Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20183702

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

Abstract: The children and widow of William Bryant, deceased, seek to be recognized as heirs. They state that in 1818, Bryant left his wife, Rodicy, in Jasper County, Georgia, and moved to Alabama, where he lived the remainder of his life. Bryant owned considerable property when he died, including more than twenty slaves valued at twenty thousand dollars. After Bryant's death, his son, Needham Bryant, moved to Alabama to administer the estate, hiring John H. Peters, to obtain the letters of administration. Peters, however, put the letters in his own name and proceeded to manage the estate. When Peters advertised fifteen slaves and other property for sale, the heirs protested. Peters argued that he had recently found a will which directed him to sell the property and to give one hundred dollars to a "negro woman Sally & the same amount to several other negroes." In addition, this will stipulated that Bryant's land in Georgia be divided among his children, excluding Needham Bryant, William Bryant Jr. and Bryant's widow from any inheritance. The heirs challenge the validity of the will and ask the court to recognize their claim to Bryant's estate. They also challenge Peters's right to administer the estate. In response, Peters asserts that the complainants "Needham William Nancy Elizabeth Lurany and General J. Bryant are not free white persons capable of being citizens of this state that they are persons of color, commingled with the negro race and wholly incapable of inheriting the property and estate of said William dec. who was a free white man," and that they are not "the next of kin of William." However, it is not on this ground that Peter challenges the right of the Bryant family to inheritance in the remainder of his lengthy answer to the charges.

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 20183705

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

Abstract: In a prior petition, William Minter charged that George Bowie, former guardian of Sarah R. and George J. Bowie, retained slaves belonging to the wards and refused to return them or pay for their hire. Minter, the present guardian, now states that the bond with which Bowie secured his guardianship was destroyed when the Monroe County Courthouse was consumed by fire in 1833. The petitioner asserts that Bowie, who still retains the slaves, "might easely remove said property from the jurisdiction" of the court. He seeks an order directing Bowie to secure the slaves with a sufficient bond while the court renders its decision.

PAR Number 20183801

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

Abstract: Petitioner John Lyon seeks the return of a slave family—a woman named Patsey and her three children, Robin or Robert, Isbel or Clary, and Louisa or Eliza—that has been assigned to the defendants, Harvey W. Pitts and John Cottingham, for sale in order to pay his mounting debts. In order to pay the debts, Lyon assigned the slaves along with two tracts of land, livestock, and notes for amounts owed to him. Lyons charges that proceeds from the sale of the land and livestock with the amount to be collected from the notes were more than sufficient to pay the debt. However, the petitioner claims that Pitts and Cottingham have neglected to collect payment from the notes and "retain the possession of said negroes and are offereing the same for sale pretending that they have not collected a sufficient amount to discharge their trust." The petitioner assesses the value of the slave mother and her three children to be $2000. Lyon seeks "a full and perfect account and inventory of all the property, notes and accounts;" the return of the slaves if a sufficient amount "has been collected to satisfy said trust;" and a court order prohibiting sale or removal of the slaves.

PAR Number 20183804

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

Abstract: John N. Smith seeks to settle a title dispute involving four slaves purchased by him in 1836 from Thomas W. Pastell. The petitioner, "not having any reason to suspect a fraudulent intent" purchased the slaves for $4800. Shortly after the sale, Smith discovered that the slaves belonged to Charles Williams in trust for a Mrs. Mary W. Pastell and her children. Smith refuses to pay the balance of the debt for the slaves until he receives legal title. He charges that Thomas Pastell and Mary Pastell gave him an invalid deed in order to obtain payment. Now Mary Pastell has initiated a suit against Smith to force payment of the debt. Smith seeks an injunction preventing her from further prosecuting her suit. In addition, he asks the court to nullify the debt until he receives a lawful title to the slaves.

PAR Number 20183812

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

Abstract: Jesse Carr, through his guardian and next friend David A. Monaghan, asks the court to make William Willborne return six slaves and their children, purchased from him at a price less than half their true value. Monaghan claims that Willborne took advantage of Carr because of his mental incompetence. Monaghan states that his charge is "a man of extremely weak & Unsound mind" declared by a court to be an "idiot or non compos mentis." The petitioners further request "an account be taken of the hire & said defendant compelled to pay the same to said guardian for use & benefit of your Orator."

PAR Number 20183905

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

Abstract: Michael Wright asks the court not to execute a previous judgment against him in the matter of payment for slaves he purchased from Ezekiel Salmon and Zera Davis. Wright says that in 1837, he paid the two men three thousand dollars for four slaves: "a negro boy slave named Dave, a negro boy slave named Jack and a negro woman slave Mariah and her child." Wright says Salmon and Davis "falsely and fraudulently represented to your orator that the said negroes ... were sound in body and in mind and entirely free & exempt from any disease or ailment whatever," and states that Mariah and Dave "are and were at the time of said sale diseased and wholly worthless and of no value." Wright refused to pay the remaining balance, and the defendants successfully sued him. The petitioner pleads that his lawyer was negligent in his defense and seeks an injunction preventing Salmon and Davis from carrying out the judgment, believing "that in equity and conscience they ought not to have or demand to have from your orator anything more than the said fifteen hundred dollars already paid ... the said sum being of the full value of the said negroes in their diseased condition."

PAR Number 20184104

State: Alabama Year: 1841
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: Joshua Cain seeks to protect his interest in the slave Sally and her children whom he purchased from John Stubblefield, his son-in-law, on 18 April 1839. Cain states that at the time of the purchase, he left the slaves in Stubblefield's possession to take care of his daughter, who was in ill health. After her death, Cain took possession of the slaves and has had them ever since. In May of 1840 Stubblefield's father petitioned the circuit court for the recovery of the slaves -- based on his claim to a life estate in the slaves -- and a jury rendered a verdict against Cain, assessing him "an aggregate of two thousand dollars and one cent damages for the detention of the same [slaves]." The value includes not only Sally and her two daughters whom Cain purchased from William Stubblefield in 1839, but also another child of Sally, whose named is now known, valued at $250. Cain asks that his interest in the slaves be affirmed and that Stubblefield be restrained from taking possession of the slaves.

PAR Number 20184210

State: Alabama Year: 1842
Location: Barbour Location Type: County

Abstract: Mark Jackson petitions to foreclose on a mortgage extended by him to Samuel Gamble. Jackson claims the mortgage deed granted unto him, his heirs and assignees certain slaves "to have & to hold" unless Gamble paid him $1603, the amount of a promissory note on its due date. Jackson testifies that Gamble "has not well and truly paid" the debt and asks the court to order him to pay "what is now due on the said mortgage deed together with your Orator's costs of suit ... and in default of such payment ... that the said Samuel D. Gamble ... be barred and foreclosed of and from all right and equity of redemption in said mortgaged property." In addition, Jackson requests that the mortgaged slave property be sold for the payment of what may appear to be "due to your Orator on said promissory note and mortgage deed."

PAR Number 20184308

State: Alabama Year: 1843
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: Nathaniel Waldrip, grandson of George Grizzle, is petitioning for his share of slaves left by Grizzle in trust to his son-in-law Hillen Waldrip for the use and benefit of three grandchildren. The slaves included John, age eighteen, Matilda, age twenty or twenty-one, Osbourn, about two, and Leer, a girl about twenty months, as well as the future increase of the females. When the grandchildren reached twenty-one they were each to receive a share of the property. Grizzle also gave his granddaughter Sarah Ann a slave named Catherine, age fifteen, in the same trust. Following the deaths of Grizzle, of his daughter Sophia, wife of Hillen Waldrip, and of his granddaughter Sarah Ann, Hillen Waldrip sold Osbourn for $575, swapped Matilda and her two children for a slave named William plus two hundred dollars, and sold Leer for seven hundred dollars. In 1843, Nathaniel reached age twenty-one, and demanded his share of the property. Hillen refused and Nathaniel is suing for a division of the remaining slaves: John, Catherine and her three children Viney, Martha and Hillen, Matilda's children Jefferson and Elizabeth, and William.

PAR Number 20184401

State: Alabama Year: 1844
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Ellen Dailey is the administratrix of the estate of her husband, Michael Dailey. She states that Michael and William Clair were the joint owners of seven slaves worth $5000, and that after Michael's death, Clair sold all the slaves to Abram Wolf who "took possession of the same and ever since has received the entire profits of their labor to himself and has rendered no account thereof to your oratrix." The petitioner asks that Wolf pay her one half of the value of the services of the slaves, and that he return to her the slaves to which she is entitled. She notes that "if a division cannot be had without injury that then said slaves be sold and one half of the sum produced by the sale be decreed to your oratrix."

PAR Number 20184502

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1842, Henry J. King, conveyed to Damaris Barnes, and her four children, nineteen slaves to hold "share & share alike, the said Negroes and their increase forever." Damaris gave King two notes for $1,250 each, payable twelve months and two years afterwards, and took possession of the slaves. Later, Damaris married Elza Bland, who "assumed the Control and direction of most of said slaves, and evinced a disposition to possess, manage and use" them for his own benefit. In 1845, the two eldest children, Lucretia and William, ages eighteen and sixteen, left home because of their stepfather's abuse, and now live with their guardian, John S. Barnes, who, along with the other children, has now filed suit seeking compensation of four-fifths of the value of the services of the slaves. They are "family Negroes," Barnes says, and the children feel an "unusual family attachment for them." The plaintiffs ask that the sheriff "take possession of said slaves" and retain them in "safe Custody" until a decree can be issued.

PAR Number 20184516

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1842, Louisa S. Owen borrowed $28,172 from the Branch of the Bank of the State of Alabama, using as collateral twenty-eight slaves, mostly children. Louisa defaulted, so the bank is foreclosing on the loan, naming as defendants Louisa Owen, as administratrix of the estate of George W. Owen, deceased, Alexander Hollinger, Adam C. Hollinger, the Planters and Merchants Bank of Mobile, and the Presidents and Directors of the Bank of Mobile.

PAR Number 20184522

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1845, "without any sufficient cause or provocation," Elizabeth Frances Stacy explains, her husband William Stacy whipped her with a cowhide "in a cruel barbarous and inhuman manner." Six months later, he abandoned her to live with a twenty-five-year-old black woman named Charlotte, one of the slaves Elizabeth claims to have brought to their marriage. Elizabeth asserts that she owned Charlotte and her two children at the time of her marriage to William Stacy, as well as another female slave named Diana, all of which slaves and their increase are now being held by William. She charges that all the slaves have been "seduced" away by her husband, who purchased a house and lot in Montgomery with her money. Elizabeth asks that the property which her husband acquired "by virtue of his marriage" be returned. She also seeks custody and support for her children, alimony, and a divorce. In his related answer, William Stacy contends that Charlotte and her children did not come to him by marriage, but that he purchased them. Only Diana came to him by marriage from Elizabeth's father, together with another slave named Nancy and her two children. Nancy has since been sold with one of her children; the other has died.

PAR Number 20184607

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Lawrence Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1822, Charles Ewing of Madison County, Alabama, died intestate. Before his death, he gave a slave named Lucy to his son Charles and he gave Lucy's son named Jack to his daughter Sally, as advancement on their inheritance. Charles Ewing had ten children, two sons and several unmarried daughters at the time of his death. After their father's death, his two sons, Joseph and Charles, took in their single sisters, Grizzy, Ann, Jane, and Sally, boarded, lodged, supported, clothed, and schooled them until they were married. In 1827 Charles sold Lucy and her younger child named Willis to the petitioner, John M. McGaughey. Three years later Charles Ewing also sold Jack, whom he had purchased from his sister Sally, to McGaughey. These transactions, McGaughey asserts, were transparent to the other children of Charles Ewing Sr., who for the most part lived in the same neighborhood and never objected over the many years. Somewhat recently, however, a suit has been filed on behalf of the various children and grandchildren of the late Ewing Sr., in order to recover the slaves and their hires. In his suit, McGaughey seeks an injunction to halt the "said suit at law now pending in the circuit Court of Lawrence County," and a decree validating his title to the slaves, who include Jack and his three siblings, Willis, Jane, and Sally. Lucy is now dead.

PAR Number 20184633

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Lawrence Location Type: County

Abstract: John M. McGaughey amends his original suit to confirm his title to slaves he bought from Charles Ewing Jr., one of the heirs of the late Charles Ewing Sr. In his amended suit, McGaughey argues that he purchased the slaves when Charles Ewing Jr. was perfectly solvent, and presents the bills of sale as exhibits. He again seeks an injunction to halt the said suit pending against him and requests a decree validating his title to the slaves. The related original bill reveals that three of the slaves, Lucy and her sons, Jack and Willis, had belonged to the late Charles Ewing Sr. During his lifetime, Charles Ewing the elder had given Lucy and Willis to Charles Jr. and Jack to another of his children. Charles Ewing Jr. had purchased Jack from his sibling before selling all three slaves to McCaughey.

PAR Number 20184808

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1839, Elizabeth Hassell of Hickman County, Tennessee, married Alexander C. Hamilton, who had many debts and no property. Elizabeth's father, Joseph Hassell, gave the bride 220 acres of land, and loaned the couple a family of slaves consisting of Sophia and her seven children. Before long, Hamilton had sold the land and one of the slaves. Joseph Hassell sued to recover his other slaves, but Hamilton refused to turn them over. Then in 1843, the two men reached a court sanctioned agreement, whereby Hassell gave the couple a life estate in the slaves, on the condition that the slaves not be subject to Alexander's debts and not be taken out of the state of Tennessee. The agreement also stipulated that, in case Elizabeth died without children, the life estate would be split between James Hassell and Alexander Hamilton. Later Elizabeth and Alexander sold Alexander's interest in the life estate to James, but later Alexander purchased the slaves back, a transaction attested by two bills of sale. Alexander later sold two more slaves. Elizabeth charges that Alexander then began to treat her "with great Cruelty & barbarity." Once, she said, he nearly choked her to death; he was also guilty of adultery. And one night in 1848, Alexander stole away, taking five of the slaves to Dallas County. Elizabeth seeks an attachment on the slaves, and a subpoena requiring her husband to answer charges. Related testimony reveals that Alexander was in the habit of frequenting houses of ill repute and even applied to a physician for medicine to treat a venereal disease. This case was filed in both Tennessee and Alabama, the latter being the state where James had taken the slaves; it went up all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court. Alexander and Elizabeth where divorced. In 1850, Elizabeth was awarded the slaves who had not been sold by Alexander; the slaves were delivered to her in 1852.

PAR Number 20184916

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: On the day of her marriage to James Maull in Colleton District, South Carolina, in 1804, Mary Givhan Maull signed an agreement with her husband that she would "become a free dealer and separate trader." She could carry on trades and business ventures "as she should think proper" free from her husband's. At the time her new husband was poor, in fact insolvent, and unable to provide for a family. After the marriage, Mary opened a "house of entertainment in her own name and on her own account, separately and solely, bought provisions and made contracts in her own name with the assent of her husband." Her business prospered and she purchased slaves. In 1806, her father died, leaving her a separate estate of slaves. After moving with her husband to Alabama in 1820, Mary continued to purchase slaves "in her own name and her said husband never desired but always admitted her sole right to the sale of the same." In 1845, when her husband died, Mary Maull estimated her contribution to their total estate was about $25,000; by 1848, she possessed a total of about seventy slaves, consisting of slaves inherited and purchases, and the children born thereafter. After her husband's death, however, the executor of her husband's estate, Thomas M. Williams, urged on by some of Mary's children, brought suit to recover slaves in her possession. She was therefore forced to plead her case in the chancery court. The object of her countersuit, she said, was to prove her absolute right to the slaves.

PAR Number 20185006

State: Alabama Year: 1850
Location: Coosa Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1843, Milley David married Henry P. David in Autauga County, Alabama. The bride owned twenty-two slaves, eight mules, a stock of cattle, hogs, a piano, household goods, and about six hundred acres of land. She estimated the value of her property at $20,000. Henry David, a recent migrant from Georgia, owned two slaves and a small amount of land. In 1844, the couple moved to Coosa County. It was then, Milley contends, that her husband began to abuse her. He whipped her with a cowhide, inflicting ten lashes; "the blows were so severe," she said, "as to cut the skin." On another occasion, he put her head between his legs, "striped up the clothes," and "inflicted about a dozen lashes upon the bare person of your Oratrix with a whip which was commonly Called a negroe whip." In August 1847, Milley abandoned their farmhouse. She now asks for a divorce, and that all property acquired by her husband through his marriage to her and acquired "since the said marriage by & with the profits or proceeds of the property the said Defendant acquired by his said Marriage, be vested in your Oratrix to her sole and separate use free from the control, management, debts & liabilities of said Defendant." Henry P. David denied that he whipped or struck his wife, claimed she drank to excess, and when drinking was "of a very high and bad temper." His defense was eventually successful. In 1855, Milley's divorce suit was dismissed by the Alabama Supreme Court.

PAR Number 20185013

State: Alabama Year: 1850
Location: Macon Location Type: County

Abstract: W. C. McIver, administrator of the estate of the late W. W. McLester, claims that it is necessary to sell the slaves in McLester's estate in order to pay debts, and that such a sale is "manifestly for the interest and advantage of the heirs."

PAR Number 20185105

State: Alabama Year: 1851
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1841, William H. Jemison purchased five slaves--a Negro man named David, a girl named Judy, a boy named Isaac, Jenny and Rachel--for nineteen hundred and fifty dollars from Claiborne Griffin, who signed a warranty guaranteeing their titles. A year or so later, Griffin died, leaving his property as a life estate to his wife Sarah, who also died leaving the estate to Archibald, James, and Daniel Griffin. When, in 1851, a group of claimants argued that the slaves were actually part of the legacy of a Georgia widow and should be turned over to them, Jemison sought the assistance of Claiborne Griffin's heirs to verify his warranty. They not only refused, but secretly transported their own slaves to Mississippi so that no claims could be made against them. Jemison institutes a suit to obtain "security & indemnity" on Claiborne's warranty on the titles of the slaves.

PAR Number 20185215

State: Alabama Year: 1852
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: In his 1837 will, South Carolina slave owner John Graham bequeathed a slave family--Simon, Minda and their four children, Eliza, Jim, Sally, and Hannah--to his son Samuel N. Graham during his lifetime and then to his grandchildren, including any "increase of the negroes." Graham died in 1837, and a few years later Samuel moved with the slaves to Alabama where Minda had several more children. The son sold Simon and Minda along with two of Minda's children born after the bequest to George Shackelford of Montgomery County. After the sale, Minda had three more children. Shackelford died in 1851 and the slaves, now worth about three thousand dollars, were to be distributed to his legatees. The grandchildren of John Graham sue, claiming title to the slaves and declaring that Samuel Graham did not have the right to sell them under the terms of John Graham's will.

PAR Number 20185308

State: Alabama Year: 1853
Location: Autauga Location Type: County

Abstract: In the mid-1840s, Eliza, a slaveholding widow, married Barnabas Strickland, a migrant from Georgia, described as charming, intelligent, "a man of Specious manners & respectable appearance & a Minister of the Gospel." The couple signed a prenuptial agreement giving Eliza control over her land and slaves. She soon discovered that Barnabas was not only heavily in debt (although he owned a slave woman and her children), but was inept in managing the plantation. She invited her son-in-law, George C. Burns, to come and help her but he left after conflicts with Strickland. Sometime around the year 1848, Barnabas agreed to turn over her slaves to his wife in payment for money owed her; the slaves were nevertheless taken from her possession. Shortly thereafter, Barnabas arranged to purchase slaves in his wife's name, but later sought to make this property his own. Eliza "resisted," and asked her son, William Boswell, to come and take over the plantation. The husband said he would "deliver up control" only if his wife turned the title of her slaves over to him. Fearing he might cause trouble and embarrassment, and after consulting with a lawyer, she agreed. He then mortgaged the slaves, took the cash, and fled from the county. At midnight, on New Year's Eve 1852, creditors sneaked on to her plantation, rounded up the slaves, and took them away. She filed suit against the creditors as well as her husband but the sheriff reported that they were "not found in my County."

PAR Number 20185317

State: Alabama Year: 1853
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1841, Tennessee slave owner James Pitman, of Roane County, gave his grandchildren, William and Sarah Lamira Pitman, two slaves: Lyshia, about twenty-five, and her small child Patsey. The slave Lyshia has since the gift given birth to three more children: Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Cromwell, and Governor Daniel, "all of whom are boys and very young." William and Sarah Pitman live in Alabama, and both their father and mother are dead. Sarah has now come of age and William, still a minor, must be educated. The petitioner, who is William's guardian represents that funds are needed for William's education and there is no other property to be used for that purpose. He therefore seeks permission of the court to sell the slaves.

PAR Number 20185318

State: Alabama Year: 1853
Location: Lauderdale Location Type: County

Abstract: The administrator of the estate of Isaac F. Crow, who died intestate, asks to sell seven slaves to pay the estate's debts. The slaves include: Mary, age forty-five; Sam, age twenty-eight; Easter, age seventeen, and her two children; Rose, age fifteen; and John, age twelve.

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