Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20184833

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: On Christmas Day 1848, Albert G. Wray of Montgomery County, Alabama, sued his wife for divorce. Albert Wary had married Susan Mary Cox in 1833, in Georgia, and in 1842 they moved to Alabama. He continued to live with his wife until 15 October 1848, when he discovered that she was having a "carnal connection" with C. G. M. Prime, a portrait painter and physician. Albert asks the court to dissolve the marriage and issue a divorce decree. In her answer, Susan explains that she now lives in Oglethorp County, Georgia, with her mother. She had married Albert when she was "not exceeding sixteen years of age." She claims that, within six months of the marriage, his conduct became "cold, indifferent, distant, harsh and cruel ... better the relation of master and servant than husband & wife." He repeatedly "used violence ... shoving her down violently, boxing her jaws and face and committing other personal injuries on her body." A year after their marriage, she asserts, her husband began "a promiscuous illicit intercourse with his own negroe wenches and continued ... so long as complainant and defendant resided together, say for the space of fourteen years." Albert had in fact a special relationship with a female slave named Mary, a seamstress, who, Susan claims, bore him four "mulatto" children. In the summer and fall of 1843, Susan suffered mental breakdowns, and since then has "enjoyed but few lucid intervals." Her mental problems are a direct result of the cruel and inhuman treatment by her husband, she asserts. Now "ruined in mind, broken in Spirits," she is accused of adultery with C. G. M. Prime, "a drunken worthless vagabond" hired by her husband to "take advantage of defendant's mental imbecility." In her answer and counter-petitions, Susan reveals that her husband was the owner of eighty-five slaves, some of whom he had received upon his marriage to her. The related decree reveals that Susan was in fact in a mental institution by the time the court issued its decree in 1850.

PAR Number 20184901

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1823 and 1824, Margaret (Peggy) Price received from Williams McClellan of Hancock County, Georgia, two slaves—Mariah and Jerry respectively--through a life estate. After her death, the slaves were to descend to her heirs. The slaves were placed in the possession of one of the trustees, Henry McClellan. Now Henry McClellan has died, and Margaret Price fears that, with nobody to manage her slave property, her estate will be wasted. She asks the court to permit her to bring Jerry, Mariah and Mariah's children and grandchild into Alabama, and to appoint a new trustee for the estate.

PAR Number 20184915

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: Several related petitions reveal that in 1848, Albert Wray had filed divorce from his wife, Susan Mary Wray on grounds of adultery with one C. G. M. Prime, a portrait painter and physician. Susan Mary Wray had countercharged that her husband had treated her cruelly and had ongoing illicit intercourse with his slaves, and specifically with a seamstress named Mary who had given birth to several mulatto children. In this answer and cross bill, Albert G. Wray denies that he treated his wife Susan "with a spirit of unkindness harshness cruelty and neglect;" he denies that he had illicit sexual relations with any of his slaves; and he denies encouraging C. G. M. Prince to seduce his wife so that he (Wray) could file a petition for divorce. He defends himself against charges of illicit intercourse with the slave Mary by stating that "There is one of the children of the said Mary about two years old who is the reputed child of a bright mulattoe slave called John." Whether her other children are mulattos, he explains, is difficult to know, but he is sure about one thing: none of them are his.

PAR Number 20185006

State: Alabama Year: 1850
Location: Coosa Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1843, Milley David married Henry P. David in Autauga County, Alabama. The bride owned twenty-two slaves, eight mules, a stock of cattle, hogs, a piano, household goods, and about six hundred acres of land. She estimated the value of her property at $20,000. Henry David, a recent migrant from Georgia, owned two slaves and a small amount of land. In 1844, the couple moved to Coosa County. It was then, Milley contends, that her husband began to abuse her. He whipped her with a cowhide, inflicting ten lashes; "the blows were so severe," she said, "as to cut the skin." On another occasion, he put her head between his legs, "striped up the clothes," and "inflicted about a dozen lashes upon the bare person of your Oratrix with a whip which was commonly Called a negroe whip." In August 1847, Milley abandoned their farmhouse. She now asks for a divorce, and that all property acquired by her husband through his marriage to her and acquired "since the said marriage by & with the profits or proceeds of the property the said Defendant acquired by his said Marriage, be vested in your Oratrix to her sole and separate use free from the control, management, debts & liabilities of said Defendant." Henry P. David denied that he whipped or struck his wife, claimed she drank to excess, and when drinking was "of a very high and bad temper." His defense was eventually successful. In 1855, Milley's divorce suit was dismissed by the Alabama Supreme Court.

PAR Number 20185203

State: Alabama Year: 1852
Location: Greene Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1838, George Hays, owner of several plantations and about 180 slaves, died leaving a wife and three small children. In his will he appointed William P. Gould and four other men as executors. In 1839, the other four men having declined the executorship, Gould qualified as such and took possession of the property as administrator of the estate. In 1844, Gould's administratorship was revoked but he continued to work the estate until January 1845. In 1852, when Gould tries to render a final account of his administratorship, the children and heirs, Charles, Mary, and George Ann, by their next friend Robert Leachman, sue. They charge Gould with waste and mismanagement, and specify a number of misdeeds committed by Gould during the years of his administratorship. They point out in particular that he hired an overseer who had a "cruel, brutish and inhuman disposition." The petitioners recount several examples of the overseer's abuse. He abused "a negro man by the name of George, by cruelly whipping him and putting out his right eye;" he abused "another negro man by the name of Claiborne by getting him down and jumping upon his back with the heels of his shoes;" and he beat a third slave so brutally that he later died. Moreover, Gould failed to provide slaves with "blankets or other bed clothing," pushed women to labor long hours in bad weather, and forced slaves to live in "miserable Hovels not fit for horse stables." Most of the "breeding women on said Plantations were rendered almost entirely barren, and worthless as such" and "are subject to continual miscarriages," the petitioners lament, while a large number of children have died. The heirs estimate that the maltreatment and malnourishment of the female slaves have cost them the loss of some forty children through either barrenness of the females or abortions. They also estimate that they lost another fifteen children due to neglect in their tender years. The Hays children, two of them still minors, seek an injunction to prevent Gould from settling the estate and to get compensation for the financial cost of his mismanagement.

PAR Number 20186303

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel Webb, the executor of the last will and testament of the late Thomas J. Howell, asks to sell Sarah, Dick and Peter, three slaves, who "belong to and compose a portion of said Estate." Webb asserts that said slaves "are now, and in the opinion of your Petitioner will continue to be a hindrance and expense upon Said Estate." He therefore prays that he be permitted to sell the three slaves. Webb adds that "from their Known bad character, he is unable to hire them out for any thing like their value." He "further asks that with the proceeds of such Sale he may be allowed to purchase other slaves more Suitable."

PAR Number 20186307

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Coosa Location Type: County

Abstract: M. P. Rogers, administratrix of the estate of the late John L. Rogers reports that the decedent "died seized and possessed of ... slaves by the names of Elizabeth aged 15 years and Edmun aged 32 years." Rogers reveals that "said slave Ed is now runaway and affirms that he will not live with your petitioner." Believing "that it will be to the Intrest of the Estate of said deceased to sell said Slaves and with the proceds of sale ... buy or purchase another slave to put in the place of said slaves [sic] Edmund."

PAR Number 20186401

State: Alabama Year: 1864
Location: Autauga Location Type: County

Abstract: M. S. Bozeman, administratrix of the estate of Nathaniel Bozeman, deceased, represents that "she has in her hands belonging to said Estate some nineteen negroes, that she has them on a plantation belonging to said Estate engaged in farming." Believing "that it will be to the interest of said Estate and of all interested therein that said Estate should be kept together until the end of the year 1865." Bozeman therefore prays that she be allowed "to keep the Estate of said decedent together" until that time.

PAR Number 20186424

State: Alabama Year: 1864
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Nall, administratrix of the estate of her husband, John P. Nall, who died intestate in 1863, asks to keep the slaves on the plantation during the coming year. The estate consists of fertile lands, a plantation house, and sixty-two slaves, "many of them children and young negroes." Nall believes "that under the existing state of the country, being engaged in a gigantic war, it has become very necessary and profitable to produce mostly grain crops, Hogs, cattle, &c., and expensive to raise much cotton, on account of the prices of bagging and rope &c. -- in fact, it is a patriotic duty to do so." She therefore contends that it is “profitable to keep the said slaves on the plantation of Decedent, and make crops, than to hire them out," as "field hands hire but for nominal prices, especially women and children, the difficulty of providing clothing, shoes, and blankets, &c. being so great; further, should the enemy get possession of this section of country, it would be far more in the power of Petitioner to keep the slaves out of the enemies' way, than if they were hired out." Nall therefore prays that she be allowed "to keep all the personal property on the plantation."

PAR Number 20284902

State: Arkansas Year: 1849
Location: Pulaski Location Type: County

Abstract: John Pelham, guardian of Charles and Isabella Pelham, asks permission to sell the slave Milly and her child. Milly was willed to the minors by Socrates Shepperd in 1843 and has since given birth to two children, one of whom has died. Pelham states that the slaves "are not as useful nor profitable as the money would be if judiciously invested ... in other slaves more profitable to the said heirs."

PAR Number 20285515

State: Arkansas Year: 1855
Location: Phillips Location Type: County

Abstract: Levisa Pillow petitions for an injunction to restrain her husband, or his creditors, from interfering with her property, asking that a receiver be appointed to manage the property. She also asks for a divorce. Prior to their marriage in 1853, Levisa Pillow and Wilson D. Dobbin signed a prenuptial agreement whereby "the joint property of the two shall be used and controlled by them mutually during the time that they may continue to live and cohabit together as Husband and wife." At the time of the marriage, Levisa (as a feme sole) owned property worth about $40,000, consisting of "a valuable plantation, Negroes, stock farming utensils and wild Lands." With an income of six or seven thousand dollars a year, the couple could support themselves in "magnificent style." Wilson D. Dobbin had no property. Levisa, now old and feeble, alleges that she soon found her new husband to be a habitual drunkard and a profligate spendthrift who, within a short time, wasted most of her estate so that she is now unable to buy supplies or to feed the thirty slaves on the plantation. She also claims that Wilson uses violent language, has, on several occasions, punched her "bruising her person most shamefully." Related documents reveal that Levisa Dobbin died while her suit was pending.

PAR Number 20285516

State: Arkansas Year: 1855
Location: Phillips Location Type: County

Abstract: Repeating much of the charges made in her related original divorce suit, Levisa Dobbin states that the behavior of her husband of two years, Wilson D. Dobbin, has deteriorated in recent months. In her original suit, Levisa provided the court with a long list of her husband's mismanagement and squandering of her property. She now reiterates those charges and documents in great details mental and physical abuses perpetrated by her husband on her person, on the person of her friends and relatives, as well as the violence inflicted upon her slaves. Dobbin struck Levisa's grown stepdaughter with a "violent blow in her face with his fist and threatened to drive her from the plantation;" he whipped Levisa's slaves for petty offenses or for following her directions; and he threatened to deprive Levisa of a house servant and a riding horse. When Levisa ordered the foreman to whip a black man who sneaked into her stepdaughter's bedroom to be with the Negro girl sleeping there, Wilson countermanded the order and severely whipped the foreman. In fact, Dobbin has been guilty of "many acts of cruelty toward the negroes." Such cruelty, Levisa believes, may cause slaves to run away. Indeed, she believes that he has actually ordered slaves to run away "rather than obey the orders of your Oratrix." Levisa Dobbin again asks that a receiver be appointed to take care of her plantation and other property, including slaves. Related documents reveal that Levisa died while her suit was pending.

PAR Number 20285805

State: Arkansas Year: 1858
Location: Pulaski Location Type: County

Abstract: Margaret McDonald, administratrix of the estate of her late husband, Edward McDonald, asks permission to sell a "bad and vicious" slave named John, or Jack, a Negro man age twenty-five or twenty-six. She claims that it is both in her interest and that of the estate that the slave, whom she describes as "almost utterly impossible to govern or control" and who is currently being housed in the county jail to prevent him from running away, be disposed of as soon as possible and the money invested "otherwise." She explains that the slave, having been purchased by her husband with her money, is in fact her separate property. She recognizes, however, that the title issue has been settled, she must account for him as the property of her husband's estate. In any case, she points out, should her claim to title be denied by the court, as her husband's widow she is entitled to a life interest in one half of "said slave." Related documents reveal that John brought $1,100 when he was sold on 1 November 1858. By 1860, Margaret McDonald has remarried; and she and her new husband, Joseph Villerman, have purchased of the other heirs "all their right title and interest" in the estate.

PAR Number 20378901

State: Delaware Year: 1789
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: James Black seeks permission to sell his slave Ben out of the state. Ben is "very ungovernable," Black explains; he was found stealing flour "out of the mill of your Petitioner" on several occasions, and he threatened to kill the hired miller "for making the Discovery on him."

PAR Number 20379001

State: Delaware Year: 1790
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Marinas Haughey explains that his twenty-one-year-old mulatto slave Alexander "is of such a vicious & wicked Disposition, that his present and former Owners have not be able to manage or controul him." The property of his wife prior to their marriage, Haughey asks to sell Alexander out of the state since no one in the neighborhood will purchase him because "his Character is so infamous."

PAR Number 20379004

State: Delaware Year: 1790
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Edward Roche seeks permission to sell a 20-year-old female slave named Sylph out of the state. He asserts that she was determined "to injure him & his family," and that indeed their lives were "in danger from her Wiles and art." Roche is convinced that "she is a compleat Thief and Liar." The Justices of the Peace give Roche a license to export, sell, or carry her out of the state "to any part of the United States of America, or to any other part of the World where he may think proper."

PAR Number 20379101

State: Delaware Year: 1791
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Slave owner Thomas Watson asserts that his twenty-year-old slave George has repeatedly threatened to kill members of his family and "do personal Injury to the Neighbours." According to Watson, George is "of such a wicked & malicious Temper that your Petitioner is not able to controul or manage him." Watson asks to sell George out of the state.

PAR Number 20379102

State: Delaware Year: 1791
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Isaac Stidham seeks a license to export his slave Sam, "a wicked and ungovernable Servant; and from whose Service, but Small advantage or Satisfaction can be derived." Stidham charges that Sam "hath wickedly attempted to murder, a negro woman the Property of your Petitioner; and hath made use of Language purporting to the Same Effect, against Your Petitioner."

PAR Number 20379202

State: Delaware Year: 1792
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Joshua Clarke seeks permission to export and sell his 20-year-old slave Simon, who doth "Refuse to Render Reasonable Service," to "any of The Southern States." Not only has Simon failed to conduct himself as "a Good and faithfull Servant," but Clarke also fears that he and his family are "in Danger of being poisoned or other extraordinary harms."

PAR Number 20379501

State: Delaware Year: 1795
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: John Ham seeks permission to export and sell "Roger a man grown, and Thomas about sixteen years old," slaves who have committed "divers acts of Felony," for which "they have received corporal punishment." Ham informs the court that "in addition to the above circumstance, the said Roger and Thomas are of disorderly and disobedient behaviour to your petitioner, notwithstanding the kind and benevolent treatment of your petitioner."

PAR Number 20379601

State: Delaware Year: 1796
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Richard Clayton states that his slave William is so "turbulent and unruly" that he is unmanageable. Clayton further recounts that William has run away on numerous occasions, has assaulted one of his slaves "heavy with child, and nearly bit off one of her fingers," and has threatened "to beat out my brains if I attempted to correct him." William is now in jail, and, since he cannot be sold in the neighborhood, Clayton asks to sell him out of the state.

PAR Number 20379701

State: Delaware Year: 1797
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: John Stilley Jr. asserts that his slave Philip is "Turbulent and Unruly." Stilley recounts how Philip ran away on several occasions, jumped on him "with great rage and Knocked [him] down with his fist," and threatened to shoot him with his rifle. With Phillip confined to jail, Stilley asks to sell him out of the state.

PAR Number 20379901

State: Delaware Year: 1799
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: William is "a Wicked and ungovernable Servant," slave owner John Cochran Jr. explains; he frequently runs away, steals, and is currently "Confined in the public Jail of this county." Cochran seeks permission to sell William out of the state. Cochran's neighbors attest that the petitioner is "a good master to his servants that he feeds and Cloaths them well and very indulgent in every respect."

PAR Number 20381001

State: Delaware Year: 1810
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1805, Solomon Evans, of Sussex County, declared in his will that following the death of his wife Agness, then in her eighties, his slave Abraham should be free. He appointed his son, Solomon Evans the younger, as executor. In 1808, the father died, and the son, according to Abraham, attempted to deceive him by telling him that he and his brother Purnell were slaves for life. The son then offered him a proposition. If Abraham would purchase his own time for a few years, Solomon would approach the other heirs and seek to obtain a deed of manumission. Ignorant of the provision in the will, and "desirous of the enjoyment of Freedom," Abraham promised to pay Solomon two hundred dollars in several annual installments. In 1809, Agness died, and now, Abraham, learning of the provisions in the will, sues for his freedom.

PAR Number 20381002

State: Delaware Year: 1810
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1805, Solomon Evans, of Sussex County, declared in his will that following the death of his wife Agness, then in her eighties, his slave Purnell should be free. He appointed his son, Solomon Evans the younger, as executor. In 1808, the father died, and the son, according to Purnell, attempted to deceive him by telling him that he and his brother Abraham were slaves for life. The son then offered him a proposition. If Purnell would purchase his own time for a few years, Solomon would approach the other heirs and seek to obtain a deed of manumission. Ignorant of the provision in the will, and "desirous of the enjoyment of Freedom," Purnell promised to pay Solomon two hundred dollars in several annual installments. In 1809, Agness died, and now, Purnell, learning of the provisions in the will, sues for his freedom.

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