Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11281601

State: North Carolina Year: 1816
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet Laspeyre seeks a separation from her husband Bernard, "late of the Island Hispaniola." Laspeyre laments that she "discovered to her infinite mortification that her property trifling as it was had been the primary object of his warmest affection." She further confesses that she "was too soon made sensible of his fixed determination to compell her by every diabolical scheme & the brutality of his manners and the malignity of his heart could devise to a surrender of every thing she held in her own right." In addition, she confides that she "was at length stripped of the right that every woman claims" as she was "divested of her keys," thereby "deprived of the authority of a mistress, her negroes forbidden to obey her orders under penalty of the severest punishment." Laspeyre charges that "the profits arising from the labor of her Slaves, which ought to have been appropriated, to the support and education of her children, she had the extreme vexation to see wantonly lavished on his black and mulatto mistresses." Having left her house under a serious apprehension "of an attempt upon her life," the petitioner therefore prays "your Honourable body in tender consideration of her wretched and desolate condition, to pass an act to separate her from her said husband and to secure to her the residue of her little property and what she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11281703

State: North Carolina Year: 1817
Location: Sampson Location Type: County

Abstract: Bernard Laspeyre asks that an act passed in favor of his wife Harriet be repealed. Bernard contends that the charges contained in "that obscene Instrument" constitute "a Virulent and Infamous Libel, under the name of a Petition" and that Harriet's petition "cannot be the production of that fallen Angel, once the ornament of her Sex"; said petition accused Bernard of committing adultery with her slaves and marrying her solely for her property. He further asserts that Harriet abandoned him "in a fit of Jealousy" and that he urged "her by the tenderest terms and manner to return to your Memorialist house and family"; instead, he complains that she inveigled "from his Service all his negroes which by a Marriage Settlement are under his Sole controll." The petitioner therefore prays that "you will be pleased to Repeal the act passed Last session in favour of his Wife, as being Ruinous to your Memorialist and family and being Subversive of the most Sacred Institutions of Society." If not checked, Bernard believes that "before long the tables of Both houses [will be] covered with Petitions from Jealous and discontented Wifes, who are now on the tiptoe of expectation to see the issue of this petition."

PAR Number 11684005

State: Virginia Year: 1840
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Mary W. Lawson seeks a divorce from her husband Fabius Lawson because, she argues, he married her for her property. At the time of her 1837 marriage to Fabius Lawson, Mary owned 10 slaves, who by a prenuptial agreement were placed in a life estate for her benefit and separate from her husband's liabilities.

PAR Number 20183502

State: Alabama Year: 1835
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Marcelle Demouy Daly, the widow of John Daly, was "possessed of considerable personal estate," which included some valuable slaves. Prior to her marriage to the widower Joaquin Autunes, who was also possessed of an estate of some value," Marcelle entered into a verbal marriage contract with Joaquin, which stipulated that each spouse would retain separate control over his or her own property. The petitioner, Marcelle's brother, states that Joaquin "always permitted her to have the separate and exclusive control of her said personal estate in particular the slaves," whom she hired for "her separate use and benefit." In 1834, both Joaquin and Marcelle Autunes suddenly died within hours of each other. Joseph Krebbs, administrator of Joaquin Autunes's estate, claimed ownership of Marcelle's slaves and filed suit in the county court to recover possession of the slaves or their value. Augustin Demouy, administrator of Marcelle's estate, seeks an injunction preventing Krebbs from further prosecuting the suit. In addition, he asks the court to recognize and enforce Marcelle's separate property rights. A related document reveals that, on her deathbed, Marcelle Autunes expressed the wish that two of her slaves, Fanchon and her daughter Catharine, be freed.

PAR Number 20183911

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

Abstract: Sarah Welsh asks the court to arrest her husband, Dennis Welsh, and "that he be detained in custody until he gives bond with security not to molest your Orator or the property in her custody" until the court rules on her pending divorce suit. Prior to her marriage, Sarah drew up a prenuptial agreement to ensure that her separate property remains "in her full sole and exclusive use and employment," and Dennis signed the contract. Shortly after their marriage, says Sarah, her husband "was guilty of such cruel & barbarous conduct towards her that she found it impossible to live with him," and she filed for divorce. Meanwhile, "with the rents and profits of the lands and of the hire of the slaves" from her separate estate, she was able to purchase new six slaves, noting that "the purchase money strictly derived from the sources aforesaid and that no part thereof was contributed by the said Dennis." Sarah explains that her husband, "sometimes pretends that the marital right of the defendant attaches to them and that they are the property of the defendant and that he is entitled to them." In this vein, she reports, Dennis has repeatedly threatened to deprive her of her personal property, going so far as to sell one of the six slaves, Sam, who was worth six hundred dollars.

PAR Number 20184411

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

Abstract: Elizabeth Greene asks the court to settle the estate of her husband, Zachius Greene, deceased. She writes that prior to their marriage in 1827 the couple agreed "that as each one had brought into the matrimonial union about an equal share of property ..., that upon the death of each other the survivor was to be entitled to one half the estate left," and that the lawful heirs "should be entitled to the other half." Zachius died on 11 August 1844. The petitioner charges that Samuel Robert Grigsby, the son of Zachius's daughter by a previous marriage, took advantage of Zachius's failing memory and induced him to draw up deeds of gift giving Samuel and his siblings "an undue and unreasonable share of his property." Elizabeth states that she never saw these "pretended" deeds, designed "in fraud and with the intent to defeat her of her just marital rights," until Samuel M. Grigsby, the guardian of his children, showed them to her after her husband's death. The petitioner points out that he "now has the slaves in his possession," and intends to disburse a portion of them to Mississippi and keep a portion "for the use & benefit of his said children." Elizabeth Greene asks the sheriff to take the slaves into custody until the defendants post bond, and that if they should default on such security, return the slaves to her until the suit is resolved.

PAR Number 20184512

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

Abstract: Prior to their marriage in Newberry District, South Carolina, in 1819, Ruth and Sterling Balderee signed a contract granting Ruth control of her separate estate. She possessed a large amount of property, including slaves, while Sterling was "totally destitute." In her bill of complaint, Ruth explains that her husband is not only intemperate, vulgar, and tyrannical, but often beats and whips her and on one occasion hit her with a weapon so hard on the skull that the wound still remains "painful and distressing." Driven from their home by her husband's behavior, Ruth seeks the return of her property, which includes twenty-four slaves, twelve of whom are now in Sterling's possession and claimed by him as his own. She also seeks a divorce and "comfortable support and maintenance."

PAR Number 20184513

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

Abstract: Prior to their marriage in 1841, James A. Young signed an agreement granting his wife-to-be, Elpha McDaniel, title to a plantation, and ownership to several slaves, including Mimma, Daniel, and "a negro man, worth six or seven hundred dollars." He did so, Elpha explains, to induce her to marry him as he is an old man "feeble and infirm in body," while she is young, vigorous, and healthy. Elpha says that her husband is now "ill disposed and ill natured towards her without cause or provocation." He is attempting to get rid of her property, despite the contract, and to sell his own property to prevent her from receiving it after his death. She fears that she will be left "a helpless widow, nearly destitute of all means of support, except her own personal exertions, and the cold charities of a selfish world." Illiterate and unfamiliar with the law, she asks that a trustee be appointed to take possession of the property mentioned in the contract, and that her husband be forced to provide for her welfare.

PAR Number 20184514

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

Abstract: Prior to their marriage in 1839, Elizabeth Huggins and Gaius Brach signed a prenuptial agreement securing Elizabeth's nineteen slaves in trust for her "sole & separate use & benefit." Elizabeth states that both before and after the marriage, Gaius hired out the slaves and collected the wages without making a separate account to her. Now, following his death, his executor William S. Humphrey also refuses to present a separate account. Elizabeth sues the executor to force him to turn over the profits from the hiring of her trust slaves.

PAR Number 20184523

State: Alabama Year: 1833
Location: Barbour Location Type: County

Abstract: Prior to her marriage to John P. Booth, in 1833, Martha R. W. Hodges signed an agreement that she thought stipulated that the real estate and slaves devised to her in trust by her father, Richard Hodges, would remain her separate property. The property included, among other items, plantation land and a number of slaves. There are now twenty-three slaves now in Martha's possession. They include the slaves originally given by her father, their children, one of them unnamed, and two slaves, Handy and Bob, purchased since that time. One slave descended from the slaves who had belonged to Richard Hodges, Jesse, was sold, and the profits expended in the purchase of Bob and Handy. Now Martha is suing her husband, claiming that he tricked her in 1833, telling her that the agreement promised the property would be "for the benefit of Martha" when it read "for the benefit of the parties." Had she known the actual wording she would never have signed; she asks that the wording be "reformed."

PAR Number 20184526

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

Abstract: In 1826, Temperance B. Eaton and Lunsford L. Alsobrook of Warren County, North Carolina, signed a premarital agreement placing Temperance's eight slaves in a trust estate for her sole and separate use. In 1836, the couple moved to Alabama, taking with them seven of the trust estate slaves and a new slave traded for the one left behind in North Carolina. In 1838, Temperance asserts, the slaves were "wrongfully and illegally" taken out of her possession and sold at auction "under a certain Deed in Trust made by her said husband." One slave, Dick, was sold to Richard Inge, then to Thomas Tart. When Tart died, Dick came into the possession of Tart's estate administrator, William H. Pratt of Mobile County. Temperance Alsobrook sues Pratt as well as her husband, a "lunatic" from whom she is separated in bed and board, for "the value & amount of the hire & services" of Dick. She argues that Dick is worth fifteen hundred dollars with a yearly hire worth two hundred dollars.

PAR Number 20184610

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

Abstract: In a marriage contract, Jordan Peters acquired interest "in certain negro slaves" and some town lots. Now Joseph Williams is suing Peters and his wife to force them to pay their debts, with the expectation that they will be able to generate income from the hire of the slaves or sale of the lots.

PAR Number 20184617

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

Abstract: In 1845, Elpha Young filed a suit against her husband, James A. Young, for breach of contract, contending that he refused to pay her an income from her separate property as required in their marriage agreement. Shortly before the sheriff served papers in the case, James Young "sold or gave and conveyed away all his property, both real and personal," except two slaves, Daniel and Mima, cited in the contract. Young gave Abraham Pennington, his son-in-law, a slave named Davy, age thirty; he gave his son Robert Young a slave named Jim, age about forty-five, and Maria, about eight; he gave his daughter Eleanor, or Nelly, Quinney a woman named Rody, about twenty-five, and her son Henry, about eight. He also gave away his horses, mules, cattle, and land. He did so, Elpha Young contends in a supplemental bill of complaint, to thwart the arguments in her original suit. She asks for a subpoena requiring the defendants to give a "full, true, direct and perfect answer" to her charges. Elpha's related original suit reveals that, by a clause of the marriage contract, James Young had given Mima and Daniel to his new bride.

PAR Number 20184621

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

Abstract: In 1827, Georgia slave owner Moses Walker executed a deed whereby he secured to his daughter Maria a separate estate "free from the marital right of her then present or any future husband." However, the lawyer who prepared the document failed to stipulate that the deed included property given to Maria other than by will, meaning property given to her during her father's lifetime. Over time, Moses Walker gave his daughter six slaves: Jacob, now about fifty, Ann, about forty, Dinah, twenty-eight, Beck, a woman about thirty, Louisa, about twenty-one, Ishmael about thirty-five. Since then, Beck has had a daughter named Jane, age eleven. In 1834, Maria married Captain Elisha Betts, and, three years later, they settled in Alabama. In 1843, though Elisha abandoned Maria, and the sheriff levied property left behind to satisfy his debts. Included in that property was the slave Ann. Maria Betts requests that the conveyances from her husband to creditors using her trust property as collateral be "set aside," that the creditors be perpetually enjoined from seizing any of her property, and that her trust estate be "reformed" to correspond with the intentions of her father. She also seeks a divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20184631

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

Abstract: In 1843, prior to her marriage, Caroline L. F. Brodie of Autauga County put her money, notes, and ten slaves in a trust for her "separate use, support & maintenance" free from any "molestation or hindrance on the part of any person." Her husband, Addison C. Love, agreed to this by signing a marriage contract. In 1844-45, her trustee Erasmus Love of Richmond County, North Carolina, used her money and proceeds from her notes to purchase two slaves, and her husband used her money to settle debts contracted before their marriage. Now the sheriff has levied and confiscated several of her trust slaves to satisfy her husband's debts, and Caroline has sued her husband and his creditor. Deprived "of the use & labour of said slaves for several months" and "greatly perplexed & harrassed & put to great trouble and expense-", she asks the court to declare that the confiscated slaves belong to her, and seeks an injunction restraining any creditor from proceeding against her property. The husband's answer is "pro-confesso."

PAR Number 20184903

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

Abstract: In 1838, Armstrong Mitchell and Sarah Macon signed a marriage contract separating their property, and shortly afterwards the two were married. Armstrong asserts that in 1844, Sarah moved to Mississippi, "without any just or reasonable cause," taking her slaves and still in control of her real estate. Armstrong, who "is now advanced in life being over sixty," asks that his six children by a previous marriage receive their fair share of his sixteen hundred acres of land, fifteen slaves, and other property, worth more than six thousand dollars. He asks for a divorce and prays that Sarah be enjoined from claiming her dower share of his property.

PAR Number 20185102

State: Alabama Year: 1851
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1839, Jane Botton Peak, daughter of John S. Peak, of Dallas County, Alabama, and Arnoldus Bonneau, signed a prenuptial agreement with William H. Bonneau as the trustee. The agreement said that Jane Peak was entitled to certain property free from the debts of her future husband. The property, including six slaves (Lijah, Peter, Joseph, Daphina, William, and Charlotte), would be used for the benefit of husband and wife during their lifetimes, and for their children following their deaths, or if there were no children for the benefit of heirs. When one of the slaves, Joseph, was seized in 1844, and later sold to pay the husband's debts, Jane Bonneau sued, claiming that Joseph was protected by her marriage agreement. The purchaser of Joseph moved to Texas, but the wife continued her case. She obtained a new trustee, who returned to his homeland of Germany before the case went to trial, but when it did go before a judge in 1851, her suit was dismissed.

PAR Number 20185104

State: Alabama Year: 1851
Location: Perry Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1840, Mary A. Harris and Henry Trippe of Perry County, Alabama, signed a prenuptial agreement; the wife would keep as her "sole and separate property and estate" a large amount of property, including thirty-four slaves, mules, horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, plantation tools and wagons, household and kitchen furniture, and several tracts of land containing about 640 acres. In 1843, Mary A. Trippe deeded her slaves to William F. and Martha F. Trippe, minors, Henry's children by a previous marriage. The husband died in 1843, and Mary in 1845. When Joseph R. John, administrator of Mary's estate, refuses to give up the slaves, the children, by their next friend John D. Catlin of Marengo County, sue. In 1854, the slaves are divided into three lots among William and Martha Trippe, and Joseph R. John.

PAR Number 20185308

State: Alabama Year: 1853
Location: Autauga Location Type: County

Abstract: In the mid-1840s, Eliza, a slaveholding widow, married Barnabas Strickland, a migrant from Georgia, described as charming, intelligent, "a man of Specious manners & respectable appearance & a Minister of the Gospel." The couple signed a prenuptial agreement giving Eliza control over her land and slaves. She soon discovered that Barnabas was not only heavily in debt (although he owned a slave woman and her children), but was inept in managing the plantation. She invited her son-in-law, George C. Burns, to come and help her but he left after conflicts with Strickland. Sometime around the year 1848, Barnabas agreed to turn over her slaves to his wife in payment for money owed her; the slaves were nevertheless taken from her possession. Shortly thereafter, Barnabas arranged to purchase slaves in his wife's name, but later sought to make this property his own. Eliza "resisted," and asked her son, William Boswell, to come and take over the plantation. The husband said he would "deliver up control" only if his wife turned the title of her slaves over to him. Fearing he might cause trouble and embarrassment, and after consulting with a lawyer, she agreed. He then mortgaged the slaves, took the cash, and fled from the county. At midnight, on New Year's Eve 1852, creditors sneaked on to her plantation, rounded up the slaves, and took them away. She filed suit against the creditors as well as her husband but the sheriff reported that they were "not found in my County."

PAR Number 20185320

State: Alabama Year: 1853
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1837, prior to their marriage, Camilla Buckley and Pearly S. Gerald signed a prenuptial agreement. It promised that Camilla's property would be exclusively hers "to use and enjoy and receive the rents, issues, hire and emolument of the said estate real and personal during the Coverture." Part of the emolument was a loan she had made to a business firm, a member of which was one Justus Wyman. When the company defaulted, Camilla and her husband obtained a judgment in circuit court for nearly $3,500. Many years later, Camilla Gerald, through her husband, purchased seven slaves from Justus Wyman. The Geralds contend that the slaves were "received in payment of the sum of Four thousand nine hundred dollars of the amount due" on the judgment. The Geralds then proceeded to hire out the slaves to Wyman, who kept them in his possession in 1852 and 1853. However Wyman was served with a judgment from another creditor and a judgment issued against him. Seven slaves were seized by the sheriff, Henry Peebles, in execution of the judgment. Pearly and Camilla Gerald point out that the slaves seized by Peebles are "the same negroes slaves conveyed by the said Justus Wyman to your Oratrix." Fearful that other creditors have obtained judgments against Wyman and seeking to confiscate his slaves, Camilla and her husband seek an injunction to prevent them from "any and all attempts to sell said negro slaves."

PAR Number 20185414

State: Alabama Year: 1854
Location: Baldwin Location Type: County

Abstract: When David Tate died in 1829, his daughter, Josephine, inherited a portion of his sizeable estate. As Josephine was a minor at the time of her father's death, the property went to the possession of her mother and guardian, Margaret Tate. Margaret kept and managed the property with the assistance of her son, William T. Power, until Josephine's marriage to James B. Driesback. The property consisted of a plantation on the Alabama River, four hundred head of cattle, and twenty-two slaves. In subsequent years, the slaves were hired out "for large amounts," and the cattle "greatly increased in number & value." Following the death of her mother and of William T. Powell, Josephine and James Driesback sue Powell's heirs, his widow, and the administrator of his estate. They seek an account of the profits and interest on Josephine's property during the years that it was managed by Powell and her mother.

PAR Number 20185833

State: Alabama Year: 1858
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet Caroline Fleming, petitioning by her next friend John Foster, seeks to recover her life estate and get compensation for their hire since they were taken out of her possession. In 1818, at the time of her marriage to William H. Fleming and as part of a prenuptial agreement, Harriet was granted a life estate in a number of slaves for her sole use and benefit. The slaves were Harriet's share in the estate of her father, Calvin Spencer. The agreement named Henry S. Spencer and Matthew Fleming as trustees. Matthew Fleming died shortly thereafter. Henry S. Spencer, continued as surviving trustee, but, according to Harriet, mismanaged the property by hiring out the slaves and not informing her where they worked or compensating her in any way. Specifically, in 1834, Henry Spencer took possession of a slave named Clarissa and kept her, and her children, until his death in 1844. Upon Spencer's death, the executor of his estate, John McKenzie, took possession of Clarissa and her family as part of the estate of the deceased and kept them until 1858, with the exception of Clarissa who died in 1855. In 1858, Henry Spencer's daughter, Elizabeth Gilmer, and her husband took possession of Clarissa's children and grandchildren, claiming them as Elizabeth's inheritance. Harriet Spencer Fleming asks the court to turn over her slaves, and determine the amount of compensation that she is due.

PAR Number 20185933

State: Alabama Year: 1859
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Catherine Moore, through her next friend John W. Moore, seeks a divorce from her husband, John P. Moore, who, she says, "did not attempt to do any work or business altho' he was physically able" and "was inclined to Contract debts" and squander her property. Married in 1855, they lived off the hire of her five slaves--Fanny, David, Betsy, Robert, and Julia--held in trust for her separate use. In 1856, he abandoned her, went to the state of Mississippi, and was observed "strolling about from one plantation to another, without permanency of location or business."

PAR Number 20186311

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1841, prior to her marriage, Mary A. Marshall obtained an agreement from her future husband, William Marshall, that a slave she owned named Jeff would be kept for “her sole & separate use.” In 1863, "dissatisfied with the conduct of said negro Jeff, and being desirous to send him away from this section of the country in order that he might avoid his bad influence on the other slaves," William sold Jeff to slave trader Richard Harris, who promised to take him to "some remote part of the Confederacy (east Tennessee or Virginia) so that he would not probably get back to Mobile." Instead, Harris sold him to Jose Antunez of Mobile. Mary Marshall asserts that her husband had no authority to sell the slave. She seeks a subpoena requiring the parties to appear in court and asks for a writ requiring the sheriff to seize "and take into his possession the said negro Jeff."

PAR Number 20285307

State: Arkansas Year: 1853
Location: Phillips Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioner, John M. Hubbard, states that Levis Dobbins, the widow of Napoleon B. Pillow and now the wife of Wilson D. Dobbins is indebted to him in the sum of $701.33. The debt was contracted in 1851 during Levisa's first marriage. Hubbard claims that, according to the terms of the marriage contract executed at the time of her marriage to Pillow, Levisa retained sole control of her property, including five slaves -- Dan, age about thirty-five, Alfred, age about fourteen, Lucinda, age about fourteen, Adeline, age eleven, and Monroe, age eight -- pledging them as security against the loan. Hubbard adds that the same contract was also executed at the time of her second marriage. Levisa must therefore be responsible for her debt. Hubbard asks that a commissioner be appointed to sell as much of Levisa's property as needed to cover the debt.

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