Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Superintendent at Liberty, Virginia, to the Freedmen's Bureau Superintendent of the 7th District of Virginia, Enclosing a Letter from a Virginia Former Slaveholder to the Assistant Superintendent

Liberty Va  July 19th 1866

Captain–  I have the honor to transmit the following, for instructions,–  Late last evening W. K. Lowery sent to my office Three invalid freedmen by a colored man in his employ, with the enclosed sluring note, which will explain itself,  one of them is unable to walk a step, and the other two can merely move about.  Mr Lowery instructed the colored man, if I did not take them, to unload them at Piedmount on the road-side, and leave them, which is about one mile from this place, whare they are now laying.  The Superintendent of the Poor-house will not receive them on my order, and consequently it is impossible for me to provide quarters for them.  Mr Lowery is an overseer of poor of this district himself, and he would have the authority to sent them there, But instead of doing that. he had them brought to me, as above stated   I ordered the man to take them back to Mr Lowery but as he was ordered by him to leave them on the road he done so.  Mr Lowery has been informed of the endorsement of Gen– Brown May 10th 1866. which states that he should apply to the oversser of the Poor, to have the infirm freedmen cared for.1 But he seems to think that the Poor house is not the place for them, and told them that they should not go there. That the Freedmens Bureau was the place for them.

This case should have immediate attention, as they are in a bad condition. No shelter, except what I had put up for them this morning, of their Beding &c, which will not protect them from rain or the sun   I am Very Respectfully Your Obt Servt

B F Shaum


Bedford Co Va  July 18th 1866

Sir   As you have been appointed Agent of the Freedman's Bureau by the Government of the U. States, whose duty it is, and I have no doubt, pleasure also, to look after the interest of the Freedman, to furnish rations to the destitute, and by a necessary and implied consequence, quarters also; I hereby turn over to you, as their proper and legitimate Custodian, three Freedmen who are proper objects of your Care and Solicitude, all being invalids.  I have kept these Freedmen since the 9th of April 1865 at my own expense, (as well as all time before), with the exception of a few rations furnished by the Bureau which were so indifferent that they could not be used,  Not being able, as well as not inclined to keep them any longer from the proper authorities, I now positively turn them over to you as their peculiar protector   Respectfully

W K. Lowry

Bvt Capt B F Shaum to R S Lacey, 19 July 1866, enclosing W K. Lowry to The Agent of the Freedman's Bureau, 18 July 1866, filed as L-186 1866, Registered Letters Received, series 3798, VA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Captain Shaum signed as an officer in the Veteran Reserve Corps and identified his jurisdiction as “Sub Dist No 6.” By an endorsement of July 29, the district superintendent, Captain Robert S. Lacey, forwarded Shaum's letter and its enclosure to the headquarters of the bureau's assistant commissioner for Virginia, requesting transportation for the three freedpeople to Lynchburg, Virginia, where “[t]hey can be properly cared for.” “Is there any provision now by which this impudent citizen can be compelled to reimburse the government for maintaining these freedpeople[?]” Lacey asked. “As an overseer of the poor his conduct is entirely without excuse.” No response to that query has been found in the assistant commissioner's letters-sent volumes, but the following scrawled notations appear beneath Lacey's endorsement: “Does this county tax freedmen” and “Give transporton and lie on the tabl.”

1. The endorsement had been written by an adjutant of General Orlando Brown, the bureau's assistant commissioner for Virginia, on a letter from Lowry reporting three infirm freedpeople on his plantation whom he was unable to support any longer; the letter had initially been referred to the district superintendent, who warned that “[i]f the Bureau takes charge of these persons precedent is made for each planter to turn off his helpless.” (Summary of letter by W. K. Lowry, 3 Apr. 1866, vol. 2, p. 284, Registers of Letters Received, series 3796, VA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives; endorsement by Capt. R. S. Lacy, 7 May 1866, and endorsement by Bvt Maj James A. Bates, 10 May 1866, vol. 25, pp. 109–10, Endorsements Sent, series 3795, VA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 766–68.