Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11678305

State: Virginia Year: 1783
Location: Greenbrier Location Type: County

Abstract: Patrick Davies asks the assembly for compensation for a "Negro man slave" who was convicted and executed for an attempted rape of Mrs. Mary Gray. The slave was appraised at eighty pounds "Virginia currency."

PAR Number 11680803

State: Virginia Year: 1808
Location: Frederick Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel Kerfott's slave, Joseph, was tried for attempted rape "on the body of Nancy Mitchell a free white Woman." He was convicted and sentenced to be castrated. A short time after the castration was performed, Joseph died of tetanus. Kerfott seeks compensation for his once healthy, twenty-six year old slave, for whom he claims to have paid 110 pounds "about one week before his Commitment." Contending that he "was obedient to the law" and immediately gave up his slave to meet the court's "fullest inquiry," he turns to the legislature for remedy because there is "no existing law embracing his case." Further elaborating on his reasons for asking for compensation, he avers that "a man whose slave is executed should be paid his value is founded on principles of Justice & sound policy."

PAR Number 11682206

State: Virginia Year: 1822
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1810, William Tompkins's eighteen-year-old slave Armstead ran away and after several months the owner believed that he was either dead or had made it to a free state. Eleven years later, Tompkins reports that "he received a letter from the said Slave Armstead, stating that he was confined in the Jail of [Caroline] County, under a charge of felony." Upon his visit to said jail, Tompkins "found the slave Armstead confined as a free negro, under the name of John Tyree," who was accused of raping Betsy Fitzhugh Gray. Tompkins states that he applied for a writ of habeas corpus, and when the writ was granted he explained to the court's satisfaction that John Tyree was in fact his slave Armstead. In November 1821, on various points of law, the County Court sent the case to the General Court, which ruled that the evidence concerning Tyree's status was not admissible. Tompkins reports that said Armstead, or Tyree, has been convicted of the charge and sentenced to fifteen years in the penitentiary. The petitioner therefore seeks “redress for the Injury he has sustained."

PAR Number 11682712

State: Virginia Year: 1827
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: George Spencer represents that last August "a negro man the property of your petitioner was convicted of Rape & Setenced by the said Court to be hung by which Sentence your petitioner has been deprived of nearly his only means of Support." Averring that Buck "was a mechanic of considerable value," Spencer reports that he "was receiving $15 per month for his services." The petitioner contends "that the amount allowed him by the Court is not the intrinsic value of his property." Spencer therefore appeals "to your Honble body to allow him further compensation for his property." James Hart, in an attached affidavit, states that Buck "was worth to [Spencer] at least Eight hundred Dollars."

PAR Number 11684607

State: Virginia Year: 1846
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: Ely Ball and Henry Satterwhite, trustees of Nancy Horner, represent "that a slave named Dennis a portion of the trust property ... absconded and passed himself as a free man." They further report that "while passing in that character he committed a felony punishable on a slave by stripes, on a free man by confinement in the Penitentiary." The petitioners aver that they did not "he was arrested & tried & convicted as a freeman and sentenced to the penitentiary where he now is." Noting that he is "now lost to owner," the petitioners ask to be "relieved by the passage of a Law to restore him to his owners and they respectfully pray the passage of such a Law." Dennis, "by the name of William Mayo," was convicted "of having carried or caused to be carried from the town of Fredericksburg beyond the commonwealth, three slaves."

PAR Number 20186029

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Perry Location Type: County

Abstract: Margaret A. Winn, through her next friend Romulus W. Moon, seeks a divorce from her husband Pyramus C. Winn. She also asks the court to remove her husband as trustee of her separate estate of twelve slaves, and to grant her custody of their young son. The petitioner claims that her husband, a man addicted to ardent liquors, abused her with language "harsh low vulgar and deeply insulting," that he threatened to cut her throat, and that on one occasion he "Shamelessly & indecently exposed his naked person" to her eleven-year-old daughter by a previous marriage seeking "by persuasive language & conduct to corrupt and debase the morals and chastity of the child." She fled from their home with the children, returning only when Pyramus left for Louisiana. When he returned, she filed suit. A related deposition reveals that Winn, a physician, admitted the attempted rape to his brother in law, but placed the blame on his excessive drinking.

PAR Number 20382604

State: Delaware Year: 1826
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Buckmaster seeks permission to export and sell his jailed slave, Manuel, who, while at a neighbor's home "acted in such a manner toward a white girl about the house, as to leave no doubt on the minds of the family that his intention was to commit a rape upon her." Buckmaster also asserts that Manuel has run away "on one or two occasions" and remained out for "a considerable length of time."

PAR Number 20486316

State: District of Columbia Year: 1863
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Solomon Williams, a free man of color, states that he has been indicted by the criminal court and is confined to jail. Williams has been charged with "assault & battery with entent to commit a rape." He wishes to post bail and seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20486319

State: District of Columbia Year: 1863
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: John Smith, a free person of color, states that he has been indicted by the criminal court and is confined to jail. Smith is charged with "assault and battery with intent to commit a rape." He wishes to post bail and seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20884641

State: Louisiana Year: 1846
Location: East Feliciana Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Guilbert, a slave, authorized by his master, William Blunt, and assisted by his legal counsel Saunders & King, prays for an appeal to the Supreme Court. Guilbert was tried and convicted of attempting to rape Olivia Elliott, a white woman, which is a crime punishable by death. Witnesses confirm that Guilbert confessed while being whipped. Guilbert prays that he will be granted an appeal so that the verdict may be reversed. Related documents reveal that Guilbert's confession was obtained while he was being whipped. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Louisiana agreed with Guilbert and his counsel that such confession is inadmissible in a court of law and ordered the case to be retried.

PAR Number 21085034

State: Mississippi Year: 1850
Location: Noxubee Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel Ussury asserts that "Tom a slave & the property of your petitioner is unlawfully restrained of his liberty and detained in the jail of said county for a pretended criminal offence towit 'An attempt to commit a rape upon the body of Sarah J. Vaughan a free white woman & also on a charge of burglary' &c." Believing Tom's "imprisonment to be illegal," Ussury seeks "a habeas corpus to discharge him from custody." The court found the evidence to be insufficient "to sustain either the charge of Burglary" or rape and discharged Tom.

PAR Number 21185408

State: Missouri Year: 1854
Location: Boone Location Type: County

Abstract: Nancy Hubard, a minor, petitions by her next friend, Eusebus Hubard, against Edward Young. Hubard asserts that the said Young "was the owner and master of a certain slave named Hiram, of the value of Twelve hundred dollars." She further alleges that the said Hiram, "with force and arms," did on 13 August 1853 "then and there make an assault" on her with the intent "felloniously to abuse, ravish, and carnally know" her. Contending that "she is damaged to the amount of Twelve hundred dollars," the petitioner prays for judgment. Prior to this petition, Hubbard successfully petitioned for Eusebus to be "appointed her next Friend to Conduct and prosecute said action on behalf of your petitioner."

PAR Number 21281803

State: North Carolina Year: 1818
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: After two years of marriage, Jane Robinson seeks a divorce, charging that her husband William Robinson engaged in "promiscuous cohabitation with various women of loose and immoral habits" including slaves. Several related depositions reveal a pattern of unwelcomed sexual advances thrust by William Robinson upon the female slaves of various acquaintances.

PAR Number 21283404

State: North Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Person Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in 1826, Martha S. Evans seeks a divorce, charging her husband David Evans with abuse, adultery, and numerous assaults. In one incident, in 1832, when she discovered him "in the act of attempting to gratify his criminal desires on a negro woman" by force, Martha attempted to intervene. The petitioner's husband seized her, she recounts, "and inflicted on her such a beating that she was nearly helpless for a week." His only regret, he said the next morning, was that he had not killed her.

PAR Number 21285616

State: North Carolina Year: 1856
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: Charging her husband with having sexual encounters with both female slaves and white women, Caroline E. Wallace claims that he is abusive, violent, and has threatened her life. On one occasion, she recounts, her husband "ordered one John Miller to bring a light and hold it while in his presence" he "violated her person." He is a prosperous man, she adds, owning about fifteen hundred acres of land worth at least fifteen thousand dollars, and approximately twenty slaves. She asks for a divorce and financial support.

PAR Number 21285856

State: North Carolina Year: 1858
Location: Guilford Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Brady, a shopkeeper, informs the court that he was convicted of murdering John Knowles, his wife's alleged lover, and later pardoned He also informs the court that he believes the last child born to his wife is not his, but John Knowles's child. In her answer, Jane Brady wife denies the charge of adultery, and accuses her husband of having illicit sex with a number of women, both black and white, forcing himself sexually on a girl of very tender years, and sexually forcing himself on his own sister. He also transmitted a venereal disease to his wife.

PAR Number 21385529

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

Abstract: John B. O'Neall, guardian of Marcus McLemore, seeks to sell two slaves belonging to his ward. O'Neall informs the court that McLemore "is entitled to two negro men slaves towit Anthony and Adam which are now in the possession of your petitioner." He recounts that "the boy Anthony has been tried and convicted of an assaut and battery, upon the person of Mrs E. D. Reid, with an intent to commit a rape." O'Neall cites that Anthony was "sentenced to be hung, which sentance has been commuted, by the Govener, to two hundred and fifty lashes and banishment from the state for life." The petitioner charges that "the other boy Adam is ungovernable and a great runaway and otherwise of bad character." Believing "it would be to the interest of his ward to have both of the aforesaid slaves sold," the petitioner prays that he may be granted "an order to sell the said slaves either at public or private sale."

PAR Number 21481001

State: Tennessee Year: 1810
Location: Rhea Location Type: County

Abstract: Hannah Morris seeks a divorce from John Morris, her husband of twenty-two years. She states that John abandoned her when she was sick, "declaring he would not return but to destroy what property she and her children should collect by their industry." John made good on his promise "by pulling up the herbs in the garden, and turning the cattle in the cornfield." In addition, Hannah reports that "to insult my feelings, and violate our marriage contract he carried on illicit commerce with a black woman." She concludes by stating that her husband also "debases himself by intoxication and when drunk uses your petitioner with savage cruelty. This statement is made not in levity, but in sincerity and truth." Hannah Morris asks that her marriage to John "be dissolved and forever set aside."

PAR Number 21484523

State: Tennessee Year: 1845
Location: Maury Location Type: County

Abstract: Cornelia Long seeks a divorce with alimony from her husband, Nicholas Long, citing his "brutal, inhumane, and grossly insulting" behavior towards her. Wildly jealous and convinced of her infidelities, Nicholas regularly cast "aspersions ... upon her virtue and chastity" and accused her of "indecencies and indignities" that would shock "any reflecting moral or religious individual." For example, Nicholas accused her of "aiding abetting and assisting" her brother "with using violence to a young lady of the neighbourhood, for the purpose of carnally knowing her without her consent." He further charged Cornelia with "taking a servant to watch while she was perpetrating acts of infidelity." Insisting that "she has stood the indignities offered to her long enough," she seeks a divorce from Nicholas, who is "impotent & incapable of procreation." She "only wants" the property that she had when she married Nicholas and demands that he deliver up "her wearing apparel instantly." In his answer, Nicholas denies all charges. He avers that Cornelia repeatedly told him that "if she was his wife she was not his slave and that she was white and free to go where she pleased." He also reports that she had six slaves when they married, but that when he went to Kentucky to retrieve them, her "interest in the negro property" was "bound up" and the slaves could not be removed from the state.

PAR Number 21683034

State: Virginia Year: 1830
Location: Lynchburg Location Type: City

Abstract: Frances Harrison explains that "at the early age of 14 whilst the member of a respectable family and herself of a character irreproachable, she was made the victim of seduction by the father of her deceased son--From that fatal moment up to the present the injury so far as she was concerned has remained unatoned for and uncompensated - adequately compensated it never could be, as earth contains no equivalent for such a loss as female reputation." Her "natural" son's father, James Garland, a slaveholding planter in a nearby county, took her son from her and "reared him to manhood, maintained and educated him." Unbeknowst to Frances, the son recently died, possessed of a handsome estate in land, money, and slaves, worth between ten or fifteen thousand dollars. One Richard Eubank travelled to inform her of her son's death and offered to purchase her interest in his estate for three hundred dollars, with seven hundred more if no will were discovered "cutting her off." Harrison agreed to the arrangement, but now charges Eubank and others with a gross "outrage upon the rights of an illiterate and defenceless mother and her equally defenceless offspring," the half-brother of her late son. Frances seeks to annul her agreement with Eubank, to enjoin the administrator from selling property or hiring the slaves in her late son's estate, and to secure her portion of the estate.