Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10181801

State: Alabama Year: 1818
Location: Unknown Location Type: County

Abstract: Slave owner David Norris seeks to emancipate his slave Nancy, who saved his life when he was about to be killed "by the hostile Indians" in the Missouri Territory.

PAR Number 11081501

State: Mississippi Year: 1815
Location: Wilkinson Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioner, Benajah Randle, informs the court that a few months earlier, an American Indian brought to him a slave by the name of Toney, who, after questioning, was found to belong to one John Brown of Wilkinson County. Randle, mindful of his duties as a good citizen, took the slave over to Washington jail in Adams County. The slave died in jail a short time later. Illiterate, poor, and with a large family, Randle seeks reimbursement for expenses incurred in fulfilling his responsibilities.

PAR Number 11279002

State: North Carolina Year: 1790
Location: Gates Location Type: County

Abstract: William Lewis and Samuel Harrell ask that a law be passed validating the title to a tract of land acquired by a group of people descended from American Indians and blacks. They state that in 1724 the Chowan Indians received 11,360 acres of land from "the true and absolute Lords proprietors of North Carolina" lying in Chowan County, now Gates County. Noting that "the whole of the Said Chowan Indian Men is dead," they point out that that left "a parcel of Indian Women, which has mixed with Negroes, and now there is Several freemen and Women of Mixed blood as aforesaid which have descended from the Sd. Indians, who consider themselves "intitled to the Small Remnants of the aforesaid Tract of Land that was not sold nor conveyed by the aforesaid Indians in their Lifetime." Lewis and Harrell state that the said freemen “have for a valuable Consideration Conveyed the Said Remnants of Land to your Petitioners,” whereby they pray that a law may be passed “authorizing the said free men of mixed blood as aforesaid to sell and make titles” to the said land and that said titles “shall be good and valid in Law.” Supporters of Lewis and Harrell aver that “the freemen aluded to in the petition Did in the late Contest with Great Brittain behave themselves as good and faithful soldiers in behalf of this and the United States.”

PAR Number 11379804

State: South Carolina Year: 1798

Abstract: Holman Freeman recounts that, "in an expedition against the Cherokee Nation of Indians in the year 1782," General Andrew Pickens "captured nine negroes from the enemy," which were sold to make a division of the proceeds among the soldiers; said sale "was afterwards approved of and confirmed by the Legislature of this State in and by the act of Assembly passed the 21st of March 1784." The petitioner affirms that he purchased three of said slaves and that "the same negroes and their increase have since been recovered from your Petitioner ... in an action of Trover, wherein the Jury gave a conditional verdict, either to surrender or give up the same negroes and their increase, or to pay the amount of twenty four hundred Dollars with costs of suit to the original owner." Freeman seeks relief.

PAR Number 11480702

State: Tennessee Year: 1807
Location: Smith Location Type: County

Abstract: Stephen Copland represents that "there was in the Course of last winter a Negro man killed on the Road ... by a Cherokee Indian who for Sd. Crime was Committed by me to Catharidge [Carthage] jail." Copland complains that he and his assistants have yet to receive compensation for "carying the sd. Indian to jail" and that their "only Redress now Lies in the breast of the honourable house of representatives."

PAR Number 11484304

State: Tennessee Year: 1843
Location: McMinn Location Type: County

Abstract: George Sherman, a free person of color, represents that "he emigrated to the State of Tennessee sometime in the year 1839." He therefore prays “your Honorable bodies to exempt him from the penalties of the law "made for the prevention of the emigration of free negroes to the State, and from all other penalties" and that the legislature "will most graciously, by a special law for that purpose, allow and grant to him all the rights and privileges appertaining and belonging to native free born persons of color of the State of Tennessee." A notary public from New York certified in 1831 that Sherman was "aged about nineteen years, of the height of five feet four inches, of a mulatto complexion, wooly hair, no scars -- that he is an indian, one of the Narragansett tribe, by profession a mariner, born in New Port, Rhode Island."

PAR Number 11583803

State: Texas Year: 1838
Location: Nacogdoches Location Type: County

Abstract: William Goyens states that "he is unfortunately a man of colour," who emigrated to Texas in 1830. Since that time, Goyens professes that he has "ever been identified with the feelings and interests of the Anglo American population and has born his humble part in their struggle." For the last five years, he has worked "in publick Services connected with the Indians," and "for the last two years he has the honour to have been appointed a regular Indian Agent -- for the Cherokee Tribe." He further notes that during the War for Texas Independence, he furnished "horses, provisions, and money - small as may have been these services they were at least equal to his ability." Stating that the Colonization Law entitles him to land, Goyens asks that a "League & Labor of Land may be granted him as a Head Right and that a Law may be passed to that effect in his favour."

PAR Number 11584002

State: Texas Year: 1840
Location: Nacogdoches Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-five citizens of Nacogdoches County ask the legislature to exempt William Goyens, a free man of color, from the law requiring free people of color to emigrate. Goyens "has conducted himself as an honest industrious citizen has accumulated considerable property in lands &c and has been of great Service to the Country in our Indian difficulties." They therefore pray that a law be passed "authorizing the said William Goyens to reside permanently in the Republic and enjoy such privileges as are usual in like cases."

PAR Number 11585107

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

Abstract: John R. Garnett, administrator of the estate of the late Jabez Fitzgerald, asks for "clemency" in regard to paying a security bond of one thousand dollars. Garnett states that the said Fitzgerald and another man served as securities for Sheriff Francis Williams, vouching for his paying to the state the taxes he had collected. He further states that the Fannin County Court served a judgment on said securities in 1845 and that Williams absconded with a valuable slave three hundred miles into the Cherokee Nation where Fitzgerald overtook them. Garnett notes that the slave was "by the devices of said Williams retaken from" Fitzgerald on his return trip. Now, after a trial and appeal, the estate administrator asks the state for "clemency" in the judgment against the intestate's estate.

PAR Number 11585108

State: Texas Year: 1851

Abstract: Free man of color Thomas Sevolla asks to remain in Texas. He states that he arrived in the Republic of Texas in 1836, served under General Zachary Taylor during the Mexican War, and was "Connected with the Army in several expeditions against the Indians and Mexecans, and was severely wounded in the Battle of the Salado in the year 1842." He "would therefore humbly & respectfully ask of your honorable Body to pass an act By which I may be enabled to settle and remain permanently in the state of Texas."

PAR Number 11677801

State: Virginia Year: 1778
Location: Williamsburg Location Type: City

Abstract: In May 1776, Charles Lynch contracted with the government to manufacture salt petre and gunpowder with labor performed by "the Negroes then in the Publick Gaol." Lynch was to keep the slaves "untill the Last Day of November 1778" and would be paid from the sale of the gunpowder, deducting the cost of hiring the slaves up to five hundred pounds. In April 1778, however, the governor ordered the black laborers taken to the lead mines, six months before the agreed upon release date. As a result, and due to the incursions of American Indians, he could not make "any considerable Quantity of Salt Petre or Powder" and asks that the contract be adjusted accordingly.

PAR Number 11677804

State: Virginia Year: 1778

Abstract: Nathaniel Henderson lost a "valuable negro" during a battle against American Indians at Fort Boon in Kentucky County on 11 September 1778. The slave was ordered to take a gun, post himself to guard the fort, and "fire on the Indians which he accordingly did and was kill'd." The owner seeks compensation for the value of the slave.

PAR Number 11678401

State: Virginia Year: 1784
Location: Northampton Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-one residents of Northampton County state that six hundred acres of land “appropriated by Law to the use of the Gingaskin Tribe of Indians" is "at present an Asylum for free Negroes & other disorderly persons, who build Hutts thereon & pilage & destroy the Timber without controul." With only five or six Gingaskin tribe members remaining, the petitioners "humbly conceive it would be a great benefit to the Indians & a saving to the public" to appoint trustees to allot "a quantity sufficient for the purposes of the Indians & lease out the remainder annually, subject to taxation as other Lands, and divide the rent among the said Indians in such manner as the said Trustees shall judge most equitable."

PAR Number 11678509

State: Virginia Year: 1785

Abstract: Peter Rezard de Mouves Darges seeks to collect eighty pounds, the value of a slave named Peter who "was found guilty of Burglary & Felony, and Sentence of Death pass'd on him." The petitioner states that said Peter "made his escape from the Goal of this County Crossed the Ohio River and was Kill'd by the Savages." Darges further relates that he purchased "the Certificate" from Peter's owner "but upon apply to the auditors of publick Accounts ... he was refused because he could produce no Certificate of the Execution of the sd Slave." The petitioner therefore prays for "such relief as may thought just and reasonable." [This petition was filed in Jefferson County, Kentucky, and found at the Virginia State Archives.]

PAR Number 11678604

State: Virginia Year: 1786

Abstract: Robert Todd, the executor of John Todd, and Jane Todd, Todd's executrix and widow, state that "their Testator upon the opening of Land Office in the year 1779 vested the greatest part of his personal property in Land Warrants" that were located "in the District of Kentucky." They lament, however, that "before titles could be obtained for the Lands to which he was intitled he was killed by Indians in an engagement with them." The Todds assert that "a sale of part of the Lands" of said estate would provide support for Mary Owen Todd, the testator's five-year-old child, as well as enable the debts to be discharged; any surplus could "be applied to the purpose of purchasing Slaves," as Jane "would be Satisfied to take her Dower in the Slaves to be purchased, in Lieu of her Dower in the Lands." The petitioners therefore "Pray that an act may pass, appointing Trustees to Sell & convey as much of the Lands belonging to the Estate as will pay off the Demands thereupon and purchase two likely young Negro fellows and one Wench to be vested in the Said Mary Owen Todd & your Petitioner."

PAR Number 11679301

State: Virginia Year: 1793
Location: Frederick Location Type: County

Abstract: Alexander White, the executor of the will of Robert Wilson, states that his testator bequeathed "a Negroe Man Slave called Ben" to his grandson, Robert Wilson; the will stipulated that "if the said Robert Wilson son of James shall die before he attains the age of twenty one Years that my Executors do use their best endeavours ... and set at Liberty the said Slave Ben." White notes that "the said Robert Wilson the Grandson of the Testator was killed by the Indians" in 1791, Wilson "being then in the nineteenth year of his age." The petitioner therefore prays "that an act may pass to authorize him to emancipate and set at Liberty the said negroe man Ben agreeably to the benevolent intentions of his Testator."

PAR Number 20183102

State: Alabama Year: 1831
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Latchlin Durant seeks to regain possession of slaves given by his grandfather McGilveray to his mother. Durant says that the slaves were "forcibly taken" and, in 1803, delivered to David Tait [Tate] of Baldwin County, who held them in trust for Alexander McGilveray, a minor who died in England without any issue. Durant states that all the named parties "were residing in the Indian Nation & under Indian Laws at the time of the transactions" and that "all the parties except McGilveray your Orator's grandfather were of Indian blood & descent by the father or mother or both." Durant declares that as the only surviving son of his mother and the oldest surviving male descendant of his grandfather, "by the laws of the Creek tribe of Indians ... he is the sole heir of said McGilveray." Now Tait has died, and Durant asks the court to order his heirs and executors to account for the slaves, which he estimates to be more than one hundred; to compensate him for their services; and to return them to his possession.

PAR Number 20482302

State: District of Columbia Year: 1823
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: James Tench and others ask for a retrial of the case in which their former slaves, Hezekiah, Dolly, Mary, Arey and Mary Humphreys, received their freedom. The Humphreys testified that since "they were the descendents in the direct female line of a free white woman," they deserved their freedom. The petitioners state that at the time they "were not properly prepared to rebut or disprove" the Humphreys' claims, but now they have new witnesses. They also refer to a 1795 case in which a Harry Humphreys sued for, and was denied, his freedom based upon his descent from a former slave named Arey, who is the "mother and person from whom the said petitioners lineally descended." The petitioners claim that "they are the true and lawful owners" of the defendants, who "hitherto have been wandering up and down through various parts of the Land as of their own will under no restraint from Your Orators and Oratrixes." They ask that the Humphreys family answer their allegations, that the court serve them with subpoenas, and that the case be retried.

PAR Number 20582202

State: Florida Year: 1822
Location: Escambia Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Ann Preato states that she is the daughter of "John a Native of the Creek Nation of Indians." She further recounts that John has died, but before his death "your Petitioner received by verbal donation from her said Father Two Negroe Women (Viz) Nancy and Hanna." The slaves have since had twelve children between them. When Preato "removed from the Indian Nation," she left the said slaves in the possession of one "of the Chiefs of the Nation aforesaid." Preato now informs the court that "a certain William Weatherford, and a certain Loyed" a number of the slaves in their possession. Preato prays that the slaves be sequestered to prevent their removal from the jurisdiction and that Weatherford and Loyd be cited to appear and answer her charges.

PAR Number 20783003

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

Abstract: Rachel believes that she, along with other slaves, was emancipated by John Rodgers and that the deed of manumission is recorded in Maryland. Rodgers and most of the manumitted slaves moved to Virginia, and then to Kentucky, where Rodgers died. Sometime after his death, one of Rachael's arms was seriously impaired, and she was persuaded by Tunis Applegate, whom she believed to be an Indian doctor, to go with him to his house in Jefferson County. Her arm was cured and she stayed with him for 2 or 3 years "when to her great astonishment he claimed her as a slave." Applegate tried to sell her, but the purchasers were deterred, suspecting the bill of sale he produced was forged. She has one child named George Washington, and she fears Applegate will send her and her child "down the River" to be sold. She asks the court to restrain him from removing and selling them until her suit for their freedom on the law side of the court is heard.

PAR Number 20784116

State: Kentucky Year: 1841
Location: Barren Location Type: County

Abstract: Siller, a woman of color, sues for her freedom by virtue of being the granddaughter of an Indian woman in Virginia. She fears that in response to her freedom suit she will be "removed beyond the jurisdiction of your Honorable Court, and there secreted or sold" unless the court intercedes.

PAR Number 20784117

State: Kentucky Year: 1841
Location: Barren Location Type: County

Abstract: Doctor Franklin claims to be the great-grandson of an American Indian woman from Virginia and therefore asserts that he is free. While this case is being determined, he asks to be taken into the custody of the sheriff and held or hired out, because he fears that he will be removed from the court's jurisdiction.

PAR Number 20784120

State: Kentucky Year: 1841
Location: Barren Location Type: County

Abstract: Lucinda claims to be the great-granddaughter of an American Indian woman from Virginia and therefore asserts that she is free. While this case is being determined, she asks to be taken into the custody of the sheriff and held or hired out, because she fears that she will be removed from the court's jurisdiction.

PAR Number 20784121

State: Kentucky Year: 1841
Location: Barren Location Type: County

Abstract: Hetty claims to be the great-granddaughter of an American Indian woman from Virginia and therefore asserts that she is free. While this case is being determined, she asks to be taken into the custody of the sheriff and held or hired out, because she fears that she will be removed from the court's jurisdiction.

PAR Number 20784122

State: Kentucky Year: 1841
Location: Barren Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas claims to be the great-grandson of an American Indian woman from Virginia and therefore asserts that he is free. While this case is being determined, he asks to be taken into the custody of the sheriff and held or hired out, because he fears that he will be removed from the court's jurisdiction.

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