Sylvia "Aunt Puss" Hector

Enslaved, Emancipated, Wife, Mother, Frontierwoman

Mama Sylvia

Sylvia (Silvia) was born around 1810. Missouri Territory records show the sale of a negro girl, "Sylvie" in 1819 to the father of a member of the Old 300.

This association likely brought Sylvia to Texas.

Sylvia is known for her controversial marriage to John Webber. John Webber was the first settler of present-day Webberville, known then as Webber Prairie.

Together they raised 11 children in homes in Texas and Mexico.

In 1834, John Webber emancipated Sylvia and her three children from his neighbor. The contract of freedom for 'Mama Sylvia' and her three children was paid monthly and secured by one-half league of land.

Sylvia's observance of societal norms of the time, acknowledging but politely refusing invitations to dine with or converse freely with whites, was noted by some who came into her acquaintance.

The people in the area also regarded Aunt Puss for her kindness. Remarking that she was always willing to help anyone in need.

The family's time at Webber Prairie ended when new residents took issue with their children's education and the fear of their influence on local Blacks, in general.

In 1853, the Webbers relocated to the Rio Grande Valley.

Farming and trade from Webber's licensed ferry stop on the Rio Grande supplied a small income.

During the Civil War, they sought refuge in Mexico as Confederate soldiers occupied the Rio Grande Valley area. 

Some historians suggest the Webbers participated in the Underground Railroad to Mexico.

Run-ins with soldiers and the arrests of their sons helped shape the unique experiences the Webber family faced.

In 1865, after the Civil War, Sylvia Hector and John Webber returned to Texas.

Sylvia died in 1891, about nine years after John.  


The Evolution of a State, Or, Recollections of Old Texas Days

By Noah Smithwick, Nanna Smithwick Donaldson

The Civil War on the Rio Grande, 1846–1876

edited by Roseann Bacha-Garza, Christopher L. Miller, Russell K. Skowronek

Story of the Underground Railroad to Mexico gains attention