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 20183001

State: Alabama Year: 1830
Location: Bibb Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah Goodgame seeks a divorce from her husband John Goodgame. She states that, after returning from service in the militia of the United States, he "had become dissipated & continued to grow worse and was disagreeable & abusive in his family." The Goodgames moved to the Mississippi Territory, now the State of Alabama, where they "procured property & enough by industry & economy for a comfortable support," which included "four negroes slaves of the value of fifteen hundred dollars." The petitioner asks the court to dissolve their marriage and "make such provision ... for the support and maintainance of your oratrix as may seem just & equitable."

PAR Number 20183604

State: Alabama Year: 1836
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: Nancy Clay states "that in consequence of the cruel treatment of her husband, Thomas Clay," she was forced to abandon the marriage. Before leaving, Nancy entered with her husband "into articles of separation," which stipulated that Thomas agreed "to divide his property, real and personal," giving her "a deed in fee for one third of the land, & title to one third of his whole personal property," for her use. Thomas recently moved to Tennessee, taking with him ten of the slaves. In addition, he tried to sell all the land to William Hayter. Hayter, claiming ownership of the land, initiated and won a suit for "action of forcible entry & detainer" to remove Nancy, who still resides on a portion of a land sold to him. She seeks an injunction to prevent Hayter from evicting her and to recover from her husband her share of the real and personal property in his possession.

PAR Number 20183802

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

Abstract: Mary Hall seeks to divorce her husband, Nathaniel Hall, stating that he attempted to kill her and their children on several occasions. Mary states that she married Nathaniel in 1812 and is now the mother of ten living children, "one of them is of intellect so weak that he is incapable of taking care of himself." Living "in peace and harmony faithfully and honestly discharging all the duties of a wife," Mary was surprised when her husband became "dissatisfied with her and his family," going "so far as to attempt to take life by shooting." Mary states that Hall has "abandoned her declaring his intention to live with her no more, and by selling the whole of his property," which included three slaves, he meant "to bring her and her children to starvation." She further reports that, "finding the process of starvation too slow to suit his vindictive purposes, he came home the other day and stole all her means of self defence and told her that he was well armed with pistols & that he intended her time in this world should be very short." The petitioner seeks a divorce and alimony, and an order restraining her husband and his receipt of money from her property. In his answer to the charges, Nathaniel Hall contends that his wife has been unfaithful with several men over the course of many years, and that she is improvident and violent. He asserts that he will continue to provide the necessities of life for his family, but will no longer live with his wife.

PAR Number 20183806

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

Abstract: Mary Ann Acre seeks to divorce her husband, slave owner Samuel Acre. Mary Ann writes that in her marriage she has "sought to make her deposition, her feelings, her pleasures & her walk in life square with his wishes and views, the promotion of his interest and pleasures were the objects nearest her heart and governed all her actions." However, Mary Ann says that her husband "began to indulge very freely in the use of ardent spirits," which resulted in more frequent "fits of intoxication." As a result, he treated her cruelly and barbarously, repeatedly beating her "with many stripes," and driving her from her home in the middle of the night. Acre contends that her husband's property is worth over forty thousand dollars, of which a considerable "portion of this estate was acquired by the Said Samuel Acre by his intermarriage with your Oratrix." Along with a divorce, Mary Ann Acre seeks a division of her husband's estate. In his answer and cross bill, Samuel Acre contends that his wife, far from being the virtuous and indulgent wife she claims to be, is "anything but a hand in his dish, a hand in his pocket, and a pest, termigant and scold in his house." He claims that Mary Ann inherited several slaves from the estate of her late father, and that the slaves have been placed in a trust estate for her use and benefit. Not only has Mary Ann caused him to be falsely imprisoned but, during his time in jail, she seduced and committed adultery with a young man. He seeks to divorce her and asks that she be returned to her maiden name of Carney.

PAR Number 20183901

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

Abstract: Matilda Houston seeks title to the slave Dinah and an injunction against her husband, Josiah Houston. Dinah was given to Matilda by her father James Allums while she was married to her first husband, D. Allen. When Allen died, his estate was settled and "the said nigro [sic] Dinah was allotted to your oratrix as her portion in part of the said Estate." Three years later Matilda married Josiah Houston. Matilda describes her marriage to Houston as one where "they have lived hapily & peaceably together until within the last five or six weeks past." Josiah, she states, has now "secretly become estranged in his affections towards your oratrix." She claims that he has attempted and succeeded in stealing Dinah and is preparing to move to Texas, and that he "is determined to abandon her and leave her penniless in the world." Matilda seeks an injunction to prevent her husband from leaving the state with the slave. She further asks the court to place the slave in safekeeping and to arrest Josiah Houston. Finally, the petitioner asks that the court order Josiah to furnish her with some means of support. The court dismissed the suit, reasoning that a husband has absolute title to property brought to the marriage by his wife. The court also alludes to Josiah Houston's claim that he had reason to abandon Matilda since she had given birth six months after they were married to a "mulatto child" fathered by a slave -- the husband of Dinah.

PAR Number 20184001

State: Alabama Year: 1840
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: Martha Nabors asserts that soon after her marriage, her husband, Nathan Nabors "commenced a scene of oppression and cruelty unparalleled, almost in a civilized country," whereby he "habituated himself to beastly inebriation." In addition, Martha charges that her husband has been financially reckless, squandering the property her father gave her upon her marriage in 1828. She states that, sometime before her marriage, her father gave her two slaves -- Mill and Charles -- "for her sole and separate use" during her lifetime. Mill now has seven children, one of whom has been sold by Nathan Nabors. Martha estimates the value of the slaves to be worth five thousand dollars. Nabors argues that her husband threatens to sell the slaves beyond the state of Alabama, thus robbing her of "a comfortable support in her old age" that the slave property would provide. She asks the court to sequester the slaves until her husband provides a sufficient bond. She also requests that the slaves be hired out to help pay court costs. Her final pray to the court is for a divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20184113

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

Abstract: Margaret Garner seeks a divorce with alimony from her husband Thomas Garner. Married in 1835, Margaret says that she expected "to have enjoyed that peace protection maintainance and hapiness which of right belong to her sex in the marriage state." However, three months into the marriage, Thomas began to abuse her and continued to do so for over a year. The petitioner states that she has excellent evidence that her husband "had taken a mulattress to the bed of your Oratrix and had carnally Known the said mulattress ... your Oratrix calmly remonstrated with the said Thomas Garner ... and the said Thomas beat and abused your Oratrix severely giving her slap after slap with such rapidity of repetition and such agonizing force as well nigh to deprive your oratrix of life." Margaret says because she "worked incessantly and spent not one cent that could be avoided," her husband has been able to acquire seventeen valuable slaves.

PAR Number 20184114

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

Abstract: In a supplement to her earlier bill for divorce and alimony, Margaret Garner asks the court to bar her husband, Thomas Garner, from selling their slaves "that remain yet unsold." Margaret alleges that he "has effected the sale of a few," and she fears that he "for the purpose of defeating her equitable claims for Allimony, endeavours to sell all the slaves mentioned in her said Bill." She notes that "he is now on the eve of running them off to New Orleans," out of the court's and state's jurisdiction. In addition, the petitioner notes that her husband "has already so fraudulently covered his real estate as to make it uncertain & hazardous whether a Decree in her favour for allimony would ever reach any part of it." If his attempts succeed, Margaret feels she "will be left wholly destitute."

PAR Number 20184219

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

Abstract: Lucretia Chambers, through her next friend Thomas McGinnis, seeks to divorce her husband John Chambers. The petitioner states that after ten months of marriage, John Chambers had become so abusive that she left him and moved to her father's residence. She claims that John, in order "to wound and provoke her feeling assumed to be jealous of her constancy ... and without the slightest foundation charged her with the commission of adultery and other base & unwomanly conduct." In addition, she says he imposed, "as a kind of guardian and mistress, an ignorant filthy negro woman--thus compelling her to submit not only to his own caprices and tyranny, but to the ... oppression & insults of his negro paramour." Maintaining "that never ... did she knowing give him cause for complaint," Lucretia says she "endured his wanton tyranny ... until patience itself ceased to be a virtue, and a separation no crime." Although John "is possessed of an estate worth, probably, five or six thousand dollars," he has failed to provide for her and she asks that, in addition to a divorce, "a separate property for her maintenance may be set apart." In his related answer, John accuses his wife of adultery and of being pregnant by a man other than himself.

PAR Number 20184222

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

Abstract: Margaret Garner has previously filed for a divorce and alimony from her husband Thomas Garner, a slave owner. In this bill, Garner states "that the said Thomas has become a bankrupt and has applied for the privilege of surrendering his property in discharge of his debts and he has thereby become unable to afford aid to your petitioner." Her own property "does not yield more than $12 per month." Citing abandonment and an adulterous affair on the part of her husband, Margaret prays for an allowance for her support during the divorce proceedings and for an allowance to pay the expenses of the court case. Two related petitions reveal that Thomas Garner, the owner of approximately sixteen slaves in 1841, was alleged to have taken a "mulattress to the bed" of his wife and to have "carnally Known" her.

PAR Number 20184413

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

Abstract: Winney Jeter seeks to dissolve her marriage to Samuel Jeter and receive support from him. She writes that in August 1842 her husband "formed an illicit and adulterous intercourse with his overseer's wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Beard. She claims that Elizabeth Beard was "a known prostitute." Winney says that Samuel's behavior has "become so cruel barbarous and inhumane as to create an alarm for her personal safety." The petitioner cites one occasion when her husband beat her with "a large walking cane" and only the intervention of her seventeen-year-old son spared her a fatal injury. She has now left her home and seeks the protection and support of the court. Winney testifies that prior to the marriage she owned about seven hundred dollars and "five Negroes which with their increase up to the present time including those sold by the defendant amount to fourteen negroes." She notes that the defendant now possesses forty-three Negroes, "most of which are valuable," and that he also owns a considerable amount of property including land worth at least eight thousand dollars and cash amounting to about twelve hundred dollars. The petitioner, with the support of her brother and next friend, Asa R. Cone, seeks a court order or seizure of the defendant's personal property to pay the costs of the suit and alimony, a dissolution of the marriage, an answer from the defendant, and all other proper relief.

PAR Number 20184505

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

Abstract: In 1832, Sarah Trimble married John Trimble, in Morgan County, Georgia. About twelve months after their marriage John "commenced drinking ardent Spirits" and from that time forward he treated her in a most "cruel, barbarous, and inhuman" manner. He frequently whipped her with a dog whip, and once, she said, he tried to cut her throat. He "is now in the possession of four Negroes, most of which are valuable," she explains, and owns a "good Settlement of land," worth about fifteen hundred dollars. Two of the slaves in John's possession were brought by Sarah to the marriage. The other two are children born of Malinda since the marriage. Sarah Trimble seeks an attachment to prevent her husband from "removing the said property out of this state," and also asks for a divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20184512

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

Abstract: Prior to their marriage in Newberry District, South Carolina, in 1819, Ruth and Sterling Balderee signed a contract granting Ruth control of her separate estate. She possessed a large amount of property, including slaves, while Sterling was "totally destitute." In her bill of complaint, Ruth explains that her husband is not only intemperate, vulgar, and tyrannical, but often beats and whips her and on one occasion hit her with a weapon so hard on the skull that the wound still remains "painful and distressing." Driven from their home by her husband's behavior, Ruth seeks the return of her property, which includes twenty-four slaves, twelve of whom are now in Sterling's possession and claimed by him as his own. She also seeks a divorce and "comfortable support and maintenance."

PAR Number 20184518

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

Abstract: Catharine Jordan charges that her husband, James D. Jordan, has been living in adultery with another women, Dilsey Quick, and "has become the father of several children by her." Furthermore, in 1842, after some twenty-seven years of marriage, he abandoned her "bed and board" and moved to Georgia. He took with him all his property including five Negroes: Dick, about fourteen, Tom, about twenty-eight, Sarah, thirty-five, Cloe, forty, and "a girl Some Seven years of age, name not recollected, all of rather dark complecion, all of the aggregate value of twenty seven Hundred Dollars." He also took a wagon, four horses, twenty-five head of cattle, thirty head of hogs, worth a total of five hundred dollars, and "notes and accounts" worth five hundred dollars. She asks for a divorce and alimony, and "further relief in the premises, as shall be equitable." The court grants her a divorce and returns her "the right and privileges" of a feme sole.

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 20184524

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

Abstract: In 1844, when a judgment was entered against slave owner Samuel Jeter in a divorce case against his wife Winney, he gave the sheriff one thousand dollars. The sheriff turned the money over to Asa Cone, Winney's brother and "next friend" in the proceedings. Now, Jeter says, he and Winney have "settled all their differences and misunderstandings," and the divorce suit has been dismissed. Jeter questions the accounting presented by Cone and asks for a refund of the $630 balance that remains after payment of Winney's expenses.

PAR Number 20184612

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

Abstract: In 1844, at age fifteen, Catherine Awtry married Harvey Snow without her father's permission and "without her own consent being fully and freely and willingly given." A few months later, Catherine charges, Harvey went to the kitchen and remained there "until a late hour in the night in company with his negro woman." Later, she says, he engaged in "criminal intercourse and Sexual connection with his own Negro woman Slave in his own house and had a child by her the off spring of his illicit connection." Catherine further charges that Harvey permitted the female slave "to abuse her in a most shameful and improper manner." In 1845, Harvey abandoned Catherine and migrated to Mississippi. When he returned, he went back to living with his slave and Catherine was forced heir home. Catharine asks for expenses to prosecute her suit, divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20184621

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

Abstract: In 1827, Georgia slave owner Moses Walker executed a deed whereby he secured to his daughter Maria a separate estate "free from the marital right of her then present or any future husband." However, the lawyer who prepared the document failed to stipulate that the deed included property given to Maria other than by will, meaning property given to her during her father's lifetime. Over time, Moses Walker gave his daughter six slaves: Jacob, now about fifty, Ann, about forty, Dinah, twenty-eight, Beck, a woman about thirty, Louisa, about twenty-one, Ishmael about thirty-five. Since then, Beck has had a daughter named Jane, age eleven. In 1834, Maria married Captain Elisha Betts, and, three years later, they settled in Alabama. In 1843, though Elisha abandoned Maria, and the sheriff levied property left behind to satisfy his debts. Included in that property was the slave Ann. Maria Betts requests that the conveyances from her husband to creditors using her trust property as collateral be "set aside," that the creditors be perpetually enjoined from seizing any of her property, and that her trust estate be "reformed" to correspond with the intentions of her father. She also seeks a divorce and alimony.

PAR Number 20184629

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

Abstract: In 1844, after many years of domestic bliss, Bradly Glover sold his property, abandoned his wife, Eliza H. Glover, and moved to Alabama, taking along two slaves, a boy and a woman. Eliza, who still resides in Buckingham County, Virginia, alleges that he "was at the time he left, and had been for sometime previous, in habits of ilicit intercourse with said negro woman, and as your Oratrix believes still keeps the said woman for the purpose of sexual intercourse." Eliza seeks alimony. She has been "accustomed to have all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life furnished to her, without personal exertions of her own." Now, she is "helpless and destitute." She asks for an injunction to prevent people from paying Glover what they owe him, and asks that she might keep some of the money as "a suitable and comfortable support."

PAR Number 20184705

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1844, Bradly Glover sold his property, abandoned his wife, and emigrated from Virginia to Alabama, taking along two slaves, a boy and a woman. He "was at the time he left, and had been for sometime previously," his wife, Eliza H. Glover of Buckingham County, Virginia explains, "in habits of ilicit intercourse with said negro woman, and as your Oratrix believes still keeps the said woman for the purpose of sexual intercourse." Eliza seeks alimony. She has been "accustomed to have all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life furnished to her, without personal exertions of her own." Now, she is "helpless and destitute." She asks for an injunction to prevent people from paying Glover what they owe him, and asks that she might keep some of the money as "a suitable and comfortable support."

PAR Number 20184712

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in Washington County, in 1836, Sarah Debose testifies that during her eight years as the wife of James Debose she endured "the grossest, cruel and brutal and violent trespass and treatment." She claims that her husband slandered her good name, whipped her, drew "a deadly weapon" and threatened to kill her, and abandoned her without providing for the care or education of their three children. He also committed "the abominable crime of adultery" with Martha Hainsworth, a married woman to whom he later gave three hundred dollars. Sarah lost one eye to an infection, and is "afflicted" in the other; she is destitute and asks for an injunction prohibiting her husband from disposing of his property, including a tract of pine land near Mobile, and a slave and her daughter. She also requests that he pay her a monthly allowance, and, for the time being, be confined to jail.

PAR Number 20184802

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

Abstract: In 1787, Elizabeth Holley married Howell Holley in Edgefield District, South Carolina. In 1827 or 1828, after forty years of marriage, Elizabeth charges that Howell began an illicit relationship with Nancy Hodge. She writes that it was then that he began to beat her "with various Instruments sometimes with his fists sometimes with a hickory at other times with a cowhide and very often threatened her life." She claims that Howell left their domicile, taking Nancy with him to Georgia, and then to Alabama, and abandoning her and their nine children. Later, the couple reconciled, but in 1830 Howell again became violent and Elizabeth fled for her life. Elizabeth claims that Howell now lives with Nancy and their illegitimate offspring, six or seven in number. According to Elizabeth, Howell is old and senile; and he possesses a large estate, including a "valuable set of mills," horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, "a large quantity of money," and fifteen slaves, five men, four women, and six children. Elizabeth, too, is very old, and unable to support herself. She asks for a divorce and alimony. In his related answer, Howell denies all charges of violence against his wife and denies that Nancy Hodge lives in his house. He countercharges that Elizabeth was a difficult, dissatisfied, and jealous woman, who made his life unbearable.

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 20184821

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

Abstract: Sarah H. Claffey asks for a divorce from Matthew Claffey, an Irishman, who, she says, drove her out of the house and forced her to return to the home of her parents. During their time together, Sarah charges, Matthew abused her constantly, accusing her of adultery, yanking her off her horse, slapping her in the face, hitting and kicking her and "inflicting great pain." He is a "wicked and profane" man, filled with the "turpitude baseness and corruption common to the lowest and most vulgar of the Irish who come to this Country." He also committed adultery, having "carnal intercourse and illicit connection" with a prostitute. Matthew owns a twenty-year-old slave named Charlotte, and her two-year-old-child.

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