Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20883828

State: Louisiana Year: 1838
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: François Coulon De Villier Sr. petitions for an order enjoining a free man of color named Baptiste Lafleur from entering his land, cutting down and removing his trees, and otherwise despoiling his property. Coulon de Villier represents that Lafleur trespassed on his land toward the end of the previous year and beginning of the current, and cut down some valuable trees that are now lying on the land. He claims to have sustained damages in the amount of $200 as a result of such action. He further alleges that Lafleur has recently cut down more trees and will more likely continue, having so far ignored his pleas to cease and desist. Coulon de Villier therefore seeks an injunction against Lafleur and seeks payment of damages.

PAR Number 20883903

State: Louisiana Year: 1839
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Joseph Guillory, a free man of color, represents that he is the “owner and actual possessor” of a tract of land in the parish of St. Landry. He charges that Jean Allain Jr., also a free man of color, has frequently trespassed on his land, "cut and destroyed large quantities of timber," and made eight hundred rails from the timber. Guillory alleges that it is Allain’s intention to remove the rails and convert them to his “private use.” He therefore seeks an injunction to prevent Allain from removing the rails and further trespassing on the land. He also seeks $200 in damages for the waste caused on the land.

PAR Number 20883928

State: Louisiana Year: 1839
Location: West Feliciana Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Charles Richardson claims that Ananias Dunbar owes him $3,000. He represents that Ananias Dunbar “forcibly and unlawfully” entered his land with "his negro men slaves," fell and took away five hundred trees, and appropriated the proceeds. Richardson claims that he has “amicably” approached Dunbar and demanded payment, but to no avail. He therefore prays for an order directing Richardson to pay him $3,000, the value of the stolen timber.

PAR Number 20884110

State: Louisiana Year: 1841
Location: West Feliciana Location Type: Parish

Abstract: John Sandy, a free man of color, represents that he has occupied, “as owner unmolested,” a section of land on the Mississippi river, at a site called “Bakers Settlement,” for more than five years. Sandy claims to have spent a lot of money to build cabins, establish a wood yard, and get ready for the time when the “Land office at Greensburg” would accept entries of actual settlers on public land, per the “Acts of Congress” of June 22, 1838 and June 1, 1840. Furthermore, Sandy avers that he has always conducted himself in an “Orderly and Respectful manner” since he was freed, and thus deserves the goodwill of the “Citizens of Bakers Settlement.” Notwithstanding his endeavors as a good member of the community, the actions of one Charles Barnes have not permitted him to enjoy the “Civil Rights” secured to him by the “Law.” Sandy contends that Barnes has illegally, forcibly, and fraudulently taken possession of a large portion of his land and cut timber on it, and thus prevented him from pursuing his occupation of cutting cordwood for steamships. He has repeatedly asked Barnes to vacate the premises, but to no avail. Sandy therefore prays for an order enjoining Barnes not to disturb him in the occupation of his land and to pay him $300 in damages.

PAR Number 20884924

State: Louisiana Year: 1849
Location: Pointe Coupee Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Richard J. Watkins represents that Thomas Kircher, of the state of Illinois, has obtained a writ of seizure and sale of his two slaves, Willis and Jane, in a judgment obtained against him. Watkins admits that he mortgaged his slaves to Kircher as security for a promissory note in the purchase of a tract of land. He contends, however, that Kircher had agreed to furnish him with a wood yard on the banks of the Mississippi, as part of the land deal, but has so far failed to do so, "although frequently requested so to do." In fact, according to Watkins, Kircher has "peremptorily refused to comply with the part of his agreement." Without the wood yard, Watkins asserts, the land is "almost useless," thus inferring a breach of contract. Watkins therefore seeks an injunction to prevent Kircher and the sheriff from selling the slaves.

PAR Number 20885423

State: Louisiana Year: 1854
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Peter Kelly, a carpenter, seeks to recover a debt of $156.35 from Honoré Roth, a free man of color. Kelly represents that, at some point earlier in the current year, Roth hired him to build a house and agreed to pay $250. Kelly claims that he built the house in a “good and workman like manner,” which required him to supply extra lumber and cabin hooks, and to provide extra services, all of which added $13.65 to the original cost. He now contends to have received only $107.30 from Roth for his work. The balance of $156.35 remains unpaid. He therefore prays for an order directing Roth to pay the debt with interest “thereon” from judicial demand.

PAR Number 20885820

State: Louisiana Year: 1858
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Bernard J. Sage seeks to recover $1,500 from Franklin C. Robertson for various business transactions. In 1856, Sage leased his "premises at the mouth of Bayou Rouge" to Robertson in the hopes of creating "an important and profitable business point at the aforesaid location." However, due to Robertson's "lack of capital as well as his violation of his obligations," competition was "brought into the neighborhood" and Sage's "point of mercantile business was by all this discredited so that he has been damaged in the value of the place and the loss of rent." Sage further informs the court that, in 1857, he and Robertson planned to make "improvements on the plantation" at Bayou Rouge. By the agreement, Robertson was to run the operation after being provided with an overseer, two "stout able bodied negroes," and a horse. Sage also hired a contractor to fix the land, who "planted stakes for said improvements." According to Sage, Robertson "caused said stakes to be plowed up." He also fired the overseer, did not plant enough crop of corn, illegally cut down timber on the land, and stole bacon and pork from Sage's store room, which he then sold for profit. Further, Sage claims that a "negro carpenter" was injured due to Robertson's conduct towards him and thereby three months of labor were lost. For all these violations of obligations, Sage prays that Robertson pay him $1,500 plus interest in damages.

PAR Number 20978401

State: Maryland Year: 1784
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: In January 1782, Job Garretson purchased from George Helm a slave named Guy, guaranteed "to be perfectly Sound and void and clear of every vice fault Disorder or inability of both mind and Body whatsoever the fondness for Liquors only excepted." In return, Garretson was to pay Helm "one Hundred and Five Cords of wood not being Hickory," with twenty-five cords due at the time of the purchase and the remainder due in the fall of the same year. Garretson claims that he soon discovered that Guy is "not only excessively fond of Liquors but a notorious outlying Runaway pilfering and thieving negro and also much disordered in his Body with the Veneral Disease and other Disorders." Garretson approached Helm, who refused to receive him and instead brought a suit against him for the remaining cords of wood. The men agreed to "refer the Matter in dispute to their neighbours for their final Ending ... agreeable to the Laws and practice of this state." The panel chose to arbitrate and they decided, in Garretson's absence, that he should pay £140 to Helm. Garretson now asks for an injunction to prevent anyone from trying to collect the £140.

PAR Number 20981113

State: Maryland Year: 1811
Location: Dorchester Location Type: County

Abstract: John Colsten and his wife, Alice Orem Colsten, petition the court to subpoena the executors of the estate of Hugh Orem and to order them to return slaves they claim were given to them by Alice's father, Hugh Orem. The Colstens say that he gave a fifteen-year-old slave, Sinah, to Alice as a marriage gift in 1791. When Orem became ill, the Colstens went to live with him bringing with them Sinah and her two children. About six years later, they returned home, leaving Sinah and four children with Hugh Orem to "render him any assistance he might require in his distressed and helpless situation." Now he has died, and his executors, sons Hugh and Speding, "refuse to comply with [the Colstens'] reasonable request" to return the slaves. The Colstens maintain that Orem divided his property among three of his children and cite as proof this excerpt from his will: "I hope my beloved daughter Alse [Alice] Colston ... will be satisfied with what I have already done for her." The petitioners aver this clause refers to Sinah and her children. Her brothers deny knowledge of such a gift and claim Sinah and "her issue" under the provisions of their father's will.

PAR Number 20984629

State: Maryland Year: 1846
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Charles R. Stewart, administrator of the estate of the late Thomas Robinson, complains that Robinson died leaving debts against his estate. Stewart says he must sell either Robinson's slaves or the wood and timber on Robinson's property in order to raise money to discharge the debts. Robinson's widow and friends agree that "the interest of the children ... would be promoted by reserving the Servants." Stewart asks the court to authorize him to cut the timber on the property "especially as the Wood and timber is so abundant at present on said Estate and if cut will be replaced by the natural Groth by the time the children of said deceased arrive at age."

PAR Number 21085230

State: Mississippi Year: 1852
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: James M. Sillers, son of the late Daniel Sillers, petitions to sell two tracts of land belonging to his father's estate. Sillers asserts that a division would give two heirs land with "not a sufficiency of timber to fence and Enclose the same." Declaring that "the welfare of all persons interested in said lands & tenements will be promoted by a sale," the petitioner prays that such a sale be ordered.

PAR Number 21281205

State: North Carolina Year: 1812
Location: Craven Location Type: County

Abstract: Simon Simons, a free man of color, made a labor contract with Moxey Drigers, also a free man of color, to cut and haul wood to market in New Bern. Simons, Simons's son, and Drigers then cut ten cords of wood, hauled them to the landing, loaded them on a flatboat, and transported them to the city. Later, Simons charges that Drigers failed to cut his share, unjustly charged him for work he did not perform. In addition, Simons claims that he was unfairly charged for boarding at Drigers's house while he was courting Drigers's mother-in-law. All these "proceedings herein recited are oppressive & unjust," Simons asserts, and he seeks relief.

PAR Number 21379401

State: South Carolina Year: 1794
Location: Charleston Location Type: District

Abstract: Mary Woodberry, joined by her "natural guardian," Jonah Woodberry, seeks the court's intervention in John Buchanan's settlement of her grandfather's estate. Jonah Collins's will bequeathed to his granddaughter seven slaves and "one thousand pounds" and appointed several "friends" as his executors; of these friends, only John Buchanan "took upon himself the Execution." Woodberry complains of Buchanan's mismanagement of her grandfather's lands, which she claims are "among the most valuable and least hazardous in the State." She charges Buchanan with putting his own slaves to work on her grandfather's plantation and appropriating to his own advantage the proceeds of the rice and timber cultivation thereon. She proposes that Buchanan "vest the crops in the purchase of negroes" and "place the said one Thousand pounds at Interest."

PAR Number 21381001

State: South Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Columbia Location Type: District

Abstract: Laurence Rambo sues his sons, Daniel and Samuel, in order to recover the family business, land, and slaves. Intending to move to the "Western Country," the elder Rambo arranged his business affairs in the event that he might perish while in transit. Having given his bond to purchase five slaves from James Turnbull before the journey, he transferred title of these slaves, as well as five more, to his son Daniel. Not content upon his arrival in Georgia, Laurence returned to South Carolina. His creditors, including Turnbull, came calling, and Rambo attempted to regain his former business and property. He returned the slaves to Turnbull, recanted on the bill of sale, and worked out an arrangement whereby his old land would be leased to Daniel. His sons, once again involved in operating the family mill, however, "assumed a high hand" and took control of "the whole establishment," refusing to allow their father anything for his labor or the labor of his slaves. The family submitted the dispute to five court-appointed arbiters, who ordered the sons to pay their father $62.50 and a small yearly allowance. The petitioner objects to the arrangement and asks the court to order a settlement that restores all the property to his rightful ownership.

PAR Number 21381713

State: South Carolina Year: 1817
Location: Charleston Location Type: District

Abstract: Elizabeth Rumph McPike seeks to recover several slaves, who were conveyed in trust to her and her children by her late husband, Jacob Rumph. She reminds the court that in 1811 she filed suit against her son and a certain Jonathan Hughes in order to regain possession of certain trust estate slaves, who had been carried off by her then-husband, John McPike, before he abandoned her. She now argues that following John's departure "certain of her neighbours in conjunction with the said Jonathan Hughes commenced a general system of plunder against her and ultimately dispossessed her of every vestige of her property. Her negro slaves were all forcibly taken from her." Citing that she received a favorable judgment in 1816 ordering the return of said slaves, Elizabeth avows that the said Hughes conspired with a certain John Robinson to remove and hide eight of the slaves, thus preventing their recovery. The petitioner prays "for full relief touching all the matters hereinbefore set forth with a ... delivery of her property from every one of the parties in whose possession the same now is or has been," as well as an account of "the labor or profits of her said negroes."

PAR Number 21382307

State: South Carolina Year: 1823
Location: Union Location Type: District

Abstract: The executors of the late Robert Crenshaw seek to purchase land for the eighteen-year-old son of their testator. They inform the court that Crenshaw's will "directed that four of his negroes among whom was a blacksmith should remain on a tract of Land ... until his Said Son should arrive to the age of twenty one years." The petitioners declare, however, that said land "is verry poor, and will yield little or nothing that their is not a sufficiency of timber thereon to furnish Coal for the Smith Shop." They further assert "that to Continue on this place longer will be of great damage and injury to the said infant." The petitioners therefore pray that "they may be allowed to purchase Land for the said infant to the amount of two thousand dollars." They also reveal "that they have purchased for the use of the infant a negro Girl at five hundred & fifty Dollars," and "they pray that purchase may be Confirmed." The executors lastly ask that they be permitted "to purchase [a] boy to act as a Striker to the Smith."

PAR Number 21383324

State: South Carolina Year: 1833
Location: Barnwell Location Type: District

Abstract: Elvira and Richard Corvin, minor children of the late Thomas Corvin, seek to protect their inheritance. The siblings explain that they were entitled to two thirds of their father's estate upon his death, while their mother, Frances, became entitled to one third. Frances administered the entire estate and rented and hired out the land and slaves for several years. She later married Isaac Bush, and the couple moved to Georgia with the children and the property. The Corvins complain that their stepfather "wasted a considerable part of the estate" before he died insolvent. Their mother returned to South Carolina after his death, where five slaves came into the sheriff's possession "by virtue of a pretended levy under a writ of fieri facias against the said Isaac Bush at the suit of James Stallings." The sheriff now threatens to sell the slaves as Bush's property. The petitioners ask the court to enjoin the sale and to compel their mother to account with them "for the real and personal estate aforesaid and the rent and hire thereof." They also ask the court to make Frances's estate "liable" for any "waste" that she or her late husband committed. They finally request that their property be "assigned to them in severalty."

PAR Number 21384627

State: South Carolina Year: 1846
Location: Darlington Location Type: District

Abstract: Blaney Parnell seeks to collect his share of the profits realized in his business partnership with James B. Parnell and Carma Parnell. Blaney represents that, in 1839, he entered into a partnership with James to build and operate a saw mill. The two partners agreed to share expenses in the erection of the mill, creation of the dam, and purchase of the materials, and to provide slaves in equal share for both the construction and operation phases of the project. They also agreed to divide the business management responsibilities equally. Before the contract was signed, James brought Carma Parnell into the business as a third partner. The mill was erected, and the business became successful. James collected the profits and paid the expenses from the joint accounts. In 1843, Blaney’s share of the profits for a period of three years amounted to $468. James settled with him at that time, but charged him $68 for not having contributed equally to the running of the business. Since 1846, there has been no settlement. In addition, a grist mill was erected and started operation in 1842, and Blaney has received no profits from that part of the operation either. In fact, James has wholly refused to settle. Blaney therefore prays that the Parnells be compelled to answer the premises of his suit, to give an account of the business, and to pay him what he is owed from the proceeds.

PAR Number 21384647

State: South Carolina Year: 1846
Location: Richland Location Type: District

Abstract: John C. Singleton represents that, in 1836, he purchased a plantation on the Congaree River and slaves from William Myers for $75,000. He executed a ten-year credit bond for $150,000 and mortgaged the slaves to secure the debt. After the transaction was consummated, Singleton found out that a fifty-acre piece of land on his property had been and continued to be claimed by one James O’Hanlon. The dispute ended up in court, and O’Hanlon won the case. Myers then purchased the land from O’Hanlon for $7,500 and transferred title to Singleton. The petitioner charges that O’Hanlon diminished the property's value by cutting down most of the valuable timber, thereby entitling him to a discount on his purchase. Acting on this premise, he calculated what he considered an appropriate deduction and made the final payment on the bond. By that time, however, Myers had transferred the bond to one Joseph Duncan Allen. The latter claimed that there was a balance due of over $1,000 and refused to cancel the bond, causing the mortgaged slaves to be seized and advertised for sale by the sheriff. John Singleton therefore prays that Joseph Duncan be enjoined from selling his slaves and be compelled to deliver them to him and that the bond and mortgage be cancelled.

PAR Number 21385044

State: South Carolina Year: 1850
Location: Spartanburg Location Type: District

Abstract: James Rhodes, the "committee" of Sabra Rhodes, joins the said Sabra in asking that Jesse Casey "account for all the monies recd. from the Lunatic and for the hire of her negroes, horses & waggon and the proceeds of her farm." James reminds the court that a jury found Sabra "of unsound mind" and ascertained that she possessed 10 slaves worth about $3000, as well as land and livestock. He avers that Casey took advantage of "the unsound mind of the said Sabra Rhodes" in 1849 by exercising "fraudulent and undue influence over the lunatic," whereby she conveyed 200 acres of land to him. He cites that Casey cut down the timber from the land and received "the labour and services of her negroes," all "to the damage of the said Sabra." James therefore prays that Casey account for his actions and that the "evidences of title which the Defendant may have procured from the Lunatic may be ordered to be delivered up, and set aside as null and void."

PAR Number 21385567

State: South Carolina Year: 1855
Location: Newberry Location Type: District

Abstract: Mary M. Witt Boland, by her next friend and son, Jacob F. Witt, seeks to live "separate and apart from the Said John M Boland," her husband. The petitioner represents that she has tried "to put up with his ill-treatment, abusive and annoying to her feelings as it was" but that "his conduct for the last year and longer has become so disagreeable to her" that she can no longer "reconcile herself to it." Mary confides that John "spends the larger portion of his time with another woman," by whom "he has had a child." She further charges that he "has actually refused to furnish her with the necessaries of life." The petitioner reveals that she purchased 440 acres of land from the estate of her late husband, Michael Witt, and that "she also owned a negro woman Martha bought at the sale of the personal estate of her said first husband" at the time of her marriage to Boland. Mary contends that the said John has "sold the timber" on some of said land, which she argues "is destructive of the value." She also asserts that defendant "has threatened to sell the negroes." The petitioner therefore prays that "she may be protected ... in living separate and apart" from her husband; that "he support and maintain her and her infant;" and that he "may be restrained and enjoined from wasting the timber on the said tracts of land ... and from either selling or removing the slaves mentioned in this Bill from and beyond the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court."

PAR Number 21386322

State: South Carolina Year: 1863
Location: Barnwell Location Type: District

Abstract: John and Martha Mixson charge that widow Sarah Boylston is squandering the estate of her late husband, George Boylston. George Boylston's last will and testament bequeathed a life estate in all of his personal property, including more than 1000 acres of land and twenty slaves, to the said Sarah. Since his death in 1849, the widow has remained on his estate, but more importantly, she has actively "cut down many thousands of the said pine and oak tree" and sold the timber to the South Carolina Rail Road Company and other purchasers. Sarah also sold two slaves, Tom and Milly, to two different owners, who have taken the respective slaves out of state. The petitioners charge that since Sarah has only a life interest in this property, her actions "defeat the intention and true meaning of the said will." The terms of her life estate do not permit her to sell the land or the slaves, but instead require her to keep up the estate for the benefit of Boylston's children, who have a remainder interest therein. The petitioners fear that Sarah will continue to sell slaves and timber unless the court intervenes. They ask that Sarah Boylston be restrained from selling any additional property. Moreover, they ask that she be compelled to account for any profits she has earned from the estate of George Boylston, including profits earned from the timber sales and the sales of Tom and Milly.

PAR Number 21585102

State: Texas Year: 1851
Location: Walker Location Type: County

Abstract: Isaac Chance informs the court that on 21 February 1850 he hired out his slave Bill for $128 per year to the "firm and Style of Sims & Smith" to be employed exclusively as an axe hand for cutting timber. Chance clarifies that Bill was not to be used "as a hand to attend upon, conduct, and manage the machinery of the Steam Mill." He recounts, however, "contrary to the wishes of your petitioner," the defendants used Bill a month later on the steam mill's machinery whereby he was subsequently crushed when he fell into the fly wheel. Chance attests that the Sims and Smith "well knew the great danger" Bill was in, yet they "negligently failed and omitted to provide any safe guards about the machinery." Chance seeks damages in the amount of one thousand dollars, the value of the slave.

PAR Number 21682407

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: Westmoreland Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Rowand hired two female slaves from Thomas Mastin in 1816. The slaves belonged to "an estate for which" Mastin "had the management." Rowand became dissatisfied with the second slave, called "the mountain woman," and returned her to Mastin's overseer for whom she worked the remainder of the year. Rowand claims he paid for the first slave, whose hire was fixed at $36 dollars for the year and allowed Mastin to cut "a quantity of oak" on his property. In fact, Rowand contends "upon a just and correct settlement of accounts between the defendant and himself the defendant is considerably his debtor." Rowand asks the court to restrain Mastin, who has obtained a judgment against him for nonpayment, from "all farther proceedings at law against your Orator."

PAR Number 21682814

State: Virginia Year: 1828
Location: Prince Edward Location Type: County

Abstract: The will of the late Richard Randolph manumitted his slave, John Brown, and devised to him a fifty-acre tract of land. Brown complains that Hampton Giles, another of Randolph's freed slaves, took possession of his land and refuses to surrender the property. He asserts that Giles is "determined to destroy as much of the said land as possible" and has been "committing great waste and destruction on the said land, by cutting down and carrying therefrom almost all of the valuable timber both for building and fencing." Brown asks the court to restrain Giles "from committing farther waste or injury to the said lands" until the determination of Brown's suit. The petition and Giles's answer both reveal that Randolph liberated a "large number" of slaves and divided a "considerable quantity of lands" among them.

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