Apr 05 2016
After the Civil War, as a Wilson County official, Longworth exploited this division. In 1860, the Texas Legislature created Wilson County primarily from Bexar County lands. The slave masters along the Cibolo Valley were the driving force in organizing the new County. Most of the plantations along the Cibolo Valley became a part of Wilson County and the village of Sutherland Springs became its center of activity.
The Act passed by the Texas legislature creating Wilson County is reiterated on the first page of the Wilson County Commissioners Court Minutes; the process mandated to identify and name a county seat is described in section 4.56 In that Act, no county seat was named for Wilson County. Sutherland Springs was chosen as the site where Commissioners Court would meet until a county seat was chosen. The legislature mandated that Wilson County, like other counties, locate its county seat near its geographic center.
At the time of Wilson County’s separation from Bexar County, Sutherland Springs was located immediately across the Cibolo from Guadalupe County and a substantial distance from the county’s geographic center; facts that made its location unsuitable as county seat.
John T. James, the legendary Texas land speculator who later founded Oakville in Live Oak County, anticipated the creation of Wilson County southeast of San Antonio. In 1855, a correspondent from the Galveston News, traveled from San Antonio to the newly named county seat of Helena in recently created Karnes County, southeast and adjacent to the area that would become Wilson County. On the La Bahia Road, along the San Antonio River Valley (between the ranch of Miguel Cantu at the Calaveras tributary to the San Antonio River and the ranch of Juan and Don Erasmo Seguin near present day Floresville) the correspondent came upon John T. James. James had recently moved to the area and was building an inn for travelers. He related to the newspaper correspondent that the name of the new settlement was Sebastopol, “a name, bye the bye, which our friend James has given to the place in anticipation of its one day being the county seat of a new county.”57 Sebastopol with its official post office was located near the geographic center of what would become Wilson County. Before a county seat could be chosen, the Civil War intervened.
After the Civil War, William Longworth managed to secure the county seat near the geographic center of the County in the San Antonio River Valley. By force of will, political maneuvering, and enforcing the letter of the law, Longworth shifted the seat of power away from his sworn enemies, the former slave masters on the Cibolo. Floresville, the chosen location, was donated to the county by the Flores-Barker family and supported by a constituency of the descendants of Spanish and Mexican settlers.
Despite the repeated circulation of petitions by the former slave masters, subsequent attempts to name Sutherland Springs the county seat failed. Sutherland Springs was never named county seat of Wilson County. Floresville, the county seat of Wilson County, stands as a monument to Longworth’s triumph over the demands of the former slave masters.
Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau failed to meet the goals set forth by their architects. A nation, weary of conflict, abandoned the freedmen to the mercy of the their defeated and resentful Confederate ex-owners. The era of Jim Crow blossomed along the Cibolo. Atrocities against freedmen, once documented in the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, became local matters. They were investigated and adjudicated by the men who once owned them as slaves and now viewed them as a nuisance.
William B. Longworth departed Wilson County, leaving his legacy in the hands of his enemies, the former slave masters. They called him a stranger, although he worked as postmaster and lived in the area as long as most of them. His expressions of frustration in the form of correspondence to the ineffective Freedmen’s Bureau, political officials and military leaders were described as zealotry rather than an expression of his opposition to slavery consistent with Quaker tradition. His service as subassistant commissioner without pay was described as suspicious and self-serving rather than an act of public service consistent with his family’s tradition. The calumnious statements by former slave masters accusing him of soliciting bribes and stealing from the freedmen have been repeated but never proven.
In stark contrast to the chorus of slave masters and bureaucrats, a single voice emerges from the past. William Green a former slave once owned by John Montgomery from the Cibolo Valley near Lavernia shared his opinion of William B. Longworth with a writer from the Great Depression era WPA:

…. If it hadn't been for ole Judge Longworth, I might have been a slave for seven years longer by way of a contract my boss wanted to draw up. Judge Longworth, he come over and dere was pretty near a fight. He was a little man but he tole de boss just where matters stand, and he explained to me dat I was free…[sic]58