Rachel Jenkins

VANN SETTLEMENT, TEXAS. Vann Settlement, also known as Van, African, and King Vann African Settlement, was a rural community on Buckner's Prairie near what is now Farm Road 521 and twelve miles southeast of Bay City in eastern Matagorda County. Little is known about the founding of this black community, but during the summer of 1887 it was the site of a violent attack by white vigilantes from Matagorda, Wharton, Brazoria, and Fort Bend counties. The trouble apparently started when the refusal of several Sargent-area whites to work on the roads under the supervision of a black county commissioner led to the murder of Jerry Matthews, a black constable who had been sent to summon them before black justice of the peace A. B. Brown. After reportedly as many as seventy-five armed blacks confronted one of the white roadbuilders at his home, around eighty-five white vigilantes from surrounding counties congregated at Sargent. The next day they moved on Vann (then known as African), where they laid siege to the black party's leader, one Oliver Sheppard, who was said to have been barricaded in a log cabin there. Though Sheppard escaped, reportedly smuggled out of the county by District Judge Wells Thompson, several other blacks were killed in the vigilantes' rampage. One local history has it that after this clash the black residents of Matagorda County "were convinced this time that they had best remain in the background and leave the government of the county to the whites." In 1894 a White Man's Union Association was formed in the county. By at least 1894 Vann Settlement had a school. Berean Baptist Church, which was organized at Vann by members of Shiloh Baptist Church of Cedar Lane, held its first meetings in the school, which in 1904 taught thirty-nine black students. In 1937 a school called Van was part of the Cedar Lane district and had one teacher who taught black students in seven grades. By the late 1940s the Cedar Lane district had consolidated with the Van Vleck Independent School District. As late as 1952 a number of farms were still concentrated along an unpaved road at Vann, and the Berean Baptist Church and Cemetery also remained. The Berean Church was still shown on the 1989 county highway map.


Matagorda County Historical Commission, Historic Matagorda County (3 vols., 1986–88).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Rachel Jenkins, "VANN SETTLEMENT, TX," accessed December 06, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 8, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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