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BLACKSHEAR, THOMAS EDWARD

BLACKSHEAR, THOMAS EDWARD (1809–1867). Thomas Edward Blackshear, planter, soldier, and politician, was born in Montgomery County, Georgia, on August 18, 1809, the son of Edward and Emily (Mitchell) Blackshear. During the 1820s he moved with his parents to the vicinity of Thomasville in Thomas County, Georgia, then on the southwestern Georgia frontier. He graduated from the University of Georgia at Athens in 1828 and married Thomas County native Emily Goodwyn Raines (1814–1866) on December 8, 1831; they became the parents of nine children. As a planter of some means and scion of a distinguished Georgia family, Blackshear became a civic leader in the Thomasville area and served in the Georgia House of Representatives during the 1830s and in the Senate during the 1840s. He took time out from his political career to participate in the Creek campaign of 1836, serving as colonel of the Sixty-ninth Regiment, Second Brigade, Georgia Militia. He remained in the service during subsequent Indian wars and eventually attained the rank of major general. On January 9, 1839, he was appointed secretary of the board of directors of the Brunswick and Florida Railway Company, of which he was a stockholder.

During the 1850s, as Thomas County's population increased rapidly, Blackshear grew restless and decided to migrate westward. He sold his property and moved to Texas with a large retinue of slaves in 1858. He took up cotton planting on a tract of bottomland near the Navasota River just east of Navasota in southwestern Grimes County. He soon purchased additional land along the Brazos River south of Navasota. By 1860 he had amassed property valued at $150,000 and was thus one of the two wealthiest men in the county; his estate then included 123 slaves, a number that grew to 152 by 1865. A notable aspect of his plantation management was his utilization of blacks as "drivers" and in other positions of trust. Although Blackshear himself did not serve in the military during the Civil War, four of his sons fought in the armies of the Confederacy.

Like many other planters Blackshear experienced great difficulties adjusting to the harsh realities of agriculture in Reconstruction Texas. Dismayed at what he considered the unreliable work habits of freedmen, he resolved to cultivate his property exclusively with white sharecroppers, each farming tracts of from forty to sixty acres. In an effort to recruit the necessary labor, he corresponded with newspaper editors in his native state, including Lucius C. Bryan of the Thomasville Southern Enterprise, to enlist their cooperation in advertising the advantages of Texas agriculture to poor white farmers struggling for subsistence on the exhausted soils of Georgia. Blackshear was planning a trip to Georgia to engage tenants when he contracted yellow fever and died on October 20, 1867. His correspondence, diary, memorandum book, and account book are in the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Maurine Chinski, The Navasota Bluebonnet: Commemorating One Hundred Years of City Growth and Development, 1854–1954 (Navasota, Texas: Grimes County Chamber of Commerce, 1954). Grimes County Historical Commission, History of Grimes County, Land of Heritage and Progress (Dallas: Taylor, 1982). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). William Warren Rogers, ed., "From Planter to Farmer: A Georgia Man in Reconstruction Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969).

Marie Giles

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Marie Giles, "BLACKSHEAR, THOMAS EDWARD," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbl08), accessed November 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 24, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.