Conform, in discipline and instruction, to the best Common School Systems of the North, in the hope that the state Government when fully revived and reconciled will accept the Same, and continue them on a stable foundation.

I am Genl
Very Respectfully
Your Obedt Servt
E M Gregory
Brvt Brig Genl and
Asst Comr

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revised 11 Jul 02
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