"Podo: Former Matagorda County slave a forgotten Texan " By John R. Lunberg, Ph.D.

Sentinel photo/Mike Reddell
Above, Dr. John Lundberg examines bricks made on the former John Runnells plantation with Bill Pendergraft who owns the property today. That property is near the site of the John Duncan property where Podo lived - the Runnells-Pierce Ranch today.

   EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. John R. Lundberg has been in Matagorda County recently doing research on his book, The Texas Lowcountry: Slavery and Freedom on the Gulf Coast 1822-1889. Part of that research includes the story of Podo, a former slave of Matagorda County plantation owner John Duncan.

   When Abel Head “Shanghai” Pierce purchased the John Duncan plantation during Reconstruction, he acquired more than just land and cattle; he also inherited the services of several Freedmen who still occupied and worked the land. 
   Duncan had enslaved these people, and after his death in 1878, they opted to stay. 
   The self-proclaimed leader of this group of freed people who still occupied the old slave quarters called himself Podo. 
   A native African, the tall, imposing Podo worked for Pierce, and “moved about the [Pierce] ranch with a dignity in keeping with his pastoral people. 
   Taller than Mr. Pierce, carrying a staff even taller than himself, and wearing abbreviated pants in lieu of a breechcloth, Podo would wend his way unhurried over the ranch in contrast to the general bustle found there.” 
   Podo most likely passed away between 1880 and 1900. 
    By 1900, when the New York, Texas, and Mexican Railroad came through the area of the former plantation, Pierce named the railroad switch near Caney Creek “Podo,” in honor of his employee, and a small community named Podo grew up around the old plantation. 
   A thriving settlement at the turn of the century, it became a ghost town by the 1950s. 
   The story of Podo, this Texan of African birth, is shrouded in mystery, but fits into the larger pattern of slavery, the Texas Revolution, and the presence of the African diaspora in Texas. 

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