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 11280305

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

Abstract: The relatives of Euphan Alston Rhodes ask that the said Euphan be granted a divorce from Captain Arnold Rhodes. They recount that their relative married Rhodes in 1795 when she was seventeen years old; at the time, Euphan possessed "a valuable Estate in Lands &c besides a number of valuable Slaves.” The petitioners lament that the said Rhodes wasted his bride's property shortly after their marriage, losing all the slaves and a large portion of the real estate. They further decry that Rhodes has "abandoned himself to Idleness, Intoxication, gambling &c." Of the belief that "a mutual loathing possess them Each towards the other," the petitioners pray "that a Law may be passed by your Honorable body disolving the band of marriage between the Said Arnold, & Euphan Alston Rhodes & thereby fully Divorcing them for Ever from Each other."

PAR Number 11280516

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

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

PAR Number 11280903

State: North Carolina Year: 1809

Abstract: Frances Murdin reveals that her husband David "fled & left in the most dependant and wretched situation your petitioner with three children without a morsel of support" and "took with him all the negroes about eight." She states that she and David married in 1798 and that "by a constant round of dissipation and extravagance he was embarrassed by debts." Murdin fears that "without your Legislative interposition this unfeeling monster will return from Georgia ... and again rob your petitioner of the scanty necessaries of life by her manual labour she has collected." She therefore prays that "your Honoble Body in tender consideration [will] be pleased to enact such a law as will secure to your Petitioner what little she at present possesses or may hereafter obtain by her own labour, by gift or Inheritance free from the debts or power of her Husband."

PAR Number 11281202

State: North Carolina Year: 1812
Location: Perquimans Location Type: County

Abstract: Rhoda Wynns states that she was left "in affluent circumstances, possessed of Lands, Houses, Negroes, and Stock" upon the death of her husband eight years ago. She laments, however, that four years ago she married a certain Benjamin Wynns, whose "deceptive tongue induced your petitioner to believe she had married a Gentleman and a man of fortune." Rhoda reveals that her husband has beaten her so much that she "was obliged to bind him to the peace to protect my life from his cruel hands." Noting that said Benjamin has disposed of or sold her property and has "returned to the County from whence he came," Rhoda prays that she be granted "such relief in the premises as will enable her to possess quietly such property as she may obtain by donation, industry, or otherwise." Affidavits disclose that Rhoda took refuge "at a Negro man's house by the name of Dick" when she fled from her husband's assaults.

PAR Number 11281302

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

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

PAR Number 11281401

State: North Carolina Year: 1814
Location: Gates Location Type: County

Abstract: Love Brady laments that her husband Mills "did beat and Iltreat" her and that he "Spent and Wasted the whole of the property," which included "Negroes and other things" that she owned prior to her marriage. The petitioner further confides that her husband has abandoned her "without any thing to Subsist on, other than the Charity of Friends and took up with a Certain Selah Eure with whom he lives." She therefore prays that a law be passed "Vesting any property in your Memorialist that She may hereafter acquire by Industry, Gift ... or otherwise and barring Said Brady from any Claim on property so acquired by your Memorialist."

PAR Number 11281601

State: North Carolina Year: 1816
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet Laspeyre seeks a separation from her husband Bernard, "late of the Island Hispaniola." Laspeyre laments that she "discovered to her infinite mortification that her property trifling as it was had been the primary object of his warmest affection." She further confesses that she "was too soon made sensible of his fixed determination to compell her by every diabolical scheme & the brutality of his manners and the malignity of his heart could devise to a surrender of every thing she held in her own right." In addition, she confides that she "was at length stripped of the right that every woman claims" as she was "divested of her keys," thereby "deprived of the authority of a mistress, her negroes forbidden to obey her orders under penalty of the severest punishment." Laspeyre charges that "the profits arising from the labor of her Slaves, which ought to have been appropriated, to the support and education of her children, she had the extreme vexation to see wantonly lavished on his black and mulatto mistresses." Having left her house under a serious apprehension "of an attempt upon her life," the petitioner therefore prays "your Honourable body in tender consideration of her wretched and desolate condition, to pass an act to separate her from her said husband and to secure to her the residue of her little property and what she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11282302

State: North Carolina Year: 1823
Location: Randolph Location Type: County

Abstract: Jane Welborn informs the General Assembly that she married her husband John in 1776 and remained with him until 1793 when she "was compelled to separate herself" from him due to his intolerable "abusive treatment and dissipated habits." Welborn relates that "her said Husband since the time of their separation has been stroling about the Country without being of much benefit to himself of any person else." The petitioner reveals that she inherited a life interest in five slaves from her stepfather William Bell but she laments that "the lifetime right in said slaves has been sold to satisfy said Husband's debts." Welborn therefore prays that a law be passed "securing to her such estate as she may hereafter acquire by gift descent or her own industry."

PAR Number 11282708

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: Wayne Location Type: County

Abstract: Ann Borden asks that the divorce petition soon to be filed by her husband Jesse be rejected. She relates that she left Jesse four months after their marriage because of "ill treatment" and "many desperate threats made by said Borden against her life." She also admits that a month before her marriage she "had the misfortune to have a child born of which Jesse Borden was not the father"; Ann argues, however, that she never tried to conceal the fact that the child was not his and that he never voiced any qualms about rearing another man's child. The petitioner further asserts that attempting to pass the child off as his "would have been unavailing as the child would unavoidably have shown for itself." Ann therefore prays "that the Legislature of North Carolina will preserve inviolate the ties of matrimony that exist between your Petitioner and Jesse Borden." A summary of Jesse's petition reveals that he thought the child was his because "previous to his marriage he had been in habits of illicit intercourse with her during which time she became pregnant"; that Jesse "did believe in the early infancy of the child that it was his and being desirous of making her what reperation was in his power for the loss of her virtue he intermarried with her immediately after the birth of the child"; and that he exclaimed "to his mortification and astonishment" said infant "to be a mulatto child the fruits of [a] negro."

PAR Number 11282712

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Jonathan Bryan seeks a divorce from his wife Ann Jane Anders, who not only attempted to kill him but also incited "an Insurrection" among his slaves. Bryan reports that the said Ann Jane attempted to poison him more than once; that she failed to nurse him when he “was Confined with the Billious fever So that his life was despaired of"; that she "has laid voiolent hands on his person twice;" that she has "treated with Cruelty the Seven Children he has had by a decent and former wife"; that she "took medicine" to induce a miscarriage when she returned from being absent "for the Space of eleven months dureing which time She got herself with Child;" and that he "has not seen the Said Ann Jane and has been for Som time past and at this time She is aliveing in a Negro house With Negros." He therefore prays that the legislature will "interpose and pass a Law Divorcing him from this wife Ann Jane."

PAR Number 11283204

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

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

PAR Number 11283301

State: North Carolina Year: 1833
Location: Lenoir Location Type: County

Abstract: Gatsey Stevenson laments that her husband Silas is "unfortunately addicted to habits of intemperance" and that his "fits of intoxication" forced her to "quit his society" and to take "shelter under the roof of her father." Gatsey further confesses that the said Silas "took into his house a profligate woman ... & is now living in adulterous intercourse." She reveals that said woman "by some device has procured title" to her husband's plantation and she has thus been "cast upon the world utterly destitute." Gatsey therefore prays "that a law may be passed ... securing to her such property as she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11482002

State: Tennessee Year: 1820
Location: Stewart Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet H. Gibson seeks a divorce from her husband, Henry Gibson, on the grounds that he neglected his business, "cohabited with Other Women," and forced her from the house; shortly thereafter, Henry "removed to the State of Kentucky with all his (Negroes Ten in number) his Horses &C in which he has Resided about twelve months & Still continues there." The petitioner reports that her husband "has been frequently herd to say that he would never live with me again as a wife."

PAR Number 11482106

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Catharine Smith asks for a divorce from her husband, John P. Smith, a man of "the most abandoned dissolute & dissipated description." Smith accuses her husband of "engaging in the most extravagant scenes of lewdness, drunkenness and debauchery" and confides that he "has often treated your Petitioner in an inhuman and intolerable manner by inflicting violence on her person, and that in direct violation of his matrimonial vow, he has been repeatedly engaged in illegal intimacies with the slaves there were subject to his controll." The petitioner therefore prays that "she may be divorced from her husband and that the bonds of matrimony may be entirely dissolved."

PAR Number 11482107

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Sumner Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Street asks for a divorce from her husband, James Street. She confides that "in about two years after our marriage he sold a negroe the only one we had, and then went off and left your petitioner." Street further laments that "in his absence the ballance of our property was taken by his creditors." She also discloses that the said James "was continually abusing her" and "was subject to intoxication and frequently would stay from home drunk two or three weeks at a time." With five children to support, Street prays "your honorable body to grant her a divorce from the bonds of matrimony" and that any property she may acquire be protected from satisfying the debts of the said James.

PAR Number 11482109

State: Tennessee Year: 1821

Abstract: Confessing that her husband David's "treatment became so intolarable that I Could not Stay with him any longer," Mary Logue seeks a divorce. She discloses that "he not only abused my person very frequently by pulling my hair and Draging me about the house by it but [threatened] to take my Life and would go to bed with Negro women." Mary, believing it not safe to stay with him, abandoned "his house and went to my Fathers whare I have Resided Ever Since and Since I have left my husbond ... still Continued in his wickedness as bad as ever." The petitioner therefore prays that she be granted a divorce.

PAR Number 11482911

State: Tennessee Year: 1829
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Martha Smith Green seeks a divorce and the "right of all the Property She may hereafter acquire by honest Industry or donation of friends." Green charges that her husband Thomas abused and beat her and that he accused "your Petitioner of being Intimate and guilty with his Negro man Jim, to the great mortifycation of your Petitioners feelings." She further confesses that her said husband severely beat her "in such a Manner that she carried the markes of his violence on her body for twenty weeks." Green further represents that her husband admitted "that he was Carnally guilty with [a] negro girl." The petitioner therefore prays that an act be passed for her benefit, divorcing her from the said Thomas and securing her right to property she may acquire hereafter.

PAR Number 11484502

State: Tennessee Year: 1845
Location: Anderson Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Hookins asks for a divorce from her husband William. Hookins confides that said William "was always scolding and faultfinding and frequently disturbed your petitioner's hours of repose and sleep by his certain lectures -- abusing her for merest trifles and not seeming to be satisfied, he soon resorted to whipping her." She further admits that when she "would tell him to quit mistreating her so, he said by the common law a man had a right to whip his wife, and that so long as he was a freeman he would have the right of one, and that he would whip her every day of her life if he wanted to." Mary reveals that her husband has abandoned her "and her babies to this fate and the last rumor She heard of him he had taken up with a mulatto woman and was the father of two children by her." She therefore prays that "now if your Honorable body ... will only set aside, and undue this unfortunate act of your petitioner's youthful folly, and indiscretion; she hopes she will be able to do better in a second marriage than she did in her first; for she knows she could do worse that she did when she [and] Billy Hookins became man and wife."

PAR Number 11680606

State: Virginia Year: 1806
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1800, Charlotte Ball married William Ball who possessed property "very adequate with care and industry to their decent support." Charlotte informs the court that "she had every reason to hope for as great a portion of happiness as most people enjoy in a married state." It was not meant to be; within a short while, William Ball began to strike and beat Charlotte, and even threatened to kill her. In addition, he "wasted his substance to the last farthing in profligacy and debaucheries." Although Charlotte does not reveal to the court the details of these "debaucheries," we learn from related depositions that it included excessive drinking and adultery with both white and black women. Charlotte contends that in spite of the violence and the outrage she "conducted herself on all occasions towards" her husband "with humble duty, fidelity, and affection." The situation, however, became unbearable and she eventually left her husband's house and returned to her father's, where she has now lived for four years and accumulated some property to support herself and her children. She claims that her husband is trying to confiscate her property; she seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11681013

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Prince William Location Type: County

Abstract: When his daughter-in-law, Harriot Sophia Mollohon, moved to the Mississippi Territory to join her new husband, John Linton, Timothy Brundige loaned her a ten-year-old servant named Clara. However, Harriot Linton having died soon after her settling in Natchez; and Clara, having expressed the desire to return to her native state of Virginia, John Linton was induced by his "benevolent goodness" to provide passage for her via New Orleans and on to Baltimore. She has now been in Baltimore for a few months and Brundige wants to bring her back to Virginia. He asks that the slave be permitted to return to her native state. Although Harriot Sophia Mollohon is described as Brundige's "daugter In law," it is possible that she was in fact his stepdaughter, the term being then used interchangeably.

PAR Number 11681709

State: Virginia Year: 1817
Location: Bedford Location Type: County

Abstract: Sopha Dobyns, daughter of the late Colonel Thomas Septwick, was married to Jonah Dobyns at age sixteen. She now complains that, after two years her husband, began to abuse and beat her, and continued to do so for the next four years. She escaped her husband's mistreatment by retreating to her father's house on several occasions, but when she returned home, Dobyns would whip her and threaten to take her life. One visitor to the plantation testified, in a related document, that he heard Dobyns boast "in her absence he had taken one of his own Negroe Women into her bed and that he would do it again whenever it Suited him." Sopha's father is now dead and he has left her a trust estate in slaves ample enough for her comfortable maintenance and that of her children. She seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 11681903

State: Virginia Year: 1819
Location: Louisa Location Type: County

Abstract: Barbara W. Pettus seeks a divorce from her husband Hugh M. Pettus, whom she had married about 1809 only to discover he was a man of immoral character. Not only was he engaged in "wicked and vicious pursuit" of trading slaves from Maryland and Virginia to South Carolina and Georgia, but when he returned home about every six months he brought with him "coloured female Slaves, his kept mistresses." He finally decided to move to Georgia, and she believed it was her duty to accompany him; but he has run off with "a young woman of respectable family," with whom he lives as man and wife.

PAR Number 11682408

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: King William Location Type: County

Abstract: Evelina Gregory Roane, "a Daughter of affluence," seeks a divorce and custody of her infant son. Evelina represents that her marriage to Newman B. Roane has been wrought with "hardship and cruelty." She confides that "she was quickly reduced to the situation of a Slave who for some unpardonable offense, was constantly under the frowns of its master." Evelina further discloses that the said Newman admitted that "he had two mulatto children then at his Brothers who were much more comely and hansome than any she would ever bear" and shortly thereafter "this negroe woman and two mulatto children were brought upon the plantation." She confesses that "her husband adopted this woman as the more eligible companion & wife," and she reveals that her husband boasted that "if he had not expected a fortune he would never have married her." Having endured and survived multiple violent assaults, she asserts that she "obtained the restraining power of the civil magistrate" to force her husband "to keep the peace toward your Petitioner for the space of twelve months." She therefore prays that "a law may pass this honorable Body Divorcing your Petitioner from her husband ... and provide in the said act of Divorce that your Petitioner may be allowed to keep the said Junius B Roane in her possession until he comes to an age proper for being put to school."

PAR Number 11683601

State: Virginia Year: 1836
Location: King William Location Type: County

Abstract: Ann Eliza Eubank represents that she petitioned the "Circuit Supr Court of Law and chancery for the County of King William" for a divorce from her husband Alfred. Married in 1831, the petitioner confides that the said Alfred displayed "cruel and unmanly conduct" towards her and that the jury found the facts in her statement "substantially proven." She therefore prays "that the General assembly will pass a Law to divorce her ... from her said husband dissolving and annulling & avoiding all the rights, privileges and powers which were acquired by the said Alfred Eubank by virtue of the said marriage." The Superior Court documents reveal the charge of adultery, charging that "the said Alfred indulged in the most shameful, sinful and degrading intercourse with other women, white and colored-- That he frequently left the marriage Bed to seek the Bed of a colored woman."

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