Black Seminoles Scared Bexar County Slave Owners

September 24, 2019


There were few large Plantations near San Antonio, but one did exist on the Cibolo Creek in the Cibolo Valley. Large slave plantations required large numbers of slaves, usually under the control of an overseer who was often white but sometimes black. Black overseers would often be given time off or extra food to get them to abandon their brothers and sisters. Those that owned human beings paid large sums of money for enslaved people, and owning human beings on the Cibolo Creek were their most important source of riches. Controlling them, to prevent slave insurrections, was one of the most important duties in this brutal system of Confederate and pre-Confederate slavery. The planters demanded and received the support of the City of San Antonio and the Bexar County Commissioners Court to keep slaves under control and to prevent them from using the Underground Railroad to Mexico in the 1850s. The planters were often terrified when they saw the large number of slaves that were under their control, and would often invent fake stories of slaves revolting to organize slave catchers and torture slaves to set examples against running away.


San Antonio rules and customs were different from the Deep South, the customs and legal rules of racial etiquette did not completely exist in Bexar County. This was true in part because of the close proximity to Mexico and freedom. The city did have a bell that rang at 9:00 pm and that meant that all blacks had to be off the street at that time or face lashings and jail time. The City Marshall was paid $5.00 per year for such duty. Planters went before the Bexar County and San Antonio authorities to resolve this in the 1800s. Bexar County created “Slave Patrols” and San Antonio passed slave laws that regulated “the conduct of slaves, free people of color and whites according to the wishes of the planters.”  In the City’s ordinance, Section 16 said, “That it shall be the duty of the Marshal or assistant Marshal upon written request of the owner, or person having legal charge and control of any slave, to whip such slave, not to exceed thirty-nine lashes, upon the bare back, for which he shall be entitled to receive from such owner or person having such charge and control, the sum of one, dollar, to be paid upon the presentation of such request.” 


San Antonio slave, Felix Haywood, who was born into slavery on the Cibolo Creek, His words spelled out the problem slave owners had being so close to Mexico: “Sometimes someone would come ‘long and try to get us to run up North. All we had to do was to walk, but walk South, and we’d be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande. In Mexico you could be free. They didn’t care what color you was, black, white, yellow, or blue. Hundreds of slaves did go to Mexico and got on all right. We would hear about ‘em and how they was goin’ to be Mexicans. They brought up their children to speak only Mexican.”


San Antonio newspapers covered the news from Eagle Pass about the Black Seminole named “Wild Cat.” He was active in freeing slave in Texas and other areas. Fear of Wild Cat was based on his successful revolts in Florida against Andrew Jackson and slave hunters. This prompted three slave owners, J.D. Wyatt, Claiborne Rector and J. S. McClennan to approach the Bexar County Commissioners Court and demand slave catcher patrols. There evil men had no idea that one day Bexar County would have a black county commissioner—Tommy Calvert Jr.


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