Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11485108

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-three magistrates and constables ask for greater compensation for duties they perform. They represent that "the expenses of living are much heavier than formerly; and to this must be added the cost of office rent." They therefore pray that “should your Honorable body concur, they trust that the annexed tariff of charges may receive the sanction of the Legislature; and that the officers above named may be insured a liberal compensation for the duties which the law requires at their hands.” The largest proposed increase for constables includes an increase from thirty-three cents to one dollar for "Whipping Slave by order of Court or Justice."

PAR Number 11485109

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: McNairy Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-six magistrates and constables ask for greater compensation for duties they perform. They represent that "the expenses of living are much heavier than formerly; and to this must be added the cost of office rent." They therefore pray that “should your Honorable body concur, they trust that the annexed tariff of charges may receive the sanction of the Legislature; and that the officers above named may be insured a liberal compensation for the duties which the law requires at their hands.” The largest proposed increase for constables includes an increase from thirty-three cents to one dollar for "Whipping Slave by order of Court or Justice."

PAR Number 11485110

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Maury Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-six magistrates and constables ask for greater compensation for duties they perform. They represent that "the expenses of living are much heavier than formerly; and to this must be added the cost of office rent." They therefore pray that “should your Honorable body concur, they trust that the annexed tariff of charges may receive the sanction of the Legislature; and that the officers above named may be insured a liberal compensation for the duties which the law requires at their hands.” The largest proposed increase for constables includes an increase from thirty-three cents to one dollar for "Whipping Slave by order of Court or Justice."

PAR Number 11485111

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-one magistrates and constables ask for greater compensation for duties they perform. They represent that "the expenses of living are much heavier than formerly; and to this must be added the cost of office rent." They therefore pray that “should your Honorable body concur, they trust that the annexed tariff of charges may receive the sanction of the Legislature; and that the officers above named may be insured a liberal compensation for the duties which the law requires at their hands.” The largest proposed increase for constables includes an increase from thirty-three cents to one dollar for "Whipping Slave by order of Court or Justice."

PAR Number 11485112

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Polk Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty magistrates and constables ask for greater compensation for duties they perform. They represent that "the expenses of living are much heavier than formerly; and to this must be added the cost of office rent." They therefore pray that “should your Honorable body concur, they trust that the annexed tariff of charges may receive the sanction of the Legislature; and that the officers above named may be insured a liberal compensation for the duties which the law requires at their hands.” The largest proposed increase for constables includes an increase from thirty-three cents to one dollar for "Whipping Slave by order of Court or Justice."

PAR Number 11485126

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-seven magistrates and constables ask for greater compensation for duties they perform. They represent that "the expenses of living are much heavier than formerly; and to this must be added the cost of office rent." They therefore pray that “should your Honorable body concur, they trust that the annexed tariff of charges may receive the sanction of the Legislature; and that the officers above named may be insured a liberal compensation for the duties which the law requires at their hands.” The largest proposed increase for constables includes an increase from thirty-three cents to one dollar for "Whipping Slave by order of Court or Justice."

PAR Number 11485501

State: Tennessee Year: 1855

Abstract: Henry Currie joins one hundred and twenty-three petitioners to argue for "the propriety of passing more stringent laws for the punishment of negroes guilty of burning Cotton Gins and other out houses." They represent "that there is too much at stake in the burning of Cotton Gins to be passed over with so light punishment." Currie complains that his "Gin was recently set on fire and burned by a negro in the neighborhood the evidence of his guilt being of such a character as not to leave a doubt on the mind of any one acquainted with the circumstances and yet all the punishment which could be inficted according to the Statutes of Tennessee is Thirty nine lashes." The petitioners therefore pray that "your honorable body take into consideration the importance of passing a law punishing offenders of this class with the same punishment that is inflicted for the burning of dwellings and other out Houses."

PAR Number 11683834

State: Virginia Year: 1838
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixteen free men of color complain that, by "the prohibitory statutes of Virginia," they "have been heretofore compelled to send their children abroad for instruction." Noting that "many of them are possessed of property, real as well as person, & have therefore an abiding interest in preserving the peace and good order of the community," they therefore "humbly beg that an Act may be passed, authorizing a school in the Corporation of Fredericksburg, for the instruction of the free people of color resident therein."

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 11685106

State: Virginia Year: 1851
Location: Norfolk Location Type: County

Abstract: Ninety-eight residents of Norfolk and Princess Anne counties complain about seine hauling during the summer months "as such practices greatly diminish the stock of fish and render the fall fishing unprofitably to the inhabitants of said counties." They propose therefore that the first offense be punished by a fine of five hundred dollars; a second offense would merit a fine of one thousand dollars. They further state that those unable to pay said fine should face a three-month imprisonment for the first offense and six months for the second offense. The petitioners insist that "free coloured persons should be subject to receive thirty nine lashings on their bear backs and six months imprisonment for the first offense." They also assert that "servants caught hauling the seine after the specified time by law without some white person with them, it shall be considered that the seine belongs to the owner of the slaves, and the said owner shall be bound for the above fine and also pay ten dollars for each slave so caught."

PAR Number 11685108

State: Virginia Year: 1851
Location: Goochland Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Patterson “prays the general assembly of Virginia to abolish all the law for punishing people, so far as the county of Goochland is concerned for shooting caning cowhiding stabbing or throwing stones or doing any other bodily injury from one to another.” He cites as his reason the fact that “there has been three men stabbed in the county in the last four years, the first proved fatal, instantaneously he was cleared by the Magistrates, the second was a white man who stabbed a free negro and he was sent to a jury, the third was stabbed in two places which was near proving fatal was cleared by the Magistrates.”

PAR Number 20183913

State: Alabama Year: 1839
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Eveline Whetstone seeks a divorce from her husband. Upon her marriage to Evans Whetstone in 1830, her father, William Ratcliff, sent her a slave for a "cook and a washer woman Your Oratrix Never having been accustomed to Cooking and washing." Shortly after her marriage, her husband "commenced his most cruel treatment towards your Oratrix threatened to whip her for not having milk for him and for spitting on the floor accused her of lying and used many other opprobrious epithets." He compelled the petitioner "to do all the cooking generally for the family both whites and Blacks. He also commanded your Oratrix to do the washing." Eveline describes cruel treatment "not more than three weeks before the birth of her youngest daughter he abused her much." She also recounts that Evans threatened her life, testifying that one time "he loaded in her presence two guns and told her if she did not go home to her Father's he would blow her brains out and lay with an open knife in his bed for some time." Furthermore, he told the slaves that "if she attempted to correct them to whip her." She states that her husband ordered a slave "to get into her lap and kiss her[,] Compared the personal likeness of one of his Negro women to your oratrix and gave the preference to the Negro." When Eveline Whetstone fled the house with her two daughters, her husband applied for a license to marry another woman. Although his request was rejected at first, he succeeded the second time. He is now living with his "pretended" wife. Eveline seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 20184216

State: Alabama Year: 1842
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: Margaret Selina Oliver seeks to divorce her husband, Creed T. Oliver, and petitions for her dower's portion out of the estate of her late first husband, John McGill. During her widowhood, Margaret was the co-administrator of John McGill's "large real and personal estate consisting of lands and slaves and other personal property to a large amount." She reports that when she married Creed Oliver, he took over administration of McGill's estate and that he has made no accounting of the estate since that time. She further claims that Creed "became cruel and barbarous in his treatment to your Oratrix withdrawing all protection and affection from her...that he has with great force and violence thrown at your Oratrix open knives and Table forks that he has loaded his pistol with the intent as he said to shoot your Oratrix." For these reasons, she asks the court for a divorce and her share of her first husband's estate, maintaining that "she is entitled to her dower in all his real estate and to the one fifth part of all the personalty which remain over and above the payment of all his just debts."

PAR Number 20184413

State: Alabama Year: 1844
Location: Chambers Location Type: County

Abstract: Winney Jeter seeks to dissolve her marriage to Samuel Jeter and receive support from him. She writes that in August 1842 her husband "formed an illicit and adulterous intercourse with his overseer's wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Beard. She claims that Elizabeth Beard was "a known prostitute." Winney says that Samuel's behavior has "become so cruel barbarous and inhumane as to create an alarm for her personal safety." The petitioner cites one occasion when her husband beat her with "a large walking cane" and only the intervention of her seventeen-year-old son spared her a fatal injury. She has now left her home and seeks the protection and support of the court. Winney testifies that prior to the marriage she owned about seven hundred dollars and "five Negroes which with their increase up to the present time including those sold by the defendant amount to fourteen negroes." She notes that the defendant now possesses forty-three Negroes, "most of which are valuable," and that he also owns a considerable amount of property including land worth at least eight thousand dollars and cash amounting to about twelve hundred dollars. The petitioner, with the support of her brother and next friend, Asa R. Cone, seeks a court order or seizure of the defendant's personal property to pay the costs of the suit and alimony, a dissolution of the marriage, an answer from the defendant, and all other proper relief.

PAR Number 20184505

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Chambers Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1832, Sarah Trimble married John Trimble, in Morgan County, Georgia. About twelve months after their marriage John "commenced drinking ardent Spirits" and from that time forward he treated her in a most "cruel, barbarous, and inhuman" manner. He frequently whipped her with a dog whip, and once, she said, he tried to cut her throat. He "is now in the possession of four Negroes, most of which are valuable," she explains, and owns a "good Settlement of land," worth about fifteen hundred dollars. Two of the slaves in John's possession were brought by Sarah to the marriage. The other two are children born of Malinda since the marriage. Sarah Trimble seeks an attachment to prevent her husband from "removing the said property out of this state," and also asks for a divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20184522

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1845, "without any sufficient cause or provocation," Elizabeth Frances Stacy explains, her husband William Stacy whipped her with a cowhide "in a cruel barbarous and inhuman manner." Six months later, he abandoned her to live with a twenty-five-year-old black woman named Charlotte, one of the slaves Elizabeth claims to have brought to their marriage. Elizabeth asserts that she owned Charlotte and her two children at the time of her marriage to William Stacy, as well as another female slave named Diana, all of which slaves and their increase are now being held by William. She charges that all the slaves have been "seduced" away by her husband, who purchased a house and lot in Montgomery with her money. Elizabeth asks that the property which her husband acquired "by virtue of his marriage" be returned. She also seeks custody and support for her children, alimony, and a divorce. In his related answer, William Stacy contends that Charlotte and her children did not come to him by marriage, but that he purchased them. Only Diana came to him by marriage from Elizabeth's father, together with another slave named Nancy and her two children. Nancy has since been sold with one of her children; the other has died.

PAR Number 20184612

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1844, at age fifteen, Catherine Awtry married Harvey Snow without her father's permission and "without her own consent being fully and freely and willingly given." A few months later, Catherine charges, Harvey went to the kitchen and remained there "until a late hour in the night in company with his negro woman." Later, she says, he engaged in "criminal intercourse and Sexual connection with his own Negro woman Slave in his own house and had a child by her the off spring of his illicit connection." Catherine further charges that Harvey permitted the female slave "to abuse her in a most shameful and improper manner." In 1845, Harvey abandoned Catherine and migrated to Mississippi. When he returned, he went back to living with his slave and Catherine was forced heir home. Catharine asks for expenses to prosecute her suit, divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20184712

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in Washington County, in 1836, Sarah Debose testifies that during her eight years as the wife of James Debose she endured "the grossest, cruel and brutal and violent trespass and treatment." She claims that her husband slandered her good name, whipped her, drew "a deadly weapon" and threatened to kill her, and abandoned her without providing for the care or education of their three children. He also committed "the abominable crime of adultery" with Martha Hainsworth, a married woman to whom he later gave three hundred dollars. Sarah lost one eye to an infection, and is "afflicted" in the other; she is destitute and asks for an injunction prohibiting her husband from disposing of his property, including a tract of pine land near Mobile, and a slave and her daughter. She also requests that he pay her a monthly allowance, and, for the time being, be confined to jail.

PAR Number 20184802

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

Abstract: In 1787, Elizabeth Holley married Howell Holley in Edgefield District, South Carolina. In 1827 or 1828, after forty years of marriage, Elizabeth charges that Howell began an illicit relationship with Nancy Hodge. She writes that it was then that he began to beat her "with various Instruments sometimes with his fists sometimes with a hickory at other times with a cowhide and very often threatened her life." She claims that Howell left their domicile, taking Nancy with him to Georgia, and then to Alabama, and abandoning her and their nine children. Later, the couple reconciled, but in 1830 Howell again became violent and Elizabeth fled for her life. Elizabeth claims that Howell now lives with Nancy and their illegitimate offspring, six or seven in number. According to Elizabeth, Howell is old and senile; and he possesses a large estate, including a "valuable set of mills," horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, "a large quantity of money," and fifteen slaves, five men, four women, and six children. Elizabeth, too, is very old, and unable to support herself. She asks for a divorce and alimony. In his related answer, Howell denies all charges of violence against his wife and denies that Nancy Hodge lives in his house. He countercharges that Elizabeth was a difficult, dissatisfied, and jealous woman, who made his life unbearable.

PAR Number 20184808

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

Abstract: In 1839, Elizabeth Hassell of Hickman County, Tennessee, married Alexander C. Hamilton, who had many debts and no property. Elizabeth's father, Joseph Hassell, gave the bride 220 acres of land, and loaned the couple a family of slaves consisting of Sophia and her seven children. Before long, Hamilton had sold the land and one of the slaves. Joseph Hassell sued to recover his other slaves, but Hamilton refused to turn them over. Then in 1843, the two men reached a court sanctioned agreement, whereby Hassell gave the couple a life estate in the slaves, on the condition that the slaves not be subject to Alexander's debts and not be taken out of the state of Tennessee. The agreement also stipulated that, in case Elizabeth died without children, the life estate would be split between James Hassell and Alexander Hamilton. Later Elizabeth and Alexander sold Alexander's interest in the life estate to James, but later Alexander purchased the slaves back, a transaction attested by two bills of sale. Alexander later sold two more slaves. Elizabeth charges that Alexander then began to treat her "with great Cruelty & barbarity." Once, she said, he nearly choked her to death; he was also guilty of adultery. And one night in 1848, Alexander stole away, taking five of the slaves to Dallas County. Elizabeth seeks an attachment on the slaves, and a subpoena requiring her husband to answer charges. Related testimony reveals that Alexander was in the habit of frequenting houses of ill repute and even applied to a physician for medicine to treat a venereal disease. This case was filed in both Tennessee and Alabama, the latter being the state where James had taken the slaves; it went up all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court. Alexander and Elizabeth where divorced. In 1850, Elizabeth was awarded the slaves who had not been sold by Alexander; the slaves were delivered to her in 1852.

PAR Number 20184906

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

Abstract: Mary L. Heison, by her next friend, Stephen Horton, asks the court for a divorce from Ferdinand Heison, who, she said, is "harsh, cruel, barbarous, and inhuman." He frequently beat and whipped her, pulled her hair, choked her, and "otherwise misused her." During their marriage, she charges, he engaged in illicit sexual relations with one of his slaves; even now, several years later, "he still Keeps said negro woman for the purpose of sexual intercourse." When they married in 1841, Mary owned four slaves: Nanna, Nanna's son Ben, and Nanna's two daughters, Tabitha and Lucinda. Ferdinand sold Nanna; Tabitha and Lucinda died; and he kept Ben after Mary left him in 1846, finally returning him in early 1848. Mary seeks alimony, funds to prosecute the suit, compensation for her slaves, and a writ restraining her husband from leaving the state.

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 20185523

State: Alabama Year: 1855
Location: Baldwin Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1853, Martha Ann Powell, the widow of William T. Powell of Baldwin County, married John F. Crow, a man of no property who soon revealed his penchant for whiskey and violence. On one occasion, for example, Crow returned home after a drunken spree and began beating one of Martha's slaves, holding down her head and "stampping her in the breast." Martha begged him "not to Kill the slave but to tie her up and whip her as slave should be whipped." He replied: "You dam bitch," and when he finished beating the black woman he turned on his wife, striking her also on the breast "three blows with great violence." Months later she still felt the pain. He threatened to kill her on more than one occasion and said that he would not be satisfied until she was dead and buried. In 1855, she files suit to prevent him from selling her property; she also seeks a divorce and the restoration of her former name.

PAR Number 20185530

State: Alabama Year: 1855
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: Protesting the claim that Isaac Rawdon brought very little property to his marriage, Thomas Rawdon , Isaac's brother, contends that shortly after Isaac arrived in Alabama, he purchased four half-sections of land (180 acres each) and a tract containing fifty or sixty acres. He also brought with him several slaves, six of whom, Thomas asserts, he had purchased with money given to him by his father. Isaac, who had killed his son during one of his bouts of insanity, was committed to a Georgia insane asylum. Shortly before his commitment, he sold the land for $6,900, and his former wife, Lydia Rawdon, has collected the money and retained the profits thereof. Thomas Rawdon asks that Lydia Rawdon be ordered to provide an account of her activities and that a "Committee or Guardian for the estate of the said Isaac be appointed."

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