Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10185701

State: Alabama Year: 1857
Location: Coffee Location Type: County

Abstract: Seventy-seven white citizens of Coffee County seeks residency status for Narcissa Daniel, a "free colored girl about seventeen years of age," who had come to Alabama from Georgia with Allen Daniel, "a highly Respectable" citizen. Narcissa, the petitioners claim, was the "offspring of a white woman of high family." Mrs. Daniel was her best friend and Narcissa would prefer a "state of bondage to that of separation."

PAR Number 10384306

State: Delaware Year: 1843
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Butcher and John Dean, the illegitimate brothers of Jesse Dean, report that the said Dean died in 1842 possessed of a fifty-acre tract of land and a "personal estate, worth about sixty dollars." Dean, a mulatto, "died intestate and without leaving to survive him any issue, heirs or known kindred capable according to the laws of this state of inheriting and holding his said property real and personal by reason whereof the said property has escheated to and become vested in the State of Delaware." The petitioners therefore pray that a law be passed "vesting in and granting to your petitioners the right interest and title of the State in said property both personal and real."

PAR Number 11082101

State: Mississippi Year: 1821
Location: Hancock Location Type: County

Abstract: About 1818, John Morin purchased his eighteen-month-old slave daughter, described as a "quartroon" girl named Adele. Morin then went to the justice of the peace in Hancock County and procured an "act of emancipation." A short time later Morin died. His mother, Louise Favre, discovered that the act was not valid. She asks the legislature for an act of emancipation to free Adele. Favre states that she has six children by her former husband, Peter Morin, and that one of them is threatening to keep Adele in bondage. The mother laments that she is growing old and wants to respect her son's wish before she dies.

PAR Number 11279207

State: North Carolina Year: 1792
Location: Craven Location Type: County

Abstract: John Moore, "a free negro man," seeks to liberate his children, "who are unfortunately illegitimate being born of a negro woman slave belonging to himself." Having worked for fifty years to accumulate a small amount of property, Moore laments that he "is informed that under their present disabilities they would not be intitled by Law to any property which he might have at his Death." He therefore prays that he be granted "Relief by passing an Act to liberate his children."

PAR Number 11280002

State: North Carolina Year: 1800
Location: Granville Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas and Susanah Smith Hendley state that Israel Fuller, the "reputed" father of Susanah, conveyed land to Israel Smith, Fuller's "illegitimate child" and Susanah's "reputed" brother. They further report that the said Smith died "about fourteen years ago under age and Intestate without lawfull Heir whereby said Land escheated to the State of North Carolina." The petitioners pray "that by an act of your honorable body, said Land may be vested in said Susanna."

PAR Number 11280517

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

Abstract: John Carruthers Stanley, a free man of color and barber in New Bern, admits that "he is the father of three children ... born in slavery and out of the bonds of lawful wedlock and are therefore incapable of inheriting." The petitioner prays "your honorable body to pass an act legitimizing the said John [Stewart Stanley], Catharine [Green Stanley], and Unus [Stanley] enabling them to inherit in the same manner as if they had been born in lawful matrimony."

PAR Number 11282003

State: North Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Burke Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel Love, a free man of color, represents that he "hath by the blessing of divine providence and his honest industry and care, acquired some property both real and personal." He further confides that it is his wish "to be authorized by law to dispose of his said property by last Will and Testament or otherwise as the case may be, and that his Samuel may be legitimated by an act of your honourable body."

PAR Number 11282708

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: Wayne Location Type: County

Abstract: Ann Borden asks that the divorce petition soon to be filed by her husband Jesse be rejected. She relates that she left Jesse four months after their marriage because of "ill treatment" and "many desperate threats made by said Borden against her life." She also admits that a month before her marriage she "had the misfortune to have a child born of which Jesse Borden was not the father"; Ann argues, however, that she never tried to conceal the fact that the child was not his and that he never voiced any qualms about rearing another man's child. The petitioner further asserts that attempting to pass the child off as his "would have been unavailing as the child would unavoidably have shown for itself." Ann therefore prays "that the Legislature of North Carolina will preserve inviolate the ties of matrimony that exist between your Petitioner and Jesse Borden." A summary of Jesse's petition reveals that he thought the child was his because "previous to his marriage he had been in habits of illicit intercourse with her during which time she became pregnant"; that Jesse "did believe in the early infancy of the child that it was his and being desirous of making her what reperation was in his power for the loss of her virtue he intermarried with her immediately after the birth of the child"; and that he exclaimed "to his mortification and astonishment" said infant "to be a mulatto child the fruits of [a] negro."

PAR Number 11680206

State: Virginia Year: 1802
Location: Fluvanna Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1801, Dabney Pettus married Elizabeth Morris, "a woman descended from honest industrous parents, & of unspoled Character." Dabney and Elizabeth lived "with all the affection & tenderness that cou'd possibly exist between husband & wife" for about four months, when, to his "great astonishment & inexpressible mortification," Dabney discovered that his wife was "deliver'd of a Mulatto Child." Dabney claims that the child was "begotten by a negro man slave in the Neighborhood." Dabney and Elizabeth have agreed to divorce and Pettus asks the legislature to pass a law "to divorce him from the said Elizabeth." A testimony reveals that the father of Elizabeth's child was a slave named Bob who belonged to her grandfather.

PAR Number 11680301

State: Virginia Year: 1803
Location: Norfolk Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in 1802 to Lydia Bright, Benjamin Butt Jr. was absent on business when his wife gave birth to a baby. To his "inexpressible Grief and astonishment" the infant "proved to be a mulatto." Lydia admitted her relationship with "negro Man Slave named Robin" belonging to the estate of Charles Stewart, deceased. The husband seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11680503

State: Virginia Year: 1805
Location: Accomack Location Type: County

Abstract: Married for twelve years and living "in harmony" with his wife Tabitha, Ayres Tatham said that he felt shame and confusion when, in 1803, Tabitha gave birth to a mulatto child "obviously the issue of an illicit intercourse with a black man." In 1804, Tabitha ran away, departing the county and leaving the three children born of "her former more correct & happier days" in the care of her husband. Ayres was informed that she had been found living in Philadelphia. He asks for the dissolution of their marriage contract.

PAR Number 11680602

State: Virginia Year: 1806
Location: Prince William Location Type: County

Abstract: Seventy-one residents of Prince William County testify that they are well acquainted with Daniel Rose, who married Henrietta White, also considered at the time of the marriage as a person of "good character," in February 1806. In September of the same year, however, some seven months after celebration of the wedding, Henrietta was delivered of "a mulatto child," who is thought to have been fathered by a slave belonging to her grandfather. Furthermore, the petitioners inform the court, it is believed that Henrietta has had "criminal connection with the said negro man" since her marriage to Rose. The petitioners apply to the legislature on Daniel Rose's behalf, asking that he be released from his "unfortunate connection."

PAR Number 11680905

State: Virginia Year: 1809
Location: Stafford Location Type: County

Abstract: About 1798 or 1799, Travers Daniel Sr. of Stafford County advanced the money to a man named William Simmons for the purchase of a young slave named George Simmons from his then owner, Enoch Mason. The express purpose of the transaction was for young George's future emancipation when he reached the legal age of twenty-one. It was agreed that George would work for Daniel to reimburse him for the price of his purchase. In 1806, William Simmons died, leaving a will specifically stating that he wished his son emancipated and bequeathing to him all that he owned. However, the will was never properly signed by the testator and was never probated. George Simmons fears that, in the absence of a properly probated will, he will be robbed of his freedom by "some person or persons pretending to be the heirs of his father." He contends that Daniel is fully satisfied that he has been reimbursed for the money advanced to William Simmons and that nobody else has a claim on him. He therefore prays that "his right to liberty may be declared by law that he may not be deprived of that right which constitutes the greatest blessing and that the wishes of his father may not be defeated." Furthermore, he asks an exemption from the law requiring freed slaves to leave the state and to be allowed to remain in "his native state."

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 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 11682601

State: Virginia Year: 1826
Location: Nansemond Location Type: County

Abstract: David Parker represents to the legislature that in 1807 he married Jane Carter, with whom he enjoyed ten year of "uninterrupted connubial pleasure and happiness." The couple had six children. Four years after Jane Carter's death, Parker married a second time, taking as his wife one Jane Miller. Parker's second marriage, however, has not been a happy one. He charges that his wife of four years has been guilty of "the greatest luridness, immorality and vice." She has frequently engaged in "criminal intercourse with slaves or persons of color." She also has given birth to "one or more children of color" before abandoning him and moving to North Carolina. Parker seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11683008

State: Virginia Year: 1830
Location: Goochland Location Type: County

Abstract: Jacob Sampson, a free man of color, represents that "he married Frankey Cross, the acknowledged & reputed child of Moses Cross," a free man of color. He further states that his said father-in-law died during the present year, "leaving no other child who is free, than the wife of your Petitioner -- Nor has the said Moses Cross, any relative who can inherit his estate." The petitioner is advised that the personal estate of said Cross "will pass & be vested in the Commonwealth, for the benefit of the President & Directors of the Literary Fund," thus depriving "his child & grandchildren of that which will be inconsiderable to the Commonwealth, but which will be of great consequence to them." Sampson therefore prays that the General Assembly "release to him & his wife, all the claim of the Commonwealth, to the undisposed of residuum of the estate of Moses Cross, after the payment of his just debts."

PAR Number 11683312

State: Virginia Year: 1833
Location: James City

Abstract: In 1821, Joseph Gresham married Sarah W. Christian of Charles City County. The couple lived in "harmony, confidence, and affection," until Gresham discovered that his wife was having an affair. Gresham notes that the charge of adultery against his wife is "aggravated" by the fact it was done with "a man of color." Gresham received further proof of her transgressions in 1831 after Sarah gave birth to a mulatto child. Gresham petitions for divorce. In a lower court trial, Sarah Gresham accused her husband of being "incompetent to the discharge of his marital duties, of sexual intercourse."

PAR Number 11684008

State: Virginia Year: 1840
Location: Nansemond Location Type: County

Abstract: Bryant Rawls seeks a divorce from his wife, Rachel, who, after twelve years of marriage and three legitimate children, gave birth to a "colored child ... begotten by a negro." His wife abandoned him shortly afterwards, Rawls claims, and he is now caring for his own children and has placed the "mulatto" baby with a free black family.

PAR Number 11684104

State: Virginia Year: 1841
Location: Frederick Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Cain seeks a divorce from his wife Mary who has been guilty of adultery "of the most aggravated character the proof of which is found in the fact that on two separate occasions since her intermarriage ... Mary has been delivered and become the mother of black children who could not be other than the fruits of an adulterous intercourse with a negro."

PAR Number 11684105

State: Virginia Year: 1841
Location: Preston Location Type: County

Abstract: Jacob Plum asks for a divorce from his wife Mary Jane who a number of years prior to the filing of his petition gave birth to a mulatto child and continued to live with him until she recently abandoned their domicile. She has now been convicted of larceny and sent to the penitentiary.

PAR Number 20183704

State: Alabama Year: 1837
Location: Chambers Location Type: County

Abstract: The heirs of Polly Johnson state that Johnson, a feme sole, and John Cotton "lived together in a state of adultery and passed as man and wife without ever having been legally married," from 1807 until 1834 or 1835 when she died, intestate. They claim that, at the time of her death, she possessed ten slaves, worth seven thousand dollars. The slaves and the rest of the estate are now in the possession of Cotton, who pretends to have been legally married to Johnson. The petitioners assert that Johnson would have wanted the slaves and property equally divided among all her children; Cotton, however, refuses to comply with their demand. The petitioners, therefore, ask the court to prohibit Cotton from selling any slaves or property and to recognize their rightful inheritance. In his answer, Cotton asserts that he was legally married to Polly Johnson in Wayne County, North Carolina, where his father Ephraim Cotton resided. He charges, however, that the petitioners are illegitimate children, born to Polly Johnson out of wedlock before she and he were married.

PAR Number 20183802

State: Alabama Year: 1838
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Hall seeks to divorce her husband, Nathaniel Hall, stating that he attempted to kill her and their children on several occasions. Mary states that she married Nathaniel in 1812 and is now the mother of ten living children, "one of them is of intellect so weak that he is incapable of taking care of himself." Living "in peace and harmony faithfully and honestly discharging all the duties of a wife," Mary was surprised when her husband became "dissatisfied with her and his family," going "so far as to attempt to take life by shooting." Mary states that Hall has "abandoned her declaring his intention to live with her no more, and by selling the whole of his property," which included three slaves, he meant "to bring her and her children to starvation." She further reports that, "finding the process of starvation too slow to suit his vindictive purposes, he came home the other day and stole all her means of self defence and told her that he was well armed with pistols & that he intended her time in this world should be very short." The petitioner seeks a divorce and alimony, and an order restraining her husband and his receipt of money from her property. In his answer to the charges, Nathaniel Hall contends that his wife has been unfaithful with several men over the course of many years, and that she is improvident and violent. He asserts that he will continue to provide the necessities of life for his family, but will no longer live with his wife.

PAR Number 20183901

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

Abstract: Matilda Houston seeks title to the slave Dinah and an injunction against her husband, Josiah Houston. Dinah was given to Matilda by her father James Allums while she was married to her first husband, D. Allen. When Allen died, his estate was settled and "the said nigro [sic] Dinah was allotted to your oratrix as her portion in part of the said Estate." Three years later Matilda married Josiah Houston. Matilda describes her marriage to Houston as one where "they have lived hapily & peaceably together until within the last five or six weeks past." Josiah, she states, has now "secretly become estranged in his affections towards your oratrix." She claims that he has attempted and succeeded in stealing Dinah and is preparing to move to Texas, and that he "is determined to abandon her and leave her penniless in the world." Matilda seeks an injunction to prevent her husband from leaving the state with the slave. She further asks the court to place the slave in safekeeping and to arrest Josiah Houston. Finally, the petitioner asks that the court order Josiah to furnish her with some means of support. The court dismissed the suit, reasoning that a husband has absolute title to property brought to the marriage by his wife. The court also alludes to Josiah Houston's claim that he had reason to abandon Matilda since she had given birth six months after they were married to a "mulatto child" fathered by a slave -- the husband of Dinah.

PAR Number 20184004

State: Alabama Year: 1840
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: Josiah Houston of Talladega County asks the Court for a divorce from his wife, Matilda. Josiah claims that at the time of their marriage, Matilda "was pregnant a fact wholly unknown to your said orator and one which she artfully and designedly and fraudulently withheld from him." However, several months after their marriage, "her appearance indicated pregnancy." When confronted, Matilda denied that she was with child, assuring him "that his fears and jealousies should be quieted." Shortly thereafter, he writes, "to his great astonishment," Matilda was "delivered of a black child, the fruits of an illicit intercourse carried on between the said Matilda and a negro slave" belonging to her father. Because "Matilda in the above manner practiced a fraud too dark and damning to be tolerated in … a christian community, and whereby she cancelled and forfeited all obligations on his part to support, comfort assist and maintain her as well as all obligation to live with her as his wife," Josiah asks that the matrimonial bonds between them be dissolved. In an earlier petition, Matilda, a widow, had filed for divorce, alleging that her husband had abandoned her, had stolen her slave, and was getting ready to remove from the state and leave her penniless.

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