Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 21485411

State: Tennessee Year: 1854
Location: Maury Location Type: County

Abstract: John J. Wilson and David F. Wilson, son and son-in-law of the late Robert Wilson, and the executors of his will, are joined by Wilson's widow, Charlotte, and his daughter, Rachael, in seeking permission to sell a slave named Sam, "a likely boy about forty five years of age." The petitioners inform the court that Sam is "a prolific source of trouble" to them, especially to Charlotte who exercises "immediate control" over him. In addition to being "wild, ungovernable and of vicious habits," he "has already run away once or twice and came very near making it to a Free state." When home, he is "about at night, gambles and loses much time from his business." The petitioners fear that Charlotte will lose her life interest in Sam by his running away. They also suspect that he "is likely to be of little service" to them in the future. Perhaps even more threatening, they fear that he will compromise their other slaves by the "pernicious example he is constantly setting" before them. They ask the court to authorize his sale and to order that the proceeds "be invested ... in some other better and more tractable slave."

PAR Number 21485703

State: Tennessee Year: 1857
Location: Davidson Location Type: County

Abstract: Madison Taylor seeks to divorce his wife Nancy and to recover property that he put in trust for her. Taylor confides that his wife "apparently became discontented and dissatisfied" after their 1839 marriage. In 1842 she "artfully and designedly, as the means to produce tranquillity at home and reformation of conduct," convinced him to put some of his real and personal estate into a trust for her; in January 1853, Nancy used "stratagem, art and design" to persuade Taylor to put the rest of his property-- including a slave named Esther--into another trust for her. The petitioner charges that she then had him judged insane and committed to an asylum, whereupon she deserted him. Released from the asylum, Madison "has been for a long time back attending to and transacting his own business, being sufficiently able so to do." The trusts, however, have left him "without home or any means of subsistence save his labor." Taylor urges the court to declare the trusts fraudulent and void and to return his property to him. Fearing that his wife will "run or remove" Esther from the area, he asks that Esther be seized by the court. The petitioner also prays that "the bonds of matrimony ... be dissolved."

PAR Number 21485818

State: Tennessee Year: 1858
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Isaac Roraback asks the court to restore to his possession several notes he lost to R. J. Lyle in "a game of hazard and address at cards." Calling Lyle a "regular blackleg," Roraback accuses Lyle and his "partners" of encouraging him to drink so that "he might be more easily swindled at cards." During the game, Lyle "managed to make complt drink twice or thrice to his once." Using the "most dishonest and unfair practices," Lyle won two notes from Roraback, which total three thousand dollars. Lyle "pretended to be and perhaps was buying negroes and had a good deal to do with one William L. Crockett ... and one Reuben Roddie," to whom he transferred the notes. Roraback now charges that neither Crockett nor Roddie "paid one cent consideration" for the notes and that the two men actually "combined and confederated with the said Lyle in the transfer of said notes to hinder embarass and defraud" him. He finally prays that the notes be "delivered up to him," and, in the meantime, that Roddie and Crockett be "compelled to deposit the same with the Clerk & Master to await the final issue of this suit."

PAR Number 21486103

State: Tennessee Year: 1861
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary M. Clarke seeks an end to her fourteen-year-marriage. She informs the court that she married William Clarke on 5 August 1847 when she "was only Seventeen years of age" and when she "was the owner by inheritance from her father & brother of eleven likely negroes ... and a large amount of money." Clarke charges that the said William "has Squandered all of said money and sold & had taken off twelve likely negroes a portion, the increase & a portion a part of said eleven negroes aforesaid." She further laments "that he has been for years running about drinking, gambling, & neglecting his family." Pointing out that she and William "have not lived together" for some time, the petitioner reveals that "she has been informed that in addition to his bad treatment of your Oratrix that he has been guilty of Adultery with Some woman or women." Clarke therefore prays that "the bonds of matrimony now subsisting between said Clarke & your Oratrix be dissolved ... and that she be restored to all the rights & priviledges of a single woman." She also requests that "upon the final hearing that the negroes be decreed to your Oratrix or some other Trustee for her & her children." Clarke returns to court in August 1861 to report that her husband tried to take "by force one of Complts children a little girl 6 years old" and to amend her earlier petition by requesting an injunction "injoining and prohibiting the Deft or any one else from disturbing her in the peacable & quiet possession of her little children."

PAR Number 21585114

State: Texas Year: 1851
Location: Brazoria Location Type: County

Abstract: Reuben Brown asks for the court's assistance in collecting a gambling debt owed to him by Pleasant D. McNeel resulting from a wager in a one-mile horse race won by Brown's horse in April 1851 at Quintana, a Brazoria County town at the mouth of the Brazos River. Brown explains that he staked his slave Jeff while McNeel risked Gabriel, a "Negro man of yellow complexion about forty five years." The losing party agreed to surrender his slave "on demand" or pay his slave's value of one thousand dollars to the winner at the end of the race. Brown submits that McNeel has neither turned over Gabriel nor paid the thousand dollars and the slave's "reasonable hire," which he values at $30 per month.

PAR Number 21586403

State: Texas Year: 1864
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Euphrasia Tivis seeks a divorce from her husband, Benjamin Franklin Tivis, citing "excess ill treatment and cruelty" and "acts of selfish meanness," which have rendered living with him "insupportable." She recounts that, in February 1864, he "did then and there throw cold water on her she being then in bed Kicked and punched her, pulled her hair and did otherwise abuse and illtreat your petitioner." During the past year, she has kept a boarding house in Beaumont "to keep herself & two infant children in bread & raiment." Her husband, however, frequently seized the profits she made from her business and spent them on gambling and drinking. When she married Tivis, she owned "in her own right" a female slave, "which she cheerfully sold for the benefit of defendant to obtain for him a substitute to serve in the Army of the Confederate States in his stead." She also seeks custody of the couple's two infant daughters.

PAR Number 21683340

State: Virginia Year: 1833
Location: Petersburg Location Type: City

Abstract: A. D. Williams, proprietress of a successful milliner's business in Petersburg, seeks a divorce from her husband, Henry Williams, "alias Hiram Whyte." She complains that about six months into their 1820 marriage, Henry "ceased to labour" and has "spent his time in idleness, frivolous amusements & the worst species of dissipation." He has indulged in "adulterous intercourse, with the lowest class of females & of all colours," and "frequently absented himself" from their home; on one occasion, he "started ostensibly to go to the Races near Richmond, but he was absent for four years." He has cruelly beat and abused her, gambled away her "hard earnings," and twice given her a venereal disease. Most recently, he has been living in "open adultery" with "one of the black population of this Town," a woman named Betsy Elbeck. Fearing that her savings will be "forcibly [w]rested from her by him," she asks for a divorce and for permission "to hold the property heretofore acquired by her own exertions, as a feme sole." Lengthy depositions are rich with detail about Henry Williams "gambling & frolicking, drinking & carousing."

PAR Number 21684003

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

Abstract: James Morris, "an infant under the age of twenty one years," inherited a slave named Albert from his late grandmother, Mourning Foster. Albert is currently in the possession of Morris's guardian, Richard Reins. Morris asserts that Albert has "commenced pursuing a course of life and contracting habits such as would spedily render him useless and expensive." In addition, Albert is "going on in a continued course of intemperance of such a character as will ruin his health and make him worthless," and he is "given to many flagrant vices among which gaming is the most prominent." Asserting that "slaves being now at a very fair price in the market & the demand for money being very great," the petitioner believes it would be in his best interest to sell Albert before he becomes "an expense to him rather than a profit." He asks for the court's permission to sell Albert.

PAR Number 21684520

State: Virginia Year: 1845
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: The grandchildren of William Ezell Sr. seek a distribution of slave property. In his will, Ezell bequeathed to Robertson Ezell "one negro man William and Fanny & her present and future increase" as a trust estate. After Robertson's death, the slaves were to be "equally divided among all his children to them & their heirs forever." The petitioners complain that in 1835 William Ezell Jr., the executor of the trust, sold Kissey and her child Fanny for $425, although he had "no authority under the will of his testator" to do so. Furthermore, William Ezell never applied the proceeds of the sale for the benefit of Robertson and his family, but, as he alleges, gave it up to Robertson who was a prodigal and dissipated man and a gambler. The petitioners ask the court for compensation for the loss of their inheritance. They pray that William Ezell Jr. will be asked to return Kissey with her increase for distribution.

PAR Number 21685222

State: Virginia Year: 1852
Location: Petersburg Location Type: City

Abstract: Virginia Hughes asks for a divorce from her husband, William Henry Hughes, claiming that he has "treated her with unkindness - with cruelty and neglect, and by abandonment & disertion and by adulterous intercourse." Citing that they were married in 1828, the petitioner "avers that since the 1 day of her marriage her aforesaid Husband has never contributed towards her support as much as Ten Dollars." She informs the court that "she has entirely maintained herself by 'Cupping & Leeching' in Petersburg where she resides and where she believes she is regarded as an honest industrious and respectable woman." She further notes that the "property which she has secured by the proceeds of her individual labor has frequently been taken from her to pay the debts of her husbands creditors." She therefore prays that "your Honor will grant a Decree divorcing your Complt from the said Wm Henry Hughes." In his deposition, Sterling J. Hughes, states that his son gambled and drank to excess and that "in all respects he made her a bad husband, cursing and abusing her as if she was a negro."