Honoring Black History Month by remembering those forgotten
By Sandy Jennings BCC Staff Writer
Editors note: This article is a reprint from the February 23 edition of the Courier. This reprint reflects multiple corrections to historical facts misquoted in the original publication.
Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is celebrated during February annually in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, recognizing the central role of African Americans in United States History and celebrating their achievements.
Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland, founders of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), organized and sponsored the first national Negro History week in 1926. They chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
The event grew over time with President Gerald Ford officially recognizing February as Black History Month in 1976, calling upon citizens to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Bandera’s own researchers, Raymond V. Carter, Jr., Roy Dugosh and Elenora Dugosh Goodley, all officers of the Bandera County Historical Commission (BCHC), have spent years researching the first residents of Bandera County and their contributions, including the first African American settlers.
One of the many projects the BCHC has undertaken is the restoration of the black cemetery located in Bandera. The cemetery has now been revived, dedicated, named the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery and recognized as a historical landmark.
Named after Bertha Tryon a long-time Bandera County resident and the last person buried in the cemetery in 1993 and Hendrick Arnold a guide and spy during the Texas Revolution, a free man, who received 1,920 acres from the Republic and the State of Texas for his services as a soldier.
Arnold served as a guide for General Ben Milam's division in the assault on Bexar in 1835. He also distinguished himself as "one of the most efficient members of Deaf Smith's Spy Company" during the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, according to his commanding officers. Arnold's land parcels touched the Medina River and lay north and northwest of the town of Bandera. The cemetery lies in part of the original Hendrick Arnold Survey #59.
As reported earlier in the Courier, in 1991, local historian, the late Louis Postert provided a list of people he believed were buried in the cemetery. They included John Benson, 1855-1890, whose marker has since disappeared. Another now-missing marker bore the faint outline of the name "Wellencrane." Postert also named Andrew and Mariah Jackson, Jeff Cooksey Jr., Mahalia Cooksey, Mrs. Jeff Cooksey Sr. and WD Leonard. Prior to Tryon, the last documented burial in the cemetery was Leonard in 1944.
Although 28 gravesites have been identified, Dugosh believes there are 49 graves in the cemetery of early African American settlers of Bandera County. Goodley told Bandera County Commissioner’s Court that she is determined to identify each grave and notify their families members. The commission also hopes to discover the history behind each of the deceased.
Carter, who was awarded his own historical marker in 1978 for Best Committee Member under the Dewitt County and Welonia County Historical Commissions, has spent over 50 years reading, researching, fact collecting and writing about Texas history, including Bandera County.
“I have been fascinated by history all of my life and wrote my first historical story when I was in the second grade,” Carter said.
Carter is presently working on completing several books about Bandera County’s historical beginning and the years that followed. Within his research, Carter has discovered many stories concerning the first African Americans settling in Bandera County.
In his essay “African-Americans Played a Role in Bandera County History,” by Raymond V. Carter, Jr., BCHC Research Historian, Carter shares a couple stories documenting early black settlers and the difficulties they endured. Below are excerpts from Carter’s copyrighted research books being written.
From Carter’s book entitled “Bandera de Oror y Plata,” a book about Bandera and Texas Silver and Gold Mines, Carter uncovers many stories about early African-American settlers in Bandera County.
From the chapter own the ‘Hicks-Mayer Mine”:
On January 22, 1880, tragedy struck Bandera County when two young men were interested in the same gun; a little derringer pistol, commnly called a “bull dog” at that time, James M. Buckelew (1863-1892) had possession of the pistol. Jim was 16 years old at the time and working for Judge J. B. Davenport, south of Bandera. James Williams (ca. 1869-1880) was an eleven year old lad who also worked on the Davenport Ranch on West Verde Creek. The young Williams showed an interest in the gun and wanted to buy it from Buckelew, but no trade was ever made. The final result was that James Williams was killed while the two young men were fooling around with the gun. It was a sad tragic time for all involved. The full story is told in this chapter of the book.
From Carter’s book entitled “Beneath the ‘Red’ Veil,” a book about robbers and thieves who dressed up as Indians to cover up their murders and robberies in and around Bandera County, Carter discovers more African-American settlers as they journeyed to Bandera and the surrounding Hill Country.
Jack Hardy was a 13 year old boy captured by Indians on November 9, 1870, near his home which was close to Comfort, Texas. According to A. J. Sowell and J. Marvin Hunter, this young man witnessed the murders of the Terry family at Center Point, Texas, along with the kidnapping of the young Terry daughter. Jack finally made his escape from the so called “Commanches” in western Bandera County. Hadry reported that he believed these Indians were “white and other men” dressed up as Indians in disguise. There were a group of as many as 40 men doing just that, who had a hide out in western Kerr County at that time. The Terry girl was later saved by the Texas Rangers. Jack Hardy still has relatives living in Kerrr County. More details on these and other robbers will be told in the book.
Carter continues to research information referring to the “Black Settlement,” in hopes of discovering facts concerning the location, time period and residents of the proposed settlement.
“I remember reading about it somewhere between Indian Creek and Verde Creek when they were working on the roads. They referred to it as a landmark,” Carter said.
Carter, along with Dugosh and Goodley, contributes to the Bandera County Historian magazine. For a subscription to the Bandera County Historian, send a $10 donation to The Bandera County Historian, PO Box 1538, Bandera, TX 78003. The quarterly publication is edited by Merry Langlinais.