Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Did you know Andy Drake is known to be the first freed African American slave in Plano?
It all started in 1860 when Andy Drake came to Plano as an ox-driver that hauled logs from Louisiana and at the time there weren't very many black Americans in the area. When he returned to Plano in 1864 with another load of logs, Sir Harrington, son of the pioneer Alfred Harrington asked Andy Drake to stay in Plano and work. Mr. Drake accepted the offer, therefore, became a freed slave. Andy Drake became the forefather of one of the largest families in Plano.
Mr. Drake had a big family. Eight sons and five daughters, and of these children, two sons married the daughters of Mose Stimpson. Mr. Stimpson had two daughters and seven sons and Wylie Huguley, another early black settler had four daughters and of these four daughters, two married the Drake boys, one a Stimpson, and one a Smith. In the Plano and Dallas Area, Stimpson's and the Drake's make up a very large family.
Andy Drake was a free black man who farmed fertile land in what would become Plano. On that point, everyone agrees.
Exactly when, where, and how he obtained his freedom is a matter of debate. What is certain is that he took seriously God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.
The 14 children Mr. Drake had with his wife, Easter, are their legacy. And their descendants are thought to be among the oldest and largest black families in Plano.
Drake family ancestors and their kin didn’t own farmland in the 19th century. They worked in the farmland.
Family matriarch Lettie Drake celebrated her 100th birthday
Mrs. Drake, who quotes Scripture like a preacher, lives in the Douglass Community, the 40-acre area of east Plano named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The written history is sketchy, but Douglass Community historian Ben Thomas, 77, said it’s understood that the Drakes “went back farther than anybody else.”
Local legend has it that Andy Drake came to Plano in 1860 as a slave hauling logs by oxen from Louisiana. The lumber was used to build homes, and some say Mr. Drake used these treks to earn his freedom. When he returned with a load in 1864, he decided to stay after one of Plano’s early settlers offered work. Mr. Drake’s descendants tell a different story. “Daddy said that his grand-daddy, Andy, came over here residents then, Mr. Drake was one of only two who had enough personal property to have it listed. His was valued at $100. “He got his name from a slave owner,” explained Perry Drake, 33, of Plano, who has researched the family’s history.
Slaves owned by Silas Harrington and counted in the 1850 census were “likely the first black residents within the city limits of Plano,” according to a 1988 research project by David H. Cox. The county’s largest slaveholder that year was Collin McKinney, one of the writers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, who owned 24 of the county’s 76 slaves.
In 1884, three of Andy Drake’s children were among the five founding members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
Leslie Drake, Andy’s grandson, attended the Shepton Colored School, a one-room building near the current intersection of Spring Creek Parkway and Preston Road. It did double duty as a church and as a center of social life for black families west of town.
Leslie Drake, 86, didn’t get to spend much time in school because he was busy working on the farm. His folks weren’t sharecroppers because the landowners didn’t lease the land to them.
Gladys Harrington says that at age 98, she remembers the large Drake family that worked for hers and lived in shacks on their land along Preston Road. “Cecil Drake was the son. And his wife, Mary,” Mrs. Harrington recalled. “We had a big family of them; the oldest was Grandpa. They lived in a little house there. The children were the ones who did the work there. The other ones helped with what needed to be done. “They were good people.
Malisie Drake, the 80-year-old wife of Tennyson Drake Sr., said her family’s experience was more common. “My dad was a sharecropper, right over the hill from the hospital out there at Coit Road. Where all those car dealers are today, I picked cotton there. That’s where my daddy had his crops.”.
“We’re a very close-knit family, very supportive of each other, always spending a lot of time together,” said Yvonne Drake Hairston, 54, one of Tennyson and Malisie Drake’s eight children. “But everybody respects each other,” said her sister, Mary Alice Drake, 60.
Andy Drake (b. 1833) came to Plano a free man having purchased his freedom from money earned hauling logs. He worked for Silas Harrington after coming to Plano in 1860 and died in 1933. Mr. Drake was buried in the Old City Cemetery on H Avenue in the Douglas Community, also known as the Pioneer Cemetery. This gravesite is the resting place for many of Plano’s early residents – headstones date as early as 1881. Andy Drake fathered eight sons and five daughters with his wife Easter. Andy Drake lived to be more than 100, dying in 1934. His descendants in Plano carry on the legacy of humanitarian, philanthropic, and community-based businesses to help with the upward mobility of underserved communities throughout Texas including the historic Douglass Community.
Pictures of Dallas and other major cities across the nation during 1830 - 1860
Exhibit Questions & Discussions:
What was happening in the United States during 1830?
What was happening in the United States during 1840?
What was happening in the United States during 1850?
What was happening in the United States during 1860?
Who lived in Plano and surrounding areas in North Texas during this time?
What can you imagine about Andy Drakes's life during the early 1800s?
How many children did Andy have?
What did Andy do as an occupation?
What role did his spirituality have on his life?
What can we learn from Andy's life?
Plano, Texas: The Early Years
Plano Morning News, Section G, Dallas Morning News, December 30, 1999, by Linda Stewart Ball