Robertson County




County Coordinator is Jane Keppler.

County Co-Coordinator is Jean Huot Smoorenburg

If you have any questions or would like to submit information for Robertson County, please email one of the above.

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Assorted Information On African American History In and Around Robertson County

Hattie Cole

Assorted African American Information


Zelma Watson George

(1903-94), African American opera singer, musicologist, sociologist, diplomat, and lecturer, born on Dec. 8, 1903, in Hearne, Texas Throughout her life and diverse careers she maintained an interest in studying and fostering intercultural relations.

Andrew "Rube" Foster, also known as "Father of the Negro Leagues" born in Calvert, Texas in 1879

ANDREW "RUBE" FOSTER Andrew Foster was one of the most prominent individuals in the history of black baseball. Born in 1879 in Calvert Texas, Foster pitched for the Chicago's Union Giants in 1902. In 1903 he pitched for the Cuban X Giants. He pitched for several other teams throughout his career and was considered one of the best of his era. He acquired the nickname of "Rube" by out pitching Rube Waddell who was known as one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Following his spectacular playing career, Foster became amanager, at which he greatly excelled; utilizing the bunt, stealing, and the hit-and-run. In 1920, he created the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, also known as the Negro League which was comprised of teams from Chicago (Giants and American Giants), Detroit
(Stars), St. Louis (Giants), Dayton (Marcos), Indianapolis (ABCs) and the Cuban Giants. There was one exception however, the Kansas City Monarchs - founded in 1920 and controlled by white businessman J. L. Wilkinson. The league was disbanded in 1931 after the death of Rube Foster.

Lee Haywood Simpson

(1884-1967). Lee Haywood (L. H.) Simpson, black minister and political leader, was born in Calvert Texas, in 1884,
moved to Houston in the early 1900s, and worked for a short time in a sawmill before entering the ministry. He married a woman named Julie. As pastor of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Simpson oversaw the rapid growth of the congregation from six members to 3,000. In 1939, he became president of the Houston Colored Baptist Ministers Association, a position he held for almost thirty years. His organization represented approximately 80 percent of Houston's African-American population. He was elected president of the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1944 and served until the mid-1950s. During this period the NAACP became the target of increased hostility because of its active desegregation policies. Internally the Houston branch split on how best to pursue the aims of the national office. With the goal of reestablishing African Americans as viable candidates for public office, in October 1946 Simpson announced his candidacy for the Houston City Council, thus becoming the first black candidate for public office in Houston since Reconstruction. Supported by the NAACP and endorsed by Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins, Simpson gained widespread black support. Running as an independent for a "council at large seat," he sought to represent whites as well as blacks. Even though he received support from numerous ministers, civic groups, and labor organizations, a split developed when the black-owned Houston Informer refused to endorse his candidacy. Arguing that an NAACP candidate "did not uphold the best interest of the black community," the newspaper urged blacks to withhold their support. Simpson also faced
challenges from white candidates, some of whom refused to appear in public with a "Negro politician." He responded, "If they are worried about eating luncheons with me, I can eat at home. If they are worried
about riding in an auto I can ride in a private car." Simpson lost the election, but his nonpartisan campaign received widespread attention and respect. Later, as a friend and supporter of Mayor Roy Hofheinz, he was appointed to the Houston Housing Commission. Simpson died under suspicious circumstances of carbon-monoxide poisoning on November 8,1967, in Houston.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Alwyn Barr, Black Texans: A History of Negroes in Texas, 1528-1971 (Austin: Jenkins, 1973). Michael L. Gillette, The NAACP in Texas, 1937-1957 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin,
1984). Houston Post, November 10, 1967, June 16, 1985. Julie Simpson, The Clever Leader: Dr. L. H. Simpson, D.D. (Houston, 1963).
Douglas Hales

Hubbard Pryor And The National Archives

The name of the man at the right is Hubbard Pryor (Record Group94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, Letters Received, CTD, 1864-M-750).  In March 1864 he enlisted in the Union army at Chattanooga, Tennessee as a private. The two photographs, taken by a photographer accompanying Union troops, show Pryor in his clothes just before enlistment and in his military uniform immediately afterward.    The two 3 1/2 inch by 2 1/4 inch sepia-colored photographs are in a file of documents sent by a Colonel in the Union Infantry to his superiors in the Department of War in Washington. The colonel was reporting on the recruitment of blacks into the Union army. The
photographs were discovered by a researcher working for a National Historical Publications and Records Commission-supported project at the University of Maryland which is producing the acclaimed editorial work, Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation

Who was this man in the photographs, captured for posterity at a defining moment in his life? At the National Archives, research trails are plentiful. In the search for Hubbard Pryor, check the records of the Adjutant General letters and affidavits, reports from the field, and compiled military service records; search pension applications for depositions and other materials which might have been submitted in behalf of his descendants; and investigate other records in files of the Department of War. The materials there will answer some questions, will raise new
questions, and will lead to other research paths.

After leaving Chattanooga with Union troops in March 1864, Pryor was captured by Confederate soldiers during a skirmish at Dalton, Georgia on October 13, 1864. As a prisoner he was taken through Alabama, Mississippi, and further west.  At the end of the war, in May 1865, he was set free near Griffin, Georgia. With no personal
possessions he attempted to walk back home. Fearful of reprisal from ex-Confederate soldiers, he traveled at night, eventually reaching a U.S. military post near Rome, Georgia. A soldier reported that Pryor walked into camp in "a sick, broken down, naked, and starved condition."

Pryor survived the war. In September 1880 he married a former slave named Ann Deaves of Polk Country, Georgia. A church elder named McGee performed the services. Hubbard and Ann Pryor settled down as farmers and raised four children, three boys and a girl. The family later left Georgia for Texas. Pryor died on August 16, 1890 in Calvert, Texas.
This is historical discovery at its most basic. In record files throughout the National Archives and its regional satellites are stories of the lives of men and women in myriad historical settings and conditions.  In the National Archives, historians, genealogists, and other researchers are continually uncovering new information which draws us closer to the past, which gives us a fuller understanding of our life and culture. In the records of the Archives in claims papers and petitions, in applications for office and reports, in diplomatic dispatches and census records, in court case files is the evidence of individual struggle and hope, evidence from first-hand historical testimony, evidence rooted in the words of time and place. In the records are histories never before explored. In the records are individuals such as Hubbard Pryor.
Roger A. Bruns    



Hearne Academy

Hearne Academy, at Hearne, Texas, is one of the best institutions of the kind in the State. The colored people contribute $2,405 toward the support of this school yearly, and while the enrolment of students only numbers 76 for 1896, the influence of the school is felt throughout the entire State. Rev. J. F. Anderson is principal. Five colored teachers are employed. Rev. Anderson will push the work at Hearne in a faithful and vigorous manner which will bring to the institution both friends and success.

Evidences of Progress Among Colored People: Electronic Edition.
Richings, G. F.


Anger at racist practices in the South also broke out here and there among black students. In 1946, the youth council of the NAACP in Lumberton, North Carolina, called a strike of students to protest against the inferior facilities in their schools. Black students in Hearne, Texas, staged a similar strike a year later. When these groups demanded quick action from the Legal Defense Fund, Thurgood Marshall grew testy, complaining about people who "want the lawyers to prepare the case, file it, have it decided and have everything straightened out in fifteen minutes." But he lent assistance nonetheless. The controversies abated when Lumberton and Hearne officials, feeling the pressure, improved their black schools.

Brown v. Board of Education
A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy
Oxford University Press

Printed in the Taylor Daily Press - 17 Feb 2000

"Query about Robertson Co., TX Murder Mystery"

On Tuesday, Sept. 9, 1873, James Jefferson Claud Johnson and Benjamin Franklin Johnson were murdered while standing on the front porch of their home in Robertson Co., TX. The men had just sat down to dinner with their families when some men on horseback (more commonly known as "Night Riders") road-up and called out to the house. When the brothers stepped out on the porch, they were shot and killed. James and Ben were buried in a double grave in Robertson Co., TX. The grave has been lost.

James and Ben were living between Hearne and Calvert, Robertson Co., TX
while working on building a railroad. James and Benjamin were the sons of William Johnson who was born about
1800 in Georgia and died on Apr. 23, 1860 at Lynchburg, Harris Co., TX. William's burial place is unknown, however, it is believed it was on his plantation located at the mouth of the San Jacinto River. It is thought that Nancy was William's second wife and they married after 1841, probably in Georgia. Nancy (unknown maiden name) was born about 1807 in Georgia and died Nov. 17, 1869 in Savannah, Chatham Co., GA. She is buried in the Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Chatham Co., GA. William's first wife and the mother of the two brothers is unknown.

James was born about 1837 in Georgia. On June 7, 1860 he married Elizabeth Ann Clark at Lynchburg, Harris Co., TX. Elizabeth was born on May 23, 1843 in Shelby Co., KY and was the daughter of John A. Clark and Julianna H./Julia Ann H. Whitledge Clark. James was a member of Capt. Crossons Co. F., Hardimans Regiment, Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army and received a medical discharge in 1863. According to Elizabeth Johnson's Application of Indigent Widow of a Confederate Soldier dated Aug. 14, 1899, James "was wounded in 1863 after which he was never able for duty."

James and Elizabeth were the parents of: James Jefferson Johnson (1861-1933), Benjamin Franklin Johnson (1864-1929), Julia Nancy Johnson Aden (1866-1940), Herschell Vespasian Johnson (1866-1899), William Johnson (1872-d/unknown), and Henrietta Susan Johnson Knight (1874-1899).

Benjamin was born about 1839 in Georgia. He first married Fannie Darby on March 6, 1860 in Polk Co., TX and they were divorced by 1865. On May 17, 1865, he married Harriett Susan Clark at Polk Co., TX. Elizabeth was born Sept. 2, 1845 at Frankford, KY and was the sister of Elizabeth Ann Clark Johnson. Benjamin served in the Confederate States Army and his wife applied for a Confederate Widows Pension but it was denied because she had remarried J. S. Willis on April 6, 1876 in San Jacinto Co., TX.

Ben and Harriett were the parents of: Maude Laurena Johnson Dunn (b/d unknown), Betty Gruted Johnson Young (1869-d/unknown), Benjamin Franklin Johnson, Jr., (b/d unknown), and Thomas Addison Johnson (1874-1961).

Betty Knight Shuffield (James' great-granddaughter) is looking for information to help solve this murder mystery, including the names of the men who participated in the raid, any newspaper stories, investigation reports, old diaries which refer to the raid, and the double grave of the brothers. You can contact her at: 7317 Roswell,
Houston, TX 77022, e-mail: or telephone: 713/692-4148.


Edward Bennett
lynched Hearne, Texas May 12 1890
TEXAS - African Americans 1868 - 1955
Names of the Dead



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State Coordinator: Shirley Cullum
Assistant State Coordinators: Carla Clifton, Jane Keppler

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Page Modified: 18 January 2019

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