Description: This dissertation develops and utilizes a methodology for combining data drawn from the manuscript census returns and the county tax rolls to study landless farmers during the period from 1850 until 1880 in three Texas Brazos River Valley counties: Fort Bend, Milam, and Palo Pinto. It focuses in particular on those landless farmers who appear to have had no option other than tenant farming. It concludes that there were such landless farmers throughout the period, although they were a relatively insignificant factor in the agricultural economy before the Civil War. During the Antebellum decade, poor tenant farmers were a higher proportion of the population on the frontier than in the interior, but throughout the period, they were found in higher numbers in the central portion of the river valley. White tenants generally avoided the coastal plantation areas, although by 1880, that pattern seemed to be changing. Emancipation had tremendous impact on both black and white landless farmers. Although both groups were now theoretically competing for the same resource, productive crop land, their reactions during the first fifteen years were so different that it suggests two systems of tenant farming divided by caste. As population expansion put increasing pressure on the land, the two systems began to merge on terms resembling those under which black tenants had always labored.
Date: December 1988
Creator: Harper, Cecil