91st PA-Texas Freedman's Bureau, articles in Galveston Daily News, 1866

'The Labor Bureau'

[list of articles in the Galveston Daily News]
[I have proofread this page]
[source: Galveston Daily News 5 April 1866, page 1 columns 6-8]

[For the News.]
The Labor Bureau.

I have waited long and patiently for further testimonials of the misconduct of the Freedman's Bureau, and am forced to the conclusion that, for some cause which I care not to inquire into, several known cases of flagrant abuse will not be furnished.

Notwithstanding this disappointment, I adhere to my original position in regard to that misguided institution, and consider it one principal cause of the deep feeling of resentment toward the radical party which pervades the best and soundest minds of the South. If the Bureau had never been created, or had been conducted with a decent regard to truth and justice, much of the acrimony or so-called disloyalty of the South would never have existed, and much of the demoralization of the now indolent and insolent negroes, would have been avoided.

At one time I thought of replying to Brevet Brigadier General E. M. Gregory's last card in the Bulletin of the 13th ult., and showing what all discerning men must see, the utter folly and consummate assurance of his charge of "guilt" against five respectable gentlemen, founded on his own quasi-judicial decisions and those decisions founded on the unsupported evidence of negroes, parties complainant, the testimony of disinterested white men having been peremptorily excluded. The annals of jurisprudence furnish no instance of such arbitrary perversions of the plainest precepts of law and of reason. The common sense of common minds is puzzled which most to admire, the vanity, the fitful fanatacism or the misfeasance implied by it.

The certificates I now submit are from parties personally unknown to me. I have not thought it necessary, in the case of Mr. Rountree, to call upon the gentlemen referred to in his letter--they are easy of access to the incredulous. Miss Rodamel I am assured is a respectable young lady, as the style of her letter fully evinces. The letter from Mr. Bennett is without the usual affidavit. The notoriety of his experience of the equitable administration of the Bureau and his reference to Mr. Schoolfield, of Houston, fully sanction its publication without the formality of an oath. It might be edifying to an astounded public to know by what authority such disproportionate fines are imposed.

I have now discharged a duty to my fellow citizens of Texas. No one has less personal interest in the subject matter in discussion than myself. If injustice has been done to any man, I should profoundly regret it, and being convinced of the fact, will make all possible reparation.

GALVESTON, March 20, 1866.

P.S. I have just received several documents from respectable gentlemen, but their great length, and the fact that they contain the recital of acts of oppression by the Bureau similar to those already published and sworn to, renders their publication unnecessary at this time.

D. G. B.

[Mrs Sims' case]

The military order issued by the U.S. officer commanding at Galveston or Houston and dated June --, 1865, released among other of my servants, a woman named Mahaly, who had always given me trouble by her violent temper and caused me, at times, to correct her by bodily chastisement. In July last I informed her that I had no further occasion for her services, and warned her to procure another home.

She still remained on my place after I had told her to leave working when it suited her, leaving whenever she saw proper, and staying away as long as she desired. I neither forced her to leave or stay. I ascertained in the meantime that she had been trying to get employment. She offered to work for several, for board and clothing for herself and child, as I was informed by the parties. After learning this, I asked her why she did not get another home: Her reply was, that she could not. I again told her, I had no use for her on the place and that she must find employment elsewhere. She still remained until Gen. Gregory visited this place, in November, and during his stay here the conduct of Mahaly became so insolent and disagreeable that I again ordered her to take leave of my place, which she did. On the same day I received written notice from Gen. Gregory to pay Mahaly eight dollars per month, or appear at his headquarters immediately. I accepted the latter alternative, and called on the General in company with two friends of this place.

Gen. Gregory informed me that he had understood from Mahaly that I had made her leave my premises without compensation for her services. I said to him that, that was true, and related all the circumstances. He then propounded a number of questions to the girl, among the rest: "If you were getting no wages, why did you remain there?" To this the girl replied: "Because I could get no other home!" The General ordered me to pay Mahaly forty dollars. The gentleman who went there with me remonstrated, and asked him if he thought any civil court of the United States would recognize such acts. Gen. G. replied: "The President has already settled that by Proclamation."

After considering for a few moments, he made a deduction of seven dollars and fifty cents.

The gentleman who was with me told Gen. G. the amount should be paid, and proposed to me to leave. As we were passing out the door I halted for a moment, and said to the girl: "Mahaly, I wish you to come home, get your things and child, leave my premises, and never again put your foot on them!" and passed out. Gen. G. called to me to come back, to which I paid no attention. He again ordered me in a very peremptory manner to come back into his room. I again refused him any attention, until my friend advised me to obey, which I at last did. As I reentered the room, Gen. Gregory in an angry, excited and pompous manner, and with an air of as much self-sufficiency as though he bore upon his lordly shoulders the burden of a hundred worlds, administered to me the following reprimand:

"Madame, I demand of you in the name and by the authority of the United States Government, that you show all due respect to its citizens, whether they be white or black!" To all of which I made no reply and left.

Subscribed and sworn to by me.


To which I certify, by signature and Seal of office, at office in Huntsville, this the first day of March, A. D. 1866.
M. S. GIBBS, County Clerk,
County Court, Walker Co., Tex.

I was present and heard the conversation between Mrs. Sims and General Gregory, as related by her above. Her statement is correct. I paid for Mrs. Sims, to the girl Mahaly, in General Gregory's presence, the amount demanded by him. My object in advising Mrs. Sims to pay the amount, was to get her out of General Gregory's presence. My object in advising her to return to his room, when ordered by him, was to prevent her from being insulted, if possible. How far I succeeded in my intentions, can be judged of by the result of the interview, as above related by Mrs. Sims.


Subscribed and sworn to before me at my office in Huntsville, Texas. To all of which I certify by signature and Seal of office, on the first day of March, 1866.
M. S. GIBBS, Clk County Court,
Walter Co., Texas

HUNTSVILLE, TEX., March 1, 1866.

DEAR SIR:--Find herewith enclosed Mrs. Sim's statement of the interview with Gen. Gregory, with my certificate attached.

You will perceive from her signature, that she is an old lady, and for her to have been dragged up and receive such treatment as she did, is a perfect shame. As to who I am, you are respectfully referred to Jas. Serley, J. C. & S. R. Smith & Co., A. Sessums & Co., Ball, Hutchings & Co., J. B. & G. A. Jones, and any other prominent business house of your city. I shall be down soon, and will probably bring another certificate with me. Of that, however, I am not sure.

Yours, very truly,
To Judge David G. Burnet

[The case of Sarah Hardy]

NEAR DANVILLE, Walker Co., Tex.
March 1, 1866.

I, Sarah Ann Hardy, wife of John Hardy, do hereby certify that about the 20th of November, 1865, one, Freedman Adam, a former slave of my said husband, came to me with an order from Gen. E. M. Gregory, Chief of the Freedmen's Bureau, to pay said freedman, Adam, reasonable wages from the 1st of June to the 3d of October, 1865, the freedman demanding twelve dollars per month. That my said husband was then absent in Alabama, and knowing that he had made a contract and complied with said contract with the said freedman, and that he owed him nothing, I at first refused to pay him anything, but, for fear of some kind of trouble or annoyance from said Freedmen's Bureau during the absence of my husband, at the suggestion of others, I paid the freedman, Adam, twenty dollars, to get rid of him and have no trouble. I have lost or mislaid the order, so that I cannot find it, and have never been able to show it to my husband for that reason.


I, John Hardy, husband of Sarah Ann Hardy, certify that, at the time spoken of in the above certificate about General Gregory's order, I was absent in Alabama, and that I had made a contract with Freedman Adam and complied with it, and was owing him nothing when I started to Alabama on the 22d of October, 1865, and the amount my wife was forced to pay him was unjust, and wronged me out of it, by the order of said Brig. Gen. E. M. Gregory.


The order for the emancipation of the slaves was not issued till about the 17th of June, and published in the papers of the 25th, so you will see he has exacted pay for seventeen to twenty-five days more than he was entitled without any contract.

[The case of Nannie Rodarmel]


Dear Sir:--On the 23d of December, 1865, Gen. Gregory with about twenty five soldiers, rode up to the house of Mr. Geo. Davis, on East Bernard, late in the evening and asked if he could get accommodation for Gen. Gregory and a few staff officers. He was told that they were then crowded, but they might get accommodations at the House of Mr. Spears not an hundred yards distant. The daughter of Mr. Spears told the General that her father was from home and no man on the place, and objected to take them in under the circumstances. The General roughly remarked that he would stay anyhow and ordered his men to dismount. He then returned to the house of Mr. Davis and shook hands with the blacks. One of the negroes manifesting reluctance to shake hands with the General, provoked a smile from the white ladies present. I informed the negroes at the same time, that the General and party were friends of the negroes. The General turned to me and rudely said, that he was their friend and was there to prevent the negro being abused by white people, and would not be laughed at for speaking to them. He also said to me: "shut your mouth or I will make you. I have the power to shut it and will do so, if necessary." He paid no other attention to the white ladies but stayed among the negroes, enquiring whether they had been worked hard, how they had been paid, &c., &c., and that he "had come to see that they had their rights against their masters." He asked an old family negro "what wages were paid him;" the old man told him that he got six dollars and board. The General told the old fellow that it was not enough, that he could get more. The old man told him that he preferred remaining with his old master. He told Mr. Spears' negroes that they could do better elsewhere, and if Mr. Spears did not pay them enough to come to him and he would make Mr. Spears do right. This had a very unfortunate effect on the negroes, as they became insolent and refractory after the General and his gallant officers left.

I would add that there were no white men on either place, except one gentleman who is very deaf and could not hear the talk of the General, but three ladies besides myself will substantiate my statement. We all have an exalted esteem for the venerable ex-President of our once happy Texas, and you have said that President Johnson is a great and just man and we believe your words--but does he know that he has trusted the carrying out of his wise policy to such men as Gen. Gregory and staff? We cannot think that he has any acquaintance with Gen. G.

Yours Respectfully,
RICHMOND, March 3d, 1866.

[The case of HS Bennett]

MARSHALL, TEX., March 1, 1866.

Dear Sir:--I have recently seen a publication by you, in which you propose--to send to the President all cases of oppression by the Freedmen's Bureau of this State.

I beg leave to give you the following facts in regard to the treatment of Brevet Colonel Degresse, of Houston, Texas:

In a few days after General Granger's proclamation I assembled my former slaves on my plantation, in Harris county, where I then resided, numbering between 80 and 100. I read to them the proclamation; told them they were free; that I had no money, no prospects of a crop and was not able to pay them wages; that five or six hands would gather all the crop I was making." Out of the number then on the place, not more than one-third were competent to labor. The negroes refused to go, but proposed to remain as they had always done, until the crop was gathered, for food and clothing and medical attention, as they did not like, in summer, to be thrown out of a home with their families.

I finally yielded to their wishes. The heads of families having grown children run the children off and hired them out--the women all quit work, and while I fed from 80 to 90, I had only some ten or twelve workers, and that number working about one-half the time. I went to Houston and consulted the Provost Marshal; told him I could not keep them as they would do nothing. He advised me to keep them and make them work. I told Capt. Miller that if he would give me written authority to make them work, I would keep them. He gave me authority to use any means, except cruelty-- Some two months after a negro woman that had been at work for herself, for insolence I struck, on the head, one blow with a dead pine limb. She reported me to the Colonel aforesaid, who sent a guard of men for me, and took me as a prisoner. I told him I had struck the woman; that I had owned her for 30 years, and that was the first blow I had ever inflicted upon her. I showed him Capt. Miller's authority to use the lash, and my contract with them for the year. He said, in his eloquent language, that my contract was a damned swindle, and ordered me to pay a fine of $5.20, which I paid and demanded a receipt for the same, which he refused to give me. [according to a correction, published on 7 April, the fine was $520] A full statement of all the facts I sent up to Gen. Gregory, and asked him to do me justice; which appeal he has neither acted upon, nor returned my papers, although repeatedly witten [sic] to requesting a return of the papers.

I was also ordered, by this Colonel, to pay negroes one-tenth of my crop, and to pay it whether they worked or not. This also I paid in his office, as the receipt will show.

I hazard nothing in saying that two-thirds of the negroes in the State last year completed the crop for food, &c., without any other wages.

I have been ever since last September in trying to procure the papers sent to General Gregory, that I might send them to the President, but up to this time I have heard not a word from them.

Will you please advise me what course I shall take.

Very respectfully, your ob't serv't,


P.S.--Col. Schoolfield, of Houston, is in possession of all facts. H.S.B.

[The case of TR Chew]

WILSON COUNTY, March 7, 1866.

The freedman are, or have been doing very well; they have entered into contracts for the year, most generally working "on the shares," and their general conduct up to this time has been very encouraging, but recently the Freedmen's Bureau has inflicted upon us a man as sub agent who I fear will cause much trouble. He was a Northern man; during the war, to keep out of the Confederate States service, he took oath that he was a British subject, and pretending to be a laywer, he petitioned the Legislature in 1862 to permit him as a British subject to practice law in the courts of the State.-- He was appointed by Gov. Hamilton as Chief Justice of Wilson County because he was a persecuted Union man. The Union element of the county petitioned the Governor to revoke his appointment, which he refused to do, and the only persons of the American population who did not qualify as voters in that county were Union men. He, as agent, is using his office to gratify his personal hatred, and says openly that he will make his enemies feel his power. He is doing all in his power to produce a state of hostility between the races, where before there was a remarkable degree of kindly feeling. In many instances where the former owner has settled for labor up to 1st of January he has induced the negro to bring in extra charges, and has in every instance granted their claim. He says if there is contract for part of the crop, and if there is a failure from drought and the contract is not recognized by him he will grant wages for the year, and he is so obnoxious that the people will not go before him.-- I learn, but cannot say that it is positively so, that he granted wages to a negro, whose account he made out dating back to Gen. Lee's surrender--but he says where negroes work by the month for so much, and after the month if they think they have not been getting enough, he will grant them more. His policy he says is to take orphans away from their former owners--and in one instance where a case of this kind was referred to Gen. Gregory, he sent his soldiers to the house of the party when he knew the gentleman of the house was from home, ordering them to arrest all persons who interfered with them without regard to age or sex--all this, when he had been assured that the child in controversy could be gotten when called for. It would take pages to state all the indignities he is putting upon the people. A petition to Gen. Gregory to have him removed is now in circulation, and I only mention these facts, hoping if you stand well at court, that you may possibly assist in our relief. All these facts I can prove, and I hold myself responsible for what I say. My cousin, John C. Chew, if he was at home, and his brother Frisby F. Chew, could vouch for me, and I could refer to the best men in San Antonio for the same purpose.

With many apologies for this intrusion upon your valuable time, I remain very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

CORRECTION.--In the Certificate of Mr. Bennett, appended to Hon. D. G. Burnet's last article on "The Labor Bureau", published in the News of the 5th inst., the fine is given, by a typographical error, at $5,20. This makes his comment appear ridiculous. The amount of the fine should have been $520.

[source: Galveston Daily News 7 April 1866 page 2 column 2]

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