Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20783701

State: Kentucky Year: 1837
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Ambrose Mann sues a steamboat company for $1,500, the amount he lost when his mulatto slave Lemuel escaped to Canada. Mann had hired Lemuel out to work aboard the steamboat Paul Jones. Mann claims that Lemuel had been a "faithful & excellent & capable servant until he was seduced by the hope of freedom."

PAR Number 20783711

State: Kentucky Year: 1837
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel, once the slave of the late Samuel Wilkinson, was left to Wilkinson's son John. Samuel explains that he was hired out by John for 12 years when, "in consideration of yr orators past services & hire," John agreed to let Samuel hire himself out and raise $450 to buy his freedom. He received his freedom in January 1836, and he went to Indiana to work. While he was there, John died intestate. John's administrator, James Roberts, is now claiming Samuel as part of John's estate. Samuel asks that Roberts be restrained from holding him in service and that he be declared a free man.

PAR Number 20783802

State: Kentucky Year: 1838
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Dicy states that she is "old not able to do hard labor" and that her master Michael McMann agreed to set her free if she paid him $120. She did so and in the summer of 1836 he executed a deed of manumission. The deed was never properly recorded, however, and on 17 February 1838, McMann had her taken into custody by an auctioneer and offered for sale. She asks that McMann be restrained from selling her and that her freedom be decreed.

PAR Number 20784416

State: Kentucky Year: 1844
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Nancy, a woman of color, explains that her former master William Shephard sold her to Peter Talbott in 1840. The sale was made possible when Nancy's husband Lewis "drew two prizes in a Lottery in this City in the year 1840 ... amounting in all to upwards of $800.00." Lewis loaned $500 to Talbott for the purchase of Nancy, with the understanding that Nancy would be "immediately manumitted by him according to the laws of this State." For the past three years, Nancy has "been living and supporting herself by her own industry ... as free as if regularly manumitted." Nancy now asserts that both Shephard and Talbott are making claims of debts owed that preclude her official manumission. Nancy asks that "your honor may decree that she be freed by sd. Deft Talbott."

PAR Number 20784803

State: Kentucky Year: 1848
Location: Christian Location Type: County

Abstract: In January 1828 Elisha Atkinson executed a deed of emancipation for his slave, Burrel. Elisha Atkinson, however, had given Burrel to Amos Atkinson about seven or eight years earlier. Amos Atkinson then sold Burrel to James Robinson in January 1845. Now a pauper, Burrel is suing Robinson for his freedom. Burrel claims that the $500 Robinson received for his hire was in fact a sum agreed upon by the two as the amount necessary for the purchase of Burrel's freedom. Burrel asserts that Robinson refuted the existence of the said deed of emancipation. He further charges that Robinson's administrators coerced him to sign a document on 26 January 1848, whereby he relinquished his right to freedom and claims to compensation for his labor. Burrel seeks liberty and back wages.

PAR Number 20785309

State: Kentucky Year: 1853
Location: Pike Location Type: County

Abstract: On 23 March 1853, "Yellow Sam a free negroe of Colour" charged that he was unlawfully seized and taken into custody by William and James Weddington and others. Sam asserts "that he is a free man being manumitted by his deceased master James Sloan." Sam asks the court "to grant him a writ of habeas corpus" and to release him from the defendants' custody.

PAR Number 20785313

State: Kentucky Year: 1853
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Maria Powell states that William Criswell "had long before his death" set her free from slavery, "and she is now a free person of color and her two children Sarah & Susan were also set free & are free." Maria asks for "an opportunity to establish and manifest her right to freedom." In her answer and cross petition, Maria Powell states "that she purchased from him [William Criswell] her liberty and that of her children at the price of $800." Powell states that Criswell issued free papers for her and her children, but they were lost when she was arrested and held in the Jefferson County jail. The petitioner claims that Criswell allowed her to travel and work in Ohio, where she lived for three months.

PAR Number 20881989

State: Louisiana Year: 1819
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Betsey, a woman of color who also calls herself Rachel, represents that she was born free in Cincinnati. She later lived as a free woman in Tennessee and was never "claimed as a slave" until she was sold, in the state of Louisiana, by "one Ervine" to Nathaniel Cannon and by Cannon to Pierre St. Amand. Betsey therefore prays that St. Amand be condemned to liberate her and pay "reasonable damages." She also asked to be hired out by the sheriff or for an order holding St. Amand to a $1,200 bail.

PAR Number 20882103

State: Louisiana Year: 1821
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Robert Colston, a free man of color, claims to be illegally detained as a slave by John D. S. Arden. Colston represents that three years ago he "was taken Possession of" by Dr. Moses Littell and then delivered to Arden. He fears that he might be removed from the court's jurisdiction or "treated in a cruel manner." He therefore prays for an order removing him "from the illegal and forcible possession of those who now hold him" and upholding his right to freedom. As evidence of his free status, Colston offers the transcript of a trial brought against him for the theft of a Congressman's gold watch, for which he was convicted, and a subsequent pardon document signed by President James Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Testimony reveals, however, that he and his family, although allowed to live as free people, had never been officially emancipated by their owner, Robert Oliver.

PAR Number 20882112

State: Louisiana Year: 1821
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Winney Smith, a free woman of color, claims that James Robinson has held her "as a slave" for the past four years and required her to pay him $12 each month. Smith maintains that she was emancipated from her former owner, James Riddle, on the 28th of May 1814. She asks the court to discharge her from the services of Robinson, to emancipate her, and to condemn Robinson to pay $800 in damages. She also asks for a refund of the $576 she has paid him over the years. Related documents reveal that Winney had bound herself to service in order to repay a debt, and that her contract of service had been transferred to James Robinson.

PAR Number 20882216

State: Louisiana Year: 1822
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Mathias Freeman, a free man of color, petitions to recover his freedom. He asserts that he was born to free parents in the city of Hudson, New York. Freeman is now being "detained" in the "Police Prison" in New Orleans on the "complaint of a Captain of one of the Steam Boats" docked in the city. During his employment as a "Seaman," Freeman "casually lost his certificate of Freedom." However, He further notes that "full evidence" of his status "can be obtained in Hudson." Freeman requests the court's assistance in "obtaining his freedom" and asks that Dominique Belaumi, the "Keeper" of the prison, "be decreed to restore” him “to his Freedoms and Liberty."

PAR Number 20882304

State: Louisiana Year: 1823
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Benjamin Thaxton asserts that he is a free man of color being illegally “detained and claimed” as a slave by William Dalton. In support of his claim to freedom, Thaxton informs the court that he has enjoyed his “liberty” in Tennessee “for the last fifteen years.” Thaxton prays to be allowed to sue for his freedom and that he may be hired out while the case is decided.

PAR Number 20882431

State: Louisiana Year: 1824
Location: Pointe Coupee Location Type: Parish

Abstract: The petitioner is a mulatto free woman of color named Sanite. She presents to the court that she is being confined "illegally unjustly and against the Privileges of her manumition" by the sheriff, Stephen Van Wickle, as security against the debts accrued by her husband Joachim, also known as Porche. Sanite notes that she is a free woman and can offer documents to that effect; and thus cannot be legally held against her will in this manner. She therefore asks the court to direct the sheriff to release her, to order all proceedings against her be stopped, and to make the injunction "perpetual." She also asks for the case to be tried by jury and prays for "all other and further relief as the nature and circumstance" of her case requires.

PAR Number 20882842

State: Louisiana Year: 1828
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Joseph Pilié asks the court to require the heirs to the estate of the late Marie Hyacinthe Arnoult Lalande Ferrière to retake possession of a slave named Celestine and reimburse the purchase price of $970 with interest. Pilié further requests that the heirs be required to pay the amount it cost him to confine Celestine in jail. The plaintiff states that Celestine was warranted against defects and classified as "a servant, washer and Cook" when purchased. However, following the sale, Celestine ran away three times, the last time resulting in her arrest. In addition, Pilié charges, the heirs knew that Celestine "did not possess the qualities or talents which were warranted to him" and that she was in the habit of running away.

PAR Number 20883493

State: Louisiana Year: 1834
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Phillis represents that she and her children are free people of color held as slaves by Pierre Gentin. Phillis informs the court that “she was born free, of free parents, in the State of Pennsylvania, or some other State where Slavery is unknown, and is not recognized by its Constitution or Laws.” Fearing that Gentin will remove her and her children from the state and therefore prevent them from prosecuting the suit, Phyllis asks that they be placed in the Court’s protective custody. Phillis prays that she and her children “be adjudged to be free” and that they be “for ever discharged from servitude.” In addition, she asks for $500 in damages for Gentin’s “illegal detention” of her and her children as slaves since 1830. Related documents reveal that the court concluded that Phillis had been either a free indentured servant or a term slave, whose term of servitude had expired a number of years prior to initiation of her suit. The court therefore decreed her and her children to be free.

PAR Number 20883516

State: Louisiana Year: 1835
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Nancey Jackson, a free woman of color, petitions to recover her freedom and that of her children. Nancey represents that she was born free around 1798 in Richmond, Virginia, and that her mother, Alsa Romand, also known as Alsa Jackson, "is, and was at the time of Petitioners birth, a free woman." Beginning in 1822, Nancey annually recorded her emancipation papers, "understanding it to have been necessary to a strict compliance with the laws." In 1833 she and her children, Susan, Samuel, and Henry, were illegally seized by "a band of armed white men" in the night "whilst asleep in their own rented home." They were "made prisoners of, kidnaped, and immediately conveyed to a strong house, or Prison, belonging to Ballard the great dealer in slaves" in Richmond. They were then sent via ship to Louisiana where they were sold as slaves to Dr. Gideon C. Forsythe "at the English turn of the Mississippi river in the Parish of Plaquemines." Nancey prays for recognition of her free status and that of her children, as well as $1,000 "for her services and that of her children, and for damages which they have suffered in their Captivity and bondage."

PAR Number 20883739

State: Louisiana Year: 1837
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Ahimaaz Buel petitions the court for compensation due to the loss of his slave named Prince. Buel claims that twenty-year-old Prince, whom he values at $1,500, was “Carried away” on the “Steam Boat New York” and never returned. Buel contends that, in addition to the loss of his slave’s value, he has sustained damages and expenses worth a minimum of $200. Buel therefore prays that Captain E. W. Burge and the owners of the Steamboat New York be cited to appear and answer his suit. He asks the court to issue a writ of sequestration against the steamboat and to order that the sum of $1,700, plus interest, be paid out to him from the proceeds of her sale.

PAR Number 20883807

State: Louisiana Year: 1838
Location: East Baton Rouge Location Type: Parish

Abstract: George Stewart, a free man of color, seeks to be released from imprisonment. Stewart represents that he is being held as a runaway in the custody of B. Bryan. He contends that his imprisonment is illegal and he is ready to show that he is a free man. He therefore seeks a writ of habeas corpus and discharge from his confinement.

PAR Number 20883886

State: Louisiana Year: 1838
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Louis Emmerling petitions the court for compensation due to the ten-month disappearance of his slave named Peter. Emmerling represents that Peter was illegally employed on the steamboat Tiger without his "consent or knowledge." He claims that he "looked in vain for his slave" and was not able to find him until the end of June 1838. He prays that the Captain of the Tiger, Junius Beebe, and the boat's eight owners be cited to answer his charge of negligence and condemned to pay him $600 in lost wages, at the rate of $2 a day for ten months, and $2,000 in expenses and loss of property value, for a total sum of $2,600. Related documents reveal the existence of a slave title dispute between Emmerling and one Mr. Moussier.

PAR Number 20884719

State: Louisiana Year: 1847
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Jane Davis, a free mulatto woman, seeks to be "separated in bed and board" from her husband, William Edmunds, a free man of color. The couple intermarried in 1835 and "lived together happily and contentedly" for many years. Notwithstanding her "dutiful and affectionate" behavior, Jane now charges that William has broken his "marital vows" by abandoning, deceiving, and maltreating her, and that he is at the moment in "the embraces" of another woman. Moreover, William now denies that he and Jane were ever "united in the bonds of Lawful wedlock," thus publicly "defaming and blackening" his wife’s reputation. He even induces people to believe that Jane is "of doubtful fame & chastity." Jane asserts that their living together is insupportable; she therefore seeks a separation from her husband and financial support during her "natural life." Related depositions provide detailed information about life among free people of color in Philadelphia, where Jane lived for some time.

PAR Number 20885453

State: Louisiana Year: 1854
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Dr. Henry Daret seeks compensation from Captain A. G. Gray for harboring his runaway slaves aboard his boat, the Steamer Eldorado. Daret represents that his mulatto slave Enos, his wife Phillis, and their two children, Rosette and Perrine, were found and arrested on board the Eldorado at Balize in the parish of Plaquemines. Daret claims that the slaves had been received aboard the Eldorado the day before without his consent. He therefore prays that the court will order Gray to pay $400 for the depreciation in the value of his slaves, plus an additional $45.25 for telegraphic dispatches, public notices and jail fees.

PAR Number 20983307

State: Maryland Year: 1833
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Jim Sharp states that "he is a free man, and entitled to be at liberty" but he is currently "claimed as a slave by Thomas Allein." Sharp requests to be free.

PAR Number 20984108

State: Maryland Year: 1841
Location: Frederick Location Type: County

Abstract: Dennis Anthony, a thirty-seven-year-old black man, states "that he is unjustly claimed held and detained in slavery" by Joseph G. Hays, administrator of the late James L. Higgins's estate. Anthony is currently in jail and fears that Hays will sell "him into slavery, and perhaps to some person who will export him to the south." Anthony asks that he be released from jail, discharged from servitude and set free.

PAR Number 20984402

State: Maryland Year: 1844
Location: Frederick Location Type: County

Abstract: Caleb Ogleton, a free person of color, states that he is being confined in a Frederick County jail as a slave. He states that he was freeborn in the District of Columbia and can provide a duly authenticated certificate of his freedom. He explains that he has been serving "as a hireling on board of a canal boat" that travels between "Knoxville Frederick County & George Town (DC)." Besides, he claims that "being engaged in navigating the canal" does not violate an 1831 statute forbidding people of color to remain for more than ten consecutive days in the county. He "prays to be discharged from prison by order of this honorable Court."

PAR Number 20984722

State: Maryland Year: 1847
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Ann S. Chaney explains that her father, Henry Boswell, gave her a six-year-old female slave named Polly at the time of her first marriage to Samuel Wood. Following her husband's death, her father-in-law Samuel Wood Sr., "pretending to have a good title to the said Polly," sold her in 1819 for a term of years to Joseph Chaney, Ann's second husband. Polly gave birth to a daughter, Hester, whom Chaney mortgaged to a creditor, William Hopkins. Hopkins then sold Hester at public auction to satisfy the debt. Ann purchased Hester at the sale and has been in possession of Hester ever since. Now, Ann complains that Samuel Wood, "without any shadow of title to the said Hester," executed a deed of manumission in 1824 which set Hester's term of servitude to expire on 25 May 1847. Chaney complains that such manumission would defraud her of her right to Hester's service. She asks for an injunction to prohibit the clerk of court, Joseph H. Nicholson, from issuing Hester her certificate of freedom.

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