Williamson County
Historical Commission

 


ADAM ORGAIN:
THE FIRST SETTLER OF HUTTO



The first person to live in Hutto, was not a Hutto, he was a Black man named Adam Orgain. Much information about Adam (Addam) Orgain (Organ) is supposition. 1880 United States Census records show that he was born a slave in 1837 in Tennessee and that his name was “Addam Organ.” Numerous other records and writings, including Williamson County Probate Records, show his name to be “Adam Orgain”, which based on common spelling and his white owner’s surname is probably correct.  

When his owner, John Henry Orgain and other Orgain (Organ) relatives, moved to central Texas in the early 1850’s, Adam Orgain was forced to go to Texas as well. Growing anti-slave sentiment in Tennessee may have prompted the white Orgain families to move to Texas to protect their “holdings” and seek new opportunities. This same scenario had occurred with many other Tennessee and Southern State slave owner families that had relocated to Texas.  

In 1854, at the young age of seventeen, Adam was placed out alone on the Blackland Prairie not far from Cottonwood Creek in what is now Hutto to watch over the ranching interests of his master, John Henry Orgain.


 

                                          

Photograph of single room log cabin with fireplace of the type that Adam Orgain probably lived in when he was placed on the blackland prairie of Hutto. This illustration appeared on page 67 in A Waif From Texas by Kate Alma Orgain published in 1901 by Ben C. Jones & Co., Printers of Austin, Texas.



 In 1854, some sources indicate in early 1855, Adam Orgain was the first settler in Hutto, living out in the wilds of the grasslands north of Brushy Creek in Williamson County. As a young slave he would have likely worked hard ever since he was able to do so.

It is supposed that Adam watched over the Orgain cattle land and was a livestock handler. Years later this land would eventually be turned into cotton fields. Adam probably lived in a primitive one-room log cabin with a fireplace as was common for the time. In Adam’s cabin; like the one pictured above, typically the gaps between the logs were filled with straw and mud, the floors would have been compacted dirt. Furniture would have been sparse and handmade. Beds were primitive structures usually nailed to the cabin wall.   

Adam likely had a garden and grew vegetables that probably included beans, beets, peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, okra, corn and greens. Adam would have also probably raised some minimal livestock, possibly hogs and chickens. Tending to and watching over livestock and protecting them from predators would have been an intensive effort. Wild nuts and berries could also be gathered when in season. Living alone required almost complete self-sufficiency. Adam Orgain was present in the area a year before James Emory Hutto, for whom the future community, town site and eventually city was named.  

According to Clara Stearns Scarbrough author of Land of Good Water published in 1973, the first stores in Williamson County were located in an earlier settlement located at Shiloh by Brushy Creek. This small community established in 1848 was located just a few miles southeast of Hutto and had two stores, a pioneer school, a church and two cemeteries. Other White families soon followed in the settlement of the Hutto area including the McCutcheon, Hutto, Goodwin, Davis, Magle, Wright and Farley families.  

Just imagine what it was like in 1854 to live on this free-range cattle land, coexisting with the nomadic Native American Indians and wild animals. Poisonous snakes were commonplace including rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins and coral snakes. Seldom did you see another human being and when you did, caution had to be taken. In the 1850s it was the Tonkawa Indians who roamed the area, and while they were primarily friendly, there was the constant threat of Lipan Apache and Comanche raiding parties.  

The prairie land of Williamson County was very different from today. Wildlife, and thus food, abounded with bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, wild turkeys, deer, buffalo, rabbit, squirrel, coon, opossums, quail, dove, turtles, fish and even alligators. It was a wild, wide open country. A certain level of fear and trepidation had to have been a part of young Adam Orgain’s daily life. 

In the 1857 Texas Almanac it was stated: “For the past few years, the mass of our immigration has been composed of heavy slave owners, seeking more and better land than they possess in the old States.” 

In the years prior to the Civil War, Adam undoubtedly worked hard on the Orgain ranchland and stayed very close to home. Clothing was very basic, with male agricultural slaves traditionally being supplied with two sets of clothes, usually shirts and pants made of cotton or wool. Shoes and a hat would complete the outfit; socks and underwear were not generally provided to slaves. It is supposed that before the Civil War ended, Adam sweated through eleven summers from when he arrived on the Blackland Prairie and felt the cold of its eleven winters. According to custom of the time, slaves worked “from sun to sun” five days a week and a half of a day on Saturday. Adam’s was likely a Spartan, simple life.  

It is highly unlikely that Adam Orgain was freed prior to the end of the Civil War. Slaves were just far too valuable as property and for the work they performed to be just set free.  

According to the Handbook of Texas: “Slave prices inflated rapidly as the institution expanded in Texas. The average price of a bondsman, regardless of age, sex, or condition, rose from approximately $400 in 1850 to nearly $800 by 1860. During the late 1850s, prime male field hands aged eighteen to thirty cost on the average $1,200, and skilled slaves such as blacksmiths often were valued at more than $2,000. In comparison, good Texas cotton land could be bought for as little as six dollars an acre.” Freed Blacks were a miniscule portion of the population in Texas.


      

This map from March 3, 1855 shows how the United States was divided into “Free States”, “Slave Holding States” and States “Open to Slavery under the Principle of Popular Sovereignty”. On March 6, 1857, the Dred Scott decision of the United States Supreme Court denied citizenship to blacks and denied the power of Congress to restrict slavery in any federal territory.

 



In 1850, prior to the Civil War, freed Blacks numbered less than four hundred (397) of the approximately fifty-eight thousand (58,161) Blacks in bondage in Texas. According to the 1850 United States census the Black population was 27.4 percent of the total 212,592 people in the State of Texas. By the 1860 census, there were 182,556 slaves in Texas with only 355 freed Blacks in the state. Due to the dramatic influx of slaves to Texas their numbers now comprised 30.2 percent of the total population in 1860. Texas was referred to as the last frontier of slavery in the United States. 

The Civil War begun in Texas with succession from the Union in 1861 and was confirmed when at a state convention in Austin delegates voted 166 to 8 to secede from the Union. On February 23, 1861 Texas citizens voted for secession with 46,153 in favor and 14,747 opposed. On March 2, 1861, Texas Independence Day, secession by the State of Texas from the Union became official. Texas had now officially entered the Great War Between the States.

The Civil War would last for four brutal years. Almost three million Union troops and a little over one million Confederate troops would be enrolled to participate in this bloody conflict. Combined lives lost between the Union and Confederacy forces would total over 558,000 with another 412,000 wounded.  About one fourth of all the soldiers were killed or wounded. During the four years of war the carnage was intense. There was a casualty rate of about 22.6 per cent for the Union troops and a much higher rate of approximately 31.5 per cent for the Southern troops.                                   

It was on January 1, 1863 that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation “that all persons held as slaves” in the Confederate states in rebellion against the United States “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Adam would not hear of his new “freedom” for another two and a half years. 

1865 was undoubtedly a very significant year for Adam Orgain. It is supposed that Adam stayed in Hutto during the Civil War, although there is a slight possibility that he was a man servant to John Henry Orgain while he was a soldier to the Confederate States of America. 

The Civil War officially ended with the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. After the War Between the States ended, word did not reach Texas until June 19, “Juneteenth”, 1865 when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and by General Order No. 3 ended slavery in Texas. It was after this time that Adam Orgain would have learned that he was a free man for the first time in his life. The freedom was much in concept only.  

On December 18, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution that outlawed slavery was adopted. Adam Orgain, now twenty-eight years of age, had an important decision to make, and his decision was to stay in Hutto and continue working for his former master, John H. Orgain either as a worker or share-cropper. After emancipation many former slave owners asked their former bondsmen to stay and work for wages or share in agricultural profits. Even with new laws, new freedom … little would change for Adam. He would still have to work just as hard as he always had.  

In Texas the 1866 Constitutional Convention refused to grant the right to vote even to educated Blacks. A series of laws know as the “Black Codes” were established that were very restrictive in providing any real economic opportunities for freed slaves. These laws prohibited Blacks from voting, holding of public office, jury duty and interracial marriage. On July 28, 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment was passed and its action made Blacks citizens of the United States.  

In Texas between 1865 and 1868, several thousand acts of violence were committed against Blacks by Whites and more than 350 Blacks were murdered. 

On March 30, 1870, Congress ratified the Fifteenth Amendment prohibiting denial of the right to vote. While reconstruction continued in Texas until 1873, these laws did change, but practices towards Blacks did not. During the short-lived period of reconstruction in Texas little progress was made by Blacks, however the soon to follow backlash of the “Jim Crow” era was horrendous. This long period of racism that was institutionalized throughout the South to keep the Black population “in their place” with Blacks being disenfranchised, discriminated against, beaten and even murdered if they openly defied the white supremacy that was predominant. 

It is not known in what year Adam met or married Eveline. It may be assumed that their marriage occurred after the Civil War based on the known birth years of their two children. Eveline was two years older than Adam and had been born in Kentucky in 1835. It is possible that Adam and Eveline did follow the “Jump the broom” marriage tradition common amongst Blacks in the South during their wedding ceremony.   

Another very important year for Adam was 1876, the year his son, Adam, was born. 1876 was also the Centennial of the United States as a nation and there was an excitement of change in America. While Texas had been admitted long before as a State on December 29, 1845, to the north and west, both Oklahoma and New Mexico were still territories.  

Of great importance locally in 1876, Hutto Station came into its own when the International-Great Northern Railroad Company laid tracks through the area creating towns as it went south westward from Longview, Texas.  

James Emory Hutto, a cattleman, had sold fifty acres of his well situated land to the Texas Land Company of New York for a town site and reserved a five acres grant of property out of the sale for railroad right of way. In 1876 the first railroad depot was built and W.H. Farley, Sr. served as its agent. 

On December 28, 1876 the International-Great Northern Railroad had reached Austin. By then Hutto had its railroad depot, a post office, a general store and a lumber business.  

A Mr. Lloyd had the first store in Hutto and it was located on the south side of the newly laid railroad tracks. Located nearby, Sam Monday was proprietor of the first saloon in Hutto. James Emory Hutto was appointed the first postmaster of Hutto on June 27, 1877. The rise of the Railroads and the Great Immigration had come to Hutto. 

There is no doubt that Adam Orgain and James Emory Hutto knew each other, but of course details of their levels of interaction are unknown. It is probable that Adam Orgain was not treated with any real level of equality based on his color by Mr. Hutto or any of the other White settlers. Prejudice abounded. Additionally, the life of the Mexican-Texans of 1876 was also laced with prejudice and was difficult with an erosion of their status dating back to Texas Independence in 1836. Indians were treated even worse. It was on June 25th, 1876 that Indians annilated General George Armstrong Custer and over 200 of his 7th Calvary detachment at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. As news of the massacre reached the nations capitol, backlash against American Indians was almost immediate. Across the west, American Indians were slaughtered and driven from their homelands onto reservations. New White people came into Williamson County in droves, many of them Danish, German and Swedish immigrant families. With the new immigrants, language became a new barrier within the changing population and has been recorded the groups from different countries tended to cluster and stand together. Growth and change was certainly in the air. 

In 1879 a second son, Benjamin, was born into the Adam and Eveline Orgain family. In 1880 Adam, now forty-three was counted in the Precinct 8, Williamson County, Texas, United States Census records that indicated  that he “works on farm” also listed in the census his wife, Eveline, age forty-five and their children; Adam Organ, Jr., son age four ,  and B.D. “Benjamin” Organ, son age one. This was another landmark year as it was in 1880 that John Henry Orgain sold his former slave five acres of land on which the Adam Orgain home stood for $125 according to the Williamson County Records of Deeds, Volume 29, Page 153. Adam had finally gotten his little piece of Hutto land and could now grow crops just for his family and for profit. 

The November 1880 Map of Williamson County from the Texas General Land Office showed the county containing large tracts of Spanish land grants that predated the Republic of Texas and large surveyed tracts that had been acquired by early pioneer settlers. The Texas Homestead Act of 1866 had granted free acres for settlement and ownership … for whites only.  

Blacks found few owners to sell them land or extend them credit. By 1880, only about one-fourth of freed men owned their own farms. It was also during this time period there was a tremendous land rush throughout Texas as people came from everywhere to take advantage of the opportunities for bargain property. The railroad companies wrote of and promised free or cheap land on which cotton, corn and wheat would flourish. Cotton was by then commonly called “the white gold of Texas”. Early immigrants wrote back to relatives in their native countries about this land of milk and honey where the soil was virgin and opened with a whoosh of fresh opportunity to the plow.  

During the period of 1880 to 1890 many new faces were to be seen in the area as a new community developed very rapidly. It was reported that Hutto had two hundred residents, a school, three churches and five cotton gins by 1884. It is likely that Adam built or bought a small frame home at some point after the lumber business located in town.  

It is very likely that Adam Orgain and his family knew or knew of William “Bill” Pickett of the Taylor area, the famous Black rodeo cowboy known for his special bulldogging skills. Bill Pickett was born December 5, 1870 in the Jenks-Branch community. The large Pickett family had moved to Taylor by 1888 and Bill performed in the town’s first rodeo and fair that year. Like other ethic groups, Blacks tended to be close knit and stay together. 

Storm damage proved to be hazardous to the early town of Hutto. In 1886 the first business center of Hutto located on the south side of the railroad tracks, a one teacher school and the Hutto Baptist Church were destroyed by a severe storm. In 1893 a tornado destroyed the first Hutto Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Hutto Baptist Church had to be rebuilt in 1895 after damage from another storm. 

A building spree took place in Hutto beginning in 1890 and continued until well beyond the turn of the century, when the town business area was relocated north of the railroad tracks on what is now East Street.  

In 1890 the first of many new brick buildings were constructed facing each other in two rows divided by East Street. During the early 1890’s a bank, hotel, two weekly newspapers (the Church Helper and the Hutto Enterprise) and many mercantile stores opened in the downtown area. 

On September 13, 1893 Adam’s wife, Eveline, died at the age of fifty-eight. It was also in this year that Adam Orgain sold his five acres of land as recorded in the Williamson County Records of Deeds, Volume 66, Page 566 to Charles Hague, a land speculator, for $2,000, sixteen times what he had paid for it. Adam had made his mark on the land sale document with an “X”, which was a good indicator that he could neither read nor write.  

It is possible that some of these proceeds paid for the Orgain family tombstone base that is in the Chamber of Commerce museum.  

Soon after, on July 17, 1894 this land was subdivided and filed for record into twenty-four small lots by Charles Hague with three streets named Hague Street, Orgain Street and Walker Street.  

In the 1890’s Tisdale Street, now Farm to Market Road 1660 South was the frontage street to this subdivision. These lots would not be developed into home sites for another hundred years. It is probable that after he sold his land that Adam purchased a small house on the south side of Hutto where he would live his remaining years. 

In 1896 the Hutto community had reached a population of seven hundred and was described by the Texas State Gazetteer as an “important cotton market”. By 1898 the Supreme Court of the State of Texas stated that all public government lands had been sold, granted or reserved and declared that “no more vacant lands” existed in Texas. It was on May 18, 1896 that the Supreme Court in the Plessey v. Ferguson decision provided legal support to the concept of separate but equal public facilities for Blacks. 

In 1898 the Hutto town site had quickly grown to include six churches, one school, one photography gallery, one confectionery store, one hotel, two drug stores, seven dry good stores, one bank, one tailor shop, eight grocery stores, one shoe shop, one meat market, four blacksmiths, one livery stable, one millinery shop, one lumberyard, one newspaper and job office, two hardware stores, two cotton gins, one gristmill and five doctors. 

By 1900 most of the fauna of the area had been hunted to extinction except for deer, coyotes and small game. 

In 1901 a group of Black Christians met and formed Ebenezer Baptist Church. It is not known whether Adam was involved in organization of this church. Christianity had long played a very important role in Black culture with its biblical teachings of deliverance from bondage and salvation.

In 1902 a statewide poll tax was imposed by constitutional amendment to further discourage the voting by Blacks and Hispanics. The Fire of 1902 in Hutto burned down much of the east side of East Street and did considerable damage to the business district. It is very clear that much of the early history of Hutto would be augmented if Adam could only talk to us today about the details of experiences he lived first hand and witnessed. 

It was at the age of sixty-five that Adam Orgain died in Hutto on May 13, 1902. We do not even know where he is buried. Adam and Eveline could be buried at the Shiloh Black Cemetery located off of County Road 139. They could be buried on private property off of FM 1660 South. We simply do not know.  



                                           

A white marble base stone to a family tombstone inscribed “ORGAIN” was found behind a small house in Hutto on Jim Cage Street and Austin Avenue. This tombstone may possibly have belonged to the Adam Orgain family. No conclusive supportive evidence was found at either the Black Shiloh Cemetery located on County Road 139 or the Old Shiloh Cemetery located on County Road. Again, we simply do not know. The tombstone is now located in the museum portion of the Chamber of Commerce building located at East Street in Hutto. No Orgains are living in the Hutto area today.

 



CLICK TO VIEW
 JOHN HENRY and ALMA KATE ORGAIN:
EARLY SETTLERS OF SALADO

also view
HUTTO, TEXAS est. 1876