Raising black awareness history
By Millie Diaz
I’ve become obsessed with obscure history recently, for reasons too lengthy to explain here. I say recently because the subject wasn’t one of my favorites (sorry Mrs. Stafford!) As a kid I saw history class as a memory game of dates and names, rather than finding the story that connected it all.
But that’s why the word ‘history’ basically says, ‘hi story.’ Right?
Now, as a fiction writer in my off-time, it’s embarrassing to admit the storyteller in me didn’t look for a story, but hey, everything in its own time.
I found a good story to share, and February is the perfect time for it.
Samuel McCulloch Jr. had no clue the impact he would have on our county’s black history when he moved with his dad and three sisters to Texas in May 1835.
The McCulloch family settled as free blacks on the Lavaca River, now known as Jackson County. Sam, 24, and his sisters had a white father and black mother.
Sam Jr. joined the Matagorda Volunteer Company in October of 1835 and in less than a week he was fighting at Goliad for the independence of Texas from Mexico. But two days before he was to turn 25, Sam’s right shoulder was shattered from a musket ball while charging the Mexican officers’ quarters.
Though crippled for life, Sam is known as the only Texan wounded in the battle at Goliad, because he was the first soldier to step into the fort. He later became known as the first casualty of the Texas Revolution. Sam was taken back to Jackson County by wagon and the musket ball was removed in July 1836.
But his history-making didn’t stop there.
The Republic of Texas passed their constitution in September, and it threatened Sam’s rights to live there and own property for two reasons. A provision in the document barred “Africans and the descendants of Africans and Indians” from citizenship, and another demanded free blacks apply to Congress for permanent residence.
Naturally, Sam Jr. petitioned in 1837, and was granted a league of land the following year. But by then Sam had broken the law again, this time on interracial unions, because he married a white woman named Mary Vess. Fortunately the two were never prosecuted.
Because he was a disabled veteran, Sam became eligible for a league of land in 1838, but didn’t receive it until 1850. Though disabled, Sam fought in the battle of Plum Creek until he was granted a relief bill from the 1840 Ashworth Act, which required any and all free blacks to leave the republic within two years or be sold into slavery.
He and his family moved to Lavaca County in 1841, but resettled back in Jackson by 1845. He passed in 1893.
References: Texas State Historical Association, texashillcountry.com, medium.com