Zadoc Harman

Here is another article I wrote for Louisiana Road Trips magazine in June, 2001.  Zadoc Harmon was a fascinating Ouachita Parish character!

Zadoc Harman:  Free Man of Color in Colonial Ouachita Parish

            Anyone with a passing knowledge of Colonial Ouachita Valley history, knows the names of the early founders of what was to become Monroe.  Names such as Filhiol, Breard, Oliveau, Lamy and Morhouse are still known today.  I hope to add one more name to the list.  That would be a free man of color named Zadoc Harman.

Zadoc, according to the records he left behind, was from “Lewes Town, Sussex County, Delaware”.  He and his family came to the Ouachita Valley around 1793 and set up an Indian trading post on the Prairie Chattlerault, south of Bayou Bartholomew.  Zadoc’s family consisted of his wife Elizabeth Clark, two daughters Ellen and Nancy and a son named Warner.  His reason for coming to Spanish Louisiana is murky.  Spain had decreed any slave fleeing from the United States was free in the Spanish territories.  Was he an escaped slave taking his family to freedom?  Others say he had lived for a time on the French Broad River in Burke County, NC.  He was a horse thief, who stole from whites and sold them to the Indians and vice versa.  Under threat of death from the Indians who found out about it, he fled to the Spanish territory.  Whatever his reasoning, Zadoc was respected by Commandant Jean Filhiol and was even called as a witness in a trial.

Zadoc soon became a successful businessman and farmer.  He was the only free black man to have a profession.  He owned extensive land claims in the area.  His daughters married into good families.  Local men apprenticed their sons and daughters to the Harmon family so they could learn agriculture and how to card and spin wool.  Zadoc was a wealthy man.  This didn’t sit well with his white neighbors.  The first conflict came from the Marquis de Maison Rouge.

Word came to Maison Rouge that Zadoc had remarked to a neighbor that the Marquis was a foolish man and would cause trouble for his settlement.  Zadoc has also made the remark in New Orleans to some pretty important people.  The Marquis was in financial difficulty.  His settlement was floundering.  Zadoc had just given him someone to blame.  He decided that the remark Zadoc made was the reason why New Orleans was not helping him out financially and so he brought a defamation suit against him.  Zadoc countered Maison Rouge’s claims by stating he was gossiping for fun and in New Orleans an official stopped him and demanded he tell him all about what was going on in the settlement.  Zadoc told him all he knew.  Because Maison Rouge didn’t answer Zadoc’s testimony due to bad health, Filhiol dismissed the suit.  However, the damage had been done.  The Marquis had stirred up the settlement against Zadoc.

More charges followed.  Zadoc was asked to pay a debt for Louis Badins in New Orleans.  He didn’t get a receipt marked “paid in full” and the New Orleans merchant charged Badins interest.  Badins brought suit against Zadoc for the money.  Badins won, but the verdict was reversed by the Governor and he had to pay court costs.  Badins began to urge local residents to bring complaints against Zadoc to Commandant Filhiol.  Residents began to claim he was a gossip who sewed discord and scandal.  They also said he had a bad temper, but at the same time he was “an industrious inhabitant.”  Filhiol dismissed the charges.  The petitioners went to the Governor, but Filhiol told him it was a vendetta by a small group of citizens.  This still didn’t stop Badins.  He kept complaining to the Governor.

The pressure continued to mount.  Zadoc was threatened by a local settler.  Rising debt caused him to mortgage his property.  He lost his right to trade horses to the Indians.  Finally, taking what little money he had left, he moved on to Spanish held Nacogdoches, TX just after Louisiana became a state.  In 1824, the last of the Harman family land in Ouachita was sold for $260 and the Harman name in Ouachita disappeared into the mists of time.

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