Neighbors-in-History, Part 2

The second in a three-part series, in which we introduce a few special neighbors-in-history. (See links for more information.)

RUBIN HANCOCK (about 1835-1916) was one of Austin Judge John Hancock‘s former slaves. (More about John Hancock here.) Rubin—and possibly other members of his family, including brothers Orange, Salem, and Peyton—lived for a time on what is today the historic Moore-Hancock Homestead, at 4811 Sinclair Avenue in the Rosedale neighborhood of Austin. In the late 1930s, Emma Weeks, Orange’s daughter, was interviewed during the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA (Works Progress Administration, later renamed Works Projects Administration). A transcript of her interview is now part of the WPA Slave Narratives; one version, although difficult to read, is here. More about African Americans, including the Hancocks, in the Rosedale area here.)

Rubin and his family were members of St. Paul Baptist Church in Austin, established in the mid-1870s, and Rubin served as a deacon there. The church’s original location was north of Ohlen Road between Burnet Road and Highway 183. Rubin and other Hancocks are buried in the church’s cemetery, a few miles west. (More about Rubin and his family here.) I first learned of the cemetery from Susan Arbuckle, who grew up on Morrow Street in Crestview in the 1950s. As a teenager she took long walks north of Anderson Lane, then mostly farmland, and discovered what she called an “ex-slave cemetery.” Today, it is fenced and surrounded by homes in the Wooten neighborhood. The cemetery continues to be maintained by church members. (More about St. Paul Baptist Church here.)

HATTIE DOXEY (1849-1924) also is buried in St. Paul Cemetery, according to her death certificate. Likely other members of her family are buried there, too, although there are few cemetery records and many of the markers are broken or unreadable. Hattie was the widow of SPENCER DOXEY (1840-1902), listed in property records as a “colored man.” He likely was the ex-slave of James Daugherty Doxey. According to an oral history of his grandson I read at the Austin History Center, James came to Texas from Missouri in 1843 and later brought his three sisters and his slaves. He served as a Confederate soldier in the Texas Cavalry during the Civil War.

In 1871, James Doxey purchased property in what is now the northeast corner of Crestview. He sold land in the northeast corner of his property to his former slave Spencer Doxey in 1874, 1881, and 1885. In 1881, the Austin and Northwestern Railroad Company purchased 30 acres of Spencer’s property, so that rail lines could be constructed through that part of today’s Crestview. (More about the railroad here.) Spencer could not read or write, so he indicated his signature with an “x” on the legal transactions that became part of the property’s abstract of title. His last name is spelled “Doxie” and “Docksey” in some records. The abstract also included maps, including the one below showing James Doxey’s land and the location of the railroad. (More about property abstracts, as described by former Brentwood neighbor Al Kirby, here.)

In the 1870 U. S. Census for Travis County, Spencer Doxey is listed with his first wife Harriet (nee Faicklin) and daughter Mary. He was a field laborer. They lived near John Hancock’s former slaves Orange, Peyton, and Salem Hancock. In the 1880 census, Spencer lived with his second wife, Hattie, and daughter, Mary. By then a free man who owned his own property, Spencer listed his occupation as farmer.

About mid-way through the Civil War, on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order stating that all slaves in Confederate territories, including Texas, were forever free. It was not enforced in Texas until June 19, 1865—two months after the end of the Civil War. Today, June 19 is celebrated in 41 states as Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration marking the end of slavery.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution—the subject of Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln—made slavery illegal everywhere in the United States; it took effect on December 6, 1865. The challenges of the Reconstruction period following the war (1865-1877) and Jim Crow laws that lasted until the 1960s limited the rights of blacks, despite the thirteenth, fourteenth (1868), and fifteenth (1870) amendments, even in our part of Austin. (Read more about these amendments here.)

For a more detailed history of African Americans in Austin, read “What You Don’t Know About East Austin,” a May 2016 article by Michael Barnes in the Austin American-Statesman.

Stay tuned for another installment of Voices of the Violet Crown!

Copyright 2016 Susan Burneson. All rights reserved.

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