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Matilda [Bird] [Nious] (1827-1892)

Quilt square of red, green, and floral fabric representing hens and chickens
Matilda Bird Nious, "Hens and Chickens"

Peter McGreal sold fifteen-year-old Matilda to J. H. Polley on 16 December 1842. She was Esther’s daughter and had formerly been enslaved by Gowen Harris.

J. B. Polley described an episode of Matilda blowing a horn warning of Indian attacks in his “Historical Reminiscences.” She was described as having very strong lungs, and her horn could be heard from three miles away. It seems her warning saved the day in that instance.

The newly-married Emeline Polley James wrote to her mother, Mary Polley, 10 November 1848, saying that Matilda was sick. Joseph H. stipulated in his will that each of the girls could choose a female slave to go with them upon their marriage. It could be possible that Matilda was sent to San Antonio with Emeline when she married. Sadly, it was Emeline who died the next month in childbirth. The 1850 Census indicates that the baby Emeline was living with her father near the Cibolo Creek. Perhaps Matilda was caring for the child there at that time. Baby Emmeline also died that year. Perhaps Matilda returned to the Polleys’ house in Sutherland Springs after Emeline’s death, and stayed with the family until her emancipation.

Golson recorded that Matilda was also among the slaves Polley freed after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Matilda Bird legally married Jim Nious on 13 March 1869.

Her quilt square is “Hen and Chickens.”


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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