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Betsy’s Story

Census records help to fill in the gaps of every story. We know that census taker rode from house to house taking the shortest route from one residence to the next. Therefore, people who are listed sequentially down the census page were neighbors. The records of Justice Precinct 3-4 in Victoria County, Texas, from 1850 (the first census after the Republic became a state) until at least 1930 are consistently populated with the same prominent ranchers, Black cowboys, and Tejano families.

1860 Federal Census Slave Schedule | Victoria County, Texas

Carlos de la Garza is listed with three slaves — a young woman and two small children: Female Black (age 23), female mulatto (age 4), and female mulatto (age 1). Henry Hampton is next on this list with a young Black woman and two small mulatto children. Following Hampton is the listing for Seabourne Lewis, who has 15 slaves. On the same page is A. H. Cromwell with 16 slaves. Also listed as slave owners are T. Terrell and W.J.T. Terrell with 5 and 7 respectively. Anna Fagan Teal has 3 and James Byrne has 2. T. Halliday (Thomas Johnston Holliday?) owns 18. There are MANY more listed for Victoria County, but these are the players or influencers in Betsy’s story.

Carlos did not own slaves in 1850. Indeed, Tejanos built their ranchos around extended families and employed local Mexicans as vaqueros (cowboys and herdsmen). Slavery was outlawed in Mexico, so it was not in the Tejano tradition. One wonders why he would purchase one young woman and two little children — what role would that slave play at the big rancho?

Herbert “Buster” Bickford said of the Tijerinas and de la Garzas, “My grandfather sold them slaves.” He was referring to Peletiah Bickford who married Sarah Lewis. Since Carlos appears to have purchased a young slave woman between 1851 and 1855, it’s likely she had come to Texas as part of the Bickford/Lewis family. If this was indeed our Betsy, the family had either lived in North Carolina about 1838 or they purchased slaves who originated in North Carolina. Betsy is consistent with her statement that she and her parents were born in North Carolina.

1870 TX Victoria County, Justice Precinct 3

It’s the first census where formerly enslaved people appear with names and details of their lives! Betsy appears! She calls herself and her children by the surname GARZA in 1870. Frequently, former slaves took the name of those who had owned them, especially if the relationship was not a cruel one. One wonders if Tomasita de la Garza may have objected to Betsy taking their name — a young Black woman with five mulatto children, living on what had been de la Garza property, and calling her family Garza! It’s possible that she still lives in the “one slave house” that is noted in the 1860 Slave Schedule as being on the Carlos Rancho.

Listed in her household:
Betsy (age 30 – born 1840) a domestic servant
Fannie (age 14 – born 1856) a domestic servant
Richard (age 12 – born 1858) a domestic servant
Hinton (age 8 – born 1862)
Virgil (age 5 – born 1865)
Isabell (age 2 – born 1868)
Frank Garza (age 18 – born 1842) a domestic servant

The female slave who was one year old on the 1860 Slave Schedule is not included. And Richard is a mystery — could the Slave Schedule notation have been wrong and Richard is the little one who was listed with Betsy?

Additionally, Frank was likely a young man who needed a place to live — and he could be just helping out in Betsy’s household. He does not seem to be connected to her at all in future census records.

1880 TX Victoria County, Justice Precinct 3

By now Betsy has changed her surname and also that of her growing family to Carlos!  It rather cements the fact that her children (or some of them) were Carlos de la Garza’s brood. Now she has  Hinton (b. 1862), Virgil/Verge (b. 1865), Isabell (b. 1868) and Ellen (b. 1872) — all of them living at the little rancho on San Antonio River Road. After careful perusal of census records and other primary documents, it’s conjecture that Fannie, Richard, Hinton and Verge were most likely fathered by Carlos himself. There’s a good chance that Isabell and Ellen were fathered by Vicente de la Garza, son of Carlos.

Carlos dies in 1882 at the age of 75, from a festering old arrow wound, it is said. On the 1880 census, Vicente is a widower with small children, who is roughly Betsy’s age. He will have known her since they were in their late teens.

Vicente is enumerated twice on the  Justice Precinct 3 census records, just a few households apart — once with parents Carlos and Tomasita at Carlos Rancho, and again just a few households away next door to Betsy and her children. In 1870, Betsy listed an occupation — domestic servant, and this was likely to have been in the de la Garza household. In 1880, she is without occupation and the notation says “keeping house”. Again, conjecture, but it would appear that she was taking care of Vicinte’s household and vice versa.

1900 TX Victoria County, Justice Precinct 3

Betsy is still living on the San Antonio River Road. With her are Willy (born December 1883) and baby Betsy (born Feb 1881). Will and little Betsy have the assumed surnames of Carlos on this census record. Later, Will will use the surname of his father — Wellington Sample. Since Wellington dies just a few short years from this census, one might assume that he would be providing some kind of monetary support for Betsy and her little family. Betsy now claims to be a widow and farmer, and states that she is renting a farm. She also declares that nine children were born to her, of which six are still alive. Only 8 children have been verified, but between 1880 and 1900, there could have been another birth. Richard and Verge are gone. Carlos de la Garza is gone, but Vicente and Wellington Sample are alive. Did she consider herself to be a widow because of Carlos’ death?

1910 TX Victoria County, Justice Precinct 3

This area where she now lives is called Anaqua. Will Sample is head of household — his father died in 1907 and left him land (where Betsy had been living) in his Will. Betsy now refers to her self as single and the mother of seven children, of which four are alive. It’s a mystery why Will notes that he is renting the farm where they live, as he has clearly inherited it by now. This is the last census record, enumerated in May, that Betsy appears on.

NOTE: On the 1910 Census, Betsy claims to be 68 years old and lives on San Antonio River Road (Anaqua) with her youngest son, Will Sample, and his family. It’s interesting that she says 7 children have been born to her and 4 are alive. She had 7 children by Carlos de la Garza: Fannie, Richard, Hinton, Virgil, Isabell, Ellen, and Betsy. She had one additional child with Wellington sample, for a total of 8. As of 1910, Richard, Virgil, Isabell are known dead. Perhaps little Betsy is also deceased.

Other Records of Note

Watch for a collection of land records, Wills, newspaper clips, family letters, and more. To be posted soon.