Black History Month Part III

During the years that Texas was part of Mexico, the government offered free blacks the same rights of citizenship and opportunities for land ownership as were provided to white settlers. And just like the white colonists, the free settlers of color worked to establish successful lives in the new country.  William Goyens (sometimes spelled Goings) settled in Nacogdoches in the early 1820s and became

William Goyens

William Goyens

an Indian Agent, working as a mediator and interpreter between the settlers and Cherokees of Northeast Texas. Born in North Carolina in 1794, the son of a white mother and mulatto father (with Cherokee ancestry), Goyens’ fair complexion may have helped him establish a successful blacksmith business in Nacogdoches and begin land speculation.  His work as an Indian Agent earned the trust of the Indians, the Mexican government, and the settlers in East Texas.  He opened a freight hauling business, manufactured and repaired wagons, traded with the Indians, began lending money, and developed successful sawmill and gristmill operations.  He married a white widow and adopted her son. Despite barely escaping being sold back into slavery on two business trips to Louisiana, Goyens owned as many as nine slaves and added to his wealth by entering the slave trade as a buyer and seller of human chattel.

During the buildup to the Texas Revolution, Goyens served as Sam Houston’s, interpreter as Houston negotiated a treaty with the Cherokees that kept them from siding with the Mexican Army during the war.

After Texas won Independence from Mexico in 1836, laws under the new Republic changed the status of freedmen.  Many slaveholders feared that the prosperity of freedmen would encourage rebellion among their slaves.  The constitution of the Republic of Texas took away the citizenship of free blacks, restricted their property rights, and forbade permanent residence in Texas without the approval of the congress.  The laws became even more restrictive for free blacks after Texas annexation as the twenty-eighth state.

Despite living the rest of his life in the mansion he built west of Nacogdoches and continuing to amass considerable wealth, William Goyens was forced to hire some of the best lawyers in Nacogdoches to defend against white neighbors who constantly attempted to take the property he accumulated. Goyens died in 1856 and is buried next to his wife on the property they acquired near Nacogdoches.

Hendrick Arnold, the son of a white man and black mother, moved with his family from Mississippi to Stephen F. Austin’s colony in 1826.  During the Texas Revolution, Arnold and his father-in-law, Erastus (Deaf) Smith, earned an almost legendary reputation as scouts and spies for the Texan cause. Beginning with the 1835 capture of San Antonio, Arnold’s bravery and skills in the fight for San

Arnold in foreground of Joseph Musso mural.

Arnold in foreground of Joseph Musso mural.

Antonio earned him a citation for his “important service.”  Deaf Smith suffered serious injuries in the Texan’s fight for San Antonio, and Arnold nursed him back to health.  Then, Arnold joined Deaf Smith as they scouted for other cavalry units, even infiltrating the Mexican camps with Deaf Smith disguised as a Mexican and Arnold posing as a runaway slave.  Before the Battle at San Jacinto, Deaf Smith’s spy company followed Sam Houston’s orders to destroy the bridge that would have offered escape from the field of battle for both armies, thus sealing the boundaries for the final battle for independence.

Like all the men who fought for Texas Independence, Arnold was compensated in land for his service, however, his property lay northwest of present Bandera, a site with poor soil that edged Indian territory, evidence of the lower status that a free black man held in the society of that period.  Arnold never lived on his land, choosing instead to live near San Antonio where he operated a gristmill.

By 1827 Arnold had fathered a daughter, Harriet, with one of his father’s slaves, and despite his own status as a free black, Arnold kept Harriet as his slave.  By the fall of 1835, before his participation in Texas War for Independence, Arnold had settled in San Antonio where he married Martina, the stepdaughter of Deaf Smith.  After Texas joined the Union, Arnold placed his daughter Harriet, who was about nineteen, in an indentured-servant contract with James Newcomb.  Newcomb was to pay $750 for Harriet’s service and then free her after five years. The Texas Black History Preservation Project points out that Arnold may have thought that Newcomb, a white man, had a better chance than Arnold of getting the Texas Legislature to accept a petition to allow Harriet to live in the state as a free woman.

Before the end of the indenture contract, both Newcomb and Arnold died in the 1849 Bexar County cholera epidemic.  Newcomb’s administrator successfully petitioned the Texas Legislature to allow Harriet to remain in Texas as a free woman, but Arnold’s wife (it is unclear who she was) sued the administrator for $2,000 plus the $750 due on the indentured-servant contract and asked that Harriet be returned as her slave.  The results of the suit are not clear.  Harriet may have been allowed to remain in Texas as a free woman.


Sarah Ridge survived a lifetime of tragedy before she arrived in Texas.  Born in 1814 in the Cherokee Nation near present Rome, Georgia, she enjoyed a privileged life as the daughter of Major Ridge, a Cherokee leader, friend of Sam Houston, and plantation owner with black and Native American slaves.  Sarah attended mission schools and a girls’ seminary in Winston-Salem North Carolina—an excellent education for a woman of her time.

Sarah’s father and her brother John were among the Cherokee leaders who signed a treaty in 1835 with the United States that promised to compensate the Cherokees for their rich farmland in Georgia in exchange for land in present Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Major Ridge and other Cherokee leaders believed the continued encroachment of white settlers and the failure of the state of Georgia and the federal government to protect the Cherokee’s land made it wise for the Cherokees to accept the U.S. offer of financial arrangements for their peaceful removal to Indian Territory.

Soon after signing the treaty Ridge and his family were among the first group of Cherokees to head west.  Another group of about 16,000 refused to leave and continued a legal battle to retain their land.  Finally, in 1838 President Martin Van Buren ordered the U.S. Army to round up the Cherokees, place them in temporary stockades, and march them to Indian Territory.  The 800-mile journey became known as “The Trail of Tears,” as approximately 4,000 Cherokees died from abuse, starvation, and lack of proper clothing in the frigid winter.

Anger and a sense of betrayal, led a group of Cherokees to assassinate Major Ridge, his son John, and Sarah’s cousin Elias Boudinot.

Sarah married George Washington Paschal, an attorney who represented the Cherokees before the U.S. Supreme court as they fought to retain their land.  Finally, he helped move the Cherokees west and eventually served on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Sarah bore six children before the family moved to Galveston in 1848.  During the 1850 yellow fever outbreak Sarah used her knowledge of Cherokee herbs and medicinal remedies to relieve the suffering of many victims, and turned their home into a hospital.

The Paschals divorced later that year, and Sarah retained their home and a dozen slaves.  Sarah married Charles Session Pix in 1856 in the home, ironically, of Mirabeau B. Lamar, the former President of the Republic of Texas known for his anti-Indian policies.  Sarah sold her Galveston home and the Pixes bought and operated with six slaves a successful 520-acre cattle ranch north of Galveston Bay.  During the Civil War, while Charles Pix served in the Confederacy, Sarah ran the ranch.  After the war the operation suffered financial decline.

Following a celebrated trial the Pixes were divorced in 1880.  Until her death in 1891, Sarah remained on the ranch with her widowed daughter and two grandsons.  Her heirs still own the land.

Click this site to view Sarah’s gravestone and the Texas Historical Marker for Sarah Ridge Paschal Pix.