Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11280305

State: North Carolina Year: 1803
Location: Beaufort Location Type: County

Abstract: The relatives of Euphan Alston Rhodes ask that the said Euphan be granted a divorce from Captain Arnold Rhodes. They recount that their relative married Rhodes in 1795 when she was seventeen years old; at the time, Euphan possessed "a valuable Estate in Lands &c besides a number of valuable Slaves.” The petitioners lament that the said Rhodes wasted his bride's property shortly after their marriage, losing all the slaves and a large portion of the real estate. They further decry that Rhodes has "abandoned himself to Idleness, Intoxication, gambling &c." Of the belief that "a mutual loathing possess them Each towards the other," the petitioners pray "that a Law may be passed by your Honorable body disolving the band of marriage between the Said Arnold, & Euphan Alston Rhodes & thereby fully Divorcing them for Ever from Each other."

PAR Number 11684403

State: Virginia Year: 1844
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Peter Strange, a fifty-year-old free person of color, represents that "he has lately received his free papers from Mr. Conway Robinson the Administrator of his master Mr. G. H. Bacchus, who emancipated him on account of his good conduct & fidelity as a Servant." Strange laments, however, that "he now stands in geopardy of being sold as a slave again, unless he goes away, (torn from his wife & children) an Exile into some land of strangers." A blacksmith by trade, Strange confesses that "if he were forced into a strange land without money or friends & severed from his wife & children, who are slaves & to whom [he] is sincerely attached he could foresee nothing but suffering & distress and if allowed to remain where he is, his efforts would be unremitting to make himself useful & to maintain his respectability." The petitioner therefore prays that he be allowed to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11684815

State: Virginia Year: 1848
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: Residents of Clarksville ask that John and Lewis Wimbish be permitted to operate a ferry across the Roanoke River. Currently, the only ferry is operated by James Somerville, who charges them the full sixteen cents permitted by law. They pay the same when they have business across the river at the court house. Moreover, Somerville "keeps no white persons at his ferry" and his slaves "are disorderly drunken and unaccomodating." The landing is a "rallying point for drinking & Gambling on the Sabbath day and of nights when large numbers of slaves from the surrounding Country Congregate and Carry on a Contraband trade." The petitioners believe that fifteen hundred dollars a year would be adequate to pay to the overseers of the two ferries.

PAR Number 20182701

State: Alabama Year: 1827
Location: Autauga Location Type: County

Abstract: Peter Wyatt purchased "a negro man slave named David" from Moses Greer in July 1822, in exchange for a note for $551.02, from his brother William Wyatt, along with a horse, saddle and bridle valued at $100. The petitioner states that he "had said negro only a few days before he ran away stole some property and in attempting to escape was shot at and hit -- after apprehension in a very few days he again ran away -- And again in the same manner a third time." The petitioner states that "he did not get more than about one weeks service from said negro in consequence of his running away." During David's third attempt at absconding, he committed a robbery and "was taken up, tried & hanged for the crime in May or June 1823." In the petitioner's mind, the slave's death "is fairly and alone attributable to his bad character," and he states that David "was sent or run from the State of Georgia on account of his bad character and that this was known to Greer previous to sale." In addition, the petitioner discloses that Moses Campbell has sued Greer for payment of the note tendered in the purchase of David and Campbell received from the court an $861 judgment, which remains unpaid. The petitioner charges that Greer and Campbell are attempting to defraud him and he asks the court to enjoin them from collecting the debt, and enjoin his brother, William, from paying it, until the court can hear the case. Wyatt, noting that "he has never received one cent compensation for the loss of the negro," also seeks said compensation along with a $100 reimbursement of the court costs of defending David's robbery charge.

PAR Number 20185424

State: Alabama Year: 1854
Location: St. Clair Location Type: County

Abstract: Some years prior to her marriage in 1847, Mary C. Edwards of St. Clair County, received three slaves--Dice and her two children--as a gift from her mother. After her marriage, she moved with her slaves and husband, Wiley C. Edwards, a widower, to Jasper County, Mississippi. Upon arriving, however, she discovered that one Willis Herrin lived in "open prostitution" with a mulatto woman named Harriet, one of her husband's slaves and they did so in the same house where the newlyweds lived. There was also evidence that Wiley had fathered one or more of Harriet's children, and that he was using Willis Herrin as a cover for his illicit relationship with Harriet. In addition, Mary asserts, her husband had a violent temper; on one occasion "he choked her very much, about the neck with his hands in so much that Oratrix was unable to move, and the prints of his fingers were on her neck for several days." It soon became apparent that she could not remain in Mississippi. Only four months after their marriage, she returned to Alabama. Seven years later, to protect her slave property, including a slave she had subsequently purchased from her mother's estate, Mary Edwards files for divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20682406

State: Georgia Year: 1824
Location: Scriven Location Type: County

Abstract: William Sowell alleges that Thomas H. Gibbons is indebted to him for $420, plus interest. Gibbons signed several promissory notes payable to Sowell. Part of the debt was incurred for a "Negro" boy named Arthur. Sowell alleges that Gibbons, with intent to defraud him, has not honored these financial obligations. He sues for $840 in damages.

PAR Number 20685317

State: Georgia Year: 1853
Location: Spalding Location Type: County

Abstract: William B. March claims that Daniel Earp and Timothy Dickinson wrote two promissory notes to him as partial payment for two female slaves whom he sold to Dickinson and Earp. Dickinson has since died and the notes are past due. March petitions the court to order Earp to pay the debts.

PAR Number 20782806

State: Kentucky Year: 1828
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: James Martin claims that he is a free-born boy of ten and that his mother is a free woman of color born of a white woman. About one year ago, a man named Fair prevailed upon his mother to permit James to go to New Orleans to "ride a race for hire;" Fair took James to New Orleans, but there was no race, and later he was delivered by Fair to Betsy Wells, alias Ann Wells, in Louisville. Wells pretends that James is a slave and "unjustly holds him in possession as such." James asks that the court restrain her from moving him out of the area, and to "secure to him his birthright - which he 'prizes above all price'."

PAR Number 20783612

State: Kentucky Year: 1836
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: William Freeman [alias Nat] claims that he is a free man of color, a matter of record on file in Virginia and Cincinnati. He has been working on steamboats, but four weeks ago in New Orleans he was seized as a slave and claimed by Charles Anderson, "who is reputed to be a gambler." He further asserts that his attested copy of the Virginia record of his freedom was then "taken from him and torn in pieces before his eyes." Anderson sold him to James Long, who took him to Louisville, where he ran away. He was recaptured and is now in jail. He asks that the defendants be restrained from removing him until he can send to Virginia and get proof of his free status.

PAR Number 20784416

State: Kentucky Year: 1844
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Nancy, a woman of color, explains that her former master William Shephard sold her to Peter Talbott in 1840. The sale was made possible when Nancy's husband Lewis "drew two prizes in a Lottery in this City in the year 1840 ... amounting in all to upwards of $800.00." Lewis loaned $500 to Talbott for the purchase of Nancy, with the understanding that Nancy would be "immediately manumitted by him according to the laws of this State." For the past three years, Nancy has "been living and supporting herself by her own industry ... as free as if regularly manumitted." Nancy now asserts that both Shephard and Talbott are making claims of debts owed that preclude her official manumission. Nancy asks that "your honor may decree that she be freed by sd. Deft Talbott."

PAR Number 20784710

State: Kentucky Year: 1847
Location: Boyle Location Type: County

Abstract: William P. Bosley and his wife Paulina contend that she is “the only legitimate heir at Law” of Isaac Foster. They charge that the late William Hughs Young, an associate of Foster's, and his purported wife, Jane Young, perpetrated a fraud upon Paulina, alleging that the said Youngs "used every effort to keep her in ignorance of her parantage & her right to the property in their possession." They further assert that the said William "devised all of sd property to the sd Jane Young during her natural life, when the sd slaves were to be emancipated, and the property to go to them." The Bosleys seek ownership of all property from William Young's estate, including that now being held by Jane.

PAR Number 20882205

State: Louisiana Year: 1822
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Isaac Roach, a man of color, writes that he was born of free parents in Philadelphia. As a young man he was employed as a “waiter or servant for hire” by John Davis, whom he accompanied in this capacity to Kentucky. While in Kentucky, however, Davis gambled all of his money away and sold Roach as a slave to William Ward of South Carolina. Roach asserts that, since then, he has been sold numerous times, spending “the best part of his days in all the rigors of Slavery.” For the past seven years Roach has been held by Cestin Rauman [Sosthene Roman]. Rauman at first kept him on a plantation “entirely excluded from the society of those who might or could assist" him in “obtaining his freedom.” Recently, Rauman brought Roach to New Orleans without telling him the “specific purpose.” Roach fears he may be sold again or transported beyond the jurisdiction of this court. He therefore asks the court to be sequestered in the sheriff's custody while he proves his case for freedom.

PAR Number 20979402

State: Maryland Year: 1794
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: Richard Weaver Johns received £91 and a snuff box from Ephraim Gaither. To secure said debt, Johns mortgaged three slave children as security. It was agreed that if Johns repaid Gaither with interest by 1 August 1790 "then the Sale should be void & of none Effect." Gaither now states that the debt has not been repaid and that the slaves "have been an expense" to him because they are too young to work. Gaither says that he has "frequently applied to the said Johns in a friendly manner and requested payment of the said sum and legal Interest, or that he should release all his right to said negroes." Johns has refused to do either. Gaither asks that Johns be compelled to repay the loan, interest, and the cost of maintaining the slaves since the deed was signed.

PAR Number 20979703

State: Maryland Year: 1797
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: In December 1787, Richard Weaver Johns executed a deed, mortgaging three slave children to Ephraim Gaither as security "for the payment of the sum of ninety one pounds Current money on or before the first day of August Seventeen hundred and ninety." Johns alleges that in 1788, before the debt was due, Gaither issued a writ of replevin against the slaves and that Gaither has "ever since retained the possession, and converted the profits arising from their labour to his own use and benefit." Since the deed was executed, one of the slaves, Pricilla, has had two children, both of whom are retained by Gaither. Johns claims that "he has frequently in a friendly way requested the said defendant to account for and settle." Johns asks that Gaither appear and answer questions regarding the case and that he return the slaves and all the profits thereby earned since the deed was executed.

PAR Number 20980303

State: Maryland Year: 1803
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah Ann Waters and Mary Elizabeth Taylor state that their father, William Thornton, "was possessed of and entitled to a valuable personal estate consisting of negroes stock plantation [and] that he was an imprudent man addicted to gaming, and had spent and squandered away a valuable property." To prevent Thornton from losing all his property "in the gratification of his imprudent amusements," he was prevailed on to execute a deed of mortgage to Gassaway Rawlings in 1777 for which Rawlings gave no money or other consideration. Shortly thereafter, Thornton went to sea, "where he is supposed to have died, and has not since been heard of;" his widow, Sarah, married Richard Rawlings, Gassaway's brother. Upon their marriage, Sarah and Richard had two sons, Richard and Frederick. The petitioners now complain that after the deaths of Richard (the elder) and Sarah, Gassaway Rawlings claimed the mortgaged property as his own, conveying to them shares that are less than their due as Thornton's sole surviving heirs. Seeking their rightful inheritance, the petitioners ask the court to subpoena the Rawlingses and to order them "to convey and deliver to your complainants in the proportions aforesaid the property aforesaid."

PAR Number 20983726

State: Maryland Year: 1837
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Minor James Madkeff asks the court to order a sale of his slave Bill. Madkeff explains that Bill, who had been hired out to James Mill by his guardian, Richard J. Jones, ran away while in Mills's possession. Bill ran to the "Potomac fishery" where he received his wages and then "gambled & frolicked the whole of the proceeds of the fishing season away." Madkeff alleges that Bill was accused of theft before running away and that he was imprisoned after a second attempt at absconding, this time while on Jones's sloop, the Sea Gull. Jones has set up a conditional sale of Bill for six hundred dollars, and Madkeff would like the court to approve the sale. Madkeff complains that Bill is costing him twenty-five cents per day while he is confined in jail.

PAR Number 20985703

State: Maryland Year: 1857
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Margery Wells, the petitioner, married James Wells, the defendant, in 1849. Margery states that some years later her husband "commenced, and has ever since continued, to associate only with the most depraved and dissolute in their manners and conversation; that he consorts with negroes upon terms of perfect equality." She claims that her husband encouraged "the said negroes" to meet at their house and engaged with them in "acts contrary not only to the law of the land, but in the most flagrant degree subversive and in contempt of religion and morality." Although Margery attempted to reform her husband through "kind conduct," James, without provocation, "abuses and curses her, and heaps upon her epithets the most opprobrious and vile." Margery claims that James "has threatened both to whip and kill her" if she tried to visit her friends; has refused to buy her clothes; "has refused her the use of candles;" has forbidden "her the use of a horse;" and has accused her of adultery. James has also been physically abusive as well; in 1856, he "threw her down, and with his knees upon her breasts, choked her, and unmercifully and cruelly struck her violent and repeated blows in the face ... accompanying his inhuman brutality with the words -- 'damn you, i'll kill you.' " After that, she fled the house and has not returned. Margery Wells asks the court for a decree of divorce with alimony. She also asks for an injunction to prevent James from selling his personal property, which includes four slaves, as she fears James will endeavor to defeat her efforts "to obtain any such alimony."

PAR Number 21085031

State: Mississippi Year: 1850
Location: Claiborne Location Type: County

Abstract: Misella Ann Henry married Oliver C. Henry on 15 March 1831 in Indiana, and the couple later moved to Mississippi. Misella Ann confides that her husband has "voluntarily abandoned & deserted her & their children & removed to Milligens Bend in the state of Louisiana"; as regards said children, Henry has "placed them under the control & management of a negro mistress with whom he lived in Adultery." She also accuses the defendant of physical and mental abuse. Misella states that the "twelve or fourteen negro slaves" are part of the children's inheritance from their paternal grandfather. The petitioner seeks to obtain a divorce, custody of and support for their four children, and possession of the slaves and other property.

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 21183612

State: Missouri Year: 1836
Location: St. Louis Location Type: County

Abstract: Delph, a woman of color, represents that her owner, Josiah Ramsay Sr. of Callaway County, manumitted her in 1826. Since 1827, Delph maintains that she has "in fact gone at large, & acted as a free person ever since." Charging that Stephen Dorris now claims her as a slave and has attempted to forcibly remove her from St. Louis, the petitioner "prays for leave to sue in the St Louis Circuit Court as a poor person, in order to establish her said right to Freedom."

PAR Number 21282701

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

Abstract: In 1820, Absalom and Jackson M. Yancy established a slave-trading firm. According to Absalom, they bought "a great many slaves either for cash or on credit," spending a total of "twenty thousand Dollars or some other large sum," all of this using his money. He claims that Jackson took the blacks to South Carolina and Georgia, and sold many of them. He charges that Jackson gambled away the profits, and turned over eight thousand dollars of the company's money to one Dr. Thomas Hunt to deprive him of his share.

PAR Number 21283804

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

Abstract: Married in 1821, Unicy Martin claims that during their marriage she received a "likely and valuable negro." Her husband, however, has "abandoned himself" to liquor, and reduced the family to "poverty and want." She seeks a divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 21380706

State: South Carolina Year: 1807
Location: Charleston Location Type: District

Abstract: Michael McKearnes asks the court to compel John Cashman to settle with him for "stock in trade, negroes monies Bonds notes Books of account" and other property belonging to their copartnership in Charleston. The business, originally built in 1804 with McKearnes's capital as a boarding house to sell liquor and groceries to seamen, expanded its operations four years later when the pair won a prize of $10,000 in the "East Bay Lottery." They used the money to buy a ship "which they fitted out and loaded with a cargo for the African trade." McKearnes set sail for Africa, undertaking the "very disagreeable and dangerous office" of supercargo on the ship, and left Cashman with "some negroes belonging to the concern" to run the business. While McKearnes was away, Cashman falsified the books, advertised, sold, and liquidated the business, and collected all the debts owing thereto "without advising with or consulting your orator." The petitioner asks the court to rectify these "acts of violence and cunning" by ordering Cashman to settle their accounts.

PAR Number 21384540

State: South Carolina Year: 1845
Location: Charleston Location Type: District

Abstract: James Norris, master of the Charleston work house, requests court intervention in a slave title dispute. In 1845, George Shrewsbury, a free man of color, placed three slaves in the work house, ordering Norris not to surrender them to anyone but himself or his guardian. Shortly thereafter, James Hanscome, another free man of color, claimed the slaves and ordered Norris to surrender them only to him. Shrewsbury holds a bill of sale from Hanscome, but Hanscome argues that it is void, because "the consideration thereof was a gambling transaction." Norris has refused to deliver the slaves to either party, since he does not know who legally owns them, and he would be legally liable for delivering them to the wrong person. Norris asks the court to determine the ownership of the slaves. Since Shrewsbury has sued Norris, and Hanscome is threatening to sue, Norris also asks the court to enjoin all other legal proceedings until the title dispute is settled.

PAR Number 21485224

State: Tennessee Year: 1852
Location: Davidson Location Type: County

Abstract: Margaret R. Demoss asks the court for a divorce from her abusive husband and for the return of her slaves and land. Demoss married Silas D. Demoss when she was sixteen years old "against the advice and without the consent of her mother." Though the petitioner has shown her husband "love, devotion and confidence ... the only return they have met, almost from the day of their marriage has been cold neglect, violent abuse, and absolute tyranny." Silas is "much addicted to intoxication and gambling, and keeping low and lewd company," including prostitutes. She further accuses him of being abusive, once nearly choking her to death. She now finds it to be "unsafe and improper for her longer to cohabit with him, or to be under his domination, or control." Demoss also informs the court that she is the owner of several slaves and multiple plots of land. The lands are in the possession of her uncle, Dennis Dozier, and her legal guardian, Thomas Shearon. The two men have been collecting money on the lands for her benefit; however, Demoss’s husband has won judgment against Dozier and Shearon and the profits are now in his hands. Demoss prays for a divorce from her husband and that her inherited property "be decreed to her for alimony."

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