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Footprints of Fayette

A Historical Column From The Fayette County 

Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office

 

Louisiana Brown Faison And Reconstruction

On May 9, 1870, Nathaniel W. “Nat” Faison lay propped in his bed at 822 S. Jefferson in La Grange, using an atlas as a writing surface. Composing a letter to his brother, Peter, Nat explained that he hadn’t been perfectly well for two years. Unfortunately, he had been attacked with rheumatism and had been bedridden since March 5.

The letter failed to mention that he had sold his house to freedwoman Louisiana “Lou” Brown, his mulatto housekeeper, on April 2, 1870, for $5. The next day Nat wrote his will, leaving Lou $3,000 in gold coin.  

By June 14, 1870, Peter must have learned how sick Nat was and of the contents of the will, because Nat made a codicil to the will giving Peter $1,000 in gold coin and Lou $2,000. On June 29, Nat passed away.

Ultimately Peter prevailed and bought the house on Nov. 23, 1872.

Why did this woman, who went by the last name of Faison for the rest of her life, sell the house to Peter? While we will never know, her decision was no doubt influenced by the social and political realities after the Civil War.

Being African American in Texas during reconstruction was a dangerous proposition. Whites murdered blacks, and most local law enforcement agencies did nothing. Unjust treatment was the norm rather than the exception.   Additionally, without land of their own, many freedmen were forced to work as tenant farmers.

Soon protections afforded by Union occupation evaporated. The Freedmen’s Bureau, a branch of the U.S. Army, was shuttered in 1870 when Texas was re-admitted to the union. The bureau worked to educate African Americans and intervened in situations where they were being treated unjustly.

The Democratic party, mostly composed of Confederate supporters, gained control of the Texas House of Representatives in 1872 and took control of the Thirteenth Legislature which began its session in January 1873. The Thirteenth Legislature abolished the state police on April 22, 1873. This group arrested offenders when local law officers failed to do so.

So, perhaps seeing that she would no longer be afforded legal protection, Lou sold. However, she did not go away empty-handed. The shrewd woman, who was illiterate and signed with an “x,” made real estate deals anyone would admire.  

She sold the house to Peter for $3,000 in gold even though Nat had bought the house in 1866 for $1,800. Moreover, the day before the sale, she purchased three town lots and the homestead of a white man, W.W. Little, for $1,860. Little had witnessed Nat’s will and helped appraise his estate.      

In 1890, she sold her home for $2,000 and moved north of town to Pearl and Jackson streets, where she bought a residence for $600. Then, in 1895, she gave part of this property to Lizzie Blair Moore who had either lived with Lou or next to Lou since Nat died. She gave it for her love and affection and to provide Lizzie with a home. Lou stipulated it was to be Lizzie’s separate property and not to belong to Lizzie’s husband. On Dec. 1, 1905, she gave the rest of her property to Delany and Eva Sanford in return that they “support, maintain and take care of me for and during the remainder of my natural life.”

Lou died sometime before the 1910 census was taken. Her exact burial site is unknown.

References

About Texas Succession, accessed Feb. 6, 2019, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/abouttx/secession/index.html.

Ann Patton Baenziger, “The Texas State Police during Reconstruction: A Reexamination,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969). William T. Field, Jr., “The Texas State Police, 1870–1873,” Texas Military History 5 (Fall 1965).

Deeds obtained from the Faison Preservation Society collection.

Handbook of Texas Online, Carl H. Moneyhon, “Reconstruction,” accessed Feb. 6, 2019,http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mzr01.  Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on Jan. 30, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. 

Handbook of Texas Online, Cecil Harper Jr., “Freedmen’s Bureau,” accessed Feb. 6, 2019,http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ncf01.  Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on July 25, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Letter from N.W. Faison to Peter Faison dated May 9, 1870.  Fayette Public Library, Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives.

Thirteenth Texas Legislature accessed Feb. 6, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_Texas_Legislature

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