Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10379002

State: Delaware Year: 1790
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Sluyter Bouchell represents that "he was altogether ignorant of any Law whatever forbidding the bringing Slaves in the State under any circumstances." Dr. Bouchell admits that, while administrating the estate of Thomas Witherspoon, "he found it necessary to purchase some additional Slaves whom he brought over about the time of his removal into this State from the State of Maryland." Noting that Abraham, Edward, William, and Rainy have "since instituted their actions for their Freedom," the petitioner asserts "that the Slaves all came willingly into the service of your Petitioner and as he believes are still content to serve him but as they have been instigated by some officious persons to apply for there Freedoms." Bouchell asks the legislature to assist him in preventing “the loss of said Slaves.”

PAR Number 11000021

State: Mississippi

Abstract: South Carolina resident William H. Taylor is the uncle and guardian of Thomas, Frances, and William Taylor, minor heirs to an estate "consisting chiefly of negroes." The minors live in South Carolina, but the slaves are in Warren County, Mississippi. Taylor states that he finds it finds it difficult to manage the slaves and hire a suitable overseer from such a distance. He asks the legislature for permission to transport the slaves to South Carolina.

PAR Number 11281608

State: North Carolina Year: 1816
Location: Bertie Location Type: County

Abstract: Willis, "formerly the property of William T. Thompson," recounts that he "has belonged to the family of the Thompsons from his infancy until the year 1814." He proudly asserts that during such time "he hath performed many & important services for his respective masters, having for a great part of the time served them as Superintendant or Overseer." Willis acknowledges that the said William T. directed that, at his death, "your Petr. should be sold with a view ... that he your Petr. might purchase his own freedom." He states that the executor of Thomas's estate sold him to one William Carnal from whom he purchased his freedom and that the court was "pleased to order adjudge & decree your Petr. on complying with the provisions of an act of assembly ... should be set free." Having complied with said provisions, Willis discloses, however, that "the Court did not give your Petr. a name or stile by which he can purchase or transfer property, sue or be sued, plead or be impleaded or otherwise enjoy many of the rights and privileges of a free person of Colour." The petitioner therefore prays that an act be passed "emancipating your Petr. by the name of Willis Thompson."

PAR Number 11380003

State: South Carolina Year: 1800
Location: Colleton Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Major Brown, the widow of Joseph Chandler Brown, laments that her husband "was killed on the spot" by the gunfire of "a gang of runaway negroes, the property of divers persons not living in that neighbourhood; and who infested that part of the country, then very thinly inhabited by white inhabitants." Brown reveals that she, "together with four small children, the oldest not thirteen years of age, are reduced to the utmost distress as the labor of the deceased was their only support." The petitioner, "confiding in the legallity of her claim, as sanctioned by the eighth paragraph of the Act for the better ordering & Governing Negroes, but yet more in the justice and humanity of this Honourable House," prays for relief.

PAR Number 11380015

State: South Carolina Year: 1800
Location: Colleton Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Major Brown, the widow of Joseph Chandler Brown, laments that her husband "was killed on the spot" by the gunfire of "a gang of runaway negroes, the property of divers persons, not living in that neighbourhood; and who infested that part of the country, then very thinly inhabited by white inhabitants." Brown reveals that she, "together with four small children, the oldest not thirteen years of age, are now reduced to the utmost distress as the labor of the deceased was their only support." The petitioner, "confiding in the legallity of her claim, as sanctioned by the eighth paragraph of the Act for the better ordering & Governing Negroes, but yet more in the justice & humanity of this Honorable House," prays for relief.

PAR Number 11382009

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eighty-six "mechanics and undertakers in the Town of Columbia" seek legislation prohibiting slave owners and overseers from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. Self-hired slaves not only became contractors, or "undertakers" of jobs themselves, the petitioners complain, but they take "apprentices in the various mechanical arts exercised on and practiced in the said Towns whereby your Petitioners are often deprived of Jobs & employment in their respective trades." The petitioners seek a law with "certain and heavy penalties" to constrain owners or managers from permitting slaves to hire their own time. They also seek to penalize those who hire such slaves and to halt the practice of slaves hiring apprentices.

PAR Number 11382010

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eighty-six "mechanics and undertakers in the Town of Columbia" seek legislation prohibiting slave owners and overseers from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. Self-hired slaves not only became contractors, or "undertakers" of jobs themselves, the petitioners complain, but they take "apprentices in the various mechanical arts exercised on and practiced in the said Towns whereby your Petitioners are often deprived of Jobs & employment in their respective trades." The petitioners seek a law with "certain and heavy penalties" to constrain owners or managers from permitting slaves to hire their own time. They also seek to penalize those who hire such slaves and to halt the practice of slaves hiring apprentices.

PAR Number 11384807

State: South Carolina Year: 1848
Location: Claremont Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Richard Singleton, executor of the estate of John Singleton, seeks compensation for a slave, Dick, who was convicted and executed in 1826 in Sumter District. He also seeks compensation for Paul and Bacchus, who were convicted and executed in 1843 in Richland District for murdering their overseer.

PAR Number 11680401

State: Virginia Year: 1804
Location: Lancaster Location Type: County

Abstract: Catharine Bond seeks compensation for her slave Daniel, executed for murdering William Mitchell, a white man. The court allowed only $78 for Daniel, a "very strong healthy young man.," an amount she deemed "very inadequate." She claims that she had been offered between 90 and 95 pounds for Daniel.

PAR Number 11680402

State: Virginia Year: 1804
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1802, Vincent Fortune was summoned as a witness in a trial against William Scott, "a negro Criminal charged with petty-Larceny." On the day of the trial, as he was preparing to go to court, Fortune was informed by William Duncan, "a Man of respectable Character in whose service he then was an overseer," that no "Criminal Business would come on the first day" of court. He therefore did not go to court that day. The next day, as he again prepared to go to court, he learned that the trial had taken place and the accused had been convicted. He later moved from the county of Transylvania to the county of Louisa, and while there he was served with an execution against him by the sheriff, for the sum of one hundred dollars which represented the sum he had signed on for his recognizance to appear in court. Fortune claims that he did intend to appear in court but failed to do so due to misinformation regarding the trial. He asks the legislature to extricate him from the "wretched situation" in which he and his family will be placed if the execution is enforced.

PAR Number 11680509

State: Virginia Year: 1805
Location: Stafford Location Type: County

Abstract: William Fitzhugh writes that on 2 January 1805, there was a "general insurrection of the Slaves" on his plantation called Chatham in Stafford County. One of his slaves, Philip, was killed and another, James, drowned while attempting to swim across the Rappahannock River. Fitzhugh asks for compensation.

PAR Number 11680702

State: Virginia Year: 1807
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1787, Ambrose Walden married Betsey Taylor of Fauquier County, and lived with her until 1798, "during which period" he "endeavored by every means in his power to render happy the woman whom he had selected and flattered himself with accomplishing so desireable an object." He would have persisted in these endeavors, Walden claims, had he not, in 1798, "detected her in an illicit amour" with a man in the neighborhood. Now, nine years later, he seeks a divorce. Related documents reveal that Walden may have been diagnosed as being insane and that, as early as 1804, a court of law had reviewed a property settlement whereby a trust was to be created for the use of Betsey Walden. The property under review included seven slaves.

PAR Number 11681709

State: Virginia Year: 1817
Location: Bedford Location Type: County

Abstract: Sopha Dobyns, daughter of the late Colonel Thomas Septwick, was married to Jonah Dobyns at age sixteen. She now complains that, after two years her husband, began to abuse and beat her, and continued to do so for the next four years. She escaped her husband's mistreatment by retreating to her father's house on several occasions, but when she returned home, Dobyns would whip her and threaten to take her life. One visitor to the plantation testified, in a related document, that he heard Dobyns boast "in her absence he had taken one of his own Negroe Women into her bed and that he would do it again whenever it Suited him." Sopha's father is now dead and he has left her a trust estate in slaves ample enough for her comfortable maintenance and that of her children. She seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11681904

State: Virginia Year: 1819
Location: Nottoway Location Type: County

Abstract: About 1801, free-born black Charles Cousins, a "professor of religion," shoemaker, and plantation manager, "took to himself" a slave wife, Aggy, who in 1810 was put up for sale as part of an estate. Cousins arranged for Thomas Howlett, a white man, to purchase Aggy, and about 1812, he repaid Howlett the full purchase price, receiving a "release or bill of sale" and full title of ownership. At age about sixty, Cousins worries that if he were to die before his wife she would not retain her freedom, nor can he now emancipate her and have her remain in the state more than one year. He asks permission to emancipate his wife and for her to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11682105

State: Virginia Year: 1821
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: After serving Thomas Campbell for more than forty-five years, the slave Roger was freed by the last will of testament of Campbell's son, John Campbell, who had inherited him from his father. However, soon after acquiring his right to freedom, Roger was re-enslaved by the late John's brother, Thomas Campbell Jr., and remained in slavery for approximately two more years. Roger brought suit in the county court and his freedom was confirmed. Now he faces the prospect of having to emigrate as required by the law. Old and infirm he would certainly suffer greatly in "some distant and unknown land." The petitioner has inherited a large part of John Campbell's estate and he is "willing to be the security of the said Roger that he shall never become a burden to the public and to give further security if deem'd necessary to support him during his natural life, as he believes that himself and his family are now enjoying the fruits of the labour of said Roger."

PAR Number 11682112

State: Virginia Year: 1821
Location: Lee Location Type: County

Abstract: Emancipated by his master Thomas Blakemore "on account of his faithful services, and uniform good demeanor whilst his Slave," Thomas Richards seeks to enjoy his freedom in Virginia, "his Native state." He has a slave wife and several slave children living in the neighborhood. He can produce certificates from the most respectable residents. Richards described himself as a person of "sobriety, order, & uprightness of his Character." Richards's assessment of his character is fully supported by his former owner, Thomas Blakemore, who testifies in a related document that he had "never known a more honest, orderly or well behaved man of any color in his life." Thomas Blakemore had owned Thomas Richards for about twelve years; he had received him as a gift from his father who had owned Thomas for more than thirty years.

PAR Number 11684501

State: Virginia Year: 1845
Location: Nelson Location Type: County

Abstract: Nelson Tinsley represents that, "with a view to a permanent settlement, he sent to the State of Missouri, sometime in the fall of 1839 in charge of his son William H. Tinsley sundry slaves." The petitioner discloses that his son has died and that, due to "the unhealthiness of the climate and other causes," he has "abandoned all idea of removing himself to the state of Missouri." Tinsley states that said slaves "were either given to him by his father or raised by himself and for whom he has a more than ordinary attachment" and that "he is desirous to bring them back to Virginia." Aware that "the existing laws of the Commonwealth" prevent his ability to do so, the petitioner prays "of your honourable body the passage of such a law ... as will enable him to bring back from the state of Missouri to the state of Virginia the slaves."

PAR Number 11684804

State: Virginia Year: 1848
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: Eighty-seven residents of Clarksville ask that John and Lewis Wimbish be permitted to operate a ferry across the Roanoke River. Currently, the only ferry is operated by James Somerville, who charges them "the full charges allowed by Law," sixteen cents for each "boy and horse with his bag." They also pay the same when they have business across the river at the court house. Moreover, Somerville "keeps no person to attend to the ferry, except his own slaves, having not even an overseer on his large Estate to superintend." The ferry "is notoriously the very worst Kept" on the river. Wimbish, on the other hand, will "allow them to take the Ferry by paying a reasonable Yearly amount So that the poor man Can carry his grain to the Mills."

PAR Number 11684908

State: Virginia Year: 1849
Location: Hampshire Location Type: County

Abstract: Aaron Howard, a free man of color, informs the legislature that he was a faithful, honest, and peaceful slave, not addicted to drunkenness, gaming, or other vices. He was promised his freedom by his owner, Robert Sherrard, but the latter died before he could grant it. Colonel Sherrard's son and heir, John B. Sherrard, emancipated Howard. Now, two years later, Howard asks to remain in Virginia. He is the superintendent on a farm owned by Robert B. Sherrard, John's brother and another of the late Col. Sherrard's sons.

PAR Number 11686202

State: Virginia Year: 1862
Location: Goochland Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-four citizens of Goochland County represent that Dr. John Morris "has been for the last ten years or more afflicted by a disease of the spine, which has rendered him utterly incapable of walking ... in consequence of such disease he is altogether incapable of attending to out door business of any kind whatever." They further reveal that said Morris "is the owner of some fifty or sixty slaves and a large plantation" and that his four sons all volunteered "for the War." The petitioners assert that Morris's overseer "has also been called out with the militia and unless he be relieved by your interposition will leave home for the seat of war in a few days." They therefore pray that William P. Crowder, the said overseer, be exempted "from service in the militia so long as he continues in his present employment."

PAR Number 20184413

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

Abstract: Winney Jeter seeks to dissolve her marriage to Samuel Jeter and receive support from him. She writes that in August 1842 her husband "formed an illicit and adulterous intercourse with his overseer's wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Beard. She claims that Elizabeth Beard was "a known prostitute." Winney says that Samuel's behavior has "become so cruel barbarous and inhumane as to create an alarm for her personal safety." The petitioner cites one occasion when her husband beat her with "a large walking cane" and only the intervention of her seventeen-year-old son spared her a fatal injury. She has now left her home and seeks the protection and support of the court. Winney testifies that prior to the marriage she owned about seven hundred dollars and "five Negroes which with their increase up to the present time including those sold by the defendant amount to fourteen negroes." She notes that the defendant now possesses forty-three Negroes, "most of which are valuable," and that he also owns a considerable amount of property including land worth at least eight thousand dollars and cash amounting to about twelve hundred dollars. The petitioner, with the support of her brother and next friend, Asa R. Cone, seeks a court order or seizure of the defendant's personal property to pay the costs of the suit and alimony, a dissolution of the marriage, an answer from the defendant, and all other proper relief.

PAR Number 20184503

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

Abstract: In February 1840, Peter Williamson and Arthur F. Williamson became farming partners, renting a plantation from Edmund Tatum on the Alabama River in Lowndes County. They agreed to divide the profits in proportion to the number of slaves each provided (Peter nine and Arthur five) and that Peter's overseer Richard Clanton would work the hands. Before the crop was harvested, Arthur complained that Peter was indulging "a negro woman in a state of pregnancy ... although the said negro was employed in the service of the family during the time she was withdrawn from the labours of the plantation." To satisfy his partner, Peter agreed to split that year's cotton profits of $1,178.19 down the middle. The two had another dispute over Peter's purchase of "a negro boy named Dick." The partnership continued, however, but in 1845 Peter filed suit, charging, among other things, that Arthur failed to produce an account of profits from the 1843 cotton crop, and refused to pay his share of the bills. The dispute also involved a debt due by Arthur for the hire, in the year 1839, of a slave belonging to William Tatum, a minor, who was Peter's stepson and for whom Peter was guardian.

PAR Number 20184507

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

Abstract: Following the death of her parents, Missouri Boyett was left "without any other white person" on their plantation. She was the owner of ten slaves who came from her father's estate and whom she had purchased from her mother. With little knowledge of business, and "being scarcely able to read & to write her name," she hired Andrew Edwards as an overseer and manager. According to Missouri, she soon discovered that he was seeking to deprive her of her property. She claims that he virtually stole one of her slaves and later hired him out. He then tricked her into signing a bill of sale for five slaves--Abram, Isham, Bailus, Joe, and Moses--and signing a promissory note for twenty-five hundred dollars. The bill of sale was executed as a mortgage to secure the payment on the promissory note. Edwards then transferred the bill of sale and mortgage note to James W. Alford. She never "obtained any thing of the smallest value" for either the bill or the note, she asserts, and now is "absolutely penniless & stripped of her property." If nothing is done, she will be "totally ruined & rendered bankrupt." She charges fraud and seeks relief. A related document reveals that one of the slaves, Abram, had been sent to Mississippi to shield him from the law, as he had been charged with a crime. The same document also reveals that Missouri may have had plans to send Abram to Ohio to be freed. A related petition gives the name of Missouri's mother as Sarah Boyett.

PAR Number 20184625

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

Abstract: In 1838, slave owner James B. May died, leaving a will instructing his wife Mahala to serve as executrix, pay his debts, keep his plantation "under the superintendence of a good overseer," and educate his children. In the will, he also appointed his brother Philip as an executor. In 1842, Philip resigned as administrator of the estate, which at that point owned fifteen slaves. In 1844, Mahala started dividing the property among her children according to the will's instructions. By 1845, all property had been distributed among the heirs. In 1845, Mahala remarried, and the following year she sued Philip, as former administrator of the estate and guardian of some of her minor children, George Harper, as guardian of her other minor children, and Mary B. and Benjamin Cook, her married daughter and son-in-law. She and her new husband claim that, after Mahala took over administration of the estate in 1842 and while she kept the plantation going for several years, according to her late husband's wishes, she expended money on farming operations and for the maintenance and education of her children, and that the defendants, as heirs and guardians of the heirs, refuse to reimburse such expenses from their inheritance.

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.

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