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John Echols Voluntary statement of facts in relation to his killing a freedman named "Kit"

Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Texas
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865 - 1869
National Archives Microfilm Publication M821 Roll 32
"Miscellaneous Records Relating to Murders and Other Criminal Offenses Committed in Texas 1865 - 1868"

Brazos Bottom
Burleson Co., Tex.
Dec. 18th, 1865

John Echols
Voluntary statement of facts in relation to his killing a freedman named "Kit"

State of Texas
Burleson County

John Echols having been arrested for shooting a certain Freedman named Christopher Jones alias "Kit" ---- & being duly examined made the following statement of facts --- viz ---

I was born in the state of Virginia, raised in Ala. & emigrated to Texas in 1835 where I have resided & followed the occupation of a planter ever since. For the last 28 or 29 years I have been a citizen of this (Burleson County).

I am now sixty three years of age & consequently was unable to take any part in the war. But on its termination I acquainted my slaves with the change in their status & read to them all military orders which concerned them.

I also entered into a verbal contract with them & agreed to pay them $10.00 per month for their services while saving my growing crops. I complied with this contract allowing them wages from about the 1st of January last & paid them in silver & gold about the 27th of November 1865. After this settlement with which they declared themselves satisfied I told three of the men viz, Christopher alias "Kit," Black Jim & Washington that I would not have them on the place if they would pay me $100.00 apiece. That I desired them to leave my premises in peace & offered them the use of my wagons to move their effects & I told them they were free to go & I would not interfere or molest them.

They would not go, but remained on the place, occupying my houses & I received messages & heard from the other negroes that the negroes I have named declared they would die before they would go.

On or about the 8th day of Dec. 1865 (Saturday) about an hour after sunrise the boy Kit came to the house I occupied when visiting the plantation when I was alone, engaged in shelling corn (as none of the negroes would do it, or any other work although I offered to pay them). Upon seeing him at the door I asked him what he wanted. He replied that he had understood from a negro named Jeff that I had told Major Dudley (a neighbor) that he had better not hire him (Kit), that he was a bad boy & I did not want him to be hired in the neighborhood. I then got up & walked nearly to the door without any weapon & with no intention of any violence but simply intending to talk to the negro & induce him to go away as I desired.

He immediately drew a large butcher knife about 10 inches long and commenced advancing upon me with the knife drawn & in a manner which induced me to apprehend that he intended to attack me.

I instantly retreated to the back side of the house & seized a double barreled shot gun which was standing in the corner & returned with it towards the door. I leveled the gun upon him & told him I would kill him if he did not go off & let me alone but that I did not wish to do so & wanted him to go off.

When I leveled the gun he commenced to back off but without turning from me. I then took the gun down & he instantly commenced advancing upon me a second time with his knife still in his hand. I also saw two other negro men running up on the other side of the house ---- seeing the negro Kit again advancing & believing that the other negroes were about to join him in his attack, I raised my gun a second time & fired upon him. He ran about 20 paces & fell dead.

Instantly I turned towards a crowd of negroes who had collected & saw a brother of the boy I had shot named Bob making violent efforts to get loose from negroes who were holding & restraining him from attacking me. Seeing this I told them to let him loose as I was prepared for him too. But a negro named Sam & others took him off & carried him to the woods, since which time I have not seen him.

I thus resumed my occupation of shelling corn & remained in or near the house until my son arrived on the place.

It is proper for me to state also that some of the negroes ran off when I shot Kit & we found upon the ground they had occupied a large club evidently intended & proposed for a weapon of distinction. A few days afterward a still larger one was found & produced.

I told the negroes to go to Millican & report the facts to the authorities. And seeing the negro remained unburied I told them they ought to attend to it.

I then remained at home pursuing my usual avocations until I was arrested by a detachment of soldiers sent from Millican for the purpose who arrived about Tuesday about noon on Tuesday 11th inst.

When I saw them coming I told them to stop & come in as I presumed I was the person they were looking for.

Nothing but my delicate health & the extremely cold & inclement weather prevented me from reporting the facts in person to the military authorities. And I resigned doing so as soon as the storm abated.

In conclusion I would state that I owned about 70 slaves who were liberated last summer and that the boys Kit, Black Jim & Washington were the only ones who had occasioned me any serious difficulty before or since.

These boys however have been very troublesome & made threats about my son in the event of his continuing to manage the place, which induced me to take my son away & assume personal superintendence of my affairs in order to avoid any collision.

Upon investigation too, I think it will be found that I was a kind & indulgent Master & that some of my negroes were turbulent, dangerous & violent, facts which can be established by the evidence of both whites & blacks in my vicinity.

Witness my hand this 18th day of December 1865.

John Echols