Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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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 20881520

State: Louisiana Year: 1815
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Stephen Nunes petitions to recover possession of a plantation, cattle, and slaves wrongfully seized by James Hotz. Nunes represents that, on 4 January 1811, Hotz sold him a plantation together with the "sugar buildings & other Edifices, implements of agriculture, cattle, also seven head of slaves" for the price of $15,000, which was payable in six yearly installments. In May 1812, Hotz ordered Nunes "off the plantation" without due cause. Nunes sued and was awarded the property by jury. Nunes prays that the judge honor the jury's decision and that Hotz "be adjudged to deliver up the Possession and Property" and pay $12,000 damages.

PAR Number 20881603

State: Louisiana Year: 1816
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: John Johnson, a sixteen-year-old man of color, seeks his freedom. Johnson represents that he was born of free parents in the state of New York and came to New Orleans as a waiter for Celestine Troudou, wife of Major General James Wilkinson of the United States Army. In February 1816, Troudou sold the petitioner as a slave to Sosthene Allen. Johnson now works on a sugar plantation "where he has been held and treated as a slave in the most cruel manner." Johnson argues "that even if his parents were slaves in the State of New York yet by the laws of that state he was not liable to be held as a slave in the said State, after he had arrived at the age of 21 years. And by the laws of the said State had he been born a slave he was entitled to his freedom the moment he was removed beyond the limits of said State." In consequence of these facts, Johnson prays to be set free. He also asks that Sosthene Allen be condemned to pay him wages for his labor. He further prays to be sequestered and hired out by the sheriff until this suit is settled.

PAR Number 20881767

State: Louisiana Year: 1817
Location: St. Mary Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Dempsey Snipes, John Pattie, Allen Key, and William Harris petition for the sale of "Five African Negroes" that they assert were illegally imported and therefore forfeited to the state and to themselves as informers. On the 18th of August 1817, the petitioners did "seize and take as forfeited ... five African negroes, to wit, two females, one of whom is from six to ten years of age ... & the other between ten and fifteen years of age" and "Three boys all between ten & twenty years of ages." According to the petitioners, "all of said negroes were brought & imported from a foreign Port or Place into the said Parish of St. Mary, contrary to & in direct violation of the laws of the United States and the State of Louisiana." The petitioners pray that the five Africans will be "forfeited to the use of the said State of Louisiana and to the Said Snipes, Pattie, Key and Harris as informers and as such that they may be sold and disposed of according to" law.

PAR Number 20881916

State: Louisiana Year: 1819
Location: St. James Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Charles André Cerisay, Sheriff of St. James Parish, submits that a runaway slave named Etienne, who has been confined to his jail since the 4th of June 1817, claims to belong to Mr. Robis, a sugar planter from the "the Terre aux boeufs," below New Orleans. However, Cerisay claims, nobody has in fact claimed Etienne in the two years since he placed an "advertisement in two NewsPapers of the City of New Orleans in french and English." During that time Etienne has remained in jail at his expense. Cerisay therefore claims that he is now authorized by the "twenty ninth Section of the black Code" to sell Etienne at public auction. He prays that Etienne be "sold to the highest bidder for Cash, after the publications required by the law," so that he may be "reimbursed of the expenses incurred" for the maintenance of the confined slave.

PAR Number 20881931

State: Louisiana Year: 1819
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Victorine Fortier prays for a separation of bed and board from her husband Nicolas Noel Destrehan. Victorine represents that, since she "contracted marriage with" Destrehan in May of the year 1814, she has always done "everything in her power" to preserve between her and her husband "that love, friendship, confidence and good harmony, without which there can be no happiness in matrimony." Despite all her efforts, however, Destrehan has continually treated her cruelly and outrageously. Furthermore, Destrehan has now taken to slandering her character by publicly accusing her of adultery and prostitution. Victorine Fortier Destrehan therefore prays for a separation of bed and board from her husband, an inventory and appraisement of all their "joint and separate" property, both "moveables and immoveables," that are in his possession. She also asks for $200 per month in alimony, which she avers "is by no means disproportionate to his means," considering that he owns a large sugar plantation and slaves that annually bring him upwards of $15,000.

PAR Number 20882519

State: Louisiana Year: 1825
Location: West Feliciana Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Susan Black petitions for a separation of property and of bed and board from her husband, William Black. Susan claims that, since 1820, she has received “cruel and unmerited treatment” from William to the point that she finds living with him “entirely insupportable.” According to Susan, William has verbally abused her and their three children. He has threatened to bring her to “ruin and take away her life.” At the time of her marriage, Susan “possessed a considerable estate consisting of lands, slaves,” livestock, and personal property. However, Susan maintains, William's mismanagement has been so “injudicious” that her whole estate is “nearly exhausted,” and that all her “dotal” effects will be wasted and dissipated before the trial. She asks for a separation of property, separation of bed and board, custody of their children. She also prays for an order directing that all personal property owned by William as well as the community property owned by the two of them be sequestered pending the decision of the court.

PAR Number 20882908

State: Louisiana Year: 1829
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Gilbert Russell and Henry Barstow, merchants operating under the firm G. E. Russell & Barstow, seek to collect a debt. They explain that Durham Tudor Hall issued to them two promissory notes worth $3,062 each. The notes are now past due yet Hall refuses to honor them. Russell and Barstow pray that Hall be ordered to pay the notes with interest. A related document reveals that Hall owned two-hundred-and-fifty slaves.

PAR Number 20882923

State: Louisiana Year: 1829
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Paulin Verret presents to the court that, after the death of the late Maximilien Ricard, his widow Marie Louise Ricard became the tutrix of their minor children, Clotilde, Telcide, Paulin and Marie Louise. Verret was appointed "under tutor" of the children. The widow Ricard has also now died and the children are without "a guardian or tutors or curators." Verret therefore asks that a family meeting be convened so that the minors can be provided with guardians, tutors and curators as the law provide. The Ricards relatives are free people of color and slave owners. Related petitions reveal that Paulin Verret was also a free man of color.

PAR Number 20882943

State: Louisiana Year: 1829
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Rosalie Belly, a free woman of color, presents to the court that she is the widow of the late Antoine Dubuclet, to whom she was "lawfully married" and by whom she had eleven children, several of whom are still minors. She further presents that her husband's estate is substantial, consisting of some community property and some property owned individually by her or her husband. Rosalie Belly Dubuclet, desirous of preserving the rights of her children as well as her own, asks to be confirmed as tutor of her underage children. She also suggests that an "under tutor" be appointed for her minor children under the age of puberty and that the minor children above the age of puberty be allowed to choose their own "curator." She also asks for an "inventory and appraisement" of the community property and the property of her late husband. Although a related petition indicates that Antoine Dubuclet may have been a man of mixed race, he and his children have been identified as "black" in this petition, because no specific information is provided regarding their color. A related petition reveals that Antoine Dubuclet was a "mulatto."

PAR Number 20883019

State: Louisiana Year: 1830
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: John de Maison Rouge represents that he is a brick mason by trade who has "turned his attention to the setting of Sugar Kettles." Further, "by a studious attention to his business," he has "discovered a mode of setting Sugar Kettles, by which the quantity of fuel required for making Sugar is materially reduced." Hoping to establish "a good reputation in the Parish of St. Landry," de Maison Rouge entered into a contract for such work with Baptiste Meuillon, a free man of color. In order to prove the effectiveness of his new design, de Maison Rouge "drafted a plan, calculated from the dimensions of the Kettles to be set," and showed it to Meuillon, "who was immediately convinced of the great advantage" of the plan. Having entered into the contract, Meuillon asked to keep the plans; de Maison Rouge agreed on the condition that Meuillon would not show them to his competition, to which Meuillon agreed. However, before the work began, Meuillon did show the plans to one of de Maison Rouge's competitors "with whom he concluded a bargain for the setting of his Sugar Kettles." In consequence, de Maison Rouge lost the contract, causing him to lose $2,000 in wages and other damages. De Maison Rouge prays that Meuillon be decreed to pay him that sum plus costs of the suit.

PAR Number 20883106

State: Louisiana Year: 1831
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Bernard Ostin, a brick mason, claims that Valerien Auzenne, a free man of color and a planter, owes him $900, which he “injustly detains.” Ostin represents that, in 1830, Auzenne and Mrs. Déjean contracted with him to build two sugar houses. Because of the large size of the project, Ostin agreed to do the work for $1.50 per 1000 for the brick work, half of what he normally charges, thus turning down other more lucrative and more convenient jobs. After quickly completing Mrs. Déjean’s sugar house, Ostin proceeded to work for Auzenne, who soon informed him that his services were no longer needed and that other parties had been contracted to complete the work. Ostin now alleges that Auzenne "fraudulently represented" the work to be done, causing him to suffer damages in the amount of $900: $500 for “work refused” to others, $200 for the difference between his regular price and the contracted price, and $200 for work completed prior to his dismissal. He therefore prays for an order condemning Auzenne to pay him $900. In his related answer, Auzenne charges that Ostin did not start the work on time and was absent for many days, drinking to excess and engaging in other "debaucheries," and keeping "hands" on the plantation idle as they waited for his return to the task. As work on the sugar house was not progressing as promised, fear of economic consequences forced Auzenne to discharge Ostin.

PAR Number 20883201

State: Louisiana Year: 1832
Location: St. James Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Joseph Gauthreaux, a planter, presents to the court that Olivier Leblanc, also a planter, is indebted to him "in the sum of two hundred and eighteen dollars." Gauthreaux alleges that, in the fall of 1830, he and Leblanc had agreed to "unite" all their hands, "negroes and white men," to grind their canes together in Gauthreaux's sugar house. The initial agreement was that each man would provide food for his "hands." Subsequently, Gauthreaux claims, Leblanc asked him to provide the food for all the hands and promised to pay him for his men's share. Gauthreaux agreed and fed the men for sixty-four days, at a total cost of $268. However, Leblanc has "refused and neglected" to pay and "still neglects and refuses to pay," although "amicably asked to do so." Gauthreaux therefore asks the court to order Leblanc to pay the debt of $268 plus interest [Original in English and French; French version incomplete].

PAR Number 20883316

State: Louisiana Year: 1833
Location: West Baton Rouge Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Céleste Bunard presents to the court she has been married to Jacques Molaison since 1807 and has borne him eleven children, eight of whom are still living. However, she can no longer live with him "on account of the cruel and outrageous treatment she has received from him." Céleste Bunard Molaison describes in some detail the physical violence her husband has inflicted on her and the neglect with which he has treated her and the children, including his refusal to provide medical care for them. The Molaisons own a sizeable amount of property, including a sugar plantation and slaves, most of which is held by the couple under the regime of community property. Céleste Molaison therefore asks the court to authorize her to institute a suit against her husband, to allow her to reside at her brother's house, to order payment of an "allowance of alimony" to support her during the duration of the suit, and to grant her custody of her younger children and separation of "bed and board" from her husband. Finally she wants the property to be inventoried and half of it adjudicated to her.

PAR Number 20883322

State: Louisiana Year: 1833
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: George Deslondes and Pierre Cyprien Ricard, both free men of color, present to the court that they are the tutors of two minors named Marie Louise Ricard and Paulin Ricard, also free people of color. They further present that, in order to "protect & preserve" the "rights and interests" of the two children, it is necessary to make an inventory of the estate of their late parents, Maximilien and Marie Louise Ricard. The petitioners therefore pray for an inventory to be made by "some competent person."

PAR Number 20883410

State: Louisiana Year: 1834
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Elizabeth Patterson, the wife of Robert Rogers, seeks compensation for the hire of a slave to George Jackson. Patterson contends that Jackson “owes and justly detains” the sum of $230.12. Elizabeth Patterson Rogers claims that, at Jackson's "special instance and request,” she hired out to him a female slave named Becky, as a wet nurse, from 15 August 1827 to 26 November 1828. Jackson undertook and promised to pay “what ever the services of said slave were reasonably worth,” which Mrs. Rogers claims amounted to $15 per month. The latter complains that the sum “has long been due and often demanded” but that Jackson “has hitherto refused and still refuses and neglects the same to pay or any part thereof.” Therefore, she prays that Jackson be condemned to pay the aforesaid sum of $230.12. Jackson's related answer reveals that Becky actually belonged to a T. H. Thompson. It also reveals that Jackson had hired out two slaves to Mrs. Rogers during the same period that Becky had been hired out to him.

PAR Number 20883430

State: Louisiana Year: 1834
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: The petitioner is Rosalie Belly, a free woman of color and the widow of a free man of color named Antoine Dubuclet. Rosalie Belly Dubuclet presents that, by a recent order of the court, she has been authorized to "execute a special mortgage in due form of law" in favor of her five minor children, in order to secure their claims against her as their "natural tutrix." Rosalie Dubuclet therefore asks the court that the special mortgage be duly recorded. She also asks that this "special" mortgage be the "only one" that the minors may resort to in case of need, and that all her other property be freed from mortgages or "incumbrances" in their favor. A related petition reveals that Antoine Dubuclet was a "mulatto."

PAR Number 20883601

State: Louisiana Year: 1836
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: George Taylor, of Virginia, represents that, in February 1833, he hired out one hundred and three slaves to Joseph B. Wilkinson, Robert A. Wilkinson, and Clement B. Penrose, of Plaquemines Parish. Joseph Wilkinson’s wife, Catherine, was also a party to the contract. Taylor now charges that the defendants have broken their contract in several ways: they have neglected to pay for the hires; they have sold the sugar crops on which he had a privilege and which was supposed to have been delivered to him as payment; and they have moved sixty or seventy of his slaves from their plantation to a wood yard in Jefferson Parish, where a number of them have died of cholera. Taylor seeks payment in the form of 285,019 pounds of sugar or its value of $27,077.10. He also asks that the contract be annulled and the slaves, “with their increase,” restored to him. In the meantime, he asks that a writ of sequestration be issued for the slaves and the sugar crop. Neither the petition nor the related documents make it clear whether Taylor actually owned the slaves hired to the Wilkinsons or acted as an agent. Nor do the documents make clear whether the slaves were hired from within Louisiana or transported from Virginia.

PAR Number 20883919

State: Louisiana Year: 1839
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Sophie Polard [Pollard], a free woman of color, presents to the court that Eugénie Decuir, widow of Louis Polard and a free woman of color, recently "departed this life" and her estate is now "open under the jurisdiction" of the present court. Sophie Polard claims that the late Eugénie Decuir Polard left a last will and testament, in which she believes she has been "instituted a legatee." Sophie claims that the said will is "contained in a sealed packet" in the possession of a family friend named Pierre Durand and she is desirous to have it "opened, proven and ordered for execution." Sophie Polard therefore asks the court to order Pierre Durand to deliver the will to the court for this purpose.

PAR Number 20884106

State: Louisiana Year: 1841
Location: West Baton Rouge Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Daniel W. K. Wilson claims that John Noland is indebted to him in the sum of $900. He represents that he was hired as overseer on Noland’s plantation on the 1st of January 1840, at the rate of $100 per month, and “faithfully discharged” his duties for nine months, for which Noland owes him $900. He contends, however, that Noland refuses to pay, although “amicably demanded.” He therefore seeks an order of the court condemning Noland to pay the $900.

PAR Number 20884305

State: Louisiana Year: 1843
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Antoine Dubuclet, a free man of color, presents to the court that he is a brick mason and "kettle setter" by trade and seeks the court's assistance in recovering a $300 debt plus interest from two planters named Henry Tenant and John Navy, partners under the "firm & style" of Tenant & Navy. He claims that, in 1842, Henry Tenant and John Navy hired him to "set & put up five sugar kettles" and to erect a chimney at the firm's sugar house. On February 15, 1843 he presented an account of his work, which the two men acknowledged to be accurate. However, they now refuse to pay and so Dubuclet prays the court to order them to pay the debt. A related petition revealed that members of the Dubuclet family were descended from a white planter.

PAR Number 20884519

State: Louisiana Year: 1845
Location: West Baton Rouge Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Louis Favrot claims that Valentin Dubroca is justly indebted to him for $7,087.50 plus interest. Favrot prays that the court condemn Dubroca to repay the debt and interest plus court costs. Related documents show that Dubroca is a slave owner who claims that his "maternal tongue" is French and that his poor command of English prevents him from responding to an order from the court.

PAR Number 20884610

State: Louisiana Year: 1846
Location: West Baton Rouge Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Stephen Smith claims that he performed $117 worth of work for Zéphyrin Blanchard, for which he has "amicably" demanded but never received payment. He prays the court to cite Blanchard to appear and answer the petition within the period prescribed by law and to order him to pay the $117 plus interest, at 5% per annum, from the time the order is issued, plus costs of suit. In a related document, a witness claims that he overheard a conversation between Harry, a slave belonging to Blanchard, and his wife, who belonged to one John D. Thomason, regarding activities in preparation of a purported slave insurrection. According to the witness, the conversation revealed that "barril" powder, powder balls, and other weapons were concealed in the ground under the sugar house coolers and in another's slave "bedtick." He also claims that when the wife expressed concern about the killing of "little children," the husband replied that they would "burn the roofs down on them."

PAR Number 20884630

State: Louisiana Year: 1846
Location: East Baton Rouge Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Robert Benton seeks an injunction against his partner, Amos Adams, and against James Bailey and Isaiah Robertson. Benton claims that he and Adams "mutually agreed to enter into a partnership for the purpose of planting for the term of five years." They agreed to cultivate the plantation owned by Amos Adams, and "as soon as convenient to convert it into a sugar plantation." As part of the agreement, Benton was to "have entire control of the plantation and slaves during the term aforesaid of five years." Benton took control of the plantation and slaves but Adams, Bailey, and Robertson later reclaimed control of the plantation in violation of the agreement. Benton prays for an injunction restraining Adams, Bailey, and Robertson from entering the plantation and attempting to assume control of the land and slaves [Pages missing].

PAR Number 20884901

State: Louisiana Year: 1849
Location: St. John the Baptist Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Lézin Becnel represents that his late wife, Thérèse Fanny Baconais, died intestate and “without descendants” in 1848. Her heirs are her mother and four siblings, only one of whom lives in Louisiana. The others live in France and Cuba respectively. Becnel explains that, as no marriage contract was “passed” between him and his late wife, he is the legal “full” owner of one half of their joint property and the “usufructuary” owner of the other half. The property consists of a sugar plantation and sixty-six slaves. Sixty of the slaves are mortgaged and the other six, valued at $2,900, were brought to the community property from his first marriage. Desirous to settle the estate with the other heirs, he asks that an inventory be conducted before “interested parties,” including the “under-tutor” of his minor children from the first marriage. To this end he prays for the appointment of a “Public Officer” duly authorized by the court to conduct the inventory and for the appointment of his brother-in-law, Charles Baconais, to represent the “absent heirs."

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