Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20185616

State: Alabama Year: 1856
Location: Randolph Location Type: County

Abstract: During the early 1850s, Ruth Williams, fearful of a twelve or fourteen-year-old male slave named Pickens, whom she had received by division of property given by her mother to her two daughters, asked her husband William Williams to sell or trade the slave and acquire a black woman in the boy's stead. William Williams did so, and in 1852 purchased Nancy, fifty or sixty years of age, with his wife's money, but he also signed an "individual note for a part of the purchase money, which arrangement she states she knew nothing about at the time, nor until long afterwards." Now Ruth Williams, who claims to be illiterate, sues through her next friend William A. B. Falkner, asking the court to prevent her husband's creditors from seizing Nancy, arguing that she could not read the original bill of sale and that she trusted her husband who said he had bought the woman in her behalf.

PAR Number 20185713

State: Alabama Year: 1857
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: Nathan Anderson, administrator of the estate of Hamlin Saunders, deceased, seeks permission to sell three slaves for the payment of debts. A related document reveals that during the year 1857, Anderson sold a total of six slaves from the estate of the late Saunders. On 17 January 1857, a man paid $1,100 cash for one of the slaves, John, who was "Sold out of Jail."

PAR Number 20185726

State: Alabama Year: 1857
Location: Perry Location Type: County

Abstract: During the 1840s, Lewis Abbott made it clear, both verbally and in two wills (neither of which could be found following his death), that he wished to give his second youngest daughter Susan (one of fifteen children) two slaves, Martha and Mandy. The slaves' mother, Lizzy, had nursed Susan following the death of her own mother, and the girls had been Susan's playmates during her youth. According to Susan, a strong mutual attachment had developed between the two slave girls and herself. In 1849, a year after Abbott's death, Green B. Sanders, Susan's brother-in-law and her guardian, purchased Martha and Mandy, ages nine and eleven, from the estate for $390 and $400, respectively. Susan Belcher contends that it was understood by all in her family, at that time, that the purchase was made on her behalf and with her money. Green Sanders, however, has so far refused and still refuses to recognize Susan's ownership of the slaves, or to pay the value of their hires since he has held them in his possession. Susan, now eighteen and married to John Belcher, sues Sanders to obtain Martha and Mandy as well as Mandy's daughter Ellen.

PAR Number 20185839

State: Alabama Year: 1858
Location: Henry Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1822, John Smith of Sumter District, South Carolina, bequeathed his daughter Tabitha the slave Siney to hold during her life and "immediately after her decease, the value of the Said Slave to be Equally divided among the Children of said Tabitha, the issue of her body lawfully begotten forever, Subject to a proviso by which the Shares of his wife and children Should be Equalized." Following her first husband's death, Tabitha married Levin Wright, who became trustee over Siney; the couple then moved to Henry County, Alabama. When Wright died in 1854, Tabitha's trust estate included six slaves, including Siney and her five children, Peggy about thirty-two, Tom about twenty-one years, Jake about sixteen, Maria about eight, and John about five. With Tabitha's permission, Wright's son, Levin A. Wright (the deceased had a number of children from two marriages), sold the slaves for distribution among various heirs, promising shares to John Reynolds of Henry County, Alabama, and Sarah Peobles, of Polk County, Texas, Tabitha's children by her first marriage. Neither Reynolds nor Peobles received their share, however. Now, fearing that Levin A. Wright and others "are preparing & intend to leave the jurisdiction of this Court & carry with them" the profits from the sale of the slaves, they file suit.

PAR Number 20185908

State: Alabama Year: 1859
Location: Lauderdale Location Type: County

Abstract: S. A. M. Wood, administrator of the estate of Augustin Leftwich, deceased, asks to sell an infant, aged two years and four months, whose mother has died. "He further represents that there is no property save the negro child mentioned above" to pay the estate's debts.

PAR Number 20185926

State: Alabama Year: 1859
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Isabella A. Kelly, married since 1839, claims that in the mid-1840s she discovered that her husband, physician Edwin H. Kelly, was having "constant and undisguised" sex with a slave he owned named Matilda. She contends that Matilda gave birth to two of his children. Isabella left Edwin on several occasions, but always came back when the doctor promised to reform his character. Following their first separation, she began acquiring "separate property," with her husband acting as her agent and trustee. She bought and sold slaves, hired them out, and purchased real estate. With the profits of her various transactions, she purchased a rental house, putting up cash and two as down payment. All the while, she claims, her husband treated her unkindly, forced her to live in uncomfortable circumstances in the hospital where he practiced medicine, and took the profits from her property. In 1859, she finally separated and files a bill of complaint, charging that her husband has taken control of her property. Through a "next friend," she asks the court to remove him from "the trusteeship, management & control of her separate property," and also prays for "proper alimony." In his lengthy answer to the charges, Edwin Kelly gives a very different picture of the marriage, describing his wife as a woman constantly dissatisfied and jealous of every female in their entourage. He accuses her of cruelty toward a slave, stealing his money and trying to defraud him. He denies the charges of adultery and countercharges that his wife has denied him marital right for many years.

PAR Number 20185927

State: Alabama Year: 1859
Location: Lauderdale Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1837, Ailsey Abrams received a life estate of a number of slaves. She was to use the slaves during her life and then they would revert to her children. In 1859, she relinquishes her claim to the slaves and their offspring, "so far as her life estate therein is concerned," and asks to dispose of fourteen slaves. It is only through a sale, she argues, that her estate can be equitably "partitioned and divided" among her children. The slaves include four women in their twenties, a teenage boy, and nine children under eleven.

PAR Number 20186023

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1848, Stephen S. Gray executed a bill of sale with Thomas W. Russell, "a kinsman, by marriage," for three slaves: John, age fourteen; Lewis, about ten; and Adaline, a girl about twelve. The bill of sale stipulated that Russell would pay off a nine-hundred-dollar debt for Gray and in return Russell would have the services of the two boys until the money was repaid. Russell took possession of the two boys, but Adaline was returned within a few days. It was not until 1858 that Gray saved enough to redeem the two boys. Russell, however, "shook his head & refused to receive [the payment]." When John and Lewis "came home," Russell filed suit. Gray now seeks an injunction "enjoining the further prosecution of the said action at law" until a final decree in the case can be rendered.

PAR Number 20186025

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: Nelson J. Moorer, guardian of John L. F. Crum, a minor, asks permission to sell his ward's two slaves: Levi about fourteen and Mary about eight or nine. He seeks to "put the proceeds out at interest, or invest the same in bonds, notes, or bill of Exchange with Mortgage security, or other property." Slaves were bringing high prices, Moorer argues, and the slaves would realize "in money a more productive Capital, than the slaves are now, and that the accumulated interest added to the original Capital" would greatly exceed "the amount of hire." A related petition reveals that John Crum inherited the two slave children from Civility R. L. Crum.

PAR Number 20186031

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1834, Person Davis gave his recently married son, Ransom Davis, three slave children, two boys and a girl. He also let his son have two older slaves on loan until such time when he would give him two other slaves. Following Ransom's premature death in 1835, Person Davis made an agreement with his widowed daughter-in-law, whereby he would hold the three young slaves until they were old enough to be hired out; then when Ransom's daughter, Maria, reached twenty-one he would "account to her for them & [their] hire" as her distributive share of her father's estate. Person Davis never settled the estate and when he died, in 1856, the slaves constituted a sizeable property, the female slave, Margaret, having given birth to several children. In 1860, at the time Maria Davis, now married to Benjamin Reisor, sues the numerous heirs of her grandfather's estate, the slaves who have increased to eleven are valued at nearly nine thousand dollars. She seeks possession of the slaves as well as compensation equal to their past hire.

PAR Number 20186305

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: James A. Sellers, the administrator of the estate of Dennis Allen, deceased, asks to sell the property of said estate "for the purpose of making a distribution among the heirs at law." He further states that "the slaves being of a perishable nature he prays for an order of sale to sell on short notice."

PAR Number 20186306

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Pike Location Type: County

Abstract: William Barron, administrator of the estate of Charles Barron, deceased, asks to sell slaves and other property belonging to the estate and distribute the proceeds among heirs. Charles died intestate possessing land and four slaves: forty-five-year-old Violet; fifteen-year-old Mack; seven-year-old Henry; and five-year-old Lewis. Barron submits an administrator's report that cites the price for which each slave sold.

PAR Number 20186323

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert B. Colvin, administrator of the estate of William J. Colvin, deceased, requests to sell two slaves: seven-year-old Henry and nine-year-old Mary. Colvin informs the court that said slaves are all that remains of the estate's personal property, “which is subject to distribution." Noting that "said negroes cannot be equitably divided between those entitled," the petitioner prays that "an order may be duly granted and entered in the premises, authorizing a sale of said property."

PAR Number 20282801

State: Arkansas Year: 1828
Location: Crawford Location Type: County

Abstract: Israel Dodge writes that in 1826 he purchased a slave girl named Darius for $400 from Mitchell Malone, acting overseer of Alexander Mitchell. He paid $109.50 up front and executed a note to Malone for the outstanding balance. Dodge claims that, since the purchase, he has discovered that the slave is diseased and unable to work. He "expressly charges that both Mitchell & Malone both well knew of the aforesaid defects in mind & body of said Negro at the time of the sale ... & at the time said false & fraudulent representations." Dodge therefore asks the court to declare the sale void and return his money.

PAR Number 20284605

State: Arkansas Year: 1846
Location: Hot Spring Location Type: County

Abstract: William Pond Sr. is being sued by his children and son-in-law. The petitioners contend that their father improperly sold slaves that had been placed in trust for their benefit and that of their mother, Mary Pond, during her lifetime. They inform the court that and 1833 deed of trust stipulated that the children would have no claim to ownership of the slaves unless their mother remarried, if left a widow, or died before they did. In the occurrence of either event, the slaves would be divided among the children. The petitioners inform the court that their mother died in 1839, after which their father moved the family from South Carolina to Arkansas, keeping the slaves in his possession, with the exception of one young slave who was left with the trustee. In 1844, however, Pond, who is described by his children as a man of dissipated and reckless habits, sold four of the slaves to one William Barkman, who promptly sold them out of state. The petitioners contend that their father had no right to sell the slaves and that Marskman, the buyer of the slaves, knew the conditions of the trust and sold the slaves secretly in order to deprive the heirs of their rightful property. They ask the court to call upon William Pond Sr. and William Barkman to account for the slaves and profits resulting from their sale.

PAR Number 20284701

State: Arkansas Year: 1847
Location: Pulaski Location Type: County

Abstract: Ebenezer Cummins asks the court to declare "illegal, nul & void" the sale of two slaves from the estate of William Cummins to satisfy debts owed to the firm of Adamson, Carter & Higgins, represented by John Adamson, Robert Carter, Jesse F. Higgins and William Prather. In a suit filed in Pulaski County, Adamson and others won a ruling of $382.87 from the estate, and the slaves were levied and two of them, the children of a female slave named Violet, sold. Bidding for the other four slaves came in below two-thirds of their value and therefore were not sold. Ebenezer Cummins, the estate administrator, objected, testifying that the estate had other creditors with equal, legitimate claims. He filed a petition to quash the ruling, which was appealed by Adamson. Now Ebenezer Cummins asks that the court settle the matter so that all creditors will have a fair share of the estate.

PAR Number 20284804

State: Arkansas Year: 1848
Location: Chicot Location Type: County

Abstract: At issue is a dispute over the estate of the late Duncan G. Campbell, formerly of Mississippi and, shortly before his death, of Arkansas. When Campbell died in 1845, his will named his brother Samuel as executor of his last will and testament, and stipulated that his estate, including at least eight slaves, be divided equally among Samuel and his sisters Jane Biggerstaff, Mary Campbell, and Flora Ann Campbell. The will also directed that the "yellow" slave Viney, whom, it is revealed in related documents, Campbell had repeatedly claimed as his daughter, be emancipated when she turned fifteen and given an inheritance of $5,000. The petitioners seek to annul both the bequest and the emancipation clauses of the will. Related documents reveal that, in 1848, a lower court ruled that Samuel Campbell had mismanaged the estate and that he had sold Viney to buyers in Missouri. A guardian ad litem was appointed to retrieve and represent Viney, and Cornelius Campbell, another brother, was named the estate's administrator.

PAR Number 20285407

State: Arkansas Year: 1854
Location: Arkansas Location Type: County

Abstract: In October 1819, Leah Machen received as a gift from her mother, Nancy Renwick of Newberry, South Carolina, a slave woman named Sarah and her two children. The slaves were given to Leah Machen, via a deed of trust, in the form of a life estate. Nancy Renwick's intent in establishing the trust was to "create and secure" for Leah and her children, "a separate property" that would remain "free from the control of" Leah's husband. Leah and John Machen later moved to Georgia, taking the slaves with them. There, Sarah gave birth to another child, Celia. Later, the Machens moved to Alabama. There, in 1843, the Machens claim, Celia was taken from their possession by one Isaac Payne, who sold her to one Henry J. Thompson. The Machens assert that both Payne and Thomspson knew that Celia belonged to Leah Machen's life estate, and were well aware that they could not have any legal claim to her. They assert that they have recently been informed of Celia's whereabouts and sue to recover possession of her and her children from Thompson. Leah Machen asserts that "the said Girl Celia is a family Negro and greatly endeared and attached to the family," and "your complainant is greatly attached to Celia and prizes her above money and that no amount of money would compensate your complainant for the loss of her." Nevertheless, she seeks to be compensated for the value of Celia's hires since 1843. In his answer, Henry Thompson denies having any knowledge of the Machens or the circumstances surrounding the deed of gift of Nancy Renwick to her daughter. He claims that Celia "was openly and publicly offered for sale by one I. B. Payne" in the slave mart at Memphis and that he and his partner, Dr. Lewis Shanks, purchased her for $412.50.

PAR Number 20285502

State: Arkansas Year: 1855
Location: Pulaski Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph O. Ashley, guardian of the six minor heirs of James B. Gladish, desires to sell three slave children, all under the age of thirteen, because "the only means he has of paying said indebtedness is by sale of said negro slaves." He asks that "he may be directed to sell said slaves at Public or Private sale as to your Honors shall seem meet."

PAR Number 20285504

State: Arkansas Year: 1855
Location: Phillips Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry C. Bonner is the administrator of the estate of John H. Rives, who died intestate in 1850. In December of 1852, "by direction of your Honorable Court," Bonner sold Isaac, a child slave in the estate, to one Charles Bonner in order to pay some of the debts of the estate. As the order was never recorded, Henry Bonner asks that the court "will make an order confirming the sale of the said negro child Isaac."

PAR Number 20285606

State: Arkansas Year: 1856
Location: Pulaski Location Type: County

Abstract: William Drake, guardian of Richard C. Byrd, a minor, seeks permission to sell a "small Negro Girl named Matilda" to pay for Byrd's education.

PAR Number 20379602

State: Delaware Year: 1796
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Alexander Reynolds seeks permission to sell the slave girl Rachel, age about twelve, to Jacob M. Dill, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, agreeable to the laws of that state.

PAR Number 20381006

State: Delaware Year: 1810
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Hadden Smith asks permission to export and sell term slaves Rose and Daniel in Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, or Georgia. Rose is in jail for attempting to burn down his house, Smith explains, and is suspected of murdering his infant son. Daniel is in jail for conspiring with Rose to commit arson. Smith argues that "his own safety and the Public good requires, that an example should be made of these slaves to terrify others from the commission of such crimes and misdemeanours."

PAR Number 20381202

State: Delaware Year: 1812
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Reading "wishes to dispose of a Coloured Boy, the property of your petitioner, named Harry Ruly; aged ten years, as will more fully appear by his manumission." Reading believes that the child "can be disposed of, in the State of Pennsylvania with more advantage to the Boy, and more convenience to your petitioner."

PAR Number 20381704

State: Delaware Year: 1817
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: William Frazer seeks to transport his twelve-year-old term slave Rebecca and his ten-year-old term slave Isaac Simmons to Pennsylvania. Frazer informs the court that, "by virtue of certain deeds of manumission duly executed" by Eleazer David, the said slaves will be free when they each attain twenty-age years of age. Frazer asks to be granted a license to remove the said slaves from Delaware so they may serve their respective terms of servitude in Pennsylvania.

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