Built in 1858-59, the first of Galveston's Broadway "palaces," as
well as the first brick house to be built in Texas.
The artistic and eccentric Miss Bettie Brown was mistress of the
manor, and her life-size paintings still adorn the showy Gold Room. When
the villa was almost razed in 1970, Galveston Historical Foundation led
a campaign to save it, and now manages it as a house museum.
Galveston was occupied by Federal Troops October 5, 1862. The
following January 1, 1863, Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. John B.
Magruder attacked and expelled occupying Union troops from the city of
Galveston. During the occupation of Galveston and in the days after June
19th 1865 the Ashton Villa was used as the headquarters for the Union
On June 19th, 1865, eighteen hundred union solders, under command of
General .Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas.; Upon arrival,
Granger published several General Orders, outlawing all acts of the
Texas legislature since secession, paroling most Confederate soldiers,
decreeing that the cotton crop could be sold but only to Northern
factors, and most importantly: "The people are informed that, in
accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States,
all slaves are free."
"Since Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 had had no
practical effect in most of the South, African-Americans in Texas
traditionally count June 19, "Juneteenth," as the day they were actually
freed, and celebrate it as a major holiday. The rest of Granger's order,
however, has been largely forgotten: "The Freedmen are advised to remain
at their present homes, and work for wages .
Unlike slaves farther east, very few, less than fifty, Texas
slaves fought in black Union regiments. ;Many did run to Mexico, but
they had little idea what life in freedom would be like.
acres and a mule" that many believed would accompany their liberty was a
dream and an aspiration, but nobody ever promised it to them. ;When they
discovered that freedom meant freedom to look after themselves after
generations of being fed and clothed and told what to do, the result was
as grim as Lafayette had predicted to Sam Houston forty years earlier.
It is generally thought (but I could find no conclusive proof) that
Granger's general orders; the revelation of the Emancipation Proclamation
and the instructions that went with them were read from the balcony ;of
the Ashton Villa pictured above.;
;Although Texas is the only state to recognize
"Emancipation Day" as an official holiday, it is celebrated in many
areas throughout the U.S.
They are informed that they
will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not
be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere." The full text of
the order reflected the Union Army's experience throughout the South,
that the emancipated slaves believed that freedom would include jobs or
some other material benefit. ;Texas slaves had been very isolated both
from the fighting and from the possibility of escape on the Underground
Ashton Villa is now home to the Galveston
Island Visitor Information Center.;