After emancipation the State of Texas began to pass Jim Crow laws (laws requiring racial segregation). The Lone Star state eventually passed 27 of these laws which were not repealed until 1964. Blacks were segregated in schools and when using public transportation. Voting rights were curbed. Interracial marriage was outlawed and, by 1915, violating this law could bring you a prison sentence of two to five years.
Despite the contentious relationship between the races, an extraordinary event occurred in La Grange late one spring evening in 1883. Mr. J.F. McClatchy, a white man from Mississippi, found his livery stable ablaze. It was located on the east side of the town square. He lost 23 horses to the fire and nearly all his buggies. At one point the fire threatened to destroy the square’s entire east side. However, both African American and white citizens joined together to fight the flames and limited the damage to McClatchy’s property and several other small buildings. Sadly, the fire was thought to be the work of an arsonist.
Unfortunately for Mr. McClatchy, insurance covered less than half of his loss. However, local African Americans came to his aid. Having no money to give, they donated their time and labor to help him build a new stable:
Johnson Miller 6 days
Reuben Pierce 6 days
Jack Blocker 2 days
W. A. Schropshire 2 days
Granderson Lindsay 3 days
Sam Rogers 1 day
George Holmes and team 1 day
Nathan Powel 2 days
Bob Lyles 1 day
Richard Smith 1 day
Mr. McClatchy was able, within 36 hours, to open another stable with 18 stalls on the same lot.
White citizens expressed their appreciation to those who helped put out the fire in a May 25, 1883 letter to the editor of the La Grange Journal:
“We, the signers hereto, desire through the columns of your paper, to express our sincere thanks to the citizens, white and colored, who came to our relief on the occasion of the recent destructive fire. Your prompt and continuous efforts saved, not only the property of the signers hereto, but the property of many others. For the prompt, noble, and untiring efforts of the citizens and visiting friends, we do most sincerely tender our grateful acknowledgements.”
White & Bradshaw,
Chas. W. Gregory
H. Scholz & Co.
Kruschel & Schmidt
I would like to talk with you about Fayette County, in particular La Grange, and what it was like in 1900-1902. My Great grandfather, Alexander Winfield left there after living for years, in 1902. My great grandmother was half Indian and half black. My oral history claims he left because he was beginning to have problems because of his wife.