Photo analogy by Slate. Photo of James Hopkinson’s Acreage address of the Library of Congress.
This commodity supplements Reconstruction, a Slate Academy. To apprentice added and to enroll, appointment Slate.com/Reconstruction.
Adapted from A Apperception to Stay: White Plantation, Atramentous Homeland by Sydney Nathans. Appear by Harvard University Press.
Since 1845, the plantation-owner Paul Cameron had apparent his Alabama acquirement as a afflicting mistake, and been accessible to advertise it, alike at one point to carelessness it. By 1865 Cameron had accustomed inquiries from whites who knew the acreage was up for grabs, but had never gotten an action close or aboveboard abundant to take. That the aforetime apprenticed Paul Hargis or added freedmen would acquire the adequacy to buy the acreage absolutely seemed far-fetched. Alike if they had the means, there was no adumbration that Paul Cameron was able to accompany planters he abominable in 1867 as accessible “to accord it up to the Negro.”1 For all the Hargis brothers’ adamantine work, it would booty added than “good conduct” for them to be accustomed to access any allotment of Paul Cameron’s land. But abrupt events—and abrupt advocates in Alabama—would accolade their perseverance.
There was declared to be addition way for landless bodies like the Hargis brothers to access a acreage in post–Civil War America: homesteads. Aboriginal avant-garde in the backward 1840s, the abstraction of agriculture was to action accessible acreage to settlers at no cost. If a face backward on address acreage for bristles years and fabricated improvements on it, he would access appellation to anywhere from 40 to 160 acres.
Before 1860, the South had against the action of homesteading, aflutter that a “free soil” action would attenuate . But alienation paved the way for access of the aboriginal Address Act in 1862. Millions of acreage of accessible acreage became accessible in Kansas, Colorado, the Dakotas, the Nebraska territory, and the Aerial Plains, cartoon hundreds of bags of settlers.
How, then, could blacks who came out of the war with “nothing but freedom” achievement to accretion acreage of their own?
In every way, however, white settlers had the jump on freed people. They had agency to travel. They had accomplishment and acquaintance in alive acreage in added arctic climes. They had political supporters to assure them from predators who adeptness seek to abstract from them. Whether adolescent or older, distinct or married, macho or female, about all of those who homesteaded in the 1860s and aboriginal 1870s had a accustomed characteristic: They were white.2
Advocates of agriculture for blacks proposed that acreage be set a for above freedmen. The accessible acreage in the Southern states would be a start, but back neighbors of those acreage were white and implacably hostile, advocates additionally looked for set-asides in the Midwest.3 But none of the affairs for atramentous landholding came to fruition.
A added desperate angle came from the best aitionist affiliate of Congress, Thaddeus Stevens, who advocated confiscation of the acreage of planters, and adding their acreage amid above apprenticed workers. The Stevens angle gave acceleration to belletrist that anniversary freedman adeptness acquire 40 acreage and a mule, or get some added “great benefit” from the federal government. But not aloof the action of Lincoln’s successor—former slaveholder Andrew Johnson of Tennessee—doomed confiscation. Amid added abstinent Republicans, the assumption of confiscation met close opposition. If the government could appropriate the estates of planters, why couldn’t it accroach the acreage of corporations, bankers, and landholders in the North and the East, all in the name of adequation or compensation? Confiscation accustomed to be a asleep end as the way for ex-slaves to access acreage of their own.
How, then, could blacks who came out of the war with “nothing but freedom” achievement to accretion acreage of their own?4
To the blacks in the 20th aeon alive on the 1,600 acreage that Paul Cameron endemic in the 19th century, the acknowledgment was clear: “Paul Cameron acquired them to be homesteaders.” It was not the United States government or the Address Acts. To these descendants, it was the above agriculturalist himself who gave Paul Hargis, Jim Hargis, Sandy Cameron, and a half-dozen added freed bodies the befalling to homestead.5 Afterwards Paul Cameron as abettor and lender, not one of the atramentous purchasers would acquire acquired an acre of his plantation, and they knew it.
New calculations had entered the Cameron acreage account in mid-1872. Under administrator Wilson Oberry’s rule, abundant of the acreage had gone fallow, alone to broomsedge weeds back the administrator absitively to acquire his workers acreage alone the best advantageous genitalia of the plantation. Admitting not worthless, the alone allocation of the abode looked worthless, and could never accompany a fair bulk if put on the market. In May, Oberry wrote the North Carolina backer afterwards a connected silence. He’d fabricated no money in contempo years with poor crops. If annihilation changed, he adeptness acquire to move to Mississippi, “where I could accomplish something.”
Then the administrator switched to an abrupt subject. He asked Cameron whether he would set a an acre of acreage for a abbey and additionally a academy for the atramentous people. Wilson Oberry knew that Cameron’s affairs were fluid—he adeptness afresh hire the land, he adeptness try already added to sell. Still, it was a business proposition. On plantations that had a abbey and a school, it was accessible to “keep easily in the neighborhood. Area farmers had done this they consistently can get a affluence of hands.” Whether Cameron busy or awash the plantation, the acre would serve Cameron’s purpose.6
Oberry adored the abruptness for the end of his letter: “They will pay for it in cash.” The administrator was acting as an intermediary—as an apostle for a angle from blacks alive on the land. The atramentous bodies there were accessible to commit. If Cameron accustomed their offer, the acre would be home to their church, their school, and their community. They were able to do added than assignment in the neighborhood. They were accessible to ballast their lives and futures area they were. “Let me know,” Oberry assured his letter, “if they can get the land.”7
As it angry out, Paul Cameron was additionally absorption the approaching of his Alabama acreage in mid-1872. But the alert came from a altered action that set in motion a alternation of contest that would assuredly activation Cameron to act on his long-held alacrity to advertise the plantation. Beneath than a mile from area Paul Cameron dwelt in North Carolina, was the Hillsborough Military Academy. Started in 1859, it had gone asleep afterwards the war, and postwar accident had kept the academy empty. In 1872, Cameron got chat that an alfresco accumulation was acquisitive to buy the architecture and alpha a new academy there for adolescent atramentous students. Rather than let freed bodies booty over the site, Cameron agreed to buy the building.8 Cameron bare cash—much added cash, in fact, than adeptness appear from the auction of a distinct acre of land. On Nov. 8, 1872, Paul Cameron and his wife, Anne Ruffin Cameron, conveyed their adeptness of advocate to a trusted abettor in Alabama and accustomed him to advertise their absolute Atramentous Belt plantation.
The actuality that Paul Cameron angry to was his nephew, Thomas Roulhac, for whom he and his wife had the accomplished regard. Cameron took a caring uncle’s absorption in his nephew and acclaimed back Thomas Roulhac got his law authorization in 1867: “He is one of the best audacious and actual youths in the county. We all acquire aerial hopes of him in his able life.”9 To his uncle, Thomas Roulhac seemed the altogether placed actuality to backpack out his ambition to advertise his abode in Alabama—and to advertise it fast.
When Paul Cameron and his wife assigned their adeptness of advocate to their nephew, they put no restrictions on who adeptness buy the land. The certificate fabricated no acknowledgment of race. The alone declared claim was that Roulhac should acquire no beneath than $8 an acre for the land.10 But all added affirmation suggests that not blush but cash, not favors but speed, constituted Cameron’s foremost objectives.
Cameron’s agitation alike back his adolescent son asked for a supplement to his allowance. Cameron responded that he’d put aggregate into the pre-emptive acquirement of the Hillsborough Military Academy and was cat-and-mouse impatiently for money from Alabama. He wrote his son, cogent him that he had “not one distinct dollar to decay until that acreage is paid for.” He couldn’t see what was demography Thomas Roulhac so long.11
Roulhac abstruse bound that the acreage was not an accessible sell, alike at $8 an acre. “It is poor land, as you know,” administrator Wilson Oberry had accounting Cameron in 1868. By the end of 1872, annihilation had been done to advance the place, nor had accepted acreage ethics gone up in the county. Hopes for a acceptable division in the bounce of 1873 ran afield of bad weather, rot, drought, and worms. By summer it was bright there was to be yet addition abbreviate crop, and Roulhac begin no buyers.12
Then came banking disaster—the Panic of 1873. In September, the country’s arch financier failed, and in accelerated adjustment trading houses and banks abeyant payments, one afterwards another. In Greensboro, Alabama, as in the blow of the South, all acclaim was suspended, all payments stopped, all debts deferred. The bulk of affection was so ruinously low that Roulhac had it stored rather than sold. Acreage sales were impossible.
Still, the banking abasement in no way beneath Paul Cameron’s agitation to acquire his Alabama acreage sold. For Paul Hargis and his brother, the acceptable account was that if Paul Cameron had any balance abhorrence about affairs to atramentous buyers, it acceptable had vanished by the end of 1873. If Cameron had afflicted his apperception and was now accommodating to advertise to blacks who gave him his price, one affair was for sure: He had little attrition about behind acquaintances in Alabama. Alabama had connected back been a abode the absentee backer artlessly admired to divorce.
The aforementioned could not be said for Thomas Roulhac. If he awash Cameron’s acreage to Paul Hargis and added atramentous buyers, he would acquire to acknowledgment to the best men and best families of his adopted home, Greensboro.
But as it angry out, political advantage encouraged Thomas Roulhac’s best of purchasers. Aboriginal on, the few whites who had awash acreage to blacks had suffered reprisals. White sellers were shunned, atramentous buyers shot.13 That connected to be the case in adjoining counties. But admitting the Klan was alive in Greensboro’s Hale County, the editor of the bounded Alabama Beacon decried the backroom of violence. Rarely did editor John Harvey acquire words of acclaim for the Union League, for atramentous baton James K. Green, or for added Radicals. But to him, killing was not the way.14 Rather, he and others anticipation that the assignment of whites was to actuate atramentous voters to chase white leaders: let them apperceive that whites admired their rights, admonish them that whites were their accurate friends. The agriculturalist “electioneers with the aborigine to defended his labor, the merchant to defended his custom—and why not the baby-kisser to defended his vote?”15
The editor of the Alabama Beacon had admonition for freedmen as able-bodied as for whites. “Heed your best friends,” he wrote. “Your accouchement charge abound up in the bosom of friends, contrarily they will be a hopeless bodies for generations. Whites will never advertise homesteads to those who abide in actuality their enemies.”16 And if blacks did heed those “best friends”? The bulletin was understood: Whites would advertise acreage to blacks who said no to the Republican Party.
It was in this ambience that Thomas Roulhac acquainted acceptable to advertise Paul Cameron’s acreage to atramentous buyers. He could body the actual arrangement that the editor and added leaders were advocating. Tellingly, in March 1874, afterwards alone four years in Greensboro, Thomas Roulhac was called ambassador of the boondocks afterwards opposition.
So by the summer of 1874, the chat was out: If blacks could appear up with the money, Cameron’s acreage would be awash in accoutrements to them. Paul Cameron’s nephew fabricated a trade-off. He awash best of the acreage for added than the minimum of $8 an acre.17 But about all the purchases were to be paid over time.18 Cameron would get his money, but none immediately.
Because Roulhac had become the accumulating abettor for renting Cameron’s 1,600 acres, he was able to accept buyers who he knew had the will and accomplishment to complete a purchase. Brothers Paul and Jim Hargis, who had stood by the overseer, the planter, and the acreage for seven years, calm bought 100 acreage for $8 an acre.19 Sandy Cameron, the carpenter and best admired man of the plantation, was one of the aboriginal to accretion a home place.20 For all of the abeyant purchasers, Roulhac knew their believability as farmers and their adeptness to pay off their mortgages.21
Most of the purchases were formally accepted on the aboriginal day of January 1875 and abundant in a letter to Cameron on Feb. 15, 1875. Cameron was adequate at the sales but affronted back he came to accept that he would acquire to wait—and wait, and wait—for his money.22 The accomplishments were not formally conveyed and recorded until paid in their entirety. For Paul Hargis and his brother, that was 1884. For others as well, payments lagged into the 1880s.23
Descendants of the atramentous buyers recalled it rightly. In their words, agriculturalist Paul Cameron “had homesteaded them.” Whether his affection was in it was addition matter.
Extract edited from A Apperception to Stay by Sydney Nathans, appear by Harvard University Press, $29.95. Copyright © 2017 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1. Paul Cameron to George P. Collins, Dec. 22, 1867, Anne Cameron Collins Papers, SHC.
2. The barring was Kansas, the destination of a notable atramentous departure from the South during the 1870s. See Nell Irvin Painter, Exodusters: Atramentous Migration to Kansas afterwards Reconstruction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976).
3. Eric Foner, Annihilation but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983).
4. Interview with James Lyles, Aug. 9, 1979.
5. Wilson Oberry to Paul Cameron, May 15, 1872, CFP.
7. Jean Bradley Anderson, Piedmont Plantation: The Bennehan-Cameron Ancestors and Acreage in North Carolina (Durham, North Carolina: Historic Preservation Society of Durham, 1985), 127; Paul Cameron to James Hunter Horner, Aug. 9, 1872, CFP.
8. Paul Cameron to Anne Cameron Collins, May 20, 1867, Anne Cameron Collins Papers, SHC.
9. Paul C. Cameron and Anne Cameron, adeptness of advocate conveyed to Thomas R. Roulhac, Nov. 8, 1872, Record of Deeds, Book G, folio 196, Probate Office, Hale Canton Courthouse, Greensboro, Alabama.
10. Paul Cameron to Bennehan Cameron, Jan. 20, 1873, CFP.
11. John Parrish to Henry Watson, July 23, 1873, Watson Papers, Duke University; Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2015), 263–266, 286–287, 289–293.
12. C. W. Pierce, Superintendent, District of Demopolis, to O. D. Kinsman, Superintendent, Montgomery, Feb. 13, 1867, BFRAL, Alabama, in the unregistered letters, Freedmen’s History Papers Archives, College Park, Maryland. Pierce gave a account of murders, assaults, and outrages from January 1866 through February 1867. In May 1866, in Marengo County, assailants attempted to drive abroad several families of freedmen who had busy a acreage and were alive it themselves.
13. Trelease, White Terror, 83–94, 304–305, 308; Michael W. Fitzgerald, The Union League Movement in the Deep South: Backroom and Agricultural Change during Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), 83, 143, 213, 221, 223–224.
14. Alabama Beacon, June 11, 1870, Aug. 15, 1873.
15. Alabama Beacon, Sept. 28, 1872.
16. Paul Cameron wrote a announcement summarizing the sales appear “in Mr. Roulhac’s letter”; the announcement was anachronous Feb. 15, 1875, CFP. Roulhac appear affairs best of the Alabama plantation’s 1,600 acres. One baby bindle awash for $20 per acre; about all the blow of the acreage brought from $9 to $12 per acre.
17. Paul Cameron announcement on the auction of Alabama land, Feb. 15, 1875, CFP. Thomas Roulhac to Paul Cameron, Feb. 15, June 22, 1875, CFP.
18. Paul Cameron and Anne Cameron to Paul and James Hargess, Accomplishment Book K, folio 480, Probate Office, Hale County. Thomas Roulhac was the Camerons’ abettor for all the sales. In this case and others, there was a gap amid the date of acquirement and the date the accomplishment was clearly recorded. Roulhac’s arbitrary of purchases declared that all agreements to buy Cameron’s acreage came by February 1875. The Hargis brothers’ accomplishment was recorded in 1884. Paul and Jim Hargess fabricated their antecedent acquirement of 20 acreage in 1872. See Accomplishment Book G, folio 196. The additional acquirement of 80 acreage for $640 was fabricated on March 27, 1876. See Accomplishment Book X, pages 614–615. The ancestors name began its migration—from Hargis to Hargess and ultimately to Hargress—in the mid-1870s.
19. On Oct. 18, 1873, acting as appointed agent, Thomas Roulhac gave a mortgage of $1,600 to Sandy Cameron for 160 acreage of the plantation. The acreage conveyed was accepted as Edwards Field. The mortgage accommodation was for the absolute bulk due. Cameron committed to pay for the acreage in bristles installments of $320 each, staring on Jan. 1, 1874, and absolute on Jan. 1, 1878. Cameron was able to pay for alone 30 acres. In a 1960 a davit, Sandy Cameron’s son-in-law Forrest Hargress declared that an accepted accomplishment was anachronous July 1, 1876. Hale Mort- cuff and Accomplishment Book, Vol. 52, pages 276–277, Probate Office, Hale County. A 1917 mortgage on Edwards Field, active by Sandy Cameron’s daughter, states that the thirty acreage was conveyed by Thomas Roulhac on Jan. 1, 1875. Mortgage acceding of Bettie [Cameron] Hargress and For[r]est Hargress with L. K. Jackson, Jan. 2, 1917, Accomplishment and Mortgage Book R, folio 309.
20. For example, client Wilson Rainey formed on the Locke plantation, about seven afar up the road; client Robert Cabbil formed alike closer, on the Stollenwerk plantation. With his wagon, client Champ Hall hauled for the burghal of Greensboro, area Thomas Roulhac was mayor. See the Hale Canton Commissioners Minutes for 1874–1877, Book 2, pages 67, 77, 103, 104, 241. As an attorney, Roulhac was a a and “excellent collector” of payments. Entry for Thomas Roulhac, Alabama, Volume 1, folio 111, R. G. Dun & Co. Acclaim Re- anchorage Volumes, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
21. Paul Cameron to Milly Coles Cameron, Feb. 26, 1875, CFP. “Tom Roulhac writes me he has awash all my acreage in Ala. but 160 acres. I achievement he may get the pay.” The money didn’t come. George Collins to Paul Cameron, Feb. 27, 1876; Paul Cameron to Anne Ru n Cameron, June 14, June 17, June 19, 1879,
CFP. “I acquire never had business with such a man. How clashing his father. … Do acquaint me what to do with such a man.” Back Cameron begin out that Roulhac was visiting Hillsborough in 1880, Cameron declared he would “seek him out” and apparently accost him. Paul Cameron to Anne Ru n Cameron, February 28 and 29, 1880, CFP. Cameron was not the alone creditor to delay for acquittal from Thomas Roulhac. In the acclaim belletrist of R. G. Dun & Company, which accommodate arcane acclaim appraisals from reliable bounded sources, Roulhac was consistently characterized as “not prompt,” “slow pay,” and “constitutionally apathetic abt paying.” Entry for Thomas Roulhac, Alabama, Volume 11, folio 249, R. G. Dun & Co. Acclaim Report Volumes, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
22. For 1875 buyers James Mosley, Robert Cabell, and James McCoy, accomplishments were recorded and sales accepted in 1884; for Ned Smith, 1885; for David Jackson and Henry Wilson, 1886.
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