The Riot at Millican: Statement by the Mayor of the City (July 30, 1868)
As many wild rumors have gone out relative to the riot at this place, I deem it proper to drop you a line, and give you a plain statement of the facts.
Some months since Parson Brooks, colored, who is the Registrar of Brazos County, and a minster, conceived the idea of organizing the negroes into a military company , which he did, and was enable to commanded the attendance of from one to two hundred on each Saturday, who being armed were regularly drilled, a thing that was unpleasant; in the sight of the citizens. I called upon Capt Randlett, Agent of the Freedmen's Bureau, who condemned the organization as one not well calculated to produce amiable relations between the races, and issued an order that no further military demonstrations would be allowed. No regard was paid to the order, but absence of Capt. R from the place prevented his knowledge of the fact that his order was eschewed. Thus matters progressed until the 15th inst.
The negroes had a rumor that a freedman had been hanged in the Brazos bottom, and they had good reasons to know the guilty party, and that they intended to find the body, and hang the man who hung the negro, be he white or black; and on the morning of the 15th, Capt. Harvy was dispatched by Parson Brooks with an armed force that was regularly marched through the town, a la militiare, en route for the river bottom, in search of the body of their friend, and when they arrived at the suspected premises they numbered 73, all armed and mounted, They met with some white persons in the bottom, and they were quite insolent and imperative as to what they would do in the event they found the body.
About 3 P.M. news came to the town that negroes contemplated violence. Some of the white ladies and children deemed it prudent to come into the town for protection. The citizens to the number of about forty were soon armed, mounted and on the road to the bottom. Deputy Sheriff Patillo and myself thought it advisable that we should go with the citizens and use all the power vested in us by the law, as well as our personal influence with both parties, to prevent collision. We suggested to the white men that we should be allowed to hold a conference with the freedmen, and try to influence them to lay by thier arms and return to their homes, which propositino met with the approval of all. The Deputy Sheriff and myself were in front, passing through a thick wood, and a sudden turn in the road brought us to within thirty steps of the head of the column of the freedmen, Capt. Harvy in front. We asked him, "What does all this armed demonstration mean?" and before he reply a small negro, who was some sixty steps in the rear, at an angle on the left, in an open space in the road, discharged his gun; his horse immediately fled; the firing then commenced in our rear. The Sheriff and myself ordered both parties to desist, but the freedmen fled in such hot haste that the thing was over, and all were out of sight in less than two minutes. The Captain was killed by my side. I only saw his body, but learn that two others were left dead, and some three or four wounded.
The citizens returned to town, and learning that many of the freedmen who were in the fight were then in Freedmantown, and that others were congregating, and thinking that there might be further trouble, requested me to take one citizen and hold a conference with Parson Brooks, and learn his intentions, and if possible come to some understanding by which the thing should be settled. I did so; the Parson was surrounded by a rabble, who were clamorous for war; one man drew his Enfield on me. [sic] and would have shot, if not prevented. I refused to confer with such an element, and used all endeavors to induce the parson to meet a delegation of white men and come to an understanding, which he refused. I then returned to the citizens and told them "that fight it was!" It was now about 7 P.M. Pickets were placed out, and arrangements made to hold the matter in check until Sheriff Neill should arrive from Bryan, a dispatch having been sent him to come down and arrest the parties. About 8 P.M. Parson Brooks reconsidered the matter, sent in a delegation, acceding to my proposals of a compromise, and some of the citizens met Brooks and agreed upon terms by which the freedmen, in arms--agreeing that in future freedmen should desist from the universal practice, in their daily walks, of wearing arms, and that there should be no further demonstrations on the part of the whites. Here matters stood until the train arrived from Bryan, having Sheriff Neill, with a posse of about 100 men, on board. They were met on the platform of the depot, and assured that all things were amicably arranged, and that their presence was not required, and urged to, and did, return that night. The Sheriff, however, deemed it advisable to remain that night to investigat the matter. He did so, and early the next morning dispatched his Deputy to see Parson Brooks, and learn of him about the matter. The Deputy found him at his headquarters, with an armed sentinel at the door, twenty or thrity men, and arms in abundance. The Parson then and there declined to comply with the terms agreed upon. Soon thereafter I sent a negro to ask him to see me at a place appointed, at 8 A.M. Capt. Randlett, Sheriff Neill and myself attended, but his reverence was not tehre; nor did he come; thus the terms of agreement were violated. News came in that the freedmen were collecting; a large number of horses and mules were stolen from the premises, and some negroes asserted that the blacks had sufficient force to, and would attack the town. The Sheriff sent the locomotive drawing the freight back to Bryan for volunteers, and about 150 came. The negroes saw the utter impractiability of success, and desisted. To-day many have retured[sic] to the farms, and say that from this time out they have not desire to do military duty. I cannot say what numbers has been killed in the skirmishing, but will learn in a few days.
G.A. Wheat, Mayor.