THE AUCTIONEER AND SLAVE DEALER
John Sydnor was born in Virginia in 1812 and at age eighteen he married Sarah White. He first came to Texas in 1838 then returned to Virginia for his family. When they moved to Galveston in 1840 they brought with them a prefabricated house shipped in sections.
Throughout his time in Galveston, Sydnor worked towards increasing the city’s trade connections. By 1842 he operated a profitable commission and real estate business and three years later he constructed a wharf out of bricks though which he could import goods. He strongly advocated support of both a bridge connecting Galveston to the mainland and a railroad. He and his business partner even paid $1,500 to construct a road to increase trade. Galveston elected him mayor in 1846/47 where he promoted establishment of schools, police and fire departments. That year he built a new, twenty-four room house called Powhatan House on 21st street between M and N.
Sydnor staunchly supported the institution of slavery and the Confederacy. In his auction and commission business, he sold anything that could claim a good price, including human lives. Sydnor auctioned off slaves in both Galveston and Houston. He himself owned seven slaves as listed on the 1850 slave schedule. By 1860, that number doubled.
After the Civil War, he sold off his Galveston assets and moved to New York entering the brokerage business where he arranged goods and supplies sent to Texas. He died while on a visit to his son in Lynchburg, Texas in 1869.