Hornsby, Rachel Hamilton (ca. 1830–ca. 1910)

By: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: September 16, 2020

Rachel Hamilton Hornsby, slave and freedwoman, was born in the mid-1830s in Randolph County, Alabama. As a slave, she belonged to Andrew Jackson Hamilton, who moved her to Travis County, Texas, in 1847. She married Nathaniel Grumbles, another Travis County slave, during the 1850s and gave birth to her first child, James Grumbles, on March 4, 1857. Since she and her husband were slaves, this marriage had no legal standing. Just before the Civil War Hamilton freed Rachel, and she found work as a hired servant in Austin. Free Blacks, however, could not remain in antebellum Texas without permission from the state legislature, so she was arrested and held in jail in Austin until she could be placed under the control of a "guardian." She chose Aaron Burleson and returned to slavery as a nurse to his invalid daughter, Maggie. After emancipation, Rachel left her slave husband and, on May 20, 1870, married Robert Hornsby, a former slave of the Hornsby family in Travis County. They had five children together and supported themselves by farming. Rachel Hornsby lived to be more than seventy-five years and died sometime between 1910 and 1920. Her son, James Grumbles, lived in Travis County into the late 1930s and contributed his mother's story to the WPA Slave Narratives in 1937.

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George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, Supplement, Series 2 (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1979).

  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery
  • Women
  • Slaves, Freedmen, and Free Blacks
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas

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

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Hornsby, Rachel Hamilton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hornsby-rachel-hamilton.

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February 1, 1995
September 16, 2020

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