Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20881931

State: Louisiana Year: 1819
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Victorine Fortier prays for a separation of bed and board from her husband Nicolas Noel Destrehan. Victorine represents that, since she "contracted marriage with" Destrehan in May of the year 1814, she has always done "everything in her power" to preserve between her and her husband "that love, friendship, confidence and good harmony, without which there can be no happiness in matrimony." Despite all her efforts, however, Destrehan has continually treated her cruelly and outrageously. Furthermore, Destrehan has now taken to slandering her character by publicly accusing her of adultery and prostitution. Victorine Fortier Destrehan therefore prays for a separation of bed and board from her husband, an inventory and appraisement of all their "joint and separate" property, both "moveables and immoveables," that are in his possession. She also asks for $200 per month in alimony, which she avers "is by no means disproportionate to his means," considering that he owns a large sugar plantation and slaves that annually bring him upwards of $15,000.

PAR Number 20882034

State: Louisiana Year: 1820
Location: West Baton Rouge Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Julie LeBeau Trudeau petitions for a separation of bed and board from her husband, Alexis Trudeau. Julie LeBeau Trudeau claims that, after their marriage in 1806, she and her husband jointly acquired property, which her husband has now disposed of without her "Consent or Concurrence." She also accuses her husband of "maliciously and falsely" attempting to deprive her of her "good name," by calling her, among other things, a prostitute. She therefore prays for authorization to sue Alexis Trudeau for separation of bed and board, for her share of the community property, which amounts to $3,000, and for custody of her children [Related petitions reveal that the Trudeaus were slave owners].

PAR Number 20883712

State: Louisiana Year: 1837
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Mary Montgomery represents that, upon her marriage to Thomas Beauchamp, she owned clothes, furniture and bedding, as well as three slaves that had been given to her by her father and mother. Mary Montgomery Beauchamp contends that her husband is addicted to intoxication, has adulterous relations with prostitutes, and repeatedly engages in physical violence upon her person, displaying such cruel and outrageous conduct that life with him has become “insupportable.” He has in fact threatened her with a gun and recently driven her and their young daughter out of their common dwelling, forcing her to seek refuge with her widowed sister. Mary prays for a divorce from her husband. She seeks to be separated in property from him in order to recover slaves and other property. She also wants custody of her child and an injunction to prevent her husband from “disturbing her in her person her child” and her property during the continuance of the suit.

PAR Number 20884719

State: Louisiana Year: 1847
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Jane Davis, a free mulatto woman, seeks to be "separated in bed and board" from her husband, William Edmunds, a free man of color. The couple intermarried in 1835 and "lived together happily and contentedly" for many years. Notwithstanding her "dutiful and affectionate" behavior, Jane now charges that William has broken his "marital vows" by abandoning, deceiving, and maltreating her, and that he is at the moment in "the embraces" of another woman. Moreover, William now denies that he and Jane were ever "united in the bonds of Lawful wedlock," thus publicly "defaming and blackening" his wife’s reputation. He even induces people to believe that Jane is "of doubtful fame & chastity." Jane asserts that their living together is insupportable; she therefore seeks a separation from her husband and financial support during her "natural life." Related depositions provide detailed information about life among free people of color in Philadelphia, where Jane lived for some time.

PAR Number 20885148

State: Louisiana Year: 1851
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Carmélite, a woman of color, claims to be a “statu liber” held in the bonds of slavery beyond the time when she should have been freed. She prays for her freedom. Carmélite represents that, on the 17th of June 1844, her then owner, "Mademoiselle" Françoise Eléonore Doubrère, sold her to one Jean Lacaze on the condition that Lacaze would free her after a period of seven years. Although seven years have elapsed since the sale, Lacaze not only refuses to take the steps to emancipate Carmélite but he had her put in jail. Carmélite prays to be declared free and seeks $1,000 in damages from Lacaze, as well as $75 per month for the value of her services. The related supreme court opinion and decree reveals that Françoise Eléonore Doubrère, Carmélite's former owner, was a free woman of color.

PAR Number 20885405

State: Louisiana Year: 1854
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: The widow of Charles Demange presents to the court that, earlier in the year 1854, she purchased, for the sum of $600 cash, a thirty-three-year-old female slave named Louisa from Marie Alida Simonet, also known as Courtois. She claims that Louisa came to her "warranted against redhibitory vices & diseases" and represented as a "trustworthy servant." She claims that she has since found out that Louisa was "lewd & abandonned & had been an inmate of a house of ill-repute," as well as in the habit of running away. She further claims that, in fact, Louisa ran away only seven days after the purchase and, notwithstanding "due & unrelenting diligence by advertisement in a printed paper," she has not been heard of since that time. Mrs. Demange therefore prays the court to order that the sale be annulled, the purchase price refunded, and her expenses in trying to recover her slave paid. She also asks for $200 in damages [Text in English and French; French version incomplete].

PAR Number 20885513

State: Louisiana Year: 1855
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Francis Terence, a free man of color, seeks a divorce from his wife of four years, Josephine Johnson, also a free woman of color. Terence represents that Josephine’s conduct since the marriage has been “such as to render it insupportable for him to live with her any longer.” Francis charges that his wife’s “habits” are dissolute, that she frequents “Houses of prostitution” and “lewd Ballrooms,” that she has committed adultery with Eugene Milleur and lives with him in “open concubinage,” that she has received Milleur in the marital bed, that she has contracted a venereal disease, and that she has clandestinely left the conjugal “domicil.” Francis Terence therefore prays that his wife be cited to answer his petition and that a judgment of divorce be “pronounced” against her.

PAR Number 20984302

State: Maryland Year: 1843
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Tinges married her husband, William Tinges, twelve or thirteen years ago. She claims that "in order to induce her to enter in to the said contract of Marriage She was basely and wickedly imposed upon, and made the victim of a most outrageous fraud." After being married she learned that her husband, "instead of being a white man is a mulatto and in reality had been born a slave." She says that all her acquaintances have shunned her, believing that she knew he was a mulatto all along and did not care. When she approached William Tinges with her discovery, she was met with "brutal invective and evasion." She claims that he treats her cruelly, frequently becomes inebriated, and is "a visitor of houses of ill fame and other places of infamy and disgrace." Elizabeth Tinges asks the court to subpoena William Tinges and to issue a divorce decree. In his answer, William Tinges counters that his wife knew he was a mulatto and that, in fact, she told him before their marriage that he was "White enough for her."

PAR Number 20984410

State: Maryland Year: 1844
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Houck seeks to end his three-year marriage with his wife, Eleanora, because she has committed adultery. Houck explains that Eleanora admitted her infidelities to him, and he has "resolved never again to receive her as his wife" and has sent her to live with her father. He asks the court to subpoena her to answer these charges and to a decree a divorce. A related deposition from Donaldson Forster describes his sexual encounters with the defendant that were arranged by "a coloured man named Rice." According to Forster, several of these appointments took place "at different times on the same day" upstairs at Rice's house.

PAR Number 20985802

State: Maryland Year: 1858
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1837, William Hall, a free person of color, married Margaret Green, a free person of color. The couple lived together until the summer of 1853, "during which time they became the parents of four children." In the summer of 1853, Margaret Hall "without any just cause and without any occasion given by your complainant, left his house, and has ever since refused to return or to live with him as man and wife should do." After she left, William Hall was solely responsible for the care and maintenance of the property and children. Since her departure, William alleges that Margaret "has led an unchaste and abandoned life and has been guilty of adultery." William Hall asks the court to award him a divorce.

PAR Number 21084914

State: Mississippi Year: 1849
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: Margaret O'Conner seeks a divorce from Luke O'Conner, whom she married in Arkansas in September 1842. She confides that said Luke "became unfaithful and committed adultery with other women so that he became diseased in consequence thereof." Citing many instances of cruelty, the petitioner charges Luke of living "in open adultery" with a female slave named Jane. The petitioner prays for the dissolution of the marriage, alimony, and writs of injunction and subpoena against the defendant. A deposition asserts that Margaret O'Conner ran a boarding house where five or seven women "occupied rooms in the back part of the building" and "said women were looked upon as women of easy virtue."

PAR Number 21085221

State: Mississippi Year: 1852
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: Noting that she married Leonard Campbell on 27 May 1841 in Alabama, Elizabeth Pierce Campbell charges that Leonard has committed adultery with several women, including Sarah (a female slave owned by a Mrs. Sparkman) and Henrietta (a slave woman owned by a Mrs. Goodman). In addition, she reveals that her husband "has confessed to your Oratrix that he has at sundry times committed adultery with lewd women and common prostitutes in the city of New Orleans." Elizabeth further insists that her husband "has almost entirely abandoned his lawful employment and has consorted with gamblers and drunkards." Lamenting that Leonard "has led such a dissolute life of dissipation and debauchery that your Oratrix has been compelled to separate herself from said deft for the last two years," the petitioner prays that she be granted a divorce, guardianship of their child, and alimony.

PAR Number 21085912

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

Abstract: Elizabeth R. Askew charges her husband Napoleon B. Askew with living "an adulterous life" with a mulatto woman named Catherine Rebecca, and she seeks a divorce from said Napoleon since he has "lost the disposition and power to care and provide for the moral and also the physical wants of his wife and children." The petitioner further argues that the provisions made by him for the support of his daughters is insufficient. Elizabeth therefore prays for "divorce and alimony and the care, custody and maintenance of the children" as well as "for such relief and for such orders and decrees in the premises as to your Honor may under the circumstances seem meet and proper." Napoleon’s drunkenness and debauchery is “notorious” in the neighborhood.

PAR Number 21086022

State: Mississippi Year: 1860
Location: Noxubee Location Type: County

Abstract: Caroline P. Walker seeks a divorce from her husband, Lawrence W. Walker Jr. She states during the last months of their marriage "the said Lawrence treated her with the utmost neglect and indiference-neglecting and refusing to give your Oratrix that attention and nursing which she in her condition may reasonably expect from her husband and actually required for the preservation of her life." Caroline also claims Lawrence "has fallen into the crime of adultery with a certain slave" and "with other women whose names are unknown." The petitioner therefore seeks a divorce and asks, in lieu of alimony, to retain her separate property which includes a number of slaves, certain household furniture, and land.

PAR Number 21185602

State: Missouri Year: 1856
Location: St. Louis Location Type: County

Abstract: Stephen Ridgley seeks judgment for one thousand dollars, the value of his twenty-four-year-old mulatto slave named Celeste. Ridgley alleges that the Steamboat Reindeer did "transport and carry" Celeste from St. Louis to Illinois "without the consent or permission of said plaintiff," whereby said steamboat "became liable to pay" Celeste's value to him. Documents in the court record suggest that Celeste, "a handsome looking girl," might have been sold for $1500-2000 as a "mistress" on the New Orleans market. Steamboat officials contend that Ridgley allowed Celeste to live with her mother, a free woman of color, and to "direct and control her own movements" while working "as a chambermaid on steamboats running to and touching at various points in the State of Illinois."

PAR Number 21282302

State: North Carolina Year: 1823
Location: Nash Location Type: County

Abstract: Jonathan Wells petitions for a divorce from his wife, Lucy, who, he contends, separated herself from him three years before, and has since then "become an incorrigible courtezan," taking up and cohabiting with people of color.

PAR Number 21282803

State: North Carolina Year: 1828
Location: Craven Location Type: County

Abstract: Graham Bishop asks for a divorce from his wife Zilphia Stokes Bishop, who, he charges, was guilty of "a species of prostitution" before their marriage, and intimate with a slave named Brister afterwards. Currently, he says, she is living in open adultery with another man in New Bern, professing "to be his true and lawful wife."

PAR Number 21282917

State: North Carolina Year: 1829
Location: Granville Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in 1820, Elizabeth Wheeler complains that her husband Moses, "without any provocation," abandoned her and their son. She accused him adulterous connections with a "young woman of pleasure in the neighbourhood." Elizabeth and her child moved in with her father, Thomas Jenkins, until he died, when she inherited a number of slaves. Elizabeth now seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 21283109

State: North Carolina Year: 1831
Location: Granville Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1823, after six years of marriage, Charles Mitchell discovered that his wife Susan was "engaged in a shameful and adulterous intercourse with one Jo Proctor a freeman of color." Mitchell left his wife, and moved to Milton, North Carolina. Later, he learned that she and Proctor began a journey to Georgia, but for some reason abandoned their plans. She then followed him to Milton, took up residence "in the suburbs," and, for two years, "engaged in a course of shameless prostitution." He seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 21283303

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

Abstract: Elizabeth Smith seeks a divorce and alimony from her husband Zachariah Smith, who, she charges, is abusive and cruel. Shortly after giving birth to a child, he beat her and forced her to leave their house, accusing her of giving birth to a mulatto baby "begotten by a free man of color." She asks the court to prevent him from running off with the eight slaves she brought to their marriage as she has learned that "a negro speculator is to go to the house of said Smith on tomorrow for the purpose of purchasing & secretly carrying off said slaves."'

PAR Number 21283408

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

Abstract: Married about twenty-five years, Richard Jernigan seeks a divorce on the grounds that his wife "began to display evidence of a violent & outrageous temper," was addicted to "spirituous liquors," and was guilty of "libidinous intercourse with both black & white men." Indeed, he contracted a venereal disease from his wife.

PAR Number 21283507

State: North Carolina Year: 1836
Location: Wayne Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in 1821, Margaret Kornegay seeks a divorce and alimony from her husband charging adultery, physical abuse, drunkenness, and abandonment. Margaret informs the court that, among other cruelties, her husband took their infant child up a ladder to the top of the roof and taunted his wife "to see him roll it down." Simon Parker, who lived in the same house, testified that "on one occasion, he went with him [Kornegay] at night to a Dram Shop & returned in a drinking, abusive way, and whipd one of the negroes so severely as to produce confusion in the family, that a part of sd beating was upstairs in the dwelling house, & so alarmed [Mrs. Kornegay] that this deponent at her request staid all night."

PAR Number 21283603

State: North Carolina Year: 1836
Location: Granville Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1836, after eight years of marriage, Susan F. Phillips is driven out of her house by her husband who refuses to provide for her or their two children. Having inherited a one-fourth interest in six slaves worth $2,400 from the estate of her deceased mother, Susan seeks an injunction to prevent her husband from disturbing her inheritance. She also charges abandonment and seeks alimony.

PAR Number 21283612

State: North Carolina Year: 1836
Location: Guilford Location Type: County

Abstract: Married twenty nine years, Nancy Anne Jenkins seeks a divorce and alimony on the grounds of adultery, drunkenness, physical abuse, and abandonment. Nancy claims that her husband, Henry Jenkins, is a man of vicious habits who treated her as if she were his slave. In fact, Henry had sold two slaves--a black woman and a black girl--who waited on him and afterwards made "unreasonable & exorbitant" demands for his wife's services.

PAR Number 21283805

State: North Carolina Year: 1838
Location: Orange Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in 1822, Mary Clark brought to the union "property in negroes and otherwise quite sufficient to have maintained her in a single state in the greatest comfort." Soon after the marriage, however, her husband "became suddenly estranged in his affections," due, she believes, to the manipulation of his relatives. He charged her with "personal prostitution," and although cleared by the Eno congregation of the Presbyterian Church, their life together has been "rendered intolerable." She asks for a divorce and alimony. In his answer, Stephen Clark paints a complete different picture of the marriage; one in which his wife was unchaste before their union, had an abortion that impaired her health and resulted in her inability to have children, and continued to have adulterous relationships during the marriage. He claims that she is the one that initiated the separation, to which he agreed.

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