Slave Patrols in San Antonio: Racists Asa Mitchell and S.G. Newton
According to historical records, San Antonio had slave catchers in the 1840s, 1850s, and beyond, were given official status as a result of the Texas legislature authorizing slave catchers on May 9, 1846. There were at least 18 official catcher districts of human beings in the Bexar County area, and an untold number of racist vigilante slave catchers. Some historians have tried to keep this a secret in an effort to erase the ugly racist past of San Antonio. For example: Slave patrols were identified by districts, and were spelled out and the members of such racist patrols were recorded. In District 1, (Precinct No. 1), Captain James Vance and privates included, C. Denman, F. Gilbeau, John G. Miller, Jas, R. Sweet, and Sam Hall. It is important to note that several of these men became mayors or political leaders and some streets and place names were given to them. In District No. 2, (Precinct No. 2), Captain H. A. Alsbury led this group of human violators and was accompanied by privates R. E. Clements, F. L. Paschal, Asa Mitchell, O. Evans, James Fisk, and other unknown criminals.
District No. 3 slave catchers, (Precinct No. 3), included Captain George M. Martin, along with privates S. G. Newton, J. H. Beck, C. D. Lytle, John S. McClellan, and S. C. Childress, while the District No. 4 slave patrol, (Precinct 4) from Devines to Groesbeck’s Ranch, including both sides of the Salado Creek was commanded by a Captain: J. A. Rodgers, who received help from privates James Comlin, Robert Davis, John L. Connor, and Joseph Beitle. Historic documents reveal that “Bexar County Slave patrols had the power to enter property and search without a warrant, arrest and punish slaves with lashes. They were empowered to arrest whites they believed associated with, assisted or incited slaves.”
Asa Mitchell’s name stands out as a racist and a catcher of human beings and a person who “Acquired extensive ranch property near San Antonio in 1839 and moved to Bexar County in 1840. He engaged successfully in merchandising, interested himself in local political affairs, and on occasion substituted in the Methodist pulpit as a lay preacher.” Racists often saw religion only as a tradition and not as a moral compass to treat others. Asa Mitchell most likely would have recognized blacks as nothing more than animals. S. G. Newton was a Mayor of San Antonio and a judge. This history has been hidden, while evil racist-minded men were made into heroes.
The Sheriff in Bexar County held runaways in the Bexar County Jail. In fact, Sheriff William B. Knox, in July of 1856, reported in a local San Antonio newspaper that, “Taken up and committed to the jail of Bexar County, on the 19th of June, 1856, a negro boy who says his name is Theodore Augusta, and that he is a white or freeman; that he left New Orleans about the first of last May and came with the Government camels; that he had been steward on the steamboats Cotton Plant, Arkansas river and the Naneyock, Red river; that he is acquainted in New Orleans with Gil Baron and Bros., Martin Gordon, and John B. and Tom Leaf. He is 19 or 20 years old, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, weighs about 140 pounds, has long, red, curly hair, thin visage, freckles; one upper front tooth out, speaks slow; not very intelligent, and has rings in his ears. If he is a slave, the owner is requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges and take him away.”