State of North Carolina Wayne County
I Zilley Hagans of the Same county having some Ennemys having Raised a Report that my Childrain is Runing about in the neighborhood for the purpose of giting Something to Eate & that they were likely to Suffer & that they are living in idleness this Report having bean Raised for the purpose of takeing my Children and having them bound out But I the sd Zilley Hagans will Certify to you By the Signature of my neighbours to the Revurse that they are Cleare from the Charge that is Reported against them I umbly Beg of the Court without Some Cause or proof of the Charge not to take my Children from me that is able to work and leave me with a parcell of Small Children not able to help them Selves this July the 25th 1824.
Box 3, Apprentice Bonds and Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
[Sidenote: Druzilla “Zilley” Hagans was called into court to show cause why her children should be bound as apprentices. To aid her quest to keep her children, she sought support from eleven white neighbors, who averred that charges against her were untrue. Most free colored families were painfully poor. A small and prosperous few worked as artisans or farmed their own land. Others eked out tolerable livings as farmhands or tenant farmers. However, opportunities for women’s paid work were few. Free women of color competed with slave and poor white women for the little washing or sewing that took place outside households. These women depended on the contributions of all family members who could work. A mother hwose children were bound could console herself with the expectation that her children would be fed, clothed and sheltered during the terms of their indenture. However, the loss of the labor of older children could imperil a family’s survival. As Hagans’ petition poignantly illustrates, children most useful as apprentices were also those most useful to their parents. Hagans’ petition was unsuccessful. Her children Vina, 16, Eli, 18, and Sherard Hagans, 9, were bound to Robert Hooks during the court term. The indentures of successive children left Hagans’ family in worse straits. In 1833, she approached the court with an arrangement with a neighbor that worked to the advantage of each. — LYH]