Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20183808

State: Alabama Year: 1838
Location: Bibb Location Type: County

Abstract: Richard Wood seeks his share of the estate bequeathed to him by his maternal grandfather, William Davis. In his 1821 will, Davis devised to the children of his daughter, Sally Wood, "the following named property to wit one negro fellow named Bob and one girl named Hannah together with the increase of the Said Hannah." After Sally died, the petitioner's father, Joseph Wood, obtained possession of the slaves bequeathed to her children. Since Davis's death, Hannah has had three little boys, the oldest of whom is eight. Wood estimates the annual hiring proceeds of these slaves to be between three and four hundred dollars. And he charges that his father has used funds from the estate to buy another slave named Hannah and her two children, Bill and Milly. He has also traded Bob for another slave named Joe. Since her purchase, Milly "has had three children the oldest being as he believes some five years old." Richard sought a settlement share of $3,116 from Wood and the estate executors, but they countered with $500, a sum he deems unacceptable. Thus he petitions the court to divide up the estate, selling the slaves if necessary, so that he may have his rightful portion.

PAR Number 20183812

State: Alabama Year: 1838
Location: Marshall Location Type: County

Abstract: Jesse Carr, through his guardian and next friend David A. Monaghan, asks the court to make William Willborne return six slaves and their children, purchased from him at a price less than half their true value. Monaghan claims that Willborne took advantage of Carr because of his mental incompetence. Monaghan states that his charge is "a man of extremely weak & Unsound mind" declared by a court to be an "idiot or non compos mentis." The petitioners further request "an account be taken of the hire & said defendant compelled to pay the same to said guardian for use & benefit of your Orator."

PAR Number 20183915

State: Alabama Year: 1839
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1835, William Moore hired out his slave, Edmund, to John McNeal for five hundred dollars for a term of three years. McNeal sold the remainder of the slave's term to his brother, James McNeal, "with the understanding that said negro continued with said James C. McNeal until the expiration of the Year 1838 at which time the term of hire expired." Moore charges that James McNeal has kept Edmund and claims to own him, and is planning to take him to Louisiana. The petitioner seeks writs of attachment restraining McNeal from taking the slave with him and attaching McNeal's other property "sufficient to satisfy the damages," citing that Edmund is worth between $1000 and $1500.

PAR Number 20184002

State: Alabama Year: 1840
Location: Lawrence Location Type: County

Abstract: David Cannon, son of Susannah Cannon Thomas, seeks return of a slave belonging to his late mother and an account of proceeds from the slave's hire. The petitioner claims that the slave, fourteen-year-old Moses, was mortgaged by Susan Thomas for $400 to Joseph Martin in 1819. Cannon states that at the time Moses was worth $800 and his hiring proceeds since that time have averaged $120 per year. His mother died sometime around 1827, and Cannon became administrator of his estate in 1838. Upon assuming administration of the estate, he went to Joseph Martin and demanded the return of Moses, noting that the slave's annual hire since the agreement more than covered the amount of the loan. Cannon says that he "made this demand for the purpose of instituting a suit against the said Joseph," but he was prevented from proceeding further by Joseph's death. In the meantime, Joseph had given Moses to his son, Hunter Martin, who is now administrator of his father's estate. Cannon seeks the return of the slave and an account of his hire. In his answer, Hunter Martin asserts that he found a document among his father's papers proving that there Susannah Thomas had sold the slave to his father, and the great length of time elapsed since then made David Cannon's request a "monstrosity."

PAR Number 20184008

State: Alabama Year: 1840
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: William Hawthorn seeks to recover slaves that were devised by deed of gift to his late father, Benjamin Hawthorn, by James Hawthorn Sr., his late grandfather. This is William's second petition on the subject. In his first petition, he sought to recover Hannah, the daughter of Dorcas, one of the slaves devised by his grandfather, and Hannah's children. In this petition, he seeks to recover Dorcas and her son Jack, and Nell, another slave devised by James Hawthorn Sr. to Benjamin, and Nell's family. William Hawthorn alleges that his uncle, James Hawthorn Jr., and his aunt, Annis Hawthorn Cameron, procured through a fraudulent deed of gift slaves that rightfully belong to him and his siblings -- the grandchildren and heirs of James Hawthorn Sr. The petitioner claims that James Jr. and Annis "had full and perfect knowledge ... that said negro slaves Dorcas and Nell, of right would be the property of your Orator and his brother and sisters," but "notwithstanding that knowledge," they conspired "with a view to deprive fraudulently your Orator and his co-heirs that little pittance which a generous grandfather had given and a frugal father had preserved to them." The "generous grandfather" and the "frugal father" were both dead by 1824 and William asserts that the rightful heirs should have received the slaves at that time.

PAR Number 20184111

State: Alabama Year: 1841
Location: Russell Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioner, William Hargrove, has numerous complaints relating to slaves levied to satisfy a judgment against him by the Branch Bank at Montgomery. Hargrove claims that he was only acting as security for other defendants in the suits, and that they are now conspiring with Sheriff Benjamin H. Baker to make him responsible for paying all of the damages. Hargrove further complains that Baker refuses to return the slaves even though he has given ample security for them. Hargrove further complains that a judgment obtained against him by James S. Calhoun and Charles L. Bass, regarding the hire of a slave named Harry, was based on incomplete testimony, and that he was denied the right to appeal. Hargrove asks the court to subpoena the parties to answer all charges and to prevent any further proceedings in the cases. He also prays that an injunction be issued against Baker requiring him "to abstain from all further proceedings on said executions" and require him to return the slaves.

PAR Number 20184201

State: Alabama Year: 1842
Location: Lauderdale Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Dillahunty was "appointed administrator of all and singular the goods and chattels rights and credits of one John B. Dillahunty." The deceased left three children -- Samuel, Elizabeth, and John -- who are all under the age of fourteen. Henry asks permission, on behalf of these minor heirs, to sell portions of land in the estate, citing that "it would be more advantageous to the Heirs of the said deceasant to sell the real than the personal estate of said intestate as the same cannot be fairly and beneficially divided." In the year 1840, Dillahunty had hired seven slaves from the estate of W. T. Rucker.

PAR Number 20184209

State: Alabama Year: 1842
Location: Barbour Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1819 William H. Compton executed a deed of gift to his daughter Euphemia Compton Stafford whereby she would receive "a negro girl named Tisby and her increase, remainder to the heirs of said Euphemia." Both Tisby and Euphemia bore children -- Tisby bore a son named Nelson and Euphemia gave birth to the petitioner, Mary Stafford McDonald. Now Mary McDonald and her husband, Neal McDonald, sue one Seaborn Lewis claiming that, by a pretended 1835 purchase from James Stafford, the late Euphemia's husband, he defrauded them of Nelson, their rightful inheritance. The McDonalds claim that Lewis received Nelson from Stafford to pay a gambling debt, while he well knew that the slave belonged to Mary, Euphemia's heir. They ask that the slave be returned to them and that an account be made of his yearly value since he has been in Lewis's possession. They estimate that "said negro slave is worth Five hundred dollars & that his yearly value ... is about forty dollars." The McDonalds hasten to add "that said negro boy is valuable to them as a part of a family of slaves having been raised in the family ... and that no pecuniary consideration would induce them to give up their claim to him."

PAR Number 20184302

State: Alabama Year: 1843
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: On 8 December 1835, Ransom Foulkes and Francis Marshall received the slave Tabby and her three children, Fanny, Richard and Edward, in trust for Harriet Hamblin "to have & enjoy the use & possession of the said slaves & the increase thereof ... & at her death to be equally divided between the children of the said Daniel H & Harriet Hamblin." Harriet died in 1840. By 1843, Tabby has given birth to two more children. Now Harriet's children and the trustees ask for authority to sell the slaves, since "it is impossible to divide the said slaves fairly equally & beneficially among the said children."

PAR Number 20184304

State: Alabama Year: 1843
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Grissett, widow of William I. Grissett Sr., and six of her children seek to confirm the slave Spencer as part of her husband's estate. On 13 February 1840, three years prior to his death, William Grissett Sr. purchased twenty-six slaves from his son Benjamin for "valuable consideration." Shortly thereafter, Benjamin was sued for non payment of a promissory note and one of the slaves who had been sold to his father, a thirteen or fourteen-year-old boy named Spencer, was seized to satisfy the debt. The petitioners contend that "said slave Spencer is the true and bona fide property of said estate for whom full consideration was paid by said William," and they pray that the court will restrain "any further proceedings under and by virtue of said execution touching said slave Spencer."

PAR Number 20184314

State: Alabama Year: 1843
Location: Pike Location Type: County

Abstract: Malinda Jerrald requests that the court appoint her as guardian of her daughter. She has served in that capacity in South Carolina for the past ten years, and now has moved to the state of Alabama. Her daughter, Sarah Martha Jerrald, owns eight slaves worth almost thirty-five hundred dollars. Malinda Jerrald does not specify the reason for which her daughter is need of a guardian; whether she is a minor, an unmarried woman, or a person not capable of managing her person and estate for some other reason. In the property inventory report mandated by the court, the sex of one slave may have been incorrectly identified. Maranda or Miranda is identified as a boy. In a related petition, filed after Sarah's death ten years later, the same slaves, with the exception of a man named Reddick, are listed as part of her estate; Maranda is listed as Maranza, a girl.

PAR Number 20184401

State: Alabama Year: 1844
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Ellen Dailey is the administratrix of the estate of her husband, Michael Dailey. She states that Michael and William Clair were the joint owners of seven slaves worth $5000, and that after Michael's death, Clair sold all the slaves to Abram Wolf who "took possession of the same and ever since has received the entire profits of their labor to himself and has rendered no account thereof to your oratrix." The petitioner asks that Wolf pay her one half of the value of the services of the slaves, and that he return to her the slaves to which she is entitled. She notes that "if a division cannot be had without injury that then said slaves be sold and one half of the sum produced by the sale be decreed to your oratrix."

PAR Number 20184502

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1842, Henry J. King, conveyed to Damaris Barnes, and her four children, nineteen slaves to hold "share & share alike, the said Negroes and their increase forever." Damaris gave King two notes for $1,250 each, payable twelve months and two years afterwards, and took possession of the slaves. Later, Damaris married Elza Bland, who "assumed the Control and direction of most of said slaves, and evinced a disposition to possess, manage and use" them for his own benefit. In 1845, the two eldest children, Lucretia and William, ages eighteen and sixteen, left home because of their stepfather's abuse, and now live with their guardian, John S. Barnes, who, along with the other children, has now filed suit seeking compensation of four-fifths of the value of the services of the slaves. They are "family Negroes," Barnes says, and the children feel an "unusual family attachment for them." The plaintiffs ask that the sheriff "take possession of said slaves" and retain them in "safe Custody" until a decree can be issued.

PAR Number 20184526

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1826, Temperance B. Eaton and Lunsford L. Alsobrook of Warren County, North Carolina, signed a premarital agreement placing Temperance's eight slaves in a trust estate for her sole and separate use. In 1836, the couple moved to Alabama, taking with them seven of the trust estate slaves and a new slave traded for the one left behind in North Carolina. In 1838, Temperance asserts, the slaves were "wrongfully and illegally" taken out of her possession and sold at auction "under a certain Deed in Trust made by her said husband." One slave, Dick, was sold to Richard Inge, then to Thomas Tart. When Tart died, Dick came into the possession of Tart's estate administrator, William H. Pratt of Mobile County. Temperance Alsobrook sues Pratt as well as her husband, a "lunatic" from whom she is separated in bed and board, for "the value & amount of the hire & services" of Dick. She argues that Dick is worth fifteen hundred dollars with a yearly hire worth two hundred dollars.

PAR Number 20184619

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1823, James M. Pearson of South Carolina gave his wife Elizabeth Gill a trust estate of ten head of cattle, two horses, household furniture, and four slaves, including Hannah and her children: Isabella, Peter, and Jackson. Later the couple moved to Alabama, and Hannah bore the following children: Sam, Anthony, Eprhaim, Isby, Mariah, and Margaret, while Mariah gave birth to three children, including Hannah and two others whose names are not provided. When Pearson died in around 1836, his father, James A. Pearson, "got said negroes into his possession and sold & disposed" of them. Although the trust deed has been lost, the slaves dispersed, and Hannah has died, Elizabeth Gill seeks the return of her trust slaves, or "the value of said negroes in money" together with "the value of their hire." The related court decree reveals that it is probably that James M. Pearson probably did not have title to the slave family he gave to his wife; the slaves were either loaned to him by his father or the descendants of a slave loaned to him by his father.

PAR Number 20184623

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1838, in order to pay off a small debt and take some time for travel, John E. Hughs conveyed to his brother Abner A. Hughs "seven likely negro slaves," including Alexander, a man; Henderson, age eighteen; Dinah thirty-four; Patsy twelve; Jerry ten; Harry eight; and Reuben about five. In 1840, John Hughs died, and his sister and brother-in-law, Simeon Chapman, became administrators of his estate. Simeon Chapman, suing with his wife, Mary E. Hughs Chapman, now seeks to force Abner to "pay the hire or so much as shall be left after deducting the amount due him and his distributive share." They also sue the other heirs who have declined to join them in their suit. They request that the slaves be sold and the proceeds distributed among heirs.

PAR Number 20184707

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1844, the executor of the estate of Abraham Standifer, deceased, hired out the slave Augustus to Lewis Houston, who gave as payment his promissory note for $125. At the time, the executor, James H. Standifer, was indebted to Houston for a small amount. Shortly afterwards, Robert M. Cunningham, a physician, who was also indebted to Houston, submitted medical bills to the estate. With the executor short of funds, Houston permitted the amount owned him to offset the medical bills with the understanding that the amounts would be deducted from the note he signed to hire Augustus. But in 1845, Standifer transferred Houston's note to Blake Little, who transferred it to William J. Steele, and when James Standifer settled the administration of the estate no mention was made of the amount Houston paid to cancel his note. Meanwhile, the holder of the note filed suit. Houston responds by filing suit himself, "Forasmuch therefore as you orator is without remedy except by the aid of this Honorable Court."

PAR Number 20184709

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Pickens Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1823, Margaret Miliver executed a deed of gift conveying "a certain negro girl named Rose," about seven years of age, to her grandchildren, William and Nancy Ann Seay, the children of her daughter Polly, also called Mary, who was then married to Jennings Seay. After the execution of the deed of gift, Polly had two more children by Jennings Seay. Following Jennings Seay's death, she married James W. Denton, and she had seven more children. The slave Rose now has three children, Mariah, a girl about twelve, Allen, a boy about eight, and Jane a girl about three, "all being of great value towit of the value of sixteen hundred dollars and the yearly value of two Hundred dollars." The petitioners, who are Polly's minor children by James W. Denton, claim that their grandmother's gift was intended to benefit all the children born of Polly's body, present and future. They therefore believe they are entitled to seven-tenths of the slaves. They claim however that they have not received their share of the hire and labor of the slaves, who are in the possession of their stepsisters, Margaret Seay Thomas and Nancy William Seay Waddle and their husbands, with the exception of Allen who is in their father's possession.

PAR Number 20184710

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Clarke Location Type: County

Abstract: By 1836, Clarke County slave owner William Matheson had acquired a sizable estate: a saw and grist mill on the Alabama River, a "great quantity" of wood to supply steamboats, bank bills from various states, bank stock in the Planters and Merchants Bank of Mobile, and "many slaves." In his 1836 will, he bequeathed a slave girl Phillis to his daughter Mariah, and a legacy of thirty thousand dollars to Mariah and his two other daughters, Flora McCaskey Matheson and Caladonia Matheson. He directed that beginning in 1832 Mariah should receive one thousand dollars a year for ten years when she would reach age twenty-one. This was to be paid out of his estate by his executors who were directed to keep the mills and plantation in operation. Following Matheson's death, John Murphy and John Darrington became administrators. But Mariah, a minor, did not receive her bequests. In 1847, she and her husband seek damages from Darrington (Murphy had died), including the original bequests from her father and profits from wood sales and cotton production during the 1830s and early 1840s.

PAR Number 20184716

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: On 25 October 1844, Hardy Jones conveyed to his nephew, General Jackson Bryant, "a parcel of Negroes" for five hundred dollars. The conveyance was made "in consideration of services which the complainant had rendered" to his uncle by "ministering to his comforts and necessities in his sickness and in taking care of him when he seemed to be cast off by his own children." The slaves included thirty-year-old California, twenty-four-year-old July and her children, eighteen- or twenty-year-old Mary, a yellow complexioned woman, Harry, about twenty-eight, Griff, about twenty-three and yellow colored, and Anthony, twenty-five. Since Jones needed the slaves to "gather his crop and comply with the contract which he had made with his overseer," Bryant agreed to hire them back to him at twenty-five dollars per month. Shortly thereafter, Jones died and his heirs took possession of the slaves, including Mary, who was taken by Riley G. Ingraham, Jones's son-in-law. Bryant fears that Mary will be taken out of the state. He asks that Ingraham be subpoenaed, and that the sheriff seize Mary while the case is pending.

PAR Number 20184810

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: When Nancy Griffith died in 1835, her will stipulated that her daughter, Caroline Colgin, should have the "use and benefit of her whole estate, real, personal, and mixed" during her natural life. Griffith also stipulated that following her daughter's death, the estate, including "a large number of valuable slaves," should be equally divided among her daughter's children. When Caroline died in 1839, however, the slaves did not go to her children. Instead, they were "seized and sold" by the sheriff to pay her husband's debts. Several of the slaves, including twenty-year-old Jesse, were then worth more than eight hundred dollars; and a number of them would hire out for at least two hundred dollars per year. Now, Caroline's children sue their own father, Edward B. Colgin, as well as the buyers of the slaves, to get compensated for the loss of their inheritance.

PAR Number 20184833

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: On Christmas Day 1848, Albert G. Wray of Montgomery County, Alabama, sued his wife for divorce. Albert Wary had married Susan Mary Cox in 1833, in Georgia, and in 1842 they moved to Alabama. He continued to live with his wife until 15 October 1848, when he discovered that she was having a "carnal connection" with C. G. M. Prime, a portrait painter and physician. Albert asks the court to dissolve the marriage and issue a divorce decree. In her answer, Susan explains that she now lives in Oglethorp County, Georgia, with her mother. She had married Albert when she was "not exceeding sixteen years of age." She claims that, within six months of the marriage, his conduct became "cold, indifferent, distant, harsh and cruel ... better the relation of master and servant than husband & wife." He repeatedly "used violence ... shoving her down violently, boxing her jaws and face and committing other personal injuries on her body." A year after their marriage, she asserts, her husband began "a promiscuous illicit intercourse with his own negroe wenches and continued ... so long as complainant and defendant resided together, say for the space of fourteen years." Albert had in fact a special relationship with a female slave named Mary, a seamstress, who, Susan claims, bore him four "mulatto" children. In the summer and fall of 1843, Susan suffered mental breakdowns, and since then has "enjoyed but few lucid intervals." Her mental problems are a direct result of the cruel and inhuman treatment by her husband, she asserts. Now "ruined in mind, broken in Spirits," she is accused of adultery with C. G. M. Prime, "a drunken worthless vagabond" hired by her husband to "take advantage of defendant's mental imbecility." In her answer and counter-petitions, Susan reveals that her husband was the owner of eighty-five slaves, some of whom he had received upon his marriage to her. The related decree reveals that Susan was in fact in a mental institution by the time the court issued its decree in 1850.

PAR Number 20184902

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: At her death in 1823, Elizabeth Brewer of Limestone County bequeathed to her daughter Mary Horton, wife of John B. Horton, two female slaves, Winney and Harriet. The slaves were to be given to Mary in the form of a life estate. According to the terms of the will, at Mary's death the slaves would go to Brewer's grandchildren. In time, the slave Winney gave birth to three children: Lina, Alick, and John, and in 1844 the slave Harriet died in childbirth, leaving a daughter named Mary (frequently called Molly). The baby slave Mary was entrusted to the care of Mary Horton's daughter, Maranda who, "by great care and attention personally bestowed by her in nurturing said child, succeeded in raising it, and ... she was assured by her father, and sisters, that she should have said girl Molly, in addition to her distributive share of the balance of said slaves." Mary Horton died in 1836. Maranda has recently married John P. Willis, and her father has taken the young slave Mary from her possession. Now, Maranda and her new husband seek to regain possession of Mary as well as acquire a distributive share of the other slaves--Linda, now about twenty-one, Alick about nineteen, and John about sixteen.

PAR Number 20184905

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: In January 1848, the sheriff of Lowndes County, seized and sold a slave named Mourning from Michael O'Connor for nonpayment of debts. O'Connor was in possession of the slave by virtue of his marriage to Sarah Youngblood. He charges that Sheriff James K. Whitman confederated with James K. Whitman, a creditor, and Thomas B. Youngblood, Sarah's son from a former marriage, to defraud him. O'Connor writes that after taking Mourning into his possession, the sheriff put her up for bid, announcing that she was the property of his wife, Sarah O'Connor, with a lifetime title restriction. As a result, at the auction Mourning fetched a sale price of only $101, one-fourth of her value. While Thomas Youngblood was bidding for the slave, James Whitman remained silent. In this way, O'Connor explains, the creditor received the small amount due him, and the buyer got a bargain on the slave. O'Connor claims that he was the true owner of the slave. He seeks to have her returned to him along with the value of her yearly hire from the time of the sale to the present.

PAR Number 20184908

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: James A. Pearson, an elderly slave owner from Lowndes County, writes that in 1844 he "became embarrassed in his pecuniary affairs" and traveled to Tallapoosa County, to ask his son-in-law, Isaac T. Smith, for a loan. His son-in-law's father, also Isaac Smith, agreed to loan him $196, but asked Pearson to put up as collateral three slaves--January, a blacksmith, and "Sillar a Girl and Jack a boy." When asked to sign a bill of sale for his slaves, Pearson balked, but he later agreed when Isaac T. Smith offered him a promissory note for four hundred dollars signed by father and son. During the next few years, Isaac T. Smith, "disregarding the dictates of honesty and fair dealing," conspired and confederated with his father to defraud Pearson of the labor of his slaves, even when Pearson, his wife, and his daughter moved to Isaac T. Smith's farm and lived with the family. In 1849, Pearson asks that the note be revoked, the bill of sale cancelled, and the slaves returned, as their labor has more than compensated the Smiths for the original loan.

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