Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11082306

State: Mississippi Year: 1823
Location: Monroe Location Type: County

Abstract: John Smith and George Meaders, executors of the estate of Lawson Thompson, seek an act of emancipation for slaves named in Thompson's will. They say that Thompson "removed to the western Country for the express purpose of securing to them [his slaves] their freedom."

PAR Number 11278703

State: North Carolina Year: 1787
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: William Parham relates that he and his father journeyed to the residence of a certain Widow Cox in Halifax County for the purpose of retrieving a slave in which his father had "an indubitable right to." The petitioner states that his father took the slave into his possession, whereby he was charged with trespass and, for which offence, the petitioner posted a two-hundred-pound bond. Parham states that he believed there was "no absolute necessity for his appearance at said court" and that he forfeited said bond when he failed to appear. "Being a poor man with a large increasing family," the petitioner prays for relief.

PAR Number 11280506

State: North Carolina Year: 1805
Location: Perquimans Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph White, administrator of Alexander Stafford, represents that by order of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for Perquimans County, February Term 1802, "Negro Woman Amy and her three children, Ruth, Dolley, and Mourning" were sold by the sheriff "as having been emancipated contrary to the provision of the several acts of the legislature"; Alexander Stafford "became the purchaser" of said family for the sum of £333. White explains that a certain John Saunders claimed said slaves and contested the sale and that the Superior Court of Edenton District in 1803 "determined the negroes aforesaid were the property of the claimant John Saunders." The petitioner therefore prays that the state treasurer be authorized "to repay" to him, as administrator, the aforesaid purchase price, with interest, since "the estate of your Petitioner's Intestate has not only paid the sum aforesaid but has lost the negroes."

PAR Number 11280803

State: North Carolina Year: 1808
Location: Perquimans Location Type: County

Abstract: Edward Hall seeks to revive a memorial "to enable your Petitioner to recover from the Possession of Job Riddick of the County of Gates" eight slaves which the said Riddick "unjustly detains." Noting that he has submitted earlier petitions to the legislature to no avail, Hall nonetheless conceives he cannot "obtain possession of the aforesaid negroes without Legislative interference, as his reduced circumstances will not admit of his instituting a suit."

PAR Number 11281004

State: North Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Greene Location Type: County

Abstract: Bryan Lane charges that constable Nathan Holmes colluded with Benjamin Saules in the illegal purchase of two female slaves, seized "by virtue of an Execution which was in fact obtained ... to the amount of about Twenty Dollars against your memorialist." He further declares that "he had part of the money & beged [Holmes] to stay the Sale till your memorialist could to a neighbours house within a half mile where he had full assurance of geting the balance." Lane asserts, however, that Holmes, who "had an Interest in the Sale," refused and the slaves Comfort and Selah, "worth at least Five hundred Dollars," were knocked off “to a Certain Benjamin Saules ... at the reduced price of about Forty Shillings each." The petitioner therefore prays that a law be passed “fully & absolutely confirming the title of said negroes in him, or at least making void the said Sale.”

PAR Number 11379313

State: South Carolina Year: 1793
Location: Washington Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Alexander Chavis asserts that "a valuable negroe wench the Property of your Petitioner, was said to be taken by Orders of Genl Pickens for public Use, and given in payment to Capt. John Norwood as a Reward for having Killed a certain John Masterson a notorious & mischievous Enemy of the Country." Chavis reports, however, that Pickens informed him that he had never issued such an order, whereupon Chavis sued the man who had possession of said slave but he lost said suit. Being too late to make a restitution claim to the claims commission, Chavis submits his case for restitution for "said Wench and her issue" as well as the "heavy Expences incurred in prosecuting the Suit" and "solicits such Relief in the Premises as may be deemed proper & just."

PAR Number 11379804

State: South Carolina Year: 1798

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

PAR Number 11381201

State: South Carolina Year: 1812
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: William Linen, the administrator of the estate of Thomas Harvey, recalls that he initiated a suit against Maj. Joseph Jenkins for the recovery of a slave named Smart. Asserting that said trial was a "sham," he brought suit against several lawyers, the deputy sheriff, and the foreman of the jury; however, the case was not admitted to court and Linen himself was jailed. Having "made my escape," the petitioner "humbly prays that the Judiciary should be brought to Justice in such a manner as you and your wisdom shall direct."

PAR Number 11385501

State: South Carolina Year: 1855

Abstract: Dr. Edward Ware, a resident of Athens, Georgia, seeks compensation for a runaway slave, Pressly, who absconded three-and-a-half years ago. He reports that Pressly made his way to South Carolina, "was arrested in the City of Charleston and lodged in the work House as a fugitive, that he assumed the name of Joe Brown and pretended to be free." Ware further relates that "under that name he was duly advertised and sold" and that "in consequence of the assumed name and the pretended and assumed freedom of said slave, no notice whatever ever reached your petitioner as to his arrest and confinement in the work House." Noting that $392.66 (the net proceeds from the sale of said Pressly) has been deposited in the state treasury, Ware prays "that the sum of money now in the Treasury of the state arising from the sale of the slave of your Petitioner be directed by your Honorable Body to be paid over to him."

PAR Number 11385502

State: South Carolina Year: 1855

Abstract: Dr. Edward Ware, a resident of Athens, Georgia, seeks compensation for a runaway slave, Pressly, who absconded three-and-a-half years ago. He reports that Pressly made his way to South Carolina, "was arrested in the City of Charleston and lodged in the work House as a fugitive, that he assumed the name of Joe Brown and pretended to be free." Ware further relates that "under that name he was duly advertised and sold" and that "in consequence of the assumed name and the pretended and assumed freedom of said slave, no notice whatever ever reached your petitioner as to his arrest and confinement in the work House." Noting that $392.66 (the net proceeds from the sale of said Pressly) has been deposited in the state treasury, Ware prays "that the sum of money now in the Treasury of the state arising from the sale of the slave of your Petitioner be directed by your Honorable Body to be paid over to him."

PAR Number 11385705

State: South Carolina Year: 1857
Location: Clarendon Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: The heirs of the late Dr. Robert W. Ervin represent that he manumitted a slave named Sye in 1817 and that the said Sye later purchased his wife and his granddaughter named Clarissa. They further state that Clarissa died in 1851, leaving six children: Becky, Jane, Betsy, Leny, Sarah, and Isaac. They also report that Sye has died, seized and possessed of his granddaughter, six great grandchildren, a tract of land, and some cattle and hogs; the estate, however, had no legal heirs and escheated to the state. The heirs charge that William Ervin, another son of the said Robert, took possession of Sye's estate in 1850 or 1851, including the slaves, who until this time were "passing as free." The petitioners, "some being in very moderate circumstances, and others in embarrassing circumstances," reveal that they have frequently asked the said William to secure "the benefit of said slaves or their value" to Louisa Ervin, mother of William Ervin, and widow of Robert Ervin. Asserting that they are equally entitled to the slaves, they ask the legislature to vest the title of the slaves to Robert Ervin's heirs at law and that the sheriff sell the slaves to the highest bidder and divide the proceeds equally among said heirs.

PAR Number 11385905

State: South Carolina Year: 1859

Abstract: Allen Yates of Choctaw County, Alabama, seeks compensation for a runaway slave, Anthony, who absconded in 1846. Anthony was captured by the sheriff of Union District, South Carolina, and sold to William Smith, who now retains possession. Yates argues that he was unaware of the sale and asks for $293.24, plus interest, in compensation--the amount after expenses collected by the sheriff and turned over to the Commissioner of Public Buildings in Union District.

PAR Number 11482506

State: Tennessee Year: 1825
Location: Campbell Location Type: County

Abstract: Benjamin Bratcher relates that his father, John Bratcher, gave him a slave named Cloe "and her increase except one Girl called Aggy" in 1803; the elder Bratcher, however, required that said Benjamin and his wife "move with me to the State of Tennessee." The petitioner complains that the said John "when on his death bed fraudulently gave a bill of sale of the said woman and her children to an Elder Brother." Bratcher asserts that he "is without any relief, unless the interposition of the Legislature."

PAR Number 11680101

State: Virginia Year: 1801
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: In 1801, Edmund Grady was prosecuted in the Richmond District Court and found guilty of stealing a slave in the possession of Paul Thilman, a deputy sheriff of Hanover county. He was fined fifty pounds plus court costs. In fact, Grady asserts, he owned the slave woman, having purchased her from one James Head Lynch; a purchase that could be verified by the bill of sale in his possession. The slave, whose name is revealed in a related affidavit as being Nelly, had been seized by Sheriff Thilman by virtue of an execution against Lynch's estate. Learning what had happened, Grady secured a warrant to search Thilman's house, from which he recovered Nelly. Although part of the petition is missing, it can be assumed that Grady is suing to have the fine remitted.

PAR Number 11685014

State: Virginia Year: 1850
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: In the early 1830s, Halifax County resident Francis Royall sent his agent, Abner Shelton, to Richmond to buy a slave. The agent purchased a slave named Peter for $600, but Peter escaped on the way home, shortly after leaving Richmond. He remained at large for several years until he was captured and jailed in Portsmouth about 1836. At the time of the capture, Shelton had died and Royall had no means of proving he was the legal owner of the jailed man. In accordance with the law, Peter was sold at auction in 1840 and the proceeds placed in the Treasury after jail expenses were paid. Royall now seeks to be compensated by the legislature. A related document reveals that the balance remaining from Peter's sale, after expenses paid, were placed four years later in the "Cr. of Literary Fund."

PAR Number 20182101

State: Alabama Year: 1821
Location: Jackson Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Hopkins states that when he lived in Warren County, Tennessee, he owned a "Negroe Woman of dark complection aged about 45 years & of the value of about four hundred dollars named Molly" and a "mulatto girl named ayes of light complection aged about sixteen years of the value of about one thousand dollars." Hopkins asserts that the women "were feloniously taken" by John Hammons and transported to Alabama where they were sold by one John McGowan to George W. Thompson, despite knowledge of his (Hopkins's) claim to ownership. Fearing the slaves will be sold, Hopkins asks the court to order Thompson to offer security for them pending the outcome of his suit of recovery.

PAR Number 20182803

State: Alabama Year: 1828
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioners, last surviving heirs of Thomas Blount Whitmill, seek to settle a dispute about the ownership of slaves in his estate. In his will, dated 1798, Whitmill, who resided in Halifax County, North Carolina, loaned to his then unmarried daughter, Elizabeth "six negroes-to wit: Sam, Eli, Charity, Tempy, Lewey & Molly & their increase during her natural life." If Elizabeth bore children, they were to inherit the slaves forever; otherwise, the slaves were to be divided equally among Thomas's other four children. Elizabeth married a man named Claudius David L. shortly after the making of the will and shortly before her father's death. Widowed a few later, she married Arthur S. Hagan, and then died, childless, in 1824. Her widowed husband is now in possession of the slaves and their increase. Anne S. Bell, wife of the petitioner, is the only surviving Whitmill heir. She and her husband, John J. Bell, are suing Hagan for title to the slaves and their increase, in addition to the proceeds from their hire since Elizabeth's death. The petitioners cite the status and value of the said slaves to be: "that Sam died before the death of Elizabeth W. Hagan. They estimate the aggregate value of the slaves, who now number fifteen, to be $5,550. They seek an attachment to prevent the defendant from removing or selling the slaves.

PAR Number 20182804

State: Alabama Year: 1828
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: Eliza M. Osborne, executrix of the estate of her husband, Judge James G. H. Osborne, seeks the return of two slaves. The petitioner states that in 1803, in Camden County, Georgia, her mother-in-law, Catharine Osborne, conveyed a "negro slave Sally and her issue to one Catharine Howell in trust to hold said negro slave for the sole use and benefit of one Maria J. Osborne," Catharine Osborne's daughter. The deed of conveyance stipulated that upon Maria's death, Sally and her increase would descend to her children or, if she died childless, to her brothers. As trustee, Howell would receive the use of the said slave and her issue during her natural life "free of any hire or expense." After Maria died childless in 1806, Catharine Howell kept Sally and her five children. In 1817, an agreement was reached between Catharine Howell and one of Maria's brothers, James G. H. Osborne, who owned the entire interest in Sally and her family. Per the agreement, Howell agreed to relinquish her life interest in the slaves in return for payment of an annuity for the remainder of her life. Howell kept the slaves until 1820, when James Osborne agreed to let her keep one of Sally's children, Patty, for the rest of her life, in return for a discount on the annuity. Upon her death, ownership of Patty would revert to him. When Howell died in 1826 in Alabama where she had moved her residence, Sheriff John Martin was appointed administrator of her estate. Eliza Osborne charges that Martin took possession of Patty and her child in December 1827 and has refused to relinquish them. She avers that Patty and her child belong to the estate of her husband; she asks that the defendant deliver the slaves to her immediately.

PAR Number 20183005

State: Alabama Year: 1830
Location: Jackson Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioners seek to settle a dispute about ownership of a slave named Melinda, mortgaged in 1807 or 1808 by Hugh Montgomery to John Hatfield for three hundred dollars, with the proviso that Montgomery could redeem or repurchase her at any time by repaying the mortgage with interest, plus three bushels of salt valued at $5 a bushel. In 1830, Hugh Montgomery assigned the mortgage on the slave to his son, Benjamin, who assigned a half-interest to Wiley Belcher. Benjamin and Wiley now claim "that they would have redeemed said negro long since, but for the fraudulent and evasive conduct of said defendant," charging that Hatfield moved "to the most obscure part of Jackson County aforesaid taking with him said negro woman and all her increase," which now number "six or eight children." The petitioners seek an injunction to prevent the defendant from leaving the area with the slaves, to name Hugh Montgomery as a defendant, to cancel the bill of sale, and to attach said slaves until the court renders a decision.

PAR Number 20183102

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

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

PAR Number 20183104

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

Abstract: William Tylor seeks to secure the status of slaves bought by him from William Roy and then hired back to Roy for a five-year term as payment. The slaves were "a negro woman named Sarah & three children, Marshall, Boling & Mary" and the conditions of their hire were that the "negroes should be fed & clothed by said Roy & their Taxes paid and that they should not be carried from the county or removed to any place therein reported unhealthy without the permission of your Orator." Tylor now charges that Roy has stolen the bill of sale and tried to smuggle the slaves out of the county. The slaves are presently in legal custody, and Tylor seeks an injunction to prevent the sheriff from returning the slaves to Roy without sufficient security that Roy will return them to Tylor at the end of their term of hire.

PAR Number 20183105

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

Abstract: Ellis Isbell states that on or about 5 November 1827 the defendant, Benjamin Hudson, paid off a $530.90 judgment held against him. Isbell claims that, in order to "secure & indemnify said Hudson for paying the sum of money," he placed four slaves valued at $1,325 in Hudson's possession. Isbell estimates the value of the slaves' service and labor at $180 per year. Their verbal agreement provided, according to Isbell, that Hudson would hold ownership of the slaves until the debt was paid and if the debt remained unpaid, then he would retain ownership of the slaves. Isbell gave Hudson a bill of sale for the slaves, based on the verbal agreement of ownership rights. Isbell states that on 6 November 1830 he attempted to pay the debt, but Hudson "positively and entirely refused to receive the same and refused to deliver said Slaves." Isbell charges Hudson with fraud and seeks ownership of the four slaves, either upon payment of the debt or upon payment of the difference between the interest on the debt and the slaves' hire.

PAR Number 20183106

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

Abstract: In an original petition, dated 5 June 1830, Benjamin Montgomery and Wiley Belcher charged that the defendant John Hatfield had refused to accept their payment which would have satisfied the mortgage on the slave Melinda and her six children. Since Hatfield would not relinquish possession of the said slave, the petitioners asked the court, among other things, to require Hatfield "to give security for the forthcoming of said slaves." Now, in a supplemental bill, the petitioners state that the bond of $1000 is insufficient since, they assert, it has been ascertained "that said negro slaves in controversy are worth fully the sum of two thousand dollars." The petitioners point out that Hatfield has "no real estate in Jackson County or in any part of the state of Alabama and that excepting one or two houses of very inferior value, he has no property of any kind whatsoever." They further fear that Hatfield's recent move "to the Bank of the Tennessee River," in the northwestern part of the state, is not "for the only purpose of planting, or farming or carrying on any lucrative occupation, he having rented but about 20 acres of land but with the view of running off said negroes by the facility of the said River should a decree be rendered against him." The petitioners seek an order to require the defendant to give bond with good security or command the sheriff to seize the slaves until a final decree is rendered.

PAR Number 20183107

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

Abstract: In a previous petition filed in January 1831, Ellis Isbell sought the return and title to the four slaves he claims to have mortgaged to the defendant, Benjamin Hudson. Isbell recounts that, being unable to pay a $530.92 judgment obtained against him, he asked Hudson to pey it on his behalf. He secured the debt to Hudson by mortgaging a family of slaves to him. Isbell, desirous to reclaim his slaves, attempted to repay Hudson the amount owed but Hudson refused to accept the money and continued to hold the slaves in his possession. In the earlier petition, Isbell charged Hudson with fraud and sought title to the four slaves -- either upon payment of the debt or upon payment of the difference between the interest on the debt and the slaves' hire. In his current amended bill, Isbell states that he has reason to believe that Hudson "will dispose of said slaves and place it out of your Orator's power to regain or redeem them even if he succeed in his said Original Bill." Isbell further notes that he has learned that Hudson has drawn up a deed in trust that mortgages "two quarter sections of land and twenty or twenty one negroes including the four which your Orator claims the right to redeem." Isbell alleges that the money to be secured to Hudson's securities "as appears in said Deed in Trust is three thousand one Hundred Dollars and that said property conveyed is amply sufficient to pay the same exclusive of your Orator's said four slaves sought to be redeemed." Isbell points out that the said deed in trust appears to be dated "7 June 1831," which is five months after the date he filed his original petition. The petitioner seeks an injunction "preventing and restraining said Hudson from disposing of said four Slaves or taking them out of the power of the process of this Court untill a final decree is made in the case of the aforesaid Original Bill."

PAR Number 20183203

State: Alabama Year: 1832
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: Drusilla McMeans and her children claim ownership of a female slave and her six children. Becky was bequeathed to Drusilla by her father Rheuben Allen as a life estate. In his will, dated 5 March 1812, Allen gave "one negro woman with her increase named Becky which negro has heretofore been loaned to my daughter Drusilla to be hers during her natural life and after her death to be equally divided between her children the heirs of her body." Because Drusilla "was at the time of the said bequeath covert of Isaac McMeans," her husband took possession of the slaves when Allen died. The McMeans family moved to Alabama, taking with them Becky and children. The petitioners state that at present Isaac McMeans is "much involved in debt and that he is probably wholly insolvent." They point out that his creditors have obtained judgments against him, and "have levied an execution on all the said Negroes slaves and will proceed to sell the same unless restrained by the injunction of Your Honor." The petitioners insist that "the said Negroes are the seperate property of your Oratrix Drusilla and after her death of your other Orators jointly," yet the defendants pretend that the terms of the will stipulate that Isaac McMeans has a vested interest in the slaves. The petitioners therefore seek an injunction to prevent a sale of the slaves and ask that Hubbell Pierce be appointed as trustee. They also pray that the court will award a writ of subpoena directing the defendants to answer the bill of complaint. In her amended petition, Drusilla McMeans informs the court that she and her husband had in fact made a gift of the slaves to their children before the husband got involved in debt.

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