Once Upon a Time Ransom Williams Crossed State Highway 45 Southwest

Researchers believe that Ransom Williams was probably a freed slave from the Mountain City area of central Texas. Related to some of the African American families who lived in Antioch Colony (near Buda), Williams settled his family on 40 acres of farm land that he bought about 1871 in the Bear Creek Community (near Manchaca). For some 30 years until he passed away about 1901, he lived next-door to Daniel Labenske, whose father immigrated to the United States from Poland. (And whose great-granddaughter also appears in this package).

This was an exceptional case of an African American family living in a predominately white community, because the years following Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, were notoriously difficult for blacks living anywhere in the land. Records discovered recently suggest that Ransom Williams (as well as one additional resident of the Bear Creek Community) was a mulatto. After researching and co-authoring Freedom Colonies, Thad Sitton came to the opinion that during this time the best place for a mixed-race African American was the end of a long, isolated road, far away from anyone else. If this be the truth, then Ransom Williams found the best place on earth. For the Williams family, it must have been a hard and arduous life. Shortly after Ransom’s death, the Williams family moved into Austin and pretty much abandoned the farmstead. Ownership of the site changed hands one or two times, but remarkably it remained undisturbed until recently.

In 2003, archaeologist Sean Nash was conducting surface explorations for TXDoT in advance of the construction of State Highway 45 Southwest (still on the drawing board), and spotted a pile of stones, certainly an unnatural landscape feature. He identified it as an old, fallen chimney, which led to further examination and research by archaeologists and historians. Many questions remain about the Williams family and where they might have vanished to, as well as the style of the life in Antioch Colony and the Bear Creek Community.

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