Description

    A witness to 1869 voter intimidation involving the Ku Klux Klan

    [Reconstruction] 1869 Falls County Voter Irregularities Archive. [A. M. Attaway] Secretarial Autograph Letter Signed. Two pages, 7.75" x 10", December 6, 1869, Marlin, Falls County, Texas. In this significant contemporary fair copy, Attaway reports, as election results were slowly arriving, on the tensions during Reconstruction in the South, and more specifically, on the voter intimidation that was occurring in Falls County, Texas, during the important election of 1869. Attaway, the Falls County candidate for District Court clerk, witnessed some of the earliest Ku Klux Klan activity in Texas during this election and he complains about it to "N. Patten" of Galveston, Texas. This is a contemporary military copy of Attaway's letter, possibly prepared for an investigation by the U.S. military into the Falls County voter intimidation, with "Charles E. Morse" secretarial signature at bottom of page two.

    In 1869, Texas, like other southern states, was involved in post-Civil War Reconstruction. The leaders of the Confederacy were not allowed to run for political office, so the leadership void was filled by scalawags, carpetbaggers, Radical Republicans, and those who had opposed secession but eventually sided with the Confederacy. Two main factions surfaced during this time: Radical Unionists and Conservative Unionists. The Radicals were Republican politicians who demanded severe policies toward the South following the Civil War, as well as equal rights for the newly freed slaves. The Conservatives favored as little change as possible and were against enfranchising the freed slaves.

    In the Texas election of 1869, voting took place between November 30 and December 3. Under the Reconstruction Acts, all adult males - black and white - were allowed to register, except those who had taken part in the rebellion. Whites made up 58% of eligible voters, but only about half actually voted. Of the eligible black voters, two-thirds voted, which was enough to affect the turnout. In Falls County, A. M. Attaway reports that in the race for state senator, Radical Unionist S. W. Ford lost by 245 votes, though he carried Waco. Gubernatorial candidate Radical Unionist Edmund J. Davis also was "beat here by 230 votes." (Davis' opponent was Conservative Unionist Andrew Jackson Hamilton, who had served as governor during the early part of Reconstruction, 1865-1866.) Attaway then goes on to report on the reason the Radical Unionists were losing in Falls County: the intimidation of black voters. "We made a very good run the first day up to noon, when [Conservative Unionists] Shields, Evans and all the forces they could raise went to work to stop the col'd [colored] voters from voting the Davis Ticket."

    The military should have stopped the intimidation, but "our military not interfering, let them control the remainder of the col'd vote by just taking possession of the Court Yard." Special Order Number 157, which is included in this lot ["Headquarters, Post of Austin, Texas, November 9, 1869, Special Orders. No. 157", one page on lined paper, 8" x 12.5", plus one "true copy" of the Special Order] had been issued on November 9 appointing Brevet Major Clarence Mauck "Registrar for Falls County, Texas." He was to take "a Detachment of ten cavalrymen mounted, armed and equipped . . . to Marlin, the County seat of Falls County, and there take post in accordance with instructions contained in General Orders, No. 174, 179, and 185." Fine. Also included in this lot: "HEADQUARTERS FIFTH MILITARY DISTRICT/ (STATE OF TEXAS)/ GENERAL ORDERS,/No. 179." Four and one-half pages, 5" x 8", October 8, 1869, Austin, with printed signature of "H. Clay Wood/ Assistant Adjutant General", listing the "appointments of Registrars, for the purpose of conducting the revision of the registration lists and holding the election." On page four are listed the three Falls County registrars. Fine.].

    According to Attaway, black voters were then forced to vote for moderate Republican Hamilton, a choice they would have never made since Hamilton was opposed to black suffrage: "by threats of Rebels, Ku Klux and murderous words and threats of driving them from the farms & just frightened and scared them [black voters] and forced them to the Polls with the Hamilton Ticket and made them vote it." As a result of the intimidation, "a great many thro' fear left for home and did not vote at all there was 2 or 3 col'd men from Waco who was assisting Ford who left the first Evening for Waco through fear of their lives. I never saw such a scene in all my life."

    Attaway then goes on to explain specifically how "Our opponents and their assistants every man . . . Shields, Evans and others" intimidated the voters: They "just kept the Court yard Every day, and they would just watch the Freedmen as they came into Town and catch them up, and give them the Hamilton Ticket and by threats of all kinds make them vote it so they thus controlled the vote by force and violence and a great many did not vote at all but went home in fear and disgust with the Davis ticket in their pockets." The result was that "Evans' majority in Falls and McLennan [Counties] is 99 votes. If Ford is beaten he will contest and claim his seat in the Senate." Though Ford lost Falls and McLennan County, he won the election. The race for governor was very close, but Radical Republican Davis barely defeated Hamilton.

    Attaway's letter relates some of the earliest Ku Klux Klan activity in Texas. The Klan began in 1865 in Tennessee. It swept through the South during Reconstruction, though it was not a unified group in Texas. Its first activities in Texas were noted in the spring of 1868. A major reaction against Reconstruction, the Klan attempted to intimidate the Radical Unionists and Freedmen by using threats, night ridings, and murder. The letter is on lined-paper; fine.

    Also included in this lot is the Waco Examiner Extra! One page, 6" x 11", with election results from Falls County and other Texas counties, dated December 5 and 6 [1869]. With headline, "Election News!!! Latest By Telegraph." Reporting that in Falls County, "For the Constitution 951; against 4. For A. J. Hamilton 594; for E. J. Davis 362. . . . A. J. Evans 604; Ford 359. . . . For District Clerk, Curry 530; Attaway 395." With folds and light stains; fine.

    Also included, the "Records pertaining to the Registration of Citizens of Falls County, State of Texas." One page marked as "ORIGINAL", 9.5" X 7.25", [n.d.]. "Received from Bvt Major Clarence Mauck, Capt. 4th Cav." With folds; fine.

    Also, a handwritten list of candidates on four pages, lined paper, 6" x 12.5", December 5, 1869, Marlin County. This document certified the votes each candidate received, but sadly, the right half of all four pages has rodent damage. The heading reads, "Return of Election held at [...] County Texas, on the Thirtieth [...] Second and Third of December [...] to Gen. Order No. 174 Hd. Qrt. [...] District, State of Texas, Oct 1 [...]". Below the heading is one left-hand column of the candidates' names. Missing is the right half of the page which likely contained the number of votes each candidate received. Poor condition.


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