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Reconstruction, 1865-1877: Smith County

Resources for studying Reconstruction in the United States, 1865-1877

Reconstruction in Smith County, Texas--Books and Articles

This is a fairly complete bibliography of resources on Smith County, Texas, during Reconstruction. 


Betts, Vicki.  "'Private and Amateur Hangings':  The Lynching of W. W. Montgomery, March 15, 1863."  Southwestern Historical Quarterly 88 no. 2 (October 1984):  145-166.  Includes repercussions when Tylerite George W. Chilton is elected Congressman immediately after the war and is then denied his seat in Washington.

Betts, Vicki.  "Newspaper Notes, A Continuation:  Gleaning Smith County Happenings from Area Newspapers:  Military Reconstruction."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 34 no. 1 (Summer 1995):  31-37.  [covers 1865-1870]

Carrier, John P.  "Bullets, Ballots & Bayonets:  Reconstruction Politics and Elections in Smith County, 1866-1873."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 13 no. 1 (Summer 1974):  1-14.

Carrier, John P.  "The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1875."  In Tyler and Smith County:  An Historical Survey,   edited by Robert W. Glover and Linda Brown Cross, 57-80.  [Tyler]:  American Bicentennial Committee of Tyler-Smith County, 1976.

Casdorph, Paul D.  "Some Early Republicans of Smith County, Texas."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 7 no. 2 (Fall 1968):  1-7.

Crouch, Barry.  "The Freedmen's Bureau and the 30th Sub-District in Texas:  Smith County and Its Environs During Reconstruction."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 11 no. 1 (Spring 1972):  15-30.

Croch, Barry.  The Freedmen's Bureau in Texas.  Austin:  University of Texas Press, 1993.

Crouch, Barry.  "View from Within:  Letters of Gregory Barrett, Freedmen's Bureau Agent."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 12 no. 2 (Winter 1973):  13-28.

Dudney, Ross Nathaniel.  "Texas Reconstruction:  The Role of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870, Smith County (Tyler) Texas."  M.S. thesis, Texas A&I University, 1986.

"Freedmen's Bureau Report of an Inspection of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, Walker County."  [Smith County convicts].  http://www.etgs.org/txsmith/african-am/freedmen.html.  Accessed 1 July 2015.

Leath, Andrew L., ed.  "The Jones-Bell Letters."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 38 no. 1 (Summer 1999):  1-11.  [1871-1872]

Leath, Andrew L.  "A Reconstruction Tragedy in Texas:  The Murder of Hut Murray."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 27 no. 1 (1988):  59-61.

"The Murder of Godley & House."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 7 no. 2 (Fall 1968):  45.

Offutt, J. J.  "All in the Point of View" [letter from Starrville, June 23, 1867].  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 5 no. 2 (Fall 1966):  17-19.

Reconstruction Era.  Vertical file.  Smith County Historical Society Archives.  See folder under Military.

Richter, William L.  "The Army and the Negro During Texas Reconstruction, 1865-1870."  East Texas Historical Journal 10 (Spring 1972):  7-19.

Richter, William L.  The Army in Texas During Reconstruction, 1865-1870.  College Station:  Texas A&M University Press, 1987.

Richter, William L.  Overreached on All Sides:  The Freedmen's Bureau Administrtors in Texas, 1865-1868.  College Station:  Texas A&M University Press, 1991.

Roberts, Oran M.  "The Experiences of an Unrecognized Senator."  Southwestern Historical Quarterly 60 (1956-1957):  23-35.  Roberts at that time lived in Tyler and traveled with George W. Chilton to Washington, D.C. after they were elected, only to be refused their seats.

Smallwood, James.  "From Slavery to Freedom:  Smith County's Black Community in 1870:  A Statistical Overview."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 18 no. 1 (Summer 1979):  58-61.

Smallwood, James.  The History of Smith County, Texas.  Austin:  Eakin Press, 1999.  See vol. 1, chapters 11 "Smith County in the War of Reconstruction" and 12 "The County's Redeemers Win the War of Reconstruction"  E392.S55 B63 1999 vol. 1.

Smallwood, James.  "Mr. Republican:  Silas D. Wood."  Chronicles of Smith County, Texas 16 no. 2 (Winter 1977):  9-10.

United States.  Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.  Records of the Field Offices for the State of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870.  Microfilm.  Tyler reels at UT-Tyler Library, second floor, far right end of metal microfilm cabinets.  E185.93.T4 R43, reel 26 and 27.  Unindexed.

Other Local Sources

Newspapers--Very few Tyler newspapers survive from the Reconstruction years due to a major fire in the early 20th century prior to microfilm.  However, the practice at the time was for newspapers to reprint clippings from across the state.  Just below are links to files of articles from and about Tyler found in newspapers such as the Marshall Texas Republican, Dallas Herald, Harrison Flag [Marshall], Flake's Bulletin [Galveston], Daily Austin Republican, Austin Democratic Statesman, Clarksville Standard, and Texas Christian Advocate [Methodist], Be aware that each of these newspapers usually took a strong pro-Democratic or strong pro-Republican political stance.  Most of these papers are also searchable in the database Texas Historical Newspapers, and they are full image there.  See also the newspapers at the website Portal to Texas History.
Articles about Tyler and Smith County, Texas, 1863-1865 (includes the immediate postwar months)
Articles about Tyler and Smith County, Texas, 1866-1867
Articles about Tyler and Smith County, Texas, 1868-1870
Articles about Tyler and Smith County, Texas, 1870-1875
Tyler Democrat, August 15, 1874

Researching people in Smith County history
This page gives suggestions of places to look for informaltion on individuals.

District Court records will include criminal and civil court cases.  These records are at the Records Center in the basement of the Cotton Belt Building.  They will not be indexed by crime--the cases show up chronologically, indexed by the person charged in the criminal case (not the victim), or both parties of a civil case, such as non-payment of debt.  It would take some time and digging but could be interesting to see who was being charged with what, and what the verdicts and punishments were, during the Reconstruction years.  Unfortunately, during this spring (2015) a pipe broke under the Record Center and it closed for repair.  I'll continue to check to see when they reopen for use.  Be aware that this is normally M-F, 8-12, 1-5.

Probate Records--could show the businesses in operation at the time of death (accumulated debts to be paid) or bils for surviving minor children.  These records are at the Smith County annex, 200 E. Ferguson, Third Floor.  Generally a person had to have owned property, particularly real estate, in order for the probate court to be involved.  Because of that, African-Americans and women in general are underrepresented.  These records are also available only M-F, 8-5.

Unfortunately bankruptcy records are not thought to exist for this period due to a fire that destroyed the Eastern District federal court offices here in 1878.  If any survive at all, they are probably at the Ft. Worth branch of the federal archives, which is where the inactive U.S. District Court records from Tyler go.  Some bankruptcy lists survive in newspapers.

Marriage records--Smith County annex, 200 E. Ferguson, NE corner of the square, Third Floor.  Often early Reconstruction documents note f.m.c. for Free Man of Color or f.m. for Freedman next to names--I'm not sure if Smith County did that.  It might be intesting to see if there is a large bump of marriages right after the war, whether by white or black couples, if they are so marked.  Available M-F, 8-5.

County Commissioners Court Records--Smith County annex, 200 E. Ferguson.  County commissioners created road maintenance crews, maintained the courthouse and jail, set up elections, handled welfare and insanity cases, set county tax rate, and adopted a county budget.  Can you see any change in policies or practices due to Reconstruction?

Elections--go to the Smith County Elections Administration Office, 304 E. Ferguson, two buildings east of the Courthouse Annex on the east side of the railroad tracks.  Remember that Ferguson at that point is a one way street heading west.  There is a parking lot between the Annex and the Elections Office as well as a few slots out front, but they are usually full.  Ask for volume 1 of the voting results.  They will hand you a large handwritten volume that shows election results arranged chronologically--local elections, national elections, and Texas constitutional amendments, usually broken down by county precinct results.  Available M-F, 8-5.

Census--see the 1870 Smith County population census in the database Heritage Quest.  It will be the first to list African-Americans by name.  Heritage Quest also has the 1870 Texas Agriculture, Manufacturing, Social Statistics, and Mortality Census.  Depending on what you are trying to show, you may need to compare with either the 1860 or the 1880 census, or both.

Researching freedmen's schools--
Try Records of the Superintendent of Education for the State of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870.  The entire state is on 18 rolls of microfilm, and it may or may not be available on interlibrary loan. Texas libraries that hold this microfilm include:  Baylor, Lamar, Rice, A&M, Texas Southern, Texas Tech, UNT, UTPB, and the State Archives.  Other libraries may own it, but it doesn't appear in their catalogs.  Here is a guide to that film.  Tyler is not mentioned in the guide specifically, but there was a Freedmen's Bureau office here, and at least one school.  Roll 18 includes "Record of Teachers," "School Record," "Record of Schools," "School Houses Rented and Repaired," "List of Houses Rented and Teachers Employed," and "Record of Schools," mostly covering October 1865-June 1870.  Other reels include correspondence and reports.

Papers in the Contested Election Case of G. W. Whitmore vs. W. S. Herndon, the First Congressional District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives, 42d Congress, 2d Session.  Mis. Doc. no. 182.  In The Miscellaneous Documents printed by order of the House of Representatives During the Second Session of the Forty-Second Congress, 1871-'72.  George Whitmore (Republican) and William S. Herndon (Democrat), both from Tyler at that time, had an extremely heated contest marked with intimidation and violence.  Eventually Herndon was declared the winner, marking the return of Texas Democrats to power in East Texas.  There's been an East Texas Historical Journal article on Whitmore written by Dr. Randolph Campbell, and there's a box of Herndon material at the Smith County Historical Society Archives.  Both have entries in the Online Handbook of Texas.  Also check Texas Historical Newspaper database for accounts of the campaign, election, and the contest of the election afterward.

Report of Special Committee on Lawlessness and Violence in Texas.  Austin, 1868.  George Whitmore of Tyler was on the Committee.

The Smith County Historical Society commissioned a microfilm copy of the Tyler military post records from the National Archives.  The reel includes:
Record Group 393, pt. V, Post of Tyler, 1867-70
Record Group 92, Records of the Quartermaster General, National and Post Cemeteries, Alexandria, La. (where the bodies of Camp Ford prisoners were taken after the war)
Record Group 109, Confederate Records--various Tyler related items
Record Group 105, Freedman's Bureau--E-3777, no. 161, Letters Received
     E-3776, no. 162--Letters Sent
     E-3779, no. 163--Register of Complaints (freed people complaining about treatment by their employers, or those who held their children as "apprentices")
     E-3779, no. 164--same
     E-3779, no. 164--same, plus loose documents
If you have any interest in working with these documents, please email me and I'll bring the microfilm (it is not digitized anywhere--this is the only copy) to the UT-Tyler Library for use in the building.  I'll put it on the hold shelf at Circulation.  We have the equipment to either scan and save to flash drive, or print the documents, all at no cost to you.  These records are NOT indexed, so plan on some time to work through them and identify by frame number what you want to copy or use.

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