Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11085902

State: Mississippi Year: 1859
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: Albert W. Dunbar, guardian of the estate of Dr. James P. McPheeters of Adams County, purchased in 1858 for the widow and her eight children a plantation on the Black River in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. He then transported the slaves belonging to the estate to Louisiana and worked them on the plantation. Dunbar is an experienced planter, the petitioners aver, and this was the best way to use the slaves; prior to the purchase of land, the slaves could not be profitably utilized. The widow and her children explain that because of the minor status of five of the children, the removal of the slaves needs an "Enabling Act." They ask the legislature to pass such an act.

PAR Number 11483514

State: Tennessee Year: 1835

Abstract: One hundred fifty-seven petitioners, lamenting the deplorable condition of people of color and citing rights promised in the Constitution, seek a gradual end to slavery. The petitioners argue that slaveholders should be permitted to free their slaves on terms that will not involve their estates so long as the emancipated slaves can maintain themselves. They also argue that descendants of slaves born after the passage of an emancipation law should be freed when they reach a certain age. Black people to be freed should be taught a useful occupation and to read the Scriptures. Lastly, a law should be passed prohibiting within the state “the inhuman practice of separating husbands and wives.”

PAR Number 11585203

State: Texas Year: 1852
Location: Walker Location Type: County

Abstract: The guardians of the minor heirs of James J. Harrison ask to purchase land for their wards. They report that the estates of thirteen-year-old James S. Harrison and eleven-year-old Keturah A. Harrison "consist of some thirty five negroes, seven thousand dollars in money ... and but little land." The petitioners purport that "the monies vested in good lands at the present low prices would yield a far larger & safer interest than by lending the money out." They therefore pray a law be passed "authorising such investments and under such restrictions as in your wisdom you may direct."

PAR Number 11682807

State: Virginia Year: 1828
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Hetty Jacobs, the widow of Solomon Jacobs, joins the guardian of her three infant children and the administrator of her late husband's estate to request that the eleven slaves belonging to said estate be sold "and the proceeds vested in Bank or Government stock to be held for the benefit of the widow & children." They aver that said slaves consist "exclusively of women & children who are not only wholly unproductive, but if not sold, must become a charge to the estate." Declaring the conduct of said slaves to be “very insolent and every way objectionable," the petitioners therefore pray that a law be passed "authorising the sale of the said slaves."

PAR Number 11682901

State: Virginia Year: 1829
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Hetty Jacobs, the widow of Solomon Jacobs, joins the guardian of her three infant children and the administrator of her late husband's estate to request that the eleven slaves belonging to said estate be sold "and the proceeds vested in Bank or Government Stock, to be held for the benefit of the widow and children." They aver that said slaves consist "exclusively of women and children, who were not only wholly unprofitable, but if not sold would become a charge to the estate." Declaring the conduct of said slaves to be “very insolent and every way objectionable," the petitioners therefore pray that a law be passed "authorizing the sale of the said slaves."

PAR Number 20184212

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

Abstract: William H. Thompson seeks to settle business accounts with his former partner Lott Ballard. He states that, being possessed of slaves but no land, he agreed to buy one half of a tract of land from Ballard and to enter into a farming partnership with the latter. He claims that he and Ballard had verbally agreed that each partner "should furnish an equal number of negro slaves and that each should supply an equal portion of horses & mules, farming utensils and all other things." Each partner was to share equally in the plantation profits and both could "supply themselves from the product of said plantation so far as said product would answer the purposes of subsistence." The petitioner charges that "Ballard & Lott" raised 130 bags or 65,000 pounds of cotton in 1838 which netted the partners a $2000 profit. He cites that the plantation yielded 180 bags of cotton in 1839 and 140 bags of cotton in 1840. Thompson "expressly charges, that out of the proceeds of the cotton crops of the years 1838, 1839 and 1840 he has never received one dollar to his share." They agreed to dissolve the partnership in 1841, and he now asks that the court order Lott to settle accounts and "pay your Orator his share of said partnership profits."

PAR Number 20185610

State: Alabama Year: 1856
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: Caroline Bird, guardian of her minor children, Georgena and Martha Bird, asks for permission to sell eight slaves--Frances and her child Robert, Suckey and her four children, and John--bequeathed to them by their uncle, Joseph Bird. Since Georgena and Martha Bird do not own land, Caroline is currently hiring the slaves out in the city of Montgomery, but the black children are proving to be an expense rather than a source of profit. Although Caroline Bird states that the slaves were bequeathed by Joseph Bird to her children, it is not clear whether all were owned by Bird before the bequest or whether all or some of the children were born after the bequest.

PAR Number 20284101

State: Arkansas Year: 1841
Location: Phillips Location Type: County

Abstract: William Moore, administrator of the estate of Jesse J. Shell and guardian of one of Shell's children, and E. K. Harris, guardian of another child, ask that the property in the estate, including sixteen slaves, be sold at public auction and that the proceeds be divided among the Shell heirs.

PAR Number 20382703

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

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

PAR Number 20385701

State: Delaware Year: 1857
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1823, William Shockley published his last will and testament, bequeathing to his wife Elisabeth a life estate in their land, farmhouse, outbuildings, livestock, and two slaves, James and Harriet. Shockley died a short time later, as did his wife. The estate and land reverted to their two daughters, Eliza and Keturah, both of whom married men named Davis. Eliza died in childbirth in 1824, and her husband, Henry Davis, gained possession of half of Shockley's land. In 1854, he sold the land to George S. Davis, one of the petitioners. The other daughter, Keturah, married John C. Davis, and the couple had seven children before he died in 1843. Following Keturah's death in 1856, members of the Davis families--Robert, George, Eliza Ann, and Mark Davis, on the one side, and minors Mary, Catherine, and Thomas Davis, on the other--seek to partition the land.

PAR Number 20482202

State: District of Columbia Year: 1822
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: William Henry, an Alabama businessman visiting the District of Columbia, accuses Richard Jones of misrepresenting the quality and location of a parcel of land in Kentucky that Henry purchased from Jones. In addition, he charges that Jones defrauded him in the purchase of a slave boy Edward. Henry purchased Edward from Jones for $450, and on their journey to Alabama, the slave absconded. Henry asserts that Jones recovered Edward and "fraudulently concealed said boy till his note fell due that he might attach said boy & sell him in the absence of your orator." Henry asks the court for a monetary refund for the land purchase as well as the purchase of Edward.

PAR Number 20482804

State: District of Columbia Year: 1828
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Eleanor Kirby, widow of John Kirby, seeks to claim a portion of her husband's estate. She charges that George Kirby, nephew of the deceased, "gives out in threats that She Shall be prevented from using or retaining any portion of Said property ... and refuses and omits to set off and apportion her dower in any part of the said real estate," which includes valuable tracts of land as well as a large number of slaves. George Kirby justified his actions by producing "a paper which he stated to be the last will & testament of said deceased." The widow notes, however, that "said pretended last will and testament was not signed by the said John B. Kirby ... but only purported to have his mark, the name being written by some other person." Eleanor Kirby petitions the court for her dower and asks for an injunction to prevent the defendants' attempts "to oust or dispossess your oratrix of any part of said real estate, or to interfere with her use & enjoyment of the Same or of the rents issues and profits thereof."

PAR Number 20482805

State: District of Columbia Year: 1828
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Willock, owner of a coffee estate in Cuba, owes a debt of $6,704.25 to James Jenkins Wright and Henry Shelton, who advanced said sum "to aid him [Willock] in the purchase, and stocking with negroes &c, a coffee estate." Learning that Thomas planned to transfer ownership of the estate, including his slaves, to his son William and William's wife Sarah, the petitioners immediately went to Cuba to stop the transfer until the debt is settled. It was agreed that William would sell thirty lots of land in Washington, D.C., on which Sarah would relinquish her dower rights. However, Thomas and Sarah have failed to execute the proper papers. Wright and Shelton ask the court to order the defendants to "execute the said agreement in good faith; ... that lien of your Orators on said Lots may be Established, that the said described Lots may be decreed to be sold, free and disencumbered, of the claim of Dower of the Defendant."

PAR Number 20484404

State: District of Columbia Year: 1844
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel Davidson and Mary Chapman seek the settlement of an estate issue regarding the estate of Lewis Davidson, who died intestate. The estate included "some old family servants" which the family was forced to sell in order to make payments on several debts. The petitioners now ask the court to allow them to sell the unimproved real estate so that they may be able to pay some of the considerable debt owed due to the maintenance of the family. They ask that the surplus proceeds be used for the future support and education of the minors.

PAR Number 20484406

State: District of Columbia Year: 1844
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert J. Dillon, administrator of the estate of Henry V. Garretson, deceased, seeks the settlement of an estate issue. Dillon states that Henry Garretson was a creditor of the American Colonization Society. Remsen Garretson, Henry Garretson's son and executor, made an arrangement with the American Colonization Society for payment through a cash settlement and the conveyance of several lots in the city of Washington. The deed, however, mistakenly granted the funds and lots to Remsen Garretson, now deceased, and his heirs rather than to the estate of Henry Garretson. Dillon asks the court to order the sale of the lots and to place the proceeds in a trust for the benefit of Henry Garretson's heirs.

PAR Number 20485104

State: District of Columbia Year: 1851
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Margaret M. Ashton, petitioning by her next friend Thomas Hereford, seeks the resolution of a property dispute. She states that her father, Hugh Steuart, now deceased, gave her a slave, Kate, and her future increase. Since his death, Kate has had five children: James, John, George, Jerry (or Gerry), and Martha. Ashton avers that her mother, Ann Steuart, now deceased, persuaded her to sell John, "who had become very valuable," and to invest the proceeds from the sale in real estate at Greenleaf Point. Ann Steuart then convinced Ashton to sell three more slaves and the property in Greenleaf and invest in several lots in Washington City for the petitioner's sole use and benefit. Ashton states that it was the intention of her mother to convey the ownership of the lots to her or to bequeath them to her in her Last Will and Testament. Ann Steuart, however, died before this was done. Ashton asserts her mother's heirs have contested her ownership of the lots and have persuaded the court to divide the lots amongst them. She asks that the defendants be called to answer her complaint and requests recognition of her right to the property.

PAR Number 20485202

State: District of Columbia Year: 1852
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Andrew Davis, a free man of color, seeks the resolution of a property dispute. Davis states that in October 1850, he was very ill and feared that he would die. His sister, Elizabeth Davis, persuaded him to execute a deed conveying the title of his property to her. Andrew Davis argues that the deed was executed with a verbal agreement that in the event of his recovery, the land would be conveyed back to him, or in the event of his death, the title would be given to his wife and heirs. The petitioner charges that Elizabeth Davis never paid any money for the property. However, she now claims ownership and refuses to restore his title to the land now that he has recovered. Andrew Davis seeks an injunction preventing his sister from selling the property and asks that the deed be canceled.

PAR Number 20485502

State: District of Columbia Year: 1855
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary L. Maryman complains that shortly after her marriage, her husband, Horatio Maryman, "began a course of harsh and cruel treatment of and towards your Oratrix." She asserts that, in addition to verbally harassing her, her husband encouraged his "servants" to be "disobedient and insolent" towards her. He forced her to leave his house during her confinement for childbirth in the midst of cold weather. She charges that Horatio Maryman has filed for divorce and that the petition contains "false statements and misrepresentations." Stating that her husband has valuable property, Mary Maryman prays that the court will decree her alimony since she and her child now live with her father who is aging and has trouble supporting them. The last will and testament of Zachariah Hazel, Horatio Maryman's father-in-law from a previous marriage, suggests that Horatio Maryman inherited four slaves in trust for Maryman's four children, Hazel's grandchildren. The will stipulated, however, that said slaves were to be freed after certain periods of time.

PAR Number 20485603

State: District of Columbia Year: 1856
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: William Henry Jones, a free man of color, states that in June 1849, he purchased a piece of land from Benjamin Taylor for $140, payable in five years. Jones avers that he is in possession of the land and has consistently made payments on the debt. He asserts that Taylor has refused to accept the remaining balance of $92.25 plus interest and has refused to execute a deed of conveyance. Jones requests that Taylor be summoned to answer his complaint and asks the court to order Taylor to convey the land to him.

PAR Number 20681001

State: Georgia Year: 1810
Location: Chatham Location Type: County

Abstract: John and Charles O. Scriven are executors of Charles Oddingsells's estate. The estate includes a number of slaves, and it has been necessary to rent land on which they labor. Since the estate is free from debt, "your Petitioners believe that the surplus money of said Estate cannot be more advantageously invested than in Land." John Scriven owns an island that he would like to sell. He and Charles ask that they be allowed to purchase the land for the benefit of the estate.

PAR Number 20681111

State: Georgia Year: 1811
Location: Greene Location Type: County

Abstract: William and Rebecca Baker petition to settle a dispute regarding the estate of Rebecca's late father, Nathaniel Howell (the elder). Upon his death, Nathanial Howell Sr. left several children and an estate consisting of land and slaves; his widow, Ann Howell, and one of his sons, Nathaniel Howell (the younger), took possession of the property immediately after Nathaniel Sr.'s death, and they have collected the profits from it since that time. The petitioners contend that, although the late Howell died intestate, Ann and Nathaniel Jr. have submitted a forged last will and testament in the Court of Ordinary. They argue that they are entitled to one-tenth of the estate. The petitioners ask that Ann Howell and Nathaniel Howell Jr. answer their allegations in detail, that the will be declared void, and that they be paid their rightful share of the estate.

PAR Number 20681501

State: Georgia Year: 1815
Location: Chatham Location Type: County

Abstract: John Screven is the executor of Charles Odingselles's estate. According to Screven, "the only fit land to plant with the negroes of said Estate was devised to the widow of the said Odingselles," and he "has been planting with the negroes of the said estate, on hired land" which is of poor quality. He has recently accepted an offer to purchase, for $2,500, a better tract of land. He asks the court to allow this purchase, "conveying the said premises to the children of the deceased Testator."

PAR Number 20681612

State: Georgia Year: 1816
Location: Wilkes Location Type: County

Abstract: Boling Anthony claims that Thomas W. Sims "hath injured your petitioner four thousand dollars." Anthony gave Sims $1,600 for a slave named Tamer and her six children. Sims gave Anthony a receipt for the transaction and promised to deliver the slaves. However, Anthony insists that Sims has refused to honor his part of the bargain. Anthony sues for $4,000 damages.

PAR Number 20685804

State: Georgia Year: 1858
Location: Houston Location Type: County

Abstract: John H. Rutherford, as trustee for Mrs. Missouri J. Rutherford and her children, claims that "he is possessed of a considerable Estate in negro slaves ... consisting of families, of great value, when kept together, and properly treated on a plantation, but such as would if hired out, would greatly depreciate in value." He further claims that the estate has no land on which to work the slaves, nor the money to buy the land. He asks that he be permitted "to bind Trust Estate by note or otherwise in writing" for "the purchase of a suitable piece of land for the purposes aforesaid."

PAR Number 20785311

State: Kentucky Year: 1853
Location: Woodford Location Type: County

Abstract: William, Milton, Mary, and Lewis Craig petition by their next friend, Henry H. Craig, to sell two slaves named Lewis and Manuel. With the proceeds from the said sale, "they will be able to pay for the land they have purchased." They note that "the money arising from the sale of said negroes and invested in said land would be a safe investment."

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