The Troubles At Cedar Creek

Excerpted from a History of Cedar Creek, prepared by Mrs. Edith Champion and Mrs. Mildred Hollan of Cedar Creek, presented on March 29, 1975, to the Bastrop County Historical Society; and supplemented by material from the Handbook of Texas.

By 1860, Bastrop County was inhabited by people of a great diversity of cultural and moral backgrounds. Negro slavery was a factor that was viewed with widely varying opinions. To the rural population of Bastrop County, the Civil War came as a terrible shock. In 1857, no more than twenty-five families actually practiced a plantation economy with a large number of slaves. The majority of the farmers owned small numbers of slaves and would have preferred abolition of slavery to the war. The operation of abolitionists in the state which had reached a peak in 1860 had caused a violent reaction among the Anglo society. Runaway slaves on their way to Mexico were captured and prosecuted. Nevertheless, Bastrop County did vote against secession by a narrow margin. A large number of German immigrants were opposed to secession because of their liberal political views and their strong allegiance to the national union. Many argued that the newly achieved statehood of Texas should not be so quickly cast off.

The Civil War with its hardships and grief was matched by the desolation of its aftermath. The hardships of reconstruction were far reaching and enduring. Carpetbaggers and newly freed slaves controlled the local and state politics.

Tensions between whites and blacks flared throughout Central Texas, including Bastrop County, most notably in the village of Cedar Creek, 11 miles west of Bastrop. The area was settled as early as1832, when Addison Litton was granted a league of blackland prairie on both sides of the creek. He and his wife, Mary Owen Litton, soon established their home there. They were joined by other pioneers, such as Jesse Billingsley and John Day Morgan, who built the first log cabin on the townsite.

The area around Cedar Creek was heavily populated by blacks in the years immediately following the Civil War. Cal Thompson was a freed slave who became a leader among African Americans in Bastrop County after the Civil War. He purchased land in 1869 in the Cedar Creek Community, at the suggestion of his former master, Marshall Trigg of Hills Prairie. Thompson amassed holdings of 500 acres in farmland a few miles west of Bastrop. He was described by the local newspaper as "a Negro of much influence in the community."

The African Americans of Cedar Creek formed a military organization called the Loyal League with Sam Fowler as their captain. Every Saturday the League would meet at the store and some 30 or 40 of them would drill up and down the road with their guns and other weapons. This activity diminished after an appeal by Jesse Billingsley to Governor Hamilton, but the hostility between the two factions continued.

The influence and power of the blacks in Cedar Creek grew throughout the 1870s and 1880s. In the May 1888 elections, two African Americans, Orange Weeks and Ike Wilson, were elected justice of the peace and constable, respectively, for the Cedar Creek precinct. Resentment between whites and blacks intensified. Some months later, a complaint was filed against one of Frank Litton's sons and constable Ike Wilson came to the Litton home to serve the papers. Mr. Litton refused to allow the papers to be served until a white deputy could do so. Wilson complied by getting Deputy Sheriff Holland to serve the papers. Litton's trial convened in a house near the Cedar Creek store and the presence of many armed Negroes caused the prosecuting attorney, Ed Maynard, to request a postponement. Judge Orange Weeks replied, "The white folks have had their day running this court, and some of the rest of us will have ours now. The case will proceed." A shooting fracas occurred after the deputy shot young Litton in the head when he stepped outside for a drink of water. Four men were killed at the scene, two blacks and two whites. The local whites swore revenge on every black connected with the incident. A large exodus of blacks followed immediately. This incident incited riots in other areas, causing the deaths of many blacks. One by one they were murdered or left the county. Thompson was shot by two white men as he left Bastrop one day. At least 100 white men saw the murder, but no one would tell who it was, saying he was"nothing but a trouble maker and both sides were glad he was killed." Sources differ as to the year of Thompson's death, from May 1889 to around 1895.