TexasEscapes.com Texas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1800 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP : : SEARCH SITE
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
  Texas : Features : 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 People | Texas Black History
 
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA | MEXICO

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2008. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: July 7, 2008