Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10583901

State: Florida Year: 1836
Location: Monroe Location Type: County

Abstract: Because of her husband's cruel and harsh treatment, Eliza Patterson seeks a divorce from Alexander Patterson of Key West. Shortly after their marriage in December 1832, Alexander brought a seventeen-year-old girl into their house and lived with her in "criminal connection." He also forced Eliza to sign a bill of sale for her slave, "her private property, of the value of $300." She asks for a divorce, the return of her slave, the return of household furniture worth $1,000, and proper support for herself and her child.

PAR Number 11280515

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

Abstract: Christian Limbaugh seeks a divorce from his wife, the former Catharina Hess. He asserts that Catharina, whom he left in 1799, had an "ungovernable temper" and her "immoral & indecent turn of mind led her to be connected with other men." Citing his short marriage as "a state of the most poignant misery," Limbaugh reveals that his wife was later "delivered of one or more mulatto children." He further avers that, in 1804, "at March term of the Salisbury Supr court, the said Catharina was convicted of having barbarously murdered her infant child, which was generally believed in the neighbourhood to have been a mulatto"; the governor, however, pardoned her as she stood "under the gallows." Limbaugh therefore "submits his unhappy situation to be acted upon as you in your wisdom may think fit, firmly believing that a bill of divorce will be passed in his favour."

PAR Number 11281005

State: North Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Edgecombe Location Type: County

Abstract: Isaac Bracewell states that he married Nancy Low "some years ago" and that he enjoyed "that happiness and content, which he had anticipated." He reveals, however, that the said Nancy abandoned him "without just cause, or provocation" about 1803 and that she "has ever since lived, and continues to live in open and notorious Adultery, extending her favors, if such they can be called, to all, without distinction of color." The petitioner therefore prays that an act be passed "whereby he may be separated from the said Nancy."

PAR Number 11281010

State: North Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Wake Location Type: County

Abstract: Young Utley seeks a divorce from his wife Mary Woodward Utley, whom he married "about three years ago." Utley reveals that "some time after intermarriage the said Mary was delivered of a black child." He further reports that she is currently living in Tennessee where "she cohabits with a man of Colour, (the supposed author of her shame) in the character of a wife." At twenty-five, Utley considers himself to have "sustained an upright character" but he "is now oppressed with a burthen which none but a sufferer can feel." The petitioner therefore prays that "your Honorable body will pass a law divorcing him from his said wife."

PAR Number 11281303

State: North Carolina Year: 1813
Location: Gates Location Type: County

Abstract: James Hoffler admits that his "Situation in Life is disagreeable." He reveals that he married his wife Deborah Duttons in September 1802 and that three months later she "deserted my bed and board without Cause on the part of your petitioner." Hoffler reports that his wife give birth to a child while at her father's house and then she "did take up with a man by the name of John Lowance, a person of Collow, by whom she the said Deborah had a child"; Lowance left her and Deborah moved to Charleston, South Carolina. He further discloses that the legislature favored him a few years ago "by passing a Law divesting her the Said Deborah of all right of Dower in my property." Hoffler now prays that a law be passed "Divorcing him ... from the said Deborah."

PAR Number 11281304

State: North Carolina Year: 1813
Location: Wake Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Hancock seeks a divorce from his wife, the former Tabitha Askew. Hancock confides that "he is utterly at a loss in attempting to enumerate the Base Crimes which the said Tabitha has perpetuated ... crimes repugnant to the intentions of the marriage institution -- derogatory to the dignity of her sex." He discloses that the said Tabitha has "Abandoned herself to the most vile prostitution and debauchery" and has given birth to children "of various colours and complexions and nearly effected the ruin of your petitioner!" Hancock therefore prays that "his marriage with the said Tabitha may be entirely abrogated."

PAR Number 11281401

State: North Carolina Year: 1814
Location: Gates Location Type: County

Abstract: Love Brady laments that her husband Mills "did beat and Iltreat" her and that he "Spent and Wasted the whole of the property," which included "Negroes and other things" that she owned prior to her marriage. The petitioner further confides that her husband has abandoned her "without any thing to Subsist on, other than the Charity of Friends and took up with a Certain Selah Eure with whom he lives." She therefore prays that a law be passed "Vesting any property in your Memorialist that She may hereafter acquire by Industry, Gift ... or otherwise and barring Said Brady from any Claim on property so acquired by your Memorialist."

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 11281705

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

Abstract: Mary Hassell laments that her husband Benjamin "has betaken to himself as a wife & companion a negro woman, the slave & lawful property of your petitioner." Hassell admits that she has removed herself from her husband, "who is looked upon as disgraceful ... by every upright & virtuous member of civil society," in order "to relieve herself from the odious embraces of a man so entirely destitute of all the finer feelings of sensibilities." Seeking to secure to herself "the remnant of property yet remaining" and to protect any future acquisitions "from the cruel & rapacious grasp of the monster," the petitioner implores the legislature to pass an act protecting the property still “in her possession, & all that she may ever hereafter acquire, either by her own industry or inheritance."

PAR Number 11282402

State: North Carolina Year: 1824
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: John D. Barber discloses that, after three years of marriage, his wife Mary "left his house without cause and entered into the most abandoned scenes of prostitution with black and white." Barber further reveals that said Mary "has contracted a long time since a most hateful disease" and that "she is a most uncommon drunkard and thief." The petitioner therefore prays "that the Legislature will pass a law to dissolve the bonds of matrimony between him and the said Mary Barber." Attached affidavits charge that the said Mary "is considered to be and looked upon as one of the basest prostitutes in the human family" and that she is "entirely unfit for civilized Society."

PAR Number 11282403

State: North Carolina Year: 1824
Location: Wake Location Type: County

Abstract: Lewis Tombereau, a native of France, laments that he married a young woman named Nancy Jolly, "to whom he was determined to stick as close as wax." Tombereau confesses, however, that by his said marriage "he linked his fortune with and intrusted his happiness to one of the most frail, lewd, and depraved, daughters of Eve." The petitioner charges that said Nancy "forsoke both his board, and bed, to cohabit with a certain mulatto Barber named Roland Colanche." Tombereau, "with the most pungent and heart felt sorrow," reports that Nancy "has had a coloured child, and became, and continues to be, a public and notorious prostitute in the most unlimited sense of that word. She indulging in an unreserved, and promiscuous intercourse with men of every colour, age, class, and description she meets, sufficiently dissolute, licentious, and sensual, to gratify their passion, and her lust, and desire of variety." The petitioner therefore prays that he be released "from the unhallowed bonds he in an evil hour entered into."

PAR Number 11282712

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Jonathan Bryan seeks a divorce from his wife Ann Jane Anders, who not only attempted to kill him but also incited "an Insurrection" among his slaves. Bryan reports that the said Ann Jane attempted to poison him more than once; that she failed to nurse him when he “was Confined with the Billious fever So that his life was despaired of"; that she "has laid voiolent hands on his person twice;" that she has "treated with Cruelty the Seven Children he has had by a decent and former wife"; that she "took medicine" to induce a miscarriage when she returned from being absent "for the Space of eleven months dureing which time She got herself with Child;" and that he "has not seen the Said Ann Jane and has been for Som time past and at this time She is aliveing in a Negro house With Negros." He therefore prays that the legislature will "interpose and pass a Law Divorcing him from this wife Ann Jane."

PAR Number 11283301

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

Abstract: Gatsey Stevenson laments that her husband Silas is "unfortunately addicted to habits of intemperance" and that his "fits of intoxication" forced her to "quit his society" and to take "shelter under the roof of her father." Gatsey further confesses that the said Silas "took into his house a profligate woman ... & is now living in adulterous intercourse." She reveals that said woman "by some device has procured title" to her husband's plantation and she has thus been "cast upon the world utterly destitute." Gatsey therefore prays "that a law may be passed ... securing to her such property as she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11481930

State: Tennessee Year: 1819
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: Hardy Doyle seeks a divorce from his wife, Betsy S. Lamkin Doyle, who is possessed of "a turbulent & Tyrannical disposition." Doyle declares that his wife's behavior resulted in her being "excluded from decent society & [she] soon became the companion of whores & whoremongers of the most abandoned character ... amongst whom were free negroes & mulattoes (I blush to tell it)," whom she "invited and entertained ... at her house against my instructions." He further discloses that on one occasion "she became desperately angry and enraged against some person" and "she armed herself with a pistol in one hand and a Butcher Knife in the other ... [and] paraded through the streets, traversing the town from side to side searching her antagonist cursing & swearing most profanely & loudly using every profane oath & expression of abuse of which she could think." Being "so unfortunate as to be united to a woman who is lost to every feeling of humanity, religion & morality," the petitioner "does believe that you will be of opinion that she is not qualified to have the care of his family -- that you will not be deaf, but will hear his prayer to be released from those bands of iron which once seemed to be the silken chains of Hymen but now most miserably transformed."

PAR Number 11482002

State: Tennessee Year: 1820
Location: Stewart Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet H. Gibson seeks a divorce from her husband, Henry Gibson, on the grounds that he neglected his business, "cohabited with Other Women," and forced her from the house; shortly thereafter, Henry "removed to the State of Kentucky with all his (Negroes Ten in number) his Horses &C in which he has Resided about twelve months & Still continues there." The petitioner reports that her husband "has been frequently herd to say that he would never live with me again as a wife."

PAR Number 11482106

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Catharine Smith asks for a divorce from her husband, John P. Smith, a man of "the most abandoned dissolute & dissipated description." Smith accuses her husband of "engaging in the most extravagant scenes of lewdness, drunkenness and debauchery" and confides that he "has often treated your Petitioner in an inhuman and intolerable manner by inflicting violence on her person, and that in direct violation of his matrimonial vow, he has been repeatedly engaged in illegal intimacies with the slaves there were subject to his controll." The petitioner therefore prays that "she may be divorced from her husband and that the bonds of matrimony may be entirely dissolved."

PAR Number 11482108

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Grainger Location Type: County

Abstract: Kimble E. Midkiff confesses that he was induced by a certain older woman named Nancy "to abscond from his fathers house in company with her" and, "by her insinuating and seductive arts," she exerted an "influence over thim which she had acquired by artifice & intrigue" and the two were married. Admitting that he was at the time "under the age of sixteen years" and "under the influence of the impulse of passion rather than the dictates of reason," Midkiff recounts that "he cohabited about six months with said Nancy, during all which time he conducted himself towards her as an affectionate husband and observed his matrimonial vow with the utmost fidelity." The petitioner charges that Nancy, however, "was detected in bed with a man of colour in the neighbourhood."

PAR Number 11482109

State: Tennessee Year: 1821

Abstract: Confessing that her husband David's "treatment became so intolarable that I Could not Stay with him any longer," Mary Logue seeks a divorce. She discloses that "he not only abused my person very frequently by pulling my hair and Draging me about the house by it but [threatened] to take my Life and would go to bed with Negro women." Mary, believing it not safe to stay with him, abandoned "his house and went to my Fathers whare I have Resided Ever Since and Since I have left my husbond ... still Continued in his wickedness as bad as ever." The petitioner therefore prays that she be granted a divorce.

PAR Number 11482202

State: Tennessee Year: 1822
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: William McClure accuses his wife, Rebecca Smith McClure, of cohabiting and having "sexual & carnal intercourse with a certain negro fellow Slave by name of Taff formerly the slave of your petitioner." McClure discloses that "for six months last past the said Rebecca has been Indulging at all times of the absence of her husband from home with the said negro slave, that she took him to your petitioners house and did so openly." Stating that his wife "has gone to the state of Illinois, hoping her said paramour may abscond & there indulge her wicked & debased desires," the petitioner prays that he be granted a divorce.

PAR Number 11482911

State: Tennessee Year: 1829
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Martha Smith Green seeks a divorce and the "right of all the Property She may hereafter acquire by honest Industry or donation of friends." Green charges that her husband Thomas abused and beat her and that he accused "your Petitioner of being Intimate and guilty with his Negro man Jim, to the great mortifycation of your Petitioners feelings." She further confesses that her said husband severely beat her "in such a Manner that she carried the markes of his violence on her body for twenty weeks." Green further represents that her husband admitted "that he was Carnally guilty with [a] negro girl." The petitioner therefore prays that an act be passed for her benefit, divorcing her from the said Thomas and securing her right to property she may acquire hereafter.

PAR Number 11482912

State: Tennessee Year: 1829
Location: Maury Location Type: County

Abstract: John Rich of Maury County seeks a divorce from Susanah Moore Rich on the grounds that she "was delivered of a mulatto child" four months after their marriage. Revealing that he cannot pay "the charge of a lawyer and the fees of court ... without injury to himself," Rich therefore "prays your Honorable boddy to pass a law divorcing him from the said Susanah."

PAR Number 11483328

State: Tennessee Year: 1833
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: Susan Doolin seeks a divorce from her husband, Thomas Doolin. Susan confides that her said husband "has been guilty of Acts & deeds [inconsistent] with the marriage Vow" and that he "has been guilty of Adultry With indecent & lewd women." She further submits that "his own relations to me [stated] that he had in a carnal way kept & made use of a Negro girl that belongd to me,--the Negro says the same." Stating that "he left some time in the month of April last & told me that he never intended to live with me again," the petitioner prays "that your honourable body would pass a law divorcing her from her said husband."

PAR Number 11484502

State: Tennessee Year: 1845
Location: Anderson Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Hookins asks for a divorce from her husband William. Hookins confides that said William "was always scolding and faultfinding and frequently disturbed your petitioner's hours of repose and sleep by his certain lectures -- abusing her for merest trifles and not seeming to be satisfied, he soon resorted to whipping her." She further admits that when she "would tell him to quit mistreating her so, he said by the common law a man had a right to whip his wife, and that so long as he was a freeman he would have the right of one, and that he would whip her every day of her life if he wanted to." Mary reveals that her husband has abandoned her "and her babies to this fate and the last rumor She heard of him he had taken up with a mulatto woman and was the father of two children by her." She therefore prays that "now if your Honorable body ... will only set aside, and undue this unfortunate act of your petitioner's youthful folly, and indiscretion; she hopes she will be able to do better in a second marriage than she did in her first; for she knows she could do worse that she did when she [and] Billy Hookins became man and wife."

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 11680606

State: Virginia Year: 1806
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1800, Charlotte Ball married William Ball who possessed property "very adequate with care and industry to their decent support." Charlotte informs the court that "she had every reason to hope for as great a portion of happiness as most people enjoy in a married state." It was not meant to be; within a short while, William Ball began to strike and beat Charlotte, and even threatened to kill her. In addition, he "wasted his substance to the last farthing in profligacy and debaucheries." Although Charlotte does not reveal to the court the details of these "debaucheries," we learn from related depositions that it included excessive drinking and adultery with both white and black women. Charlotte contends that in spite of the violence and the outrage she "conducted herself on all occasions towards" her husband "with humble duty, fidelity, and affection." The situation, however, became unbearable and she eventually left her husband's house and returned to her father's, where she has now lived for four years and accumulated some property to support herself and her children. She claims that her husband is trying to confiscate her property; she seeks a divorce.

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