Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11082401

State: Mississippi Year: 1824
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Andrew Barland, the son of a white man by a woman of mixed race, was given a good education by his father as well as some property. He states, that, having married into "a respectable white family," he has always been received and treated as a white man. Furthermore, he has served as a juror, given testimony in court, voted, and "enjoyed all the privileges of a free white Citizen." Recently, howerver, a controversy has arisen in a court case when one Joseph Hawk called into question whether Barland, a man of color, should be allowed to testify. Barland writes to the legislature that "his education, his habits, his principles, and his society are all identified with your views." Barland notes that he owns slaves and therefore "can know no other interest than that which is common to the white population." He asks, therefore, that the state "extend to your petitioner such privileges as his countrymen may think him worthy to possess."

PAR Number 11281304

State: North Carolina Year: 1813
Location: Wake Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Hancock seeks a divorce from his wife, the former Tabitha Askew. Hancock confides that "he is utterly at a loss in attempting to enumerate the Base Crimes which the said Tabitha has perpetuated ... crimes repugnant to the intentions of the marriage institution -- derogatory to the dignity of her sex." He discloses that the said Tabitha has "Abandoned herself to the most vile prostitution and debauchery" and has given birth to children "of various colours and complexions and nearly effected the ruin of your petitioner!" Hancock therefore prays that "his marriage with the said Tabitha may be entirely abrogated."

PAR Number 11282712

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Jonathan Bryan seeks a divorce from his wife Ann Jane Anders, who not only attempted to kill him but also incited "an Insurrection" among his slaves. Bryan reports that the said Ann Jane attempted to poison him more than once; that she failed to nurse him when he “was Confined with the Billious fever So that his life was despaired of"; that she "has laid voiolent hands on his person twice;" that she has "treated with Cruelty the Seven Children he has had by a decent and former wife"; that she "took medicine" to induce a miscarriage when she returned from being absent "for the Space of eleven months dureing which time She got herself with Child;" and that he "has not seen the Said Ann Jane and has been for Som time past and at this time She is aliveing in a Negro house With Negros." He therefore prays that the legislature will "interpose and pass a Law Divorcing him from this wife Ann Jane."

PAR Number 11283401

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

Abstract: Ellena Cobb seeks a divorce from her husband John Cobb. She confides that the said John represented "himself as highly respectable and of good standing in the Town where he resided and of considerable celebrity as a physician having a large and extensive practice which was very profitable." Swayed by his appearance, Ellena confesses that she married him and moved to South Carolina where she discovered, two days into the marriage, that her husband was "perfectly insolvent that he had no practice as a physician and was by his intemperate habits incapable" of affording "any comfort or protection to your petitioner but on the contrary [was] a constant source of ... heart rending mortification and regret." The petitioner reveals that she has left her husband but understands "from respectable and undoubted sources that he is still pursuing the same intemperate and dissipated course which he did when she was living with him and associates with the most degraded low and immoral company such as free negroes mulattoes and the very dregs of society." Avowing that she "was most fraudulently shamefully ... imposed upon by the base false and dishonest representations of the said John Cobb," the petitioner prays that she may be granted a divorce “by an act of the General Assembly.”

PAR Number 11284004

State: North Carolina Year: 1840
Location: Buncombe Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-one residents in the Spring Creek community in Buncombe County feel "deeply concerned for a Certain Cullard man named William B Hammons who we believe if he was tolerated to speak in Publick would be a means of doing much good." They purport that said Hammons "keeps company with no negroes all his association is with white people and no person that knows him doubts his sincerity as a religious Carracter." The petitioners therefore pray that Hammons "may have liberty to pray, exhort, or Preach amongst in Publick."

PAR Number 11382125

State: South Carolina Year: 1821
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Phillipe Stanislaus Noisette, "Botanist of Charleston," reveals that he "has, under peculiar circumstances become the Father of Six children begotten upon his faithful Slave named Celestine." Noisette admits that "it has been the intention of your petitioner for many years past by complying with the then existing Laws of the State, to emancipate the said Celestine and such of her children as were then alive, but unfortunately, he procrastinated the measure until after the passage of the late Law upon this subject." The petitioner therefore prays that his "peculiarly unfortunate" situation be given consideration as he fears "should any accident befal him, his own children and their mother, who by her exemplary conduct is well entitled to her freedom, would probably all become the slaves of another."

PAR Number 11383702

State: South Carolina Year: 1837
Location: Barnwell Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: William Dunn asks to emancipate a twelve-year-old slave, William, whose mother is "light yellow" and whose father is white. Dunn declares that said child is "so very white and of so good a complexion, as not to create even a suspicion on the mind of the most critical observer" that he is a person of color. He further avers that the said William "has in his raising been kept, thus far, separate and apart, from the Society of coloured people, and has, consequently not imbibed any of the principles or habits peculiar to them." The petitioner insists that "it is inconsistent, with [his] feelings ... to retain in slavery, a person, who approximates, so closely in identity of colour, habits and appearance to that of the white man." He therefore prays that an act be passed "granting your petitioner leave and authorizing him to emancipate the said little Boy William with permission for him to remain in the State."

PAR Number 11481930

State: Tennessee Year: 1819
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: Hardy Doyle seeks a divorce from his wife, Betsy S. Lamkin Doyle, who is possessed of "a turbulent & Tyrannical disposition." Doyle declares that his wife's behavior resulted in her being "excluded from decent society & [she] soon became the companion of whores & whoremongers of the most abandoned character ... amongst whom were free negroes & mulattoes (I blush to tell it)," whom she "invited and entertained ... at her house against my instructions." He further discloses that on one occasion "she became desperately angry and enraged against some person" and "she armed herself with a pistol in one hand and a Butcher Knife in the other ... [and] paraded through the streets, traversing the town from side to side searching her antagonist cursing & swearing most profanely & loudly using every profane oath & expression of abuse of which she could think." Being "so unfortunate as to be united to a woman who is lost to every feeling of humanity, religion & morality," the petitioner "does believe that you will be of opinion that she is not qualified to have the care of his family -- that you will not be deaf, but will hear his prayer to be released from those bands of iron which once seemed to be the silken chains of Hymen but now most miserably transformed."

PAR Number 11682108

State: Virginia Year: 1821
Location: Amelia Location Type: County

Abstract: Along with other whites in the community, Benjamin Bowles marched to the residence of a group of free blacks and "inflicted chastisement upon them." The free people of color, he claims, were of "bad fame and character," associating with them was Sally May, a white woman of "foul character." Afterwards, Bowles was convicted of instigating "a riot," and fined. He is very poor, he says, and asks for legislative relief.

PAR Number 20185424

State: Alabama Year: 1854
Location: St. Clair Location Type: County

Abstract: Some years prior to her marriage in 1847, Mary C. Edwards of St. Clair County, received three slaves--Dice and her two children--as a gift from her mother. After her marriage, she moved with her slaves and husband, Wiley C. Edwards, a widower, to Jasper County, Mississippi. Upon arriving, however, she discovered that one Willis Herrin lived in "open prostitution" with a mulatto woman named Harriet, one of her husband's slaves and they did so in the same house where the newlyweds lived. There was also evidence that Wiley had fathered one or more of Harriet's children, and that he was using Willis Herrin as a cover for his illicit relationship with Harriet. In addition, Mary asserts, her husband had a violent temper; on one occasion "he choked her very much, about the neck with his hands in so much that Oratrix was unable to move, and the prints of his fingers were on her neck for several days." It soon became apparent that she could not remain in Mississippi. Only four months after their marriage, she returned to Alabama. Seven years later, to protect her slave property, including a slave she had subsequently purchased from her mother's estate, Mary Edwards files for divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20285908

State: Arkansas Year: 1859
Location: Calhoun Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Jane Ledlow Pennington seeks the revocation of Alfred B. Lary as guardian of her child, Adam S. H. M. Ledlow, son of her deceased husband, Adam S. Ledlow. In 1855, following her husband's death, the court appointed Alfred B. Lary as guardian of the boy. She charges that, even though Lary has requested and received funds from the trustee of her son's estate, he has treated the boy in a cruel and inhumane manner, has not provided him with proper clothing, letting him run "filthy, dirty, and unwholesome," and has permitted him to associate freely and intimately with his slaves. Moreover, Mary Jane Pennington claims, she has been prevented from seeing her son. She prays that Lary be summoned to appear before the court and removed from his guardianship. Related testimonies reveal that Adam Ledlow was the owner of a handsome estate in Alabama, including a number of slaves.

PAR Number 20382703

State: Delaware Year: 1827
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: William Pinkerton Burton owned one hundred and fifty acres of land on Burton's Island in Dagsborough Hundred, Sussex County, being "of very considerable Value and Productiveness." Burton died in 1810, survived by seventeen-year-old Comfort and fifteen-year-old Betsy, "two young, ignorant and heedless Girls, the sole Inhabitants of a small Tenement, having but one Room under its Roof, and in an obscure and secluded Situation." A short time later, Joshua Ingram "affected to be their Friend and Protector." He sent his male slaves to work the land and the slaves lived with the two girls "by Day and by Night." It was "ruinous" both to their "Fortune and Character." Betsy died in 1811 and from then until the time of his death, although not legally her guardian, Comfort charges, Burton was "in Receipt of a very considerable Sum of Money, from the Rents and Profits of the said real Estate." He never rendered any account to Comfort, who described herself as "a poor, ignorant, uneducated and helpless Cripple." She seeks restitution from the executor of Ingram's estate. Depositions allege that Comfort cohabited with one of Ingram's slaves and bore three children.

PAR Number 20586003

State: Florida Year: 1860
Location: Leon Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Hill seeks a divorce and alimony from her husband John M. Hill on the grounds of adultery with a female slave. The petitioner states that she was "a good, Kind and faithful wife" and that for many years the marriage was a happy one. She reveals, however, that for some time her husband has "indulged in violent, and ungovernable tempers towards her"; said behavior coincided with his "living in a state of adultery with a female negro slave." Hill admits that "when the fact of faithlessness, corruption and disgrace came to her knowledge, her self respect and her duty to her children prompted her to abandon the house of her husband." She laments that, since her departure, "he has removed the female negro slave aforesaid to the house lately abandoned by your oratrix, and that the said female slave to all intents and purposes supplies the place lately occupied by your oratrix."

PAR Number 20685316

State: Georgia Year: 1853
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: Johnson Clark Abbot and Eliza M. Abbot were married on 25 October 1842. On 1 October 1850, Clark Abbot left their house and has not been seen again. Eliza Abbot also claims that since the desertion, Clark Abbot is "given to habitual intoxication, that he still remains the victim of intemperance & as such has become so depraved, that he has been exiled from the society of white persons & his associates are now negroes with whom [he] carouses & is in the daily habit of getting drunk & that he has at various times had carnal connection with other women." Eliza Abbot seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 20783919

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

Abstract: Thomas Parker and David Snodgrass state that Joseph Duncan died several years ago. Joseph's will directed "that his negro man named Garrard who is now called & known by the name Jarrett Duncan should be manumitted after sd. Testator's death, and that sd. negro man should in consideration thereof pay to sd. Testator's Executors the sum of two hundred dollars for the benefit of the legatees." The petitioners state that Garrard has not paid the two hundred dollars and they suspect he is planning to move to Ohio. The petitioners ask for a decree to have Garrard hired out until the debt is paid and seek an injunction to prevent him from leaving the state.

PAR Number 20786103

State: Kentucky Year: 1861
Location: Barren Location Type: County

Abstract: Matthew Gilmore charges his wife, Hanora Gilmore, with adultery. He complains that on 3 September 1860 "she abandoned him taking with her their youngest child" whom she left "with Some free negroes" in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Matthew states that his wife "is now residing in Nashville in the State of Tennessee & is living in a State of adultery & lewdness." The petitioner seeks a divorce from the defendant and the custody of their three children.

PAR Number 20881013

State: Louisiana Year: 1810
Location: Pointe Coupee Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Jean Pierre Rousselin, a merchant, has loaned Joseph Durac, also a merchant, 474.02 piastres. According to Rousselin, Durac has no known property in the territory and no home; his only "refuge" is in the "camp de nègres" of one Etienne Major, where he lives with one of Major's slaves. Rousselin is afraid that Durac is about to flee the territory before any judgment is rendered and executed against him in regard to this debt. He claims that his fears are justified by the fact that Durac has turned all he owns into cash and has admitted to several citizens of the parish that he is about to leave for Jamaica. He is also trumpeting to all that are willing to listen that he would not repay Rousselin even though he has the means to do so. Rousselin asks the court to condemn Durac to pay his debt. However, believing that the parish court order is unlikely to be executed in view of Durac's intent to skip town, he asks the court to execute "articles 21 & 22" of the law, whereby a Superior Court is asked, in such instances, to go "en circuit" in order to establish courts of internal jurisdiction [Original in French].

PAR Number 20881804

State: Louisiana Year: 1818
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Appollonie Julia, a minor, petitions for her freedom. She claims she is the child of Lesprit Tallon, a white man, and Mary Chenet, a slave owned by the widow of Alexander Chenet. She contends that she was legally freed at her birth by Mrs. Chenet at the request of Tallon, who paid the widow $100 for his child's freedom. Appollonie then lived with the widow "not as a Slave, but as a person confided to her care." Mrs. Chenet has recently died and Appollonie's aunt was supposed to take her into her protection. However, Mrs. Chenet’s son-in-law, William Bertin, refuses to acknowledge Appollonie's status and instead claims her as a slave. He has bought her as part of the estate and now holds her as his slave. Appollonie Julia prays that a “Curator” be appointed to represent her in court, that she be sequestered under the protection of the Sheriff until the case is decided, and that the court acknowledge her freedom. Finally, she prays that Bertin be made to pay her $500 in damages.

PAR Number 20882326

State: Louisiana Year: 1823
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Delphine, a free woman of color, claims that she is being held as a slave and deprived of her right to earn a living. She is suing Raymond Deveze, the man who currently holds her in servitude. She presents to the court the following facts that led to her current predicament. While living in Saint Domingue, the French part of the island of Hispaniola, she, her now-deceased mother, Caroline, and her two aunts, Luce and Florence, as well as her grandmother, Marie Catherine, were freed by one Marie Therese Duroc, her great-aunt, who was then their then owner. After her mother's death, Delphine continued to live with Marie Therese. But in 1803, during a period of violent upheaval on the island, the four women, a young male relative named Leger, as well as Marie Therese's companion, Mr. Belzons, were evacuated from Cap Français. Marie Therese died during the voyage and Belzons brought the other women and the young boy to Louisiana. Delphine claims that Belzons treated them well until, "shocking it is to state," he "inhumanly" sold her in spite of her representation that she was free. She is now the property of Deveze, from whom she has "suffered unjust corporal punishments." She prays the court to decree her free and to order Deveze to pay her compensation at the rate of $10 for each day that she has been "detained" in slavery [Original in English and French].

PAR Number 20882526

State: Louisiana Year: 1825
Location: Natchitoches Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Jose Maria Castro and Marie Louise Massip were married July 31, 1816. Marie Louise now claims that, shortly after their marriage, Castro began treating her in such a manner as “to render her life insupportable” though she conducted herself as a “dutiful wife.” She states that her husband has been frequently drunk, has abused her verbally, and has attacked her with a knife and threatened to kill her. She also claims that, “to her great injury,” Jose Marie brought “negro slaves” into their home on repeated occasions, invited them to sit at the table, made her wait on them, and even brought them up to her bedroom and “caused” them to sleep in her bed. And finally he has abandoned her. She now asks the court for a separation from her husband, so that “she may be put beyond the reach of his malicious & malevolent intentions & be able to provide for herself and her children five in number” [Original in English and French].

PAR Number 20882913

State: Louisiana Year: 1829
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Jean Baptiste Guillory, a free man of color, seeks a divorce from his wife, Marguerite Carabaillo, a free woman of color. Guillory asserts that, though he has always been "a good and affectionate husband," Marguerite "has been guilty of repeated acts of adultery with different persons and particularly with a coloured & married man named George Simien." Jean Baptiste claims that Marguerite abandoned him and their five children about six months ago and has continued to commit adultery since then. Guillory prays for a divorce from Marguerite "& that he & she may be placed in the same situation as tho' no marriage had ever been contracted between them." In addition, he prays for custody of the children as his wife "has proven herself unworthy of Keeping & raising them."

PAR Number 20884242

State: Louisiana Year: 1842
Location: Lafourche Interior Location Type: Parish

Abstract: John Gardiner sues Benjamin Cross, a slave owner, for assault and battery. Gardiner accuses Benjamin Cross and his two minor sons, Richard and Benjamin, of committing "a grievous, dangerous, disgraceful, and insulting attack and assault and battery upon" him. Gardiner informs the court that Cross attacked him after accusing him of "having written papers without authority for his negroes, & with the intention of causing them to run away." The first occasion was about 1 March 1842 when Cross and his sons attacked Gardiner at the Cross plantation with a bowie knife and a double-barreled gun. They tied his "hands, feet, & body" with a rope, then "struck him several times in the face, and on the body," and with "the lashe of a negro whip." Gardiner also complains of a second attack. While he was in the custody of the sheriff, Cross attacked him in a billiard room, striking him with a "blackjack-vine" ten or twelve times. Gardiner asserts that both his reputation and his body have been harmed by these assaults; therefore, he prays for $1,000 in damages for slander upon his reputation and $4,000 for physical damages.

PAR Number 20885044

State: Louisiana Year: 1850
Location: West Feliciana Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Ellen Wooten, a free woman of color, prays for payment on a promissory note. In 1846, John C. Morris promised to pay Wooten $2,000 plus 8% interest until the note was paid. Wooten complains that, considering that she "can neither read nor write," she thought and believed that "said note expressed the rate of conventional interest allowed by law." She now contends that Morris "practiced a fraud upon her by inserting the interest of 10 per cent," which is not allowed by law. Morris died before Wooten could collect on the note. By his will, Morris named Rebecca Harrison as his universal legatee. Rebecca has also died leaving her husband, George Harrison, as administrator to her estate. George is charged with distributing Rebecca's estate to the minor heirs. Wooten prays that the court will order George Harrison to pay her $2,000 with interest before he partitions Rebecca Harrison's estate. Related documents reveal that Ellen Wooten was an industrious woman, who kept a tavern, a boarding house, and a hotel; and she owned sixteen slaves.

PAR Number 20885148

State: Louisiana Year: 1851
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Carmélite, a woman of color, claims to be a “statu liber” held in the bonds of slavery beyond the time when she should have been freed. She prays for her freedom. Carmélite represents that, on the 17th of June 1844, her then owner, "Mademoiselle" Françoise Eléonore Doubrère, sold her to one Jean Lacaze on the condition that Lacaze would free her after a period of seven years. Although seven years have elapsed since the sale, Lacaze not only refuses to take the steps to emancipate Carmélite but he had her put in jail. Carmélite prays to be declared free and seeks $1,000 in damages from Lacaze, as well as $75 per month for the value of her services. The related supreme court opinion and decree reveals that Françoise Eléonore Doubrère, Carmélite's former owner, was a free woman of color.

PAR Number 20984410

State: Maryland Year: 1844
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Houck seeks to end his three-year marriage with his wife, Eleanora, because she has committed adultery. Houck explains that Eleanora admitted her infidelities to him, and he has "resolved never again to receive her as his wife" and has sent her to live with her father. He asks the court to subpoena her to answer these charges and to a decree a divorce. A related deposition from Donaldson Forster describes his sexual encounters with the defendant that were arranged by "a coloured man named Rice." According to Forster, several of these appointments took place "at different times on the same day" upstairs at Rice's house.

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