Whales Clemons, African American Pioneer, “The Untold Story” – Part I
By David L. Collins Sr.
Fayette County, Texas is a unique place where there are many untold stories about Anglos, Germans, Czechs and especially about African Americans. One such story is about my great-great-grandfather, Whales Clemons, also known as Wells Clements or Wales Clemons.
Whales Clemons was born Dec. 14, 1829 in Amelia County, Virginia and died in Lee County, Texas in 1906. Records indicate that he married Sarah Killough or Kellough, who was born in February 1838 in Alabama or Mississippi and died July 30, 1901. Her father was Ernest Samuel or Robert Kellough, born in Alabama; her mother was Caledonia Kellough, born in 1820 in Mississippi.
As we fast forward to 1870, we find in the U.S. Census that Whales Clemons was living in Beat No. 1, Rutersville (Fayette County) with his wife, Sarah Clemons, and children: Mary, Mandy, Charles, Thomas, Edward and John.
The area of Beat No. 1, Rutersville, where Whales Clemons’ family lived included Rutersville, the southern service area of Neese’s Store in Warrenton and the Bluff, all of which had a total population of 1,752 (825 white and 927 colored residents).
As I researched the Voters Registration Lists from 1867-1869, I noticed that a Wales Clemons was a registered voter as of Aug. 14, 1867 with his place of residence noted as Rutersville (Fayette County). Further research revealed that Whales Clemons was one of the African Americans living in Fayette County who were freed prior to emancipation. More research is needed to determine how many slaves in Fayette County were granted freedom prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.
The main characters in this interesting story are as follows:
1. James R. Phillips, probably a native of Tennessee, was the owner of League No. 11 in Fayette County that he was granted on April 23, 1831.
2. J.G. Wilkinson, origin unknown, was the owner of League No. 2 in Fayette County that he was granted on Oct. 10, 1835.
3. Whales Clemons who married Sarah Kellogg (Kellough) in 1860 at age 31. In 1863, he was freed from slavery, and by 1870 was living in Beat 1, Fayette County. He was still in Fayette County in 1880.
4. Sarah Kellough-Clemons, listed as a 12- or 15-year-old female slave in 1850, was owned by S. W. Kellogg of Robertson. By 1860, she and Whales Clemons were living in Washington County. At age 35 (1870), she was living in Beat 1, Fayette County.
5. John and Catherine Kozurck or Kocurek were from Moravia in the Empire of Austria.
6. Joseph (Josef) and Frederika (Francis) Krupa (also written Kroupa) were from Moravia in the Empire of Austria.
7. W. R. Doak was listed as living in San Antonio in 1887 and was representing Alex Meerscheidt and H. B. Kaulbach in real estate transactions. A review of the U.S. Cities Directories from 1821-1989 shows that W. R. Doak was the city surveyor when Lee County was organized in 1874.
8. H.B. Kaulbach, born in England, was living in a hotel in La Grange in 1870.
9. Axel Meerscheidt was living in La Grange in 1870 with his parents, Arthur and Caroline Meerscheidt, and siblings. The Meerscheidts were from Braunschweig, Germany. His occupation was listed as tenant farmer. By 1900, Axel was living with his brother, Paul, in Ward 3 of San Antonio. Axel’s occupation was listed as real estate agent. By 1910, he had relocated to Seattle, Ward 3, Washington State with his wife and children. In 1920, he was still living in Seattle, King County, Washington.
As we continue this interesting story and based on Fayette County Deed Records, Whales Clemons and his wife purchased 50 acres of land from John and Catherine Kozurck (Kozurek) of Fayette County on Oct. 29, 1874 for $960 in coin dollars. The 50 acres were cut out of the Kozurek’s 200 acres and another 100 acre tract which paralleled the James R. Phillips League and J.G. Wilkerson League. The contiguous line of both leagues is now Rausch Road, which runs northwest to southeast, crossing FM 2145. According to later records, it is conclusive that Whales Clemons had acquired another 30 acres, but when he purchased that land or when he arrived in Fayette County has not been determined.
In July 19, 1878, Whales Clements, also referred to as Clemons, and his wife, Sarah Kellough-Clemons, purchased two more tracts of land, one tract being 35 acres, and the other tract being 80 acres contiguous to their currently owned 80 acres from Joseph (Josef) and Franciska (Frances) Krupa of Fayette County. The total purchase price was $3,200. This transaction included five promissory notes. The notes included a note for $200 due on or before Jan. 1, 1879, with $350 notes due each Jan. 1 for the next four years, all with 10 percent interest. Each payment was to be paid in gold or silver dollars. Although the deed did not mention it, I assume that Whales Clemons made a down payment of $1,600 dollars in gold or silver coins.
(To Be Continued)