Greensboro Ga Sept. 22nd 1866
General– I dont feel atal justifiably in taking the liberty to use your honour,d name, but I pray your goodness and wisdom may pity my unfortunate condition, and pardon me for what may appear presumptuous in this action–for I would not intrude your majesty upon the peril of my existence. I am poor–unlearn,d and (comparatively) helpless man of African descent. there are many of us, and we are all poor and ignorant one not able to healp the other.–yet we have each others enterest at heart and are trying to–the–best–of our knowlege to–Educate and Elevate our selves. The Colord people in this vicinity have many grievences to complane of,–to–which I shall not elude. after siting down and counting up the cost,–our resolution, is–to settle on the homestead Lands–if we can do so.– And if it is best for us to locate on these Lands, (Which we beleave tis) We wish to begain the Emigration at once,– our plan is to send first a Land inspector to locate settlements,–And in company with said Land inspector, we propose sending a company of Laborers to commence building ammediately. honoured General–Will you give us transportation for these parties ammediately. we wish to start said company of Laborers within Ten Twelve days–if posiable.
kind sir–please forgive any thing I may have said a miss, and if it please your honour–grant our petition– And oblige
E. C. Powell
E. C. Powell to Maj Genl O. O. Harward, 22 Sept. 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 632, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. By an endorsement of September 29, the commissioner's office referred Powell's letter to General Davis Tillson, the bureau's assistant commissioner for Georgia, “for remarks or recommendation.” In the meantime, Powell, writing on behalf of a committee, had also written directly to General Tillson; that letter is printed immediately below. On October 9, Tillson informed the commissioner that he planned to meet with a representative of the committee and thereafter would make “such recommendations as shall seem to be to the best interests of the parties concerned.” (Bvt Maj Genl Davis Tillson to Major General O. O. Howard, 9 Oct. , vol. 14, pp. 887–88, Press Copies of Letters Sent, series 625, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. A notation on Powell's letter reads “To await arrival of delegate from Greensboro–”
Greensboro Ga Sept 24″ 1866
Dear sir The Color,d people of Greene County Ga having organized a Colony of (10 or, 1200) Ten or Twelve hundred Freedmans for the intention of moving to–and Settleing on such potions of public–Lands in Arkansas as may be subject to Entryance according to the Homestead Law–1 A commitee–The under Sign'd–12–Honourable Colord mens authorized me to petition your–Excellency–for ammediate Transportation–For fifty or a hundred of said Number,–Who will go out as Laborers to Locate and build Huts for Comfort of the, Immense Numbers of Womens and Childrens that will Emigrat in the Fall–
kind sir may it please your honour to give the humble petitioner ammediate answer And oblige
E. C. Powell
S. D. Thomas
Frank Risby Rev Maclain–Chirman
E. C. Powell to Honourable General D. Tilson, 24 Sept. 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 632, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. On October 2 an adjutant requested “the name of one of your number whom the Committee may select and authorize to act in their behalf” in order that transportation might be furnished him to come to Augusta for “a personal interview” with General Davis Tillson, the assistant commissioner. On October 9, Tillson's office forwarded a transportation order for Peter McLain, whom the committee had selected, together with the information that Tillson was prepared to meet with him on October 15 or 16. (Lieut T. F. Forbes to Rev McLain and others (cold), 2 Oct. , and Lieut T. F. Forbes to E. C. Powell Esq (cold), 9 Oct. , vol. 14, pp. 849–50 and 895, Press Copies of Letters Sent, series 625, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) Shortly thereafter, Tillson wrote to General Edward O. C. Ord, the bureau's assistant commissioner in Arkansas, to find out what assistance would be available to freedpeople coming from Georgia to locate homesteads; the response to that inquiry is printed in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 942–43. Then, in late December, Tillson recommended to the bureau's headquarters in Washington that transportation from Greensboro, Georgia, to Little Rock, Arkansas, be granted to Charles Martin, Henry Porter, and E. C. Powell, “agents for an Emigration party of freedmen who desire to settle in Arkansas under the ‘Homestead Act:’” (Endorsement by Bt. Maj. Gen'l Davis Tillson, 22 Dec. 1866, on letter of G. L. Eberhart, 21 Dec. 1866, vol. 21, p. 43, Endorsements Sent, series 628, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) By the following February, Martin was in Arkansas, accompanied, however, by Abraham Colby and George Sanders rather than Porter and Powell. The three men, who reportedly represented 150 families, first inspected land in the Little Rock district, then moved on to the western part of the state, where the bureau superintendent at Fort Smith borrowed two horses from the local military post and hired “an old, loyal–gentleman” named Smoot, a surveyor and “friend of the Negro,” to show them the best vacant land in Sebastian and Scott counties. (John Tyler to Capt Chas Banzhaf, 23 Feb. 1867, Capt. Chas Banzhaf to Bvt. Major Genl. E. O. C. Ord, 1 Mar. 1867, and 1st Lieut Alfred Fredberg to Capt. Chs. Banzhof, 2 Mar. 1867, all in Letters Received, series 319, Fort Smith AR Superintendent, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives; W. W. Granger to 1st Lt John Tyler, 5 Mar. 1867, #280 1867, Letters Received, series 231, AR Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)
1. The law in question was the Southern Homestead Act, which had become law on June 21, 1866. It mandated that all unsold public land in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida thereafter be disposed of in accordance with the Homestead Act of 1862 and its 1864 supplement, which allowed any citizen who was the head of a family or at least twenty-one years of age to enter a claim of 160 acres of public land at no cost except small administrative fees, receiving title after five years' occupancy and cultivation. In provisions intended to benefit freedpeople, the new law stipulated that, for the first two years of its operation, the land was to be disposed of in tracts of up to 80 acres rather than 160, with a correspondingly reduced payment of $5 (rather than $10) when patent was issued granting legal title; moreover, until January 1, 1867, the law's benefits were restricted to applicants who could swear that they had never aided the Confederacy. (An Act for the Disposal of the Public Lands for Homestead Actual Settlement in the States of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida, 21 June 1866, U.S, Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America, 17 vols. [Boston, 1850–1873], vol. 14, pp. 66–67.)
Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 937–39.