The Story of A Black Louisiana Homesteader’s Journey to Acquire Land
Bernice A. Bennett
Peter Clark and his son Moses circa- 1905
According to bible records(1), my great great -grandfather Peter Clark was born 1855 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. Because of the American Civil War, he spent his childhood during a time of transition and saw freedom different than his parents experienced during their formative years.
Peter is first found in federal records in April 1868(2) on the Coxe Plantation in Livingston Parish, Louisiana with his mother Katie Clark and siblings Ann, Olivier, Hester, Emma and Bob. The Plantation owners – William P. Coxe, Benjamin F. Coxe, John B. Easterly and R.C. Webb negotiated a labor contract to employ Katie and her family at $100 per annum to perform duties on the plantation. In addition to the Clark family, Bob Lee, Solomon Goss, and Elie Johnson were also employed to receive $10.00 per month for their services.
By 1870(3) Peter’s surname was listed as Johnson; yet, his surname was always Clark as noted in the Freedmen Bureau Labor contract. Peter’s surname was Clark in later US census(4)and he is documented as marrying Rebecca Youngblood in 1874.(5)
Peter worked as a farm hand/laborer as noted in the 1870 and 1880 US Censuses for 10 years to support his young family consisting of two children and his wife. Yet, he always pondered whether he would receive his “ forty-acres and a mule”(6) which was rumored and anticipated by African Americans following the Civil War.
Peter and his wife Rebecca were strongly encouraged to purchase land by his father-in-law and land owner Thomas Youngblood,(7) who had a small farm in Livingston Parish, Louisiana.
Peter Clark applied on October 15, 1887 for 159.33 acres of land under the Homestead Act of 1862(8) that was located in the town of Maurepas(9) in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. Most of this land was piney woods and once cleared could be good for planting crops.
Peter Clark cleared five of the 159.33 acres of land to build a house, outhouse and, grow an assortment of crops to sustain and support his family. He had a strong network of family and friends who served as witnesses for him to testify that throughout the seven years he was required to live on the land. Many of those witnesses were also close neighbors of Peter’s father- in- law Thomas Youngblood who died in 1882 leaving a small estate to his family.(10)
(1) Family bible in possession of Bernice A. Bennett
(2)Freedmen’s Bureau of Refugees and Abandoned Land – record group 105 - roll 36
(3)Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Ward 3, St Helena, Louisiana; Roll M593_529; Page: 96B; Image: 199; Family History Library Film: 552028.
(4)Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: 3rd Ward, Saint Helena, Louisiana; Roll 468; Family History Film: 1254468; Page: 427A; Enumeration District: 153; Image: 0146.
(5)Matrimonial Bond – State of Louisiana---Parish of St. Helena, Sixth Judicial Court: July 15, 1874.
(6)“Forty acres and a mule” Louisiana and the Southern Homestead Act”. Claude F. Oubree – First published by the Louisiana history, 17(1976): 143-57. Louisiana Historical Association.
(7)Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: Livingston, Louisiana; Roll 456; Family History Film: 1254456; Page: 170A; Enumeration District: 138;
(8)Act of May 20, 1862 (Homestead Act), Public Law 37-64, 05/20/1862; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives.
(9) MAUREPAS ISLAND, surrounded by Lake Maurepas, the Amite River, BayouAct 95 of the 1850 Legislature transferred Pierre, the Petite Amite, and Blind River, from Ascension to Livingston Parish. It includes the communitites of Maurepas, Whitehall, Bear Island and Head of Island that were settled by French Spanish and German immigrants.
From the book entitled "The Free State - A History and Place-Names Study of Livingston Parish" by the members of the Livingston Parish America Revolution Bicentennial Committee in cooperation with the Livingston Parish Police Jury and the Louisiana American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
(10)Parish of Livingston- State of Louisiana- Succession of Thomas Youngblood – Opposition to the Appointment of Robert M. Benefield – Administrator- Box 11 – Filed Dec 4, 1882.
The Story of A Black Louisiana Homesteader’s Journey to Acquire Land-continue to page 2
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©Bernice Bennett - 2011