Sugarland, Colonel Cunningham's Plantation

 

This fine plantation and sugar refinery, now owned by Colonel E. H. Cunningham, is a combination of five plantations, namely: Kyle and Terry, Thatcher, Brebard and Borden twelve thousand five hundred acres, six thousand five hundred of which are in cultivation, cane and corn principally, but also sorghum, alfalfa, and truck gardens. Williams, Brown and Belknap, part of the Allcorn and part of the William Stafford, are the original grants on which this plantation is located. John M. Williams owned the place in 1828, having the league located then. In 1840 S. M. Swinson brought several schooner loads of cane up the Brazos River to plant on his farm, but concluding not to do so; sold the cane to Williams, which he planted on this place, and made sugar with a. horse mill, shipping it down the Brazos and finding a market for it at Galveston. Kyle and Terry bought the property in 1553, and put up a sugar house. Kyle died in 1862, and Colonel Frank Terry was killed in the civil war in 1861. The property was then divided between the Kyle and Terry heirs, and soon after James Freemtan bought 1,600 acres from the heirs of Colonel Terry. The entire property then remaining was purchased from the heirs by Colonel Cunning ham, who had everything, remodeled and added a great amount of machinery, the expenses, altogether amounting to about one million and a half dollars. Included in this was a sugar refinery and paper mill, the former being the finest in the South.

Colonel Cunningham is a native of Arkansas, and came to Bexar County, Texas, in 1856, and went into the stock business on Martinas Creek, and was very successful, but the civil war nearly broke him up. When the clash came between the North and South in 1861, Colonel Cunningham organized and commanded a famous company of western men called "Mustang Greys," who were incorporated with Hood's 4th Texas Brigade. The Colonel passed through all of General Hood's big battles and, was wounded fourteen times, slightly, the most severe one being in the foot, which put him off duty nearly a month. When Hood was made a Major General, Captain Cunningham was appointed Chief of Staff and Inspector General, and commanded the regiment during the campaign of 1862. At the great battle of Gaines' hill 400 of the regiment were engaged, and out of this number 252 were killed and wounded. The regiment penetrated the Federal lines and General Lee said that it was one of the most brilliant charges of the war, and the most important turned McClellan's right flank and saved Richmond. While the men were advancing, and within fifty yards of the enemy, Hood said, "Fix bayonets" that was the word that saved, the day; bayonets were fixed and the line penetrated. Here Thomas, the only brother of Colonel Cunningham, was killed, just before they got to the works. The regiment pushed half a mile inside the Federal lines, and here the Colonel rallied eighty-two men, and they were charged by cavalry with the intention of crushing the remnant of the regiment. The 7th Mississippi and 18th Georgia came to their assistance, and the Federal cavalry was nearly annihilated, no horse passing through a lane there with a rider. The men had bayonets fixed, and as the cavalry passed Pat Penn fired and emptied one saddle, and then lifted another man out of his saddle with his bayonet. Haywood Brahan also fired and shot his man, but being of lighter build than Penn, when he transfixed: another trooper with his bayonet was unable to withdraw it, and had to let go his, gun, and it went with the man until he fell to the ground.

Besides his plantation of "Sugarland" Colonel Cunningham 700 acres leased, of the Cartwright place, seven miles below. The Colonel also built a little over fourteen miles of railroad, called the "Sugarland Road," connecting with the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe at Dike, and the International at Arcola, running down Oyster Creek through all the main sugar lands. At his plantation the Colonel has a store, postoffice, etc. It is situated in Fort Bend County on the Southern Pacific Railroad, eight miles east of Richmond, and "Sugarland" is one of the stations.

Colonel Cunningham married Miss Narcissa Braham, daughter of R. W. Brahan of Mississippi. Their children are Edward Brahan, Eva Lock, Susie Dismukes, Thomas Brahan, and Narcissa, Haywood, all living, two married. Thomas married in San Antonio, Miss Maxwell, now dead. Edward Brahan married Miss McEachin of Richmond, Texas.

"Aunt Sarah Chase," an old Negro woman who belonged to Colonel Terry, still lives on the plantation, and has many interesting things to tell about the old times before and during the war. She was brought from Virginia to Galveston when a child, with her mother and other children, by her master, Colonel Martin, who then came in a boat up to Harrisburg in the year about 1847. Colonel Frank Terry had bought the plantation now known as Sugarland from John T. Williams, and was at Harrisburg when Colonel Martin arrived there, and bought this family of Negroes from them, and conveyed them to his farm in an ox wagon. On the way they met Williams and his family moving dawn towards Houston.

Just before Colonel Terry started to the war he head all of the Negroes marched out of the field singing the old cornfield songs. He then had them formed in line and gave them a talk, telling them he was going away, and that they must be good and obey the overseer and driver. Not long after he went to the war he was killed in battle and his body sent back home. Before the train arrived which conveyed the body the negroes were all brought from the field and lined up at the depot, and then informed that Colonel Terry had been killed, and that they were brought there to see the remains come in and attend the funeral. When the train came Aunt Sarah says that men wearing white gloves took the coffin out and they and all the Negroes went out to where a vault had been prepared for the reception of the body, and it was deposited there with ceremonies. I suppose these men with white gloves were Masons. Mrs. Terry was afterwards buried in the same vault. There was great lamenting in the Terry family and among the Negroes also when the body of the famous ranger arrived. The slaves all liked their muster, he treated them well and, gave them plenty to eat. The Terry home was out in the prairie, where the body was carried from the train. The old woman told the writer that she and her family were freed in the back yard behind their cabin, when asked how that was, she said that. Judge Buckner came there where a lot of them were and told them that they were free.

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