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Burrell Montgomery (1817-ca. 1890)

Quilt square of cream and burgundy fabric representing cog wheels
Burell Montgomery, "Cog Wheels"

Burell Montgomery, born into slavery in Virginia in 1817, was brought to Texas in 1822. At some point he became an enslaved person of J. H. Polley. J. B. Polley mentioned in his “Historical Reminiscences” that Burrell was a grown slave in 1858.


According to J. B. Polley’s “Historical Reminisces” of 16 December 1906, Burrell Montgomery could translate Spanish. Describing an encounter with Native Americans in 1848, J. B. Polley writes:

“They were Lipans, and though denying that they spoke or understood English, talked Spanish well enough to make themselves understood by Burrel, one of my father’s negroes whom he called upon to do the interpreting.”


J. H. Polley made a legal agreement with James Bailey, Reuben Robinson, Cato Morgan, Burrell Montgomery, Theodore Henderson, and Albert Nious to employ them as servants until December 1865.


Burrell registered to vote in Wilson County on 12 July 1867 in Precinct 6.


Mary Ann Hitchins Montgomery, Burrell’s wife, was given 50 acres of land on the west side of the Cibolo, adjoining T. S. Wyatt’s property, by Benjamin Goodwin on 25 January 25 1869 “in consideration of the care and kind attention which I have received from the said Mary Ann and for the taking care of me for so long as I may live.”


In the 1870 U. S. Census, Burrell is 53 years old, a farmer by trade, living with his wife, Mary (30) from Kentucky, and children Sarah (10), Lee (6), and Burr (3). Lee and Burr were born in Texas, but Sarah was born in Kentucky.


On 18 November 1874 Burrell and Mary Ann Montgomery sold their 50 acres on the west side of the Cibolo for $550 to Robert H. Gray and that

same day bought 80 acres from William L. and Mary Worsham for $240. On 13 October 1879 Solomon Summerville sold 80 Acres out of the J. B. Niesto Grant to Burrell and Mary Ann Montgomery for $35.76.


On 18 October 1879, the Montgomerys “in consideration of the regard we have for the education of our race & people” gave one-half acre of the land they had purchased from the Worshams to the Trustees of the Burrell Montgomery Community School.


In the 1880 U.S. Census, Burrell (64) and Mary Ann Montgomery (49) were living in Stockdale with their children Burr (15), Ella (10), Walker (4), and Elizabeth (1).


The Walker Montgomery Cemetery is located on County Road 401 near Stockdale. Walker Montgomery is buried there, and it is likely that Burrell and Mary Anne are also buried here.


Although Josephine Golson in Bailey’s Light mentions that Ben Montgomery was one of the formerly enslaved men that gained their freedom, Burrell, not Ben, is the person mentioned in J. H. Polley’s employment agreement with his formerly enslaved men. Perhaps Golson was mistaken about the first name.


His quilt square is “Cog Wheels.”


 

This biographical selection is from The Enslaved People of J. H. Polley Plantation, Whitehall, Sutherland Springs, Texas 1836-1865. The collection is the work of independent scholar, Dr. Melinda Creech. Dr. Creech compiled and presents a biographical sketch of each of the enslaved along with a unique historic Texas quilt for each individual since photos of the 28 enslaved are not available. The collection is available to view in person at the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum.

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