Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11282712

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Jonathan Bryan seeks a divorce from his wife Ann Jane Anders, who not only attempted to kill him but also incited "an Insurrection" among his slaves. Bryan reports that the said Ann Jane attempted to poison him more than once; that she failed to nurse him when he “was Confined with the Billious fever So that his life was despaired of"; that she "has laid voiolent hands on his person twice;" that she has "treated with Cruelty the Seven Children he has had by a decent and former wife"; that she "took medicine" to induce a miscarriage when she returned from being absent "for the Space of eleven months dureing which time She got herself with Child;" and that he "has not seen the Said Ann Jane and has been for Som time past and at this time She is aliveing in a Negro house With Negros." He therefore prays that the legislature will "interpose and pass a Law Divorcing him from this wife Ann Jane."

PAR Number 11283204

State: North Carolina Year: 1832
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Reid seeks a divorce from her husband Elias. Mary, also called Polly, confides that the said Elias, shortly after their marriage, told her "that altho she was his wife he had no regard for her" and that he "had married her alone for the property which she brought him;" said property consisted of "a very large personal estate consisting mostly of negro slaves." She further states that her husband banished her "from his house & placed her at his negro quarter where she was deprived of all the conveniences as well as necessaries of life beyond a bare sufficiency to support existence." Mary maintains "that while at the said negro quarter her provisions were measured out to her in the same way as if she had been a field labourer." Having abandoned her husband and "now destitute," the petitioner prays that "the tie which binds her to her husband" be dissolved and that she be granted "all the relief which her case shall require."

PAR Number 11283301

State: North Carolina Year: 1833
Location: Lenoir Location Type: County

Abstract: Gatsey Stevenson laments that her husband Silas is "unfortunately addicted to habits of intemperance" and that his "fits of intoxication" forced her to "quit his society" and to take "shelter under the roof of her father." Gatsey further confesses that the said Silas "took into his house a profligate woman ... & is now living in adulterous intercourse." She reveals that said woman "by some device has procured title" to her husband's plantation and she has thus been "cast upon the world utterly destitute." Gatsey therefore prays "that a law may be passed ... securing to her such property as she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11283401

State: North Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Burke Location Type: County

Abstract: Ellena Cobb seeks a divorce from her husband John Cobb. She confides that the said John represented "himself as highly respectable and of good standing in the Town where he resided and of considerable celebrity as a physician having a large and extensive practice which was very profitable." Swayed by his appearance, Ellena confesses that she married him and moved to South Carolina where she discovered, two days into the marriage, that her husband was "perfectly insolvent that he had no practice as a physician and was by his intemperate habits incapable" of affording "any comfort or protection to your petitioner but on the contrary [was] a constant source of ... heart rending mortification and regret." The petitioner reveals that she has left her husband but understands "from respectable and undoubted sources that he is still pursuing the same intemperate and dissipated course which he did when she was living with him and associates with the most degraded low and immoral company such as free negroes mulattoes and the very dregs of society." Avowing that she "was most fraudulently shamefully ... imposed upon by the base false and dishonest representations of the said John Cobb," the petitioner prays that she may be granted a divorce “by an act of the General Assembly.”

PAR Number 11385903

State: South Carolina Year: 1859
Location: Lancaster Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: John H. Hood reports that Marcus Tuttle adeserted his blind, seventy-year-old slave named Burrell in 1858. He declares that said Tuttle "ran off from this State, and on his way, set down said Slave on the public Road, in the Neighbourhood he had left, and abandoned him to his fate." Hood further states that said Burrell "wandered about in the Neighbourhood, and came to the House of your Petitioner, about the first of December 1858, when your Petitioner from feelings of humanity, rather than said Slave should starve, took charge of him, and has clothed, supported and maintained him ever since." The petitioner therefore prays that he be granted "such compensation, for the support, and maintenance of said Slave, as your wisdom may think just and proper."

PAR Number 11386001

State: South Carolina Year: 1860
Location: Lancaster Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: John H. Hood reports that Marcus Tuttle deserted his blind, seventy-year-old slave named Burrell in 1858. He declares that said Tuttle "ran away from this State, leaving behind him, his old Negro Man Slave named Burrell ... nearly totaly blind, in a very helpless, and destitute condition and utterly unable to support himself." The petitioner further states that said Burrell, "after he was deserted by his Master, wandered away and got to the House of Your Petitioner"; Hood, "prompted by feelings of humanity ... took charge of him and has kept, clothed, and supported him from the first of December 1858 until the 14th day of October 1860, at which time, last mentioned, the said Slave Burrell departed this life." The petitioner therefore prays that he be allowed "such compensation, for keeping and supporting" said slave "as in your judgment you may think him entitled to."

PAR Number 11482002

State: Tennessee Year: 1820
Location: Stewart Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet H. Gibson seeks a divorce from her husband, Henry Gibson, on the grounds that he neglected his business, "cohabited with Other Women," and forced her from the house; shortly thereafter, Henry "removed to the State of Kentucky with all his (Negroes Ten in number) his Horses &C in which he has Resided about twelve months & Still continues there." The petitioner reports that her husband "has been frequently herd to say that he would never live with me again as a wife."

PAR Number 11482107

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Sumner Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Street asks for a divorce from her husband, James Street. She confides that "in about two years after our marriage he sold a negroe the only one we had, and then went off and left your petitioner." Street further laments that "in his absence the ballance of our property was taken by his creditors." She also discloses that the said James "was continually abusing her" and "was subject to intoxication and frequently would stay from home drunk two or three weeks at a time." With five children to support, Street prays "your honorable body to grant her a divorce from the bonds of matrimony" and that any property she may acquire be protected from satisfying the debts of the said James.

PAR Number 11482109

State: Tennessee Year: 1821

Abstract: Confessing that her husband David's "treatment became so intolarable that I Could not Stay with him any longer," Mary Logue seeks a divorce. She discloses that "he not only abused my person very frequently by pulling my hair and Draging me about the house by it but [threatened] to take my Life and would go to bed with Negro women." Mary, believing it not safe to stay with him, abandoned "his house and went to my Fathers whare I have Resided Ever Since and Since I have left my husbond ... still Continued in his wickedness as bad as ever." The petitioner therefore prays that she be granted a divorce.

PAR Number 11482111

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Robertson Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Gardner requests a divorce from his wife Mary, who "left your petitioners House & Home & returned to her Fathers without any Just cause"; Mary returned the following month and "took away her negroes" along with "all the property which she brought with her to your petitioners House, after the intermarriage." Gardner reports that he and his wife now "Agree to live a Seperate & an undisturbed life which would conduce much more to the happiness of both parties living as they do in the same neighbourhood." He therefore prays "that the bonds of Matrimony which now exist between your petitioner & the sd Mary L. be dissolved."

PAR Number 11482202

State: Tennessee Year: 1822
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: William McClure accuses his wife, Rebecca Smith McClure, of cohabiting and having "sexual & carnal intercourse with a certain negro fellow Slave by name of Taff formerly the slave of your petitioner." McClure discloses that "for six months last past the said Rebecca has been Indulging at all times of the absence of her husband from home with the said negro slave, that she took him to your petitioners house and did so openly." Stating that his wife "has gone to the state of Illinois, hoping her said paramour may abscond & there indulge her wicked & debased desires," the petitioner prays that he be granted a divorce.

PAR Number 11482605

State: Tennessee Year: 1826
Location: Sumner Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Wilson of Sumner County asks for a divorce from her husband, Joseph P. Wilson, who two years ago "abandoned her, leaving her and a child to the pity of her relatives." Wilson recounts that she owned fifty-three acres of land and two slaves valued at $600 when she married the said Joseph in 1822. She further notes that her said property has been sold to satisfy the debts contracted by her husband during their two years together. She therefore prays "that under the peculiar circumstances of the case your honourable body will grant relief, by a bill of divorce."

PAR Number 11483113

State: Tennessee Year: 1831
Location: Haywood Location Type: County

Abstract: Hannah Stone seeks a divorce from her husband Thomas, who "left and seperated himself from her, by a wilful and malicious desertion and absence for the space of more than two years." Confessing that "she is in verry indigent circumstances, having no slaves or any one else to work for her," she prays "your honourable body to take her case into consideration and grant her relief & a seperation from the said Thomas Stone, by a divorce from the bonds of matrimony."

PAR Number 11483328

State: Tennessee Year: 1833
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: Susan Doolin seeks a divorce from her husband, Thomas Doolin. Susan confides that her said husband "has been guilty of Acts & deeds [inconsistent] with the marriage Vow" and that he "has been guilty of Adultry With indecent & lewd women." She further submits that "his own relations to me [stated] that he had in a carnal way kept & made use of a Negro girl that belongd to me,--the Negro says the same." Stating that "he left some time in the month of April last & told me that he never intended to live with me again," the petitioner prays "that your honourable body would pass a law divorcing her from her said husband."

PAR Number 11484502

State: Tennessee Year: 1845
Location: Anderson Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Hookins asks for a divorce from her husband William. Hookins confides that said William "was always scolding and faultfinding and frequently disturbed your petitioner's hours of repose and sleep by his certain lectures -- abusing her for merest trifles and not seeming to be satisfied, he soon resorted to whipping her." She further admits that when she "would tell him to quit mistreating her so, he said by the common law a man had a right to whip his wife, and that so long as he was a freeman he would have the right of one, and that he would whip her every day of her life if he wanted to." Mary reveals that her husband has abandoned her "and her babies to this fate and the last rumor She heard of him he had taken up with a mulatto woman and was the father of two children by her." She therefore prays that "now if your Honorable body ... will only set aside, and undue this unfortunate act of your petitioner's youthful folly, and indiscretion; she hopes she will be able to do better in a second marriage than she did in her first; for she knows she could do worse that she did when she [and] Billy Hookins became man and wife."

PAR Number 11680606

State: Virginia Year: 1806
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1800, Charlotte Ball married William Ball who possessed property "very adequate with care and industry to their decent support." Charlotte informs the court that "she had every reason to hope for as great a portion of happiness as most people enjoy in a married state." It was not meant to be; within a short while, William Ball began to strike and beat Charlotte, and even threatened to kill her. In addition, he "wasted his substance to the last farthing in profligacy and debaucheries." Although Charlotte does not reveal to the court the details of these "debaucheries," we learn from related depositions that it included excessive drinking and adultery with both white and black women. Charlotte contends that in spite of the violence and the outrage she "conducted herself on all occasions towards" her husband "with humble duty, fidelity, and affection." The situation, however, became unbearable and she eventually left her husband's house and returned to her father's, where she has now lived for four years and accumulated some property to support herself and her children. She claims that her husband is trying to confiscate her property; she seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11680702

State: Virginia Year: 1807
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1787, Ambrose Walden married Betsey Taylor of Fauquier County, and lived with her until 1798, "during which period" he "endeavored by every means in his power to render happy the woman whom he had selected and flattered himself with accomplishing so desireable an object." He would have persisted in these endeavors, Walden claims, had he not, in 1798, "detected her in an illicit amour" with a man in the neighborhood. Now, nine years later, he seeks a divorce. Related documents reveal that Walden may have been diagnosed as being insane and that, as early as 1804, a court of law had reviewed a property settlement whereby a trust was to be created for the use of Betsey Walden. The property under review included seven slaves.

PAR Number 11680806

State: Virginia Year: 1808
Location: Loudon Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in 1802, Isaac Fouch lived with his wife Elizabeth for several years "in the strictest Love, Friendship and happiness." Then he discovered she possessed a "Lewd, incontinent, profligate disposition." However, "being so much attached to her person, having from his first acquaintance with her cherished the most ardent, tender affectionate Love and Regard for her and hoping that she might yet be reclaimed, treated her with all that tenderness and respect which the most upright and Virtuous Women ought to expect, admonishing her repeatedly of the Wickedness of such a course, of the Infamy and disgrace which must result from it." But his love and admonitions were to no avail and in fact had the contrary effect; he "detected her and the partner of her crimes (a certain James Watt, a man of color) in bed together." He then resolved to leave her and set out for the Western Country. He is now convinced that reconciliation can never take place, and therefore seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11681129

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: In 1796, with the consent of her guardian and her mother, Anna Whiting of Gloucester, Virginia, married John Pryor, a Richmond man, who a related document reveals was considerably older than herself. According to John Pryor, he lived happily with his wife until June 1810, when an immigrant French teacher named Charles Fremon was introduced to his house "by means of some young Gentlemen students who rented certain rooms and small houses" from Pryor. Soon Pryor discovered that Fremon and his wife were having an illicit relationship and Pryor feared that the pair plotted to kill him in order to get married. Shortly after the affair was discovered, Anna Pryor "voluntarily prepared to leave the house and protection" of her husband "under the pretence of going to her sister's in Gloucester County, whereupon" Pryor "was induced to give her two negroes, and money to bear her expences to her supposed place of destination." Pryor claims that he was prepared to continue supporting his wife if she had indeed gone to her stated destination, but he discovered that, instead of going to her sister's, Anna and her lover took the slaves and journeyed to Charleston, Savannah, and "whither farther." Now far advanced in years, Pryor asks for a divorce.

PAR Number 11681419

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Augusta Location Type: County

Abstract: On 3 December 1812, Ellen Shields married Robert Dunlap, turning over to her husband two slaves--Milley and Hudson--and other property. It was not long before she was forced to leave, discovering that her husband was "criminally unlawfully and carnally Intamate with and [did] keep her the Said Negroe Milley" from the first day of their marriage. She seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11681602

State: Virginia Year: 1816
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: Five months after her marriage to Abraham Newton, Nancy Gray gave birth to a mulatto child. She admitted that the baby was conceived by a black man in the neighborhood. Nancy has left her husband, and she, her mother, and the baby have left for Ohio. Abraham Newton, the husband, sues for divorce.

PAR Number 11681603

State: Virginia Year: 1816
Location: Campbell Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1806, with a license from the Clerk of Court in Campbell County, free black Robert Wright married Mary Godsey, a free white woman. They were married before a "regularly Licensed Minister of the Gospel." In January 1815, Mary eloped with a white man, William Arthur, carrying "a negro Girl and other property belonging to your petitioner." Wright overtook the two in Liberty, and persuaded his wife to return, but in November 1815, the two eloped again, this time fleeing to Nashville, Tennessee. Although he knew there was a law against interracial marriage, Wright asserts that his marriage was "valid and binding." As a result, he seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11681903

State: Virginia Year: 1819
Location: Louisa Location Type: County

Abstract: Barbara W. Pettus seeks a divorce from her husband Hugh M. Pettus, whom she had married about 1809 only to discover he was a man of immoral character. Not only was he engaged in "wicked and vicious pursuit" of trading slaves from Maryland and Virginia to South Carolina and Georgia, but when he returned home about every six months he brought with him "coloured female Slaves, his kept mistresses." He finally decided to move to Georgia, and she believed it was her duty to accompany him; but he has run off with "a young woman of respectable family," with whom he lives as man and wife.

PAR Number 11682308

State: Virginia Year: 1823
Location: Louisa Location Type: County

Abstract: About 1811, Lewis Bourne married Doratha Woodall, who then enjoyed "a good and respectable character." After about five years of marriage, however, Doratha began to live in open adultery with a black man, the slave of a neighbor. She bore him two mulatto children, one of whom is still living and the unquestionable proof of her adultery. Doratha and her lover continue to live together. Lewis Bourne, her husband, claims that he has never treated his wife badly; indeed, he permitted her to live in a house on his land. He seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11682408

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: King William Location Type: County

Abstract: Evelina Gregory Roane, "a Daughter of affluence," seeks a divorce and custody of her infant son. Evelina represents that her marriage to Newman B. Roane has been wrought with "hardship and cruelty." She confides that "she was quickly reduced to the situation of a Slave who for some unpardonable offense, was constantly under the frowns of its master." Evelina further discloses that the said Newman admitted that "he had two mulatto children then at his Brothers who were much more comely and hansome than any she would ever bear" and shortly thereafter "this negroe woman and two mulatto children were brought upon the plantation." She confesses that "her husband adopted this woman as the more eligible companion & wife," and she reveals that her husband boasted that "if he had not expected a fortune he would never have married her." Having endured and survived multiple violent assaults, she asserts that she "obtained the restraining power of the civil magistrate" to force her husband "to keep the peace toward your Petitioner for the space of twelve months." She therefore prays that "a law may pass this honorable Body Divorcing your Petitioner from her husband ... and provide in the said act of Divorce that your Petitioner may be allowed to keep the said Junius B Roane in her possession until he comes to an age proper for being put to school."

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