Nancy Mahala Coleman Thomas

Jun 16, 2021 - 1:06 pm

Nancy Mahala Coleman Thomas does not have a grave marker in Oakwood Cemetery, but like everyone she has a story to tell. 

Nancy Coleman was born a slave in 1859 on the Meek Smith cotton plantation in Bastrop County. The exact month and day of her birth is unclear. Her father was John Coleman who died before she was born. Her mother Mary Clark was a cook on the Smith plantation. Nancy’s mother was brought to Texas by Meek Smith from Bowie County, Tennessee. In the narrative, Nancy says before her mother died, she wanted her children to remember where she was born and where she grew up. Mary Coleman was the mother of eleven children, two boys and nine girls. Nancy was a “house girl” during slavery, and became the special companion to the Meeks’ daughter, Polonia. Nancy considered herself sassy because she had heard that her father was independent and sassy. Nancy Mahala Coleman Thomas. 

In 1879, at the age of nineteen, Nancy Coleman married Jerry Thomas, who was born in 1842. Jerry had served in the United States Colored Infantry from 1865-1868. She was baptized and joined Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1883. 

In 1918, Nancy became President of the Home Woman’s Mission Society #4 in Austin and she was active in its work until 1930. Nancy and Jerry had three girls: Pearl, Ettie, and Bennie Eva. When her husband died in California in 1905, Nancy began receiving his military pension of $40.00 a month. 

In 1882, Nancy went to work for J. S. Hogg’s family as the cook. When he was elected governor, she lived in the governor’s mansion located at 1010 Colorado Street. In Nancy’s narrative, she talks about how fond she was of the Hogg family. Nancy owned her home at 1208 East 10th Street, Austin. 

She said that the Negroes of East Austin thought of her as their banker because she had a steady income. Whenever anyone needed a little money, he or she would go to Nancy. 

Nancy died December 12, 1938 at the age of 78 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery on December 15th. The sexton’s record states she was buried in Section 4, Colored Grounds. 

Thinking about her life span is incredible – to be born a slave and live to be an independent woman with a family - and then living to see World War 1! 

Drawn portrait of Nancy Mahala Coleman Thomas
Photo source: Portal to Texas History website

Much thanks to Kay Boyd and Megan Spencer of Save Austin Cemeteries for this biography.

 

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