The Saga of Sam McCulloch
In June of 1837, a disabled veteran of the Texas Revolution petitions the Congress of the Republic of Texas for citizenship and the promise of land grants he believed were rightfully his. But according to the Constitution adopted nine months earlier in September, 1836, he doesn’t qualify. Why? African blood runs through his veins. His petition was ignored.
The document highlighted this month is the draft of Sam’s response to his circumstances. Written by a lawyer, the petition details Sam’s arguments against his denial of land and citizenship by the government. Housed at the Texas State Library and Archives in Austin, Texas, his petition is written from a point of view often overlooked and misunderstood. It is also serves as a poignant reminder that life in the Texas Republic was more complex than we might imagine.
Unlike the situation of enslaved people in Texas, who by 1836, numbered in the thousands, only a few hundred, like Sam McCulloch, Jr., were classed as free blacks. Though not enslaved, over time their lives became increasingly restricted through legislation. Despite the setback, Sam and his family would find relief from these legal restrictions from an unlikely source.
Sam’s friends and fellow veterans came to his assistance. They knew him personally. They had fought beside him. By the close of 1837, Sam and other veterans would each receive a land grant of over four-thousand acres, by virtue of their being wounded and disabled, without mention of color or status. Through additional legislative efforts, Sam and his family were exempted from citizenship and land grant restrictions through a series of Special Acts of Congress of the Republic of Texas.
I’ve included four additional legislative documents that may help clarify the situation Sam and other free blacks in Texas found themselves.
- Excerpts from the Texas Constitution, Sections 9 and 10, that form the basis of Sam’s predicament and reason for his petition.
- An Act making land grant provisions for persons who were permanently disabled in service to Texas. No mention of race or status.
- An Act of the Texas Legislature, February, 1840, concerning the status
of free blacks.
- An Act concerning free persons of color, specific to Sam and his family.
Sam eventually settled in Von Ormy, a town fourteen miles southwest of San Antonio near the Medina River. A farmer and rancher, Sam would live to the age of eight-three, having served as an Army scout, a participant in the battle of Plum Creek against the Comanche, and until his death, a faithful pilgrim to Texas veterans’ reunions.
The story ends well for Sam McCulloch, Jr., but it leaves me wondering who his mother was and what happened to her. Un fortunately, we’ll probably never know.
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