In the mid 1850s yeoman farmers from southern states migrated into the fringes of American settlement in west central Texas, bringing with them slaves to break the land, cultivate the crops, and serve their families. In Coryell County, U.S. troops based at Fort Gates created a barrier between the settlers and the Comanche Indians. In 1865, upon first hearing of their emancipation, many of the Coryell County blacks, finally free to make their own ways in the world, chose to stay where they were.
As soon as they were able, the liberated slaves purchased land along the west side of the Leon River, near a turn in the river called Moccasin Bend. Adopting the name of their liberator, they called their new home Lincolnville. By 1872, the residents of Lincolnville had established a church and opened a school, institutions which bound them to one another just as their farms united them with the land. As the settlers married, reared large families, and their children intermarried, their relationships grew stronger.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the physical presence of Lincolnville began to disappear from the Leon River valley. Before World War I the church membership moved to town, and just before World War II the school closed, paralleling the migration of the people away from the farms toward town. Subsequent generations spread from coast to coast across the breadth of the continent. The descendants of the early founders of Lincolnville--the Mayberrys, Browns, and Snows--maintained bonds of community long after the settlement existed only in the memories of the oldest ones. Each July throughout the second half of the twentieth century they gathered in Gatesville to celebrate their family history and reaffirm their kinship.
In Lincolnville at Moccasin Bend: Black Families on the Texas Frontier the descendants retell the stories handed down by their parents and grandparents, highlighting the community created by church, school, land, and family. Even as they testify to the eventual decline of their rural home, they demonstrate in a worship service at the Bethlehem Baptist Church how their shared faith and heritage remains a strong source of continuity in the face of change.
About the program:
Lincolnville at Moccasin Bend: Black Families on the Texas Frontier premiered on June 19, 1987, on PBS radio stations across Texas. A production of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Lincolnville was created by executive producer Rebecca Sharpless and associate producer David Stricklin and was made possible with funding from the Texas Committee for the Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Narrators Richard Veit and Vicki Klaras set the context of the stories, told in the voices of the descendants of Lincolnville's founders. Sounds of the family worship service at Bethlehem Baptist Church on July 13, 1986--including Rev. Kenneth Hall, pastor, and the church choir--thread through the program, tying the voices together just as the people's heritage of faith unites them.
This audio program and its print script, the abstracts, interviews, and photographs are copyrighted materials, belonging to Baylor University, and are not to be reproduced without the permission of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. By entering this site you are accepting this condition.
How to cite this program:
Sharpless, Rebecca. Lincolnville at Moccasin Bend: Black Families on the Texas Frontier. Waco, TX: Baylor University Institute for Oral History, 1987. 28 min. audio. From Baylor University Institute for Oral History,Documentaries of Central Texas, https://www.baylor.edu/Oral_History/index.php?id=28957.