Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20985703

State: Maryland Year: 1857
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Margery Wells, the petitioner, married James Wells, the defendant, in 1849. Margery states that some years later her husband "commenced, and has ever since continued, to associate only with the most depraved and dissolute in their manners and conversation; that he consorts with negroes upon terms of perfect equality." She claims that her husband encouraged "the said negroes" to meet at their house and engaged with them in "acts contrary not only to the law of the land, but in the most flagrant degree subversive and in contempt of religion and morality." Although Margery attempted to reform her husband through "kind conduct," James, without provocation, "abuses and curses her, and heaps upon her epithets the most opprobrious and vile." Margery claims that James "has threatened both to whip and kill her" if she tried to visit her friends; has refused to buy her clothes; "has refused her the use of candles;" has forbidden "her the use of a horse;" and has accused her of adultery. James has also been physically abusive as well; in 1856, he "threw her down, and with his knees upon her breasts, choked her, and unmercifully and cruelly struck her violent and repeated blows in the face ... accompanying his inhuman brutality with the words -- 'damn you, i'll kill you.' " After that, she fled the house and has not returned. Margery Wells asks the court for a decree of divorce with alimony. She also asks for an injunction to prevent James from selling his personal property, which includes four slaves, as she fears James will endeavor to defeat her efforts "to obtain any such alimony."

PAR Number 21086022

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

Abstract: Caroline P. Walker seeks a divorce from her husband, Lawrence W. Walker Jr. She states during the last months of their marriage "the said Lawrence treated her with the utmost neglect and indiference-neglecting and refusing to give your Oratrix that attention and nursing which she in her condition may reasonably expect from her husband and actually required for the preservation of her life." Caroline also claims Lawrence "has fallen into the crime of adultery with a certain slave" and "with other women whose names are unknown." The petitioner therefore seeks a divorce and asks, in lieu of alimony, to retain her separate property which includes a number of slaves, certain household furniture, and land.

PAR Number 21184121

State: Missouri Year: 1841
Location: Ray Location Type: County

Abstract: John, a mulatto, claims that his grandmother, "an Irish Subject of the Kingdom of Great Britian living in Ireland," agreed to serve a seven-year indenture in return for passage to the United States. Arriving in Virginia sometime in the 1780s, the ship captain bound her to the Offutt family. She died two or three years later, "leaving two free white Children." One of these children, Love, was "raised in a negro quarter and treated in every Respect as a slave." Love bore "two bastard Mulatto Children" and was about to sue for her freedom when the Offutt family "run her off" to Kentucky to live with another branch of the family. In Kentucky, Love married a slave named Frank, who was freed upon his master's death. In 1813 or 1815, when her son John was about five years old, Love sued for and received her freedom, but the Offutts took her four children to Louisville to prevent them from suing as well. The two oldest children did eventually obtain their freedom, but John was "run off" to Missouri, where he has lived for the last eighteen to twenty years as a slave of James Offutt. John asks for permission to sue as a poor person for his freedom. Fearing that Offutt will remove him from the court's jurisdiction if not required to give bond, the petitioner also asks for the court's protection while his suit is pending. [Related depositions add much more detail and directly contradict this petition in important ways, such as the race of the people named.]

PAR Number 21184212

State: Missouri Year: 1842
Location: St. Louis Location Type: County

Abstract: Thadeus Alonzo, a ten-month-old boy, petitions by his next friend, Cheslsey Evans, who informs the court that the petitioner's mother Vica resided with her master, Felix Walker, in Illinois for several months before and after Thadeus's birth. He cites that Walker's son-in-law, Benjamin Dill, later brought them to St. Louis and left them with John Sparr. Evans recounts that Sparr, pretending to own Vica and Thadeus, sold them to Lyman B. Shaw, who in turn sold them to Samuel Hobart and George Charles. Noting that George Mellody now holds Thadeus, Evans contends that these multiple transactions are fraudulent and that the said infant is entitled to his freedom. He therefore prays that Thadeus Alonzo be permitted to sue as a poor person to establish his right to freedom. The petition reveals that "the said Vica, is the daughter of a mulatto woman by an Indian man, and that the father of your petitioner is a white man-- so that the proportion of African blood in your petitioner is about one eighth." A related petition also notes that Chesley Evans is “a relation of” Vica.

PAR Number 21185902

State: Missouri Year: 1859
Location: St. Louis Location Type: County

Abstract: Louisa Lewis seeks permission to sue as a poor person to establish "the right of herself, and of her minor son George to freedom." Louisa claims that seventeen years ago her mother Lizzie, alias Elizabeth Dickson, a free person of color, purchased Louisa "for the purpose, and on the condition that she should be free." Louisa argues that, inasmuch as it is illegal for free persons of color to own slaves in Missouri, the "purchase of petitioner by her mother operated as a deed of manumission." Fourteen-year-old George was born three years after "the emancipation of your petitioner" and has lived as a free person his entire life. Henry W. Hart, the administrator of Elizabeth Dickson's estate, now holds Louisa and George as slaves. Louisa asks the court to recognize her status as a free woman. Depositions in the court record reveal that George, whose color is "nearly white," attended "common school with white children." Before her mother's death, Louisa spent time in Chicago with her husband, a former slave manumitted by St. Louis mayor, John How. A deposition from Martha Brown intimates that Louisa passed for white while in Chicago.

PAR Number 21200001

State: North Carolina Year: 9999
Location: Nash Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Flowers seeks a divorce from his wife Temperance, who "has taken up and cohabitted with people of colour, by whom she has had a child of colour & mixed blood, and with whom she has long associated."

PAR Number 21279807

State: North Carolina Year: 1798
Location: Craven Location Type: County

Abstract: Ann G. Daly, administratrix of the late John Daly, Esq. and guardian to his minor children, ask permission to emancipate a twenty-year-old mulatto slave name Mary. According to Ann Daly, and her co-petitioners, Robert Donnell, his wife Eliza Donnell, and John Sears, Mary "has always been reputed to be" John Daly's daughter. She "is a girl of excellent character," the petitioners write, and is "industrious Sober & honest & has always behaved dutifully and affectionately towards the whole family."

PAR Number 21282001

State: North Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Stokes Location Type: County

Abstract: James Larimore seeks a divorce from his wife Catharine, a woman with "abandoned" habits who engaged in "adulterous intercourse with diverse individuals." He accused her of having sex with a mulatto man named William Goings during the night she sat up with the dying wife of a neighbor; he accused her of having an affair with one of his slaves in their kitchen; and he accused her of having illicit connections with a white man named Joseph Pane. In addition, she had "gone off to the State of Indianna."

PAR Number 21282403

State: North Carolina Year: 1824
Location: Perquimans Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah Oneel seeks a divorce and alimony from her husband William Oneel, who, she contends, has abused her and mistreated her for many years. Not only did he beat and threaten to kill her, but in 1822 he took away their only child, a four-year-old daughter. Now he is "living in a vile & infamous state of adultery with a black woman whom he purchased for the purpose of keeping as his mistress."

PAR Number 21284008

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

Abstract: William King charges that his "young & handsome" wife Mary was accepting "the embraces of other men." Standing by a window near their house, he overheard Mary and her sister planning a rendezvous. A few evenings later, he followed his wife to the house of her mother, "old lady Coley," where she said she was going for a visit. King discovered the mother was gone, while his wife and her sister entertained "two Mulatto fellows." Peering through a window, he saw Mary with her head on the lap of one of the men. He seeks a divorce. In her related answer, Mary denies her husband's allegations and charges that he left her alone many nights without any explanation, and that he subsequently moved in with a man of color and his three daughters.

PAR Number 21285716

State: North Carolina Year: 1857
Location: Guilford Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in 1854, Elisha Charles Dodson claims that his wife, the former Permelia Ann Brown, committed adultery. During different periods, he says, she lived with her mother, Betsey Brown, who managed a house of ill repute, and also with a free black man "who kept a house of the same bad character." Elisha seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 21285815

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

Abstract: When he was sixteen, Benjamin F. Millican married Elizabeth Holder, who was "much older," a "full grown woman." On the road hauling goods as a wagon man, Millican returned to find that his wife was having an affair with a young man in the neighborhood. Later, he said, she lived with a free family of color and was guilty of adultery with the son in the family, Frank Lytle. Benjamin Millican seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 21483520

State: Tennessee Year: 1835
Location: Davidson Location Type: County

Abstract: Winnefrid Richmond seeks a divorce from her husband, Braddock Richmond, on the grounds that said Braddock has "been living for the last two years in open Adultery with one of his, or rather, your Petitioners female slaves named Polly." She informs the court that she married Braddock in 1821 after the death of her previous husband, Thomas Garrett. The petitioner asserts that she and Richmond "have in their possession seven slaves ... all of those slaves were derived from her father" and that they have resided on a tract of land, which "was assigned to your Petitioner for her Dower." Confiding that "within the last few years she has almost been entirely deserted by her said Husband," Winnefrid charges that "he has in fact, literally made the House occupied by said Polly his house; he has eat there and slept there, and has in numerous instances violated the matrimonial vow, not only with said Slave polly but in all probability, with other females, unknown to your petitioner." She therefore prays that she be granted a divorce; that her husband "be enjoined from taking possession of, or intermeddling with said Slaves;" and that an equitable part of said land and slaves "be vested in her during life with remainder to her Children." The answer disputes certain slave data.

PAR Number 21483802

State: Tennessee Year: 1838
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: William Slaughter, a man "far advanced in years," asks the court to annul an agreement made between him and Richard Stuart, a former slave with an exemplary reputation for "honesty, sobriety, and industry." Slaughter represents that he and his wife were no longer able to manage their farm in such a manner as to provide them "a comfortable subsistence" thereon, so he entered into a contract with Stuart in 1831. He declares that said agreement gave land and tools to Stuart on the condition that Stuart would supply the couple with necessaries and "other things that is common for folks of their age." Slaughter charges that Stuart "soon became indiferent to the wishes or comfort of your Orator; and gradually insolent, neglectful, and almost utterly regardless of all the obligations imposed on him by said agreement." He further attests "that the character & conduct of said Stuart were undergoing a total change -- that he put off the bearing of a slave and put on that of a master." The petitioner therefore prays that Stuart be compelled "to supply your Orator with such support as was contemplated by said agreement" or that a "cancelment of said Deed of Conveyance & agreement may be decreed."

PAR Number 21484215

State: Tennessee Year: 1842
Location: Smith Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary A. Harper seeks a divorce from her husband, Alfred Harper, and asks for "a reasonable suport out his estate." Mary claims that her husband began verbally and physically abusing her "about six weeks after said Marriage." In one violent episode, he seized her "by the hair of her head" and dragged her "over the house." He also began inviting "negroes to visit him at his own house" and, on a night in August 1842, he made an "arrangement to give a Super to the Negroes at 25 Cents a head & the use of his kitchen to dance in during the night & he remained with the Negroes dancing with them Most of the Night." Mary also accuses Alfred of committing "acts & deeds inconsistant with the matrimonial vow by conducting adultery with his sd. negroe woman Lacy." Informing the court that Alfred owns 119 acres of land, two slaves, and "stock of various kinds," she seeks an injunction, barring him from disposing of his estate until a final decree of the court. Alfred denies associating with "negroes ... on equal terms" in his answer. In a related petition, Mary Harper, recently divorced by court decree at August Term 1843, seeks custody of her infant child, who was born "whilst said Bill was pending in said court." She cites that her divorce from Alfred Harper was granted, but "no order was made in said decree as to who should have the custody of said child." She asks for custody "of her said child free from the contact or disturbance of said Alfred."

PAR Number 21485329

State: Tennessee Year: 1853
Location: Davidson Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Jane Clinard seeks a divorce and alimony from her abusive husband of five years, Henderson Clinard. She reveals that, "less than three days after the marriage," her husband "was intoxicated" and that he has not been sober "as a general rule exceeding three or four days at a time" throughout their marriage. He has acquired a habit "of bringing negro men, slaves of the neighbourhood, to his house & drinking with them in your Oratrix's room." When Mary Jane "orders them to be gone, they reply to her with insolent language, and her husband countenances them in this conduct." He often comes home drunk, "as late as" one in the morning, and behaves violently towards her. He has seized and choked her, thrown a knife at her, and several times struck her "with the tongs or shovel." She has a scar on her face, "which is still remaining" from his abuse. Henderson also treats their child "in the same way." Mary Jane has fled with her child to a neighbor's house and now wishes to be divorced from him "absolutely." She informs the court that the only property Henderson brought to their marriage was a "negro boy," whom he has since sold and replaced with a "negro girl named Minerva." She asks the court to attach his property, so that she can derive alimony out of the same.

PAR Number 21684910

State: Virginia Year: 1849
Location: Petersburg Location Type: City

Abstract: Armstrong R. Blick petitions the court for a divorce from his wife Elizabeth. The petitioner charges "that the said Elizabeth about two or three years ago became disaffected & has since been guilty of adultery & living in common prostitution separate and apart from her husband." He therefore prays "that your Honor would by definitive sentence pronounce and decree the marriage to be null & void, pursuant to the Act of Assembly March 18 1848." In his deposition, R. C. Trayler informed the court that he saw Elizabeth "upon several occasion going into houses of ill fame, and I have seen her repeatedly in houses kept for that purpose by negroes -- that is for purposes of prostitution."

PAR Number 21686012

State: Virginia Year: 1860
Location: Lynchburg Location Type: City

Abstract: William H. Cochran seeks a divorce from his wife, Lucinda Cochran. The plaintiff accuses his wife of "having fallen into habits of intemperance," and he admits that she "has been for months past, living separate and apart from your Orator; changing her residence from one house of ill-fame to another in the city or it's vicinity, and living in undisguised habits of adultery and lewd intercourse." Being "advised that he is entitled to a divorce from the bond of matrimony with the said Lucinda," the petitioner prays "for a decree for a divorce ... without being compelled to provide for her support; also that the custody of his said children be secured to him; that said Lucinda Cochran be compelled to resume her maiden name, and barred forever from all rights of distribution and dower in your Orator's estate." A deposition reveals that Lucinda is residing in a house "occupied by free negroes, & of course has such reputation, that no decent white woman would make it a place of visitation or abode."