Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10383212

State: Delaware Year: 1832
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: Francis Ludenum, "at the advanced age of near sixty years," laments that he "has to labour for the maintenance of an insane wife and seven children." Ludenum, a free black, states he was "held in slavery until he was near forty years old, was therefore deprived of all opportunity to accumulate any property whatsoever for advanced age." He cites that his wife "has been insane for more than four years" and has been "a continued and heavy expence, such an expence, that your petitioner with all the industry, frugallity and care that he can use, will not long be able to meet." Ludenum therefore prays that "your honours to take his case under your wise considerations, and grant him a divorce from his insane wife."

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 10584301

State: Florida Year: 1843

Abstract: In 1808, John C. Mangham married Ann McKenzie in Glynn County, Georgia. His wife left him in 1827 "with the pretext" of suing for divorce and recovery "of certain property, then in the possession of your petitioner." Still married in 1831, Mangham gave his wife all his slaves by a deed of trust during her life, hoping this would resolve their difficulties. Shortly after receiving the slaves, however, Ann Mangham moved with the slaves to the Florida Territory to live with her daughter and son-in-law. Mangham wrote letters asking her to "return home," but she refused. He seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11280301

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

Abstract: Arnold and Euphan Rhodes, though husband and wife, have lived apart for two years. As there is no hope of reconciliation, they jointly pray that a law may be passed "disolving the bands of marriage between your said petitioners & thereby ... Divorce them from Each other -- leaving Each free to Intermarry again to purchase, receive, & dispose of their seperate propperty."

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 11280405

State: North Carolina Year: 1804
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: Cassandra Alexander Houston seeks a divorce from her husband James Houston. The couple married 4 January 1803 and lived together until 28 November of the same year when Cassandra left him "owing (as she verily believes) to her Husbands imbecillity or impotency as a man in procreating his species." Depositions from the petitioner's relatives and others state that they suspected from observing him "make water" that James Houston was not a man like other men; that he had expressed anxiety that "he was not as complete as to genitals as other men;" and that he had on several occasions attempted to "ride" other men and "act with [other men] as man would with a Woman." Marshal Alexander, Cassandra's brother, stated in a deposition that he was once the object of such attempts and noticed at the time that Houston had no testicles. With the marriage unconsummated, the evidence suggesting that Houston "had not the genitals for propagation," and the Alexander's believing that Houston married solely to obtain property, Cassandra Alexander asks to retain her property and be granted a divorce.

PAR Number 11280504

State: North Carolina Year: 1805

Abstract: Sarah Johnston seeks a divorce from her husband John on the grounds of bigamy and abandonment. Sarah states that they were married for nine years until John left her “without assigning any cause for his Conduct or giving your petitioner any notice of his Intentions." She reports that she "set out to find" him and traced his whereabouts to various towns across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia until finally she learned that he "took Shipping for Ireland his native country." She charges that John "before his departure Squandered and made way with the principal part" of nine slaves of which she was possessed at the time of their marriage; when he abandoned her, there were only three slaves left and she "has Sold two of the slave to pay his Debts." She confides that "during the time they lived together" John told her "he had another wife of which your petitioner had no suspicion untill a short time before he went away." Sarah therefore prays that "the General Assembly would make void the Marriage Contract and grant to your petitioner a Divorce from the said John L D Johnston and also to secure to your petitioner all such property as she may now be in possession of for her relief she being Destitute of any support."

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 11280516

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

Abstract: Winny Manning confesses that her husband Eli "is absolutely impotent & by nature rendered a useless man as a husband." She admits that as "unpleasant as that may appear to a young & healthy woman" it is "but trifling" compared to his suspicions of her entertaining "illicit connection with every man, both white & black that may have seen her," which at times has resulted in a "certain danger of her life." Winny therefore asks that an act be passed divorcing her "from the said Eli Manning." Eli Manning, "on his part," states that "the happy ends for which matrimony was ordained has been frustrated & rendered a fruitfull sorce of the most unpleasant reflections and that reconciliation will never take place." He therefore "begs leave most freely & sincerely to join his sd Wife Winny in praying your honorable body to relieve your truly suffering Petitioners by granting them a divorce."

PAR Number 11280902

State: North Carolina Year: 1809
Location: Ashe Location Type: County

Abstract: Alexander Smith seeks a divorce from his wife Sarah Dickson Smith. He states that he married Sarah in 1784 and that they lived together for many years "in domestic peace and pleasure," raising a family of five girls. Smith confides, however, that Sarah "became base in her conduct" and in 1808 "she went off with a Mullatoe man nearly as Black as an Negro and has lived without the Bounds of this State with said man of mixt collur ever since." The petitioner prays that he be divorced from his wife Sarah and that she be forever prevented “in Law or in Equity to Claim any right Title or interest to any part of your Petitioner's Estate or property real or personal."

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 11281302

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

Abstract: Sarah Bell, a widow "far advanced in years and mother of Ten Children," seeks a divorce from Samuel Bell. Sarah states that, at the time of her marriage to Samuel, "she was possessed of a handsome property in Lands, negroes, Stock &c" and that she "had experienced a life of ease and affluence in the life time of her former husband." The petitioner confesses, however, that the said Samuel has "not only wasted her personal property by selling her negroes Stock &c but treated her person in a very harsh unmanly and Cruel manner, descending to Blows with Cruel and Barbarous Weapons on the Body of your Orator." Having taken refuge at the house of her married daughter, Sarah prays that a law be passed to divorce her from the said Samuel.

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 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 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 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 11283204

State: North Carolina Year: 1832
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Reid seeks a divorce from her husband Elias. Mary, also called Polly, confides that the said Elias, shortly after their marriage, told her "that altho she was his wife he had no regard for her" and that he "had married her alone for the property which she brought him;" said property consisted of "a very large personal estate consisting mostly of negro slaves." She further states that her husband banished her "from his house & placed her at his negro quarter where she was deprived of all the conveniences as well as necessaries of life beyond a bare sufficiency to support existence." Mary maintains "that while at the said negro quarter her provisions were measured out to her in the same way as if she had been a field labourer." Having abandoned her husband and "now destitute," the petitioner prays that "the tie which binds her to her husband" be dissolved and that she be granted "all the relief which her case shall require."

PAR Number 11283401

State: North Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Burke Location Type: County

Abstract: Ellena Cobb seeks a divorce from her husband John Cobb. She confides that the said John represented "himself as highly respectable and of good standing in the Town where he resided and of considerable celebrity as a physician having a large and extensive practice which was very profitable." Swayed by his appearance, Ellena confesses that she married him and moved to South Carolina where she discovered, two days into the marriage, that her husband was "perfectly insolvent that he had no practice as a physician and was by his intemperate habits incapable" of affording "any comfort or protection to your petitioner but on the contrary [was] a constant source of ... heart rending mortification and regret." The petitioner reveals that she has left her husband but understands "from respectable and undoubted sources that he is still pursuing the same intemperate and dissipated course which he did when she was living with him and associates with the most degraded low and immoral company such as free negroes mulattoes and the very dregs of society." Avowing that she "was most fraudulently shamefully ... imposed upon by the base false and dishonest representations of the said John Cobb," the petitioner prays that she may be granted a divorce “by an act of the General Assembly.”

PAR Number 11384706

State: South Carolina Year: 1847
Location: Barnwell Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Marmaduke Jones requests a divorce or annulment of his marriage to Ann Ross Jones on the grounds that she gave birth to a "mulatto" child. Marmaduke maintains that the couple married on 13 January 1847 and that on 24 August 1847 his wife "was brought to bed, and then and there delivered of a mulatto child." The petitioner, "well knowing (under the circumstances above set forth) that it is impossible for [him] to live with the said Ann, as husband and wife," therefore prays that he "may be released from the said Ann and that [he] and the said Ann may stand in the same relation to Each other, as though they never had been married."

PAR Number 11481926

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

Abstract: Norfleet Perry of Davidson County seeks a divorce from his wife, Rachael, because she was "delivered of a mulatto child." Producing "affidavits of several most respectable persons acquainted with the fact of marriage," Perry prays "your Honorable body to interpose your power in his behalf by dissolving the bonds of matrimony between your petitioner, and the said Rachael Perry." The petitioner "is advised" that the circuit courts do not have the authority to decree divorces.

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."

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