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Thomas Affleck: Gayly Setting the Standards for Plantations Everywhere

This historical marker is hidden away on a small county road (Wauls Legion Road) and in front of a lovely little tree farm. The marker is for Thomas Affleck, owner of Glenbythe Plantation in the town of Gay Hill (which is now a ghost town and will have its own post).

Its true that Mr. Affleck was a prolific writer about southern agricultural and plantation management, but the sign left out one of his more famous, yet more problematic publications: Cotton Plantation and Account Book. Among other things, this book includes essays on the "proper care and discipline of slaves" (Wikipedia). To be fair, he did publish this before coming to Texas, during his time on his plantation in Mississippi. It contains such wonderful advice as how to properly dehumanize a community and turn your enslaved population into numbers on a page to get the most bang for your buck. For instance, make sure to allow them to attend church every Sunday because that helps encourage "general good behavior, their cleanliness, and good conduct..." (Duties of an Overseer). The book was mostly about the practical and productive management of a farming enterprise, including things like blank ledger sheets for use by the reader. However, since Cotton Plantation and Account Book was written in the Antebellum South, it also obviously includes sections that cover the use of forced labor. Parts of this book have obviously not aged well, but it was widely popular at the time with over 3,000 copies sold, and it helped improve plantation book keeping and general administrative management, introducing capitalist practices into rural farming. For readers now, the book gives important insight into the reality of the deeply rooted use of forced labor in this area before the arrival of federal troops in 1865.

Thomas Affleck is an excellent example of the complicated reality of the history of Texas: an immigrant, a scientist, and a slave owner, he also provided portions of his land for use as a Confederate military camp during the Civil War, and throughout his life encouraged large numbers of English and Scottish immigrants to move to Texas. His work, his plantation, and the people who lived there, including the enslaved community, had an indelible mark on the area, even though today that mark is harder to recognize.

His plantation house and farm, Glenblythe, no longer remain, but luckily there are these handy historical markers, letting folks know where they once stood.

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