TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
 
New   |   Texas Towns   |   Ghost Towns   |   Counties   |   Trips   |   Features   |   Columns   |   Architecture   |   Images   |   Archives   |   Site Map

 TX Lavaca County location
Lavaca County
Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

Former slave recalls
memories of old Lavaca County

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
In 1946, a black man by the name of Tate Hicks told a local paper that he was the oldest man in Lavaca County. Fact is, he came to Texas as a slave and as was the practice back then he took the last name of the man who owned him, that person being A.W. Hicks, one of the first settlers of Hallettsville.

During an interview with The Lavaca County Tribune, Hicks said this country was still a wilderness when he arrived on the scene. There were no roads at all, just paths made by wild cattle and other animals. "Only a handful of whites, with some colored people as their slaves, lived where thousands are today," he recalled.

Tate Hicks outlived his owner and in 1946 he was over 100 years old living near Shiner. The former slave said he was born in Tennessee in 1845. "I was two years old when my master, A.W. Hicks, moved here from Tennessee with his family of five children along with six slaves," said Hicks.

The Hicks family settled on the Lavaca River some two miles northwest of Hallettsville. During his interview with the Tribune, the old man was asked how they managed to live in the wilderness. He said there were plenty of game and wild cattle for meat; they also raised corn - cornbread and wild pork were the principal meals. "Wild turkeys, deer, as well as bears, lions and other animals were plentiful then," said Hicks.

Old newspaper articles provide a significant link to the past and the Tribune's story about the former slave provides a vital eyewitness account about the things that the first settlers here had to cope with. While it's possible that the aged man's memory might have been somewhat foggy, he did witness events that are only conjecture in most history books.

The article revealed that old Tate Hicks didn't care much for the Indians who continuously threatened the settlers. "You couldn't have a light on in the house at night," he recalled. "They used bow and arrow, I still have some of their flint arrows - they killed several whites and slaves."

Parts of the interview with Hicks indicated that he might have been a little confused as to the time frame of events that happened in his life, but for the most part his memory seemed remarkably clear. He was asked about the Hallett family and if he remembered them. "I used to work for them and remember Mrs. Margaret Hallett especially well."

According to The Handbook of Texas Online, Margaret Hallett donated the land for the town site which would become Hallettsville. The website also lists A.W. Hicks as one of the first settlers to the area that would eventually become Lavaca County.

In the Tribune article, the old man apparently knew exactly where the Halletts were buried. He responded to the interviewer's question, "They are buried west of town on the Breslau road." The paper backed Tate's answer by saying the spot was still preserved "on the present Paulie Appelt farm." Margaret Hallett died in 1863 and was buried on the Hallett league, according to The Handbook of Texas Online. Later her remains were transferred to City Memorial Park and a grave marker was placed acknowledging her as the founder of Hallettsville.

Tate Hicks would never forget where he was when slavery was officially abolished, in Texas, on June 19, 1865. "I was living with the Russell family when freedom came," he said. "You are just as free as I am, the mistress told us; you can now go wherever you want." But Hicks said they just didn't know where to go. The Russells decided to let the former slaves stay on the place for a year until they could find a place to live.

When Tate Hicks was interviewed in 1946, four of his children were still living. The newspaper article said that he was living with his son-in-law on Henry Nollkamper's place near Shiner.

The Tribune ended the article with these words: "More than a century of memories of this county are stored in his mind. He saw this community emerge from a complete wilderness into farms and towns. What can be searched for in records, only he remembers."


Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary July 7 , 2008 Column

More Texas Black History

Related Topics:
People | Texas History | Texas Towns | Texas

Texas Escapes Online Magazine »   Archive Issues » Go to Home Page »
TEXAS TOWNS & COUNTIES TEXAS LANDMARKS & IMAGES TEXAS HISTORY & CULTURE TEXAS OUTDOORS MORE
Texas Counties
Texas Towns A-Z
Texas Ghost Towns

TEXAS REGIONS:
Central Texas North
Central Texas South
Texas Gulf Coast
Texas Panhandle
Texas Hill Country
East Texas
South Texas
West Texas

Courthouses
Jails
Churches
Schoolhouses
Bridges
Theaters
Depots
Rooms with a Past
Monuments
Statues

Gas Stations
Post Offices
Museums
Water Towers
Grain Elevators
Cotton Gins
Lodges
Stores
Banks

Vintage Photos
Historic Trees
Cemeteries
Old Neon
Ghost Signs
Signs
Murals
Gargoyles
Pitted Dates
Cornerstones
Then & Now

Columns: History/Opinion
Texas History
Small Town Sagas
Black History
WWII
Texas Centennial
Ghosts
People
Animals
Food
Music
Art

Books
Cotton
Texas Railroads

Texas Trips
Texas Drives
Texas State Parks
Texas Rivers
Texas Lakes
Texas Forts
Texas Trails
Texas Maps
USA
MEXICO
HOTELS

Site Map
About Us
Privacy Statement
Disclaimer
Contributors
Staff
Contact Us

 
Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved