Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11684505

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

Abstract: Forty-eight residents of Accomack County ask that Peter Snead, emancipated by Tully Snead's will, be permitted to remain in Virginia. Believing that Peter "is liable to be apprehended and sold by the overseers of the poor," the petitioners point out that the free man of color "is now about fifty years of age and has a large family of helpless children to support which it would be impossible for him to do, if compelled at this advanced age to go to a cold and inhospitable climate where he must suffer for the means of support." They further assert that Snead "is a man of unexceptionable character, an industrious honest and worthy Citizen." The petitioners therefore "pray that your honourable bodies will pass a law permitting (Peter Snead) to remain and spend the remainder of his days in his native land."

PAR Number 11685107

State: Virginia Year: 1851
Location: Scott Location Type: County

Abstract: The children of Bob, a free man of color, state that their father “purchased from her owners two thirds of your petitioners mother” and that they were born after said purchase “to said Bob and said woman [Charlotte].” They further recount that their parents “lived together after said purchase as man and wife and as free persons until death separated them”; since their father's death, the “petitioners have lived and are now living as free persons.” They point out, however, that their father, “being ignorant of the law, supposed that his purchasing your petitioners’ mother, would have the effect of making her free and that their children would also be free,” whereby he “made no provision by deed or will for freeing them.” The petitioners note that the said “Bob died without leaving any legal heirs, and all his right and interest in & to your petitioners his children and grand children is derelict & forfeited to the Commonwealth.” They therefore pray “that you honorable body pass an act relinquishing the Commonwealths claim to them.”

PAR Number 20682402

State: Georgia Year: 1824
Location: Chatham Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas McCall and Philip Brasch are the administrators of Major Hugh McCall's estate. They believe that certain parts in the late McCall's will, by which the testator bequeathes his slaves to the Union Society, "are, as your petitioners are advised and believe, in violation of an act of the General Assembly" that prescribes "the mode of manumitting slaves in this state." They ask that the will be admitted to probate with the exception of the questionable parts.

PAR Number 20686023

State: Georgia Year: 1860
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: Charles J. Jenkins and William A. Walton are administrators of the estate of John McKinney. Jenkins and Walton obtained permission from the court to sell the land and negroes belonging to the estate on 6 October 1859. The estate is said to be worth "one hundred & fifty thousand dollars, or other large sum." The property included the family residence in Augusta, a "house and lot in the village of Summerville" and nine slaves. Now, Jenkins and Walton claim that they are unable to legally sell this property because of several pending court cases involving the deceased McKinney. Jenkins and Walton seek to subpoena all of those involved in "other matters therein before charged."

PAR Number 20783023

State: Kentucky Year: 1830
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioners challenge the validity of the will of John W. Hundley, a slaveholder. They charge that the will was written by Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian preacher. The petitioners state Hundley was "not of sound mind & disposing memory," and that Blackburn used "his great influence over him [Hundley] to believe by false & fraudulent representations that if he would devote all his property to the Church & to pious uses it would insure the salvation of his soul." The petitioners also declare "that there was no motive for the said Hundley to disinherit his brothers & sisters." They ask the judge to "direct an issue at law" to determine the validity of the will. The petitioners state that if the will is found to be authentic, then it will be alleged that each and every devise is null and void, except those directed to the Hundleys. Five former slaves of John Hundley, who were freed by the said will, join the suit as defendants.

PAR Number 20783513

State: Kentucky Year: 1835
Location: Mercer Location Type: County

Abstract: William Adair and Thomas Monroe, as the executor of Alexander Adair, claim that William and Alexander's mother Mary and her second husband Issachar Pawling executed a marriage contract by which all Mary's property "should descend to, and be surrendered up, with its increase, to her children" at her death. Issachar, however, did not reveal the existence of this contract to her sons and after Mary's death caused them to execute a document relinquishing their rights to a slave named Bob, "a large likely, healthy and very valuable Servant." The petitioners ask that the executor of Issachar's estate be compelled to hand over Bob or pay them his value, as well as back hire, and to surrender any other property rightfully theirs.

PAR Number 20783707

State: Kentucky Year: 1837
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioners state that Joseph Hite, being infirm and needing care, executed to them a deed of trust in October 1830 for his slaves and personal estate to be administered for his and his son Abraham's benefit. Joseph Hite died in February 1831; Abraham died in March 1836. The petitioners briefly describe their management of the trust, including management of the slaves, and ask the court to "direct a settlement of their accounts as trustees aforesaid, and make them such just and reasonable allowance for their cares trouble & expences" as is fair. Of the eight slaves originally conveyed in 1830, only two remain in 1837. Bett died of small pox around 1830; Alexander died of bilious fever in 1832; William was killed at a "negro dance" in 1836; Keziah was jailed for arson in 1832 and contracted cholera there and was sold; Matilda, due to her "vicious" nature, was sold in 1834; and Dick, an elderly slave, was placed in "the City Alms House," where he died. The slave Ann has had a son named Franklin since the establishment of the trust estate.

PAR Number 20783911

State: Kentucky Year: 1839
Location: Harrison Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry C. Moore died in August 1832, leaving a widow and son, who has since died, as his only heirs. Moore's considerable estate consisted of land, slaves, and personal property. Moore's siblings, who are the petitioners, contest Henry's will. They state that on 24 May 1832, "Henry C. Moore was not of sound mind but was in a state of mental derangement which rendered him totally incapable of disposing of his property by will or of transacting business of any kind." Moore's siblings state that the Justices of the Harrison County Court claim his estate under the pretended will as "Trustees for the poor orphans of Harrison County." The petitioners claim that they are the rightful heirs at law and name twenty-three justices of the peace and others as defendants. The petitioners request a jury trial to determine the validity of the will, and seek a decree to set aside the will and declare it null and void.

PAR Number 20785215

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

Abstract: Charles H. Lewis and William Wilkes state that Samuel Godshaw and John Backrow owe them several debts, "which are unpaid and justly due." Listed among Godshaw's property is "a negro girl named Jane about 17 years old." Wilkes and Lewis seek to have the mortgage set aside, to sell Jane and the furniture, and to have the proceeds awarded to pay the debt.

PAR Number 20885039

State: Louisiana Year: 1850
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: The State of Louisiana, represented by Attorney General Isaac Johnson, seeks to nullify the 1838 will of the recently deceased John McDonogh. In his will, McDonogh directed that the bulk of his very considerable estate be bequeathed to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Inhabitants of the Cities of New Orleans and Baltimore. The property was to be divided “in equal proportions” between the two cities. Should either of the two cities decline or be unable to accept the legacies, the property would go the state of Louisiana or Maryland, whose legislatures would be entrusted to carry the intent of the will as would seem “most proper” to them. The State of Louisiana contends, however, that such bequest to the cities is illegal on several grounds, and seeks nullification.

PAR Number 20983526

State: Maryland Year: 1835
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: The "aforesaid females [petitioners], together with the female defendants ... and others who have departed this life without leaving representatives, some years since formed themselves into a society, styled The Colored Female Benevolent Society of Baltimore." By mutual contributions they raised a large sum of money which they used to purchase property in trust in 1827 under the name of Robert Prout. They improved the property and from time to time rented it out for a profit. The petitioners and defendants used the property equally until recently when the defendants took possession of the property and all of its rents and profits. Now the petitioners request the court to compel the defendants to properly account for all income related to the Society's operations and to direct a sale of the lot and its premises, allowing for an equal distribution of the proceeds among the members.

PAR Number 20983810

State: Maryland Year: 1838
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: Catharine Prout is the widow of William Prout and the executrix of his estate. She states that "a Decree was rendered against her" in a case brought by Ellen Greenwood and others. According to this decree, Prout is to pay the sum of $120, which is purported to be "the amount of rents of certain trust property ... collected by the said William Prout in his lifetime." Catharine claims that William collected only $40 in rent from said property, "which she is ready and willing to pay to the said Trustee." The petitioner asks "your Honor to open and review the Said Decree" and to allow her to provide "competent & sufficient proof" that she should pay the smaller amount of rent. In a supplemental petition, Judith Lee, who has been accused of taking more than her share of profits due the Colored Female Benevolent Society of Baltimore, defends her course of action since being subpoenaed to answer the charges. Lee explains that she engaged Randle H. Moale, Esquire, as her legal representative. Moale agreed to a sale of the property without notifying her of the time and place of the sale, preventing her from bidding on the property. Lee claims that she was also unaware that a decree had been issued ordering Lee and her husband to compensate the Society for the rents of the building. The Lees agree that the Society should receive the rent money, but claim that, as superintendents of the property, they have expended a far greater sum than the rents they have collected. They ask that execution of the decree against them be enjoined until the accounts of the Society can be reviewed.

PAR Number 20984010

State: Maryland Year: 1840
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred and twenty-five members of the Baltimore Association for the Education of Colored Children petition against Mary Ridgely, treasurer of said organization. The petitioners, all free people of color, cite that Ridgely has been voted out of office and replaced by Deborah Thomas. They further state that Ridgely refuses to give up "the Effects of the Association in her possession" as required by the bylaws. The petitioners pray the court to direct Ridgely "to bring into Court the Books, papers, funds and effects in her hands of the association aforesaid and to render account thereof."

PAR Number 20984602

State: Maryland Year: 1846
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: On 30 July 1844, the Trustees of the First Colored Independent Wesleyan Methodist Society of Baltimore executed a mortgage with James Bush. In return for property, Bush loaned the society $350, due to be repaid with interest. The petitioner claims that the time for the repayment of the mortgage has elapsed and he has received no money from the Society. Bush asks the court to subpoena the defendants and also to issue a decree allowing the sale of the mortgaged property. The property was sold on 10 October 1846 to James F. Purvis for $535.

PAR Number 20984908

State: Maryland Year: 1849
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1843, trustees of the First Colored Independent Wesleyan Methodist Society of Baltimore issued two promissory notes to Henry Ridgeway to secure a debt of $2,930.12. As collateral for payment on the notes, the trustees conveyed to Ridgeway a "certain Leasehold estate lying in the city of Baltimore." The petitioner states that he has received no payments on the "principal debt" and interest is still accruing. He asks the court to subpoena the trustees and order them to satisfy the debt and requests "that the premises aforesaid, or so much thereof as may be necessary may be sold for payment of your Orator's claim."

PAR Number 20985635

State: Maryland Year: 1856
Location: Baltimore Location Type: City

Abstract: In October 1849, the Trustees of the Poor of Baltimore City and County bound Augusta Sprigg, a free person of color, as an indentured apprentice to Joseph Merryman. Sprigg's indenture was sold twice more, lastly to James Wilson. Although "kindly treated, well fed, lodged & clothed," Sprigg ran away, causing Wilson "heavy expense" in arresting her. She is currently confined in the Baltimore City jail as a runaway. Wilson petitions the court to extend Sprigg's indenture and to allow him to sell it to any person within the state.

PAR Number 21084718

State: Mississippi Year: 1847
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet Collins states that John Smiddy took into his "custody two negroe children that are free named William Bell & John Bell" and has held them "by virtue of Indentures by one of the Overseers [of the Poor] of Said County of Monroe." Collins charges that said indenture has been "cancelled" and that the said Smiddy now holds "said Children without authority of law & without the Consent of their mother." The petitioner, "as the friend of said children," prays "said children be taken from said Smiddy and the custody thereof awarded to your petitioner to be returned to said County of Monroe and again bound out."

PAR Number 21086005

State: Mississippi Year: 1860
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: John Gee joins his wife Mary in representing that the said Mary is an heir of the late Olivia Dunbar, a feme sole, who died testate in September 1859, "possessed of a large estate situate in said county of Jefferson consisting principally of lands money and negroes." The petitioners point out that "by the twelfth clause of said last will and testament the residuum of the estate real and personal (after the payment of debts and certain legacies) of the said Olivia Dunbar was bequeathed in trust for certain charitable uses and purposes." Charging said bequest "to be void by the law and declared policy of the state," the Gees pray that said clause "be declared null and void" and that said property "be declared subject to distribution by the proper tribunal among the legal heirs and representatives of the said Olivia." An advertisement for "Executor's Sale" of Dunbar's estate cites that "a lot of likely and valuable acclimated slaves, in families, about fifty-two (52) in number, including house servants, carriage driver, field hands, driver, blacksmith and carpenters, etc. etc." will be offered for sale on 18 December 1860.

PAR Number 21185407

State: Missouri Year: 1854
Location: St. Louis Location Type: County

Abstract: Louisa, "a woman of colour," reports that she was once "owned and possessed as a slave by Mount St. Mary's College" in Maryland. She further relates that the college was at that time indebted to one Francis B. Jamison, "the former President thereof." Louisa asserts that Jamison and the college agreed that she would serve him for five years and then be given her freedom. She informs the court that said agreement "was entered in writing upon the books of the said College;" however, she cites that "she was further informed by the Sisters of Charity that the said books had been burned and destroyed or so defaced that no record of that date could be found." The petitioner represents that, despite having moved to Missouri, the said Jamison "has continued to claim and hold her, and now claims her as a slave." Louisa therefore "prays for leave to sue as a poor person in order to establish her right to freedom."

PAR Number 21382304

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

Abstract: Benjamin, Samuel Wennall, Jane Eliza, Thomas Franklin, and St. John Phillips Ellis petition by their mother and guardian, Mary Ellis. The Ellis children recently inherited six slaves when the estate of Samuel Ellis Sr. was settled. The children owe one hundred dollars to another heir "to equalize the value of the Lots of negroes" assigned. The petitioners represent "that this is the only property they possess, and that they are destitute of clothing, and almost of food, as they now receive rations from the poor house." Mary Ellis reports that a local planter has offered to buy the children's slaves for $350 or $375 each, "a higher price than could now be had for them in Charleston." Mrs. Ellis prays for permission to sell the slaves and to use the proceeds "for the support & decent maintenance of her said children," after paying the sum needed to equalize the shares in the estate.

PAR Number 21383732

State: South Carolina Year: 1837
Location: Charleston Location Type: District

Abstract: Alexander McDonald and Martin Roddy, executors of the will of the late John Brady, "crave the instruction of this Honorable Court" in carrying out their testator's wishes. Brady's will made numerous specific bequests and directed his executors to sell his real and personal estate "for cash." He also stipulated that they sell his slaves "to masters they may themselves choose even at a reduced price." The petitioners inform the court that they are "anxious and willing to settle the affairs of the said Testator," but that "the demands of those who are claiming as Legatees under the will ... would as they are advised disappoint the intention of the said Testator in the making of the said Will." Brady's widow, Catharine Brady, insists that she have "her Common Law Right of Dower." They also fear that "an attempt will be made to set aside the sale of the said negroes," who have been purchased by Catharine Brady. Unwilling "to assume the duty of determining such grave and doubtful questions of Law," McDonald and Roddy ask the court for direction in proceeding with their executorial duties.

PAR Number 21384706

State: South Carolina Year: 1847
Location: Spartanburg Location Type: District

Abstract: A. Foster urges the court to require the commissioners of the poor to care for a helpless ninety-year-old female slave named Tenor. He reveals that Tenor "has had no owner in this State for about fifteen years her Master R Stack having left the State insolvent when she was unable to do anything for her support." Foster recounts that his father found Tenor "in the road" near the family homestead several years ago and that his parents fed, clothed, and provided for the elderly woman up until their deaths. Asserting that "a strong presentation of her case" was made to the commissioners of the poor, he reports that Tenor "was actually delivered to the Keeper of the paupers;" however, "the commissioners have rejected her case & turned her off -- to perish unless some friendly hand will care for her & feed her." The petitioner therefore prays that the commissioners of the poor "may be required to take charge of her as a pauper."

PAR Number 21385125

State: South Carolina Year: 1851
Location: Charleston Location Type: District

Abstract: Frederick A. Ford, "Deputy Escheator," petitions to seize and sell the estate of Jubah Warren, a free woman of color. Under a 1799 act, Ford asserts that the property should be sold “on behalf of the City Council of Charleston for the use of the Orphan House.” Warren died in 1849 leaving an estate that includes a tract of land and nineteen slaves. Her will directed that the wages of her “servants” be set aside to purchase a “maid servant” for Elizabeth Melrose Whiting. After the purchase of Whiting’s servant, Warren’s three sisters, Diana, Nag and Ceily, would receive “support out of the wages.” Upon the death of her sisters, Warren declared that the slaves be freed. Ford maintains that Warren’s sisters are actually slaves and are therefore incapable of receiving their support from the wages of her slaves. He argues that the entire estate, with the exception of Whiting’s legacy, is liable to escheat. Ford asks that Dr. Edward Whiting, the executor of the estate, and Elizabeth Whiting be summoned in order to receive an account of the property and wages earned. After paying the debts and funeral expenses, Ford asks that the remainder of the estate be paid to him as the Deputy Escheater for the use of the Orphan House.

PAR Number 21385256

State: South Carolina Year: 1852
Location: Richland Location Type: District

Abstract: Robert T. Wynn seeks an injunction preventing the removal or sale of slaves. In 1835 William Duggins executed his last will and testament, in which "he bequeathed to his wife Harriet all his Estate" for life. Duggins died in 1836 with his last will and testament in force; Harriet married David Davis some time thereafter. The petitioner and Harriet qualified as executors for the estate of Duggins, which consisted of land, livestock, and ten slaves. Harriet and David Davis currently have control of the land, slaves, and livestock. In 1852 Cress and her child, slaves belonging to the estate, were sold to Joseph A. Black. The petitioner maintains that Black was given "an absolute and unlimited title to said negroes." Wynn also asserts that there has been an attempt to sell Charles, another slave. The petitioner stresses that the Davises "have but a life Estate in the Lands & negroes" and their control of the estate is "subject to be defeated under certain contingencies provided for" in the will of William Duggins. Therefore, the petitioner requests the court to issue an injunction preventing the sale or removal of slaves. Wynn also prays that Joseph Black be required to give bond and security for the forthcoming of Cress and her child upon the death of Harriet Davis.

PAR Number 21386702

State: South Carolina Year: 1867
Location: Charleston Location Type: District

Abstract: The Brotherly Association of Charleston petitions to replace its white trustees with people of color. The Association "is composed of colored persons who at the time of it's organization were incapacitated by the laws of the State of South Carolina from exercising the rights and privileges of Citizenship. To obviate this objection and to enable them to carry out the charitable purposes aimed at by the organization ... they petitioned the Legislature for an act of Incorporation and prayed the appointment of certain white citizens as Trustees." In 1857 the legislature granted their request. The petitioners point out that the Civil Rights Bill passed by the United States Congress and "the subsequent repeal by the Legislature of South Carolina of all disabling Statutes touching the exercise of the rights of Citizenship by the Colored Inhabitants of this State" remove the necessity for white trustees. They further assert that "while your petitioners entertain a profound sense of gratitude for the manner in which these Trustees have discharged the duties of the Trust they cannot but feel that in the changed condition of affairs it would be more agreeable to all parties, That the Trusteeship of their Association should vest in persons of their own Color."