Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tenant or servant?

Joseph Hare v. Barney Pearson, 26 NC 76 (1843).

This matter was appealed from Fall Term, 1843, Superior Court of Law of Nash County. The case involved an action of trover (wrongful possession of private property) for a quantity of corn.  At trial, the Hare showed that Pearson rented a small tract of land in 1841 to Elijah Powell, a free man of color, for the year 1841. Powell agreed to pay one-half his corn crop as rent. On 13 March, 1841, an unnamed person obtained a judgment against Powell and an execution was levied on his growing crop the following June. When the corn was gathered, Powell and Pearson divided it equally and stored it in one barn.  Before the sheriff’s sale on 8 February, 1842, more than half the corn had been removed from the barn. Pearson objected to the sale, claiming the remaining corn as his. The sale proceeded, and Hare bought was left. Pearson exclaimed that he would break every bone in Hare’s body before he would let Hare take the corn. Pearson offered evidence that he had not rented the land to Powell, and Powell was only a laborer with no ownership interest in the crop.

The Court left it to the jury to decide whether Powell was Pearson’s tenant in 1841 (in which case, the sheriff had a right to levy on the crop and Hare was entitled to its value after Pearson refused to give it over), or whether he was merely his servant (in which case Hare could not recover.) The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.

The Supreme Court found that, even if Powell had been Pearson’s servant, the evidence showed that they had split the crop, giving Powell title to half. Powell was present at the sale, and it was he, rather than Pearson, who had standing to object to any irregularity.  Pearson claimed Powell’s corn without title, and his threat to beat Hare rather than let him take his purchase amounted to conversion. This was a matter of law, not fact, and should not have been sent to the jury. Judgment affirmed.

He was the same person who had been kidnapped from his mother.

Wilmington, Oct. 2. – About eleven years ago, a white man came to the house of a free coloured woman, named Fanny Larrington, living on the sound, in the neighbourhood of this town, and requested her to lend him some assistance in bringing up some things he had landed close by. She readily sent her eldest child Dick with him. His long stay alarmed her; she went to look for him, and then she called, received no answer. She had not gone far when she heard the cry of her two younger children whom she left in the house. In returning to their relief she suddenly came upon a Negro man who had under each arm one of her children, who, he instantly dropped and made his escape into the woods. The mother knew at once the fate of her son, and while she embraced her little daughters thus fortunately rescued, she cried bitterly for the loss of her eldest child, who had been so cruelly and treacherously stolen from her. Of this son she had not heard any tidings, until a few days ago he arrived in Wilmington, and made her, as he was himself, happy by the recovery of his long lost freedom. He went before a very respectable Magistrate of this town and proved by two credible witnesses, that he was the same person who had been kidnapped from his mother as above recited, and that he was born free. He states that he went along with the white man to the landing, but saw nothing to bring away; he was obliged to go into a canoe over to the opposite side of the Creek, and when, on hearing his mother call for him he attempted to answer her, his mouth was gagged and he forced to accompany him through the woods, until, as by concert, they met on the road a wagon and team going into the back country. The apparent owner of it, who called himself “Dukes” claimed him as his property, carried him away and sold him. His last master was Mr. Wm. Walker, of Stokes county, with whom he went by the name of Prince. A subscription had been raised for the purpose of sending on a person who could identify this boy and by regular process of law, release him from his slavery. But Dick had availed himself of a favourable opportunity. He escaped, and by the exercise of considerable ingenuity, made good his way to Wilmington, where his claims to freedom have been substantiated beyond the possibility of a doubt.

Observing in the Raleigh Star an advertisement of Mr. Walker for a runway Negro, it would be well for the Editor of that paper to notice the circumstances here stated. It is hoped that by means of his last master, the perpetrators of this atrocious crime may be found out and brought to that punishment which they richly deserve.  – Gazette.

Star, Raleigh, 11 October 1810.

Both drowned.

Mr. Alpheus Whitehurst and a free coloured man, in attempting to cross Ocracoke Bar, a few days since, were capsized in their boat, and both drowned. – ib.

Tarboro’ Press, 15 June 1839.

She shall have a comfortable maintenance.

I, Nathan Lamb of the County of Randolph & State of North Carolina being of sound mind & memory but considering the uncertainty of my earthly existence do make & declare these my last Will & Testament in manner and form following. That is to say first that my executor shall provide for my body a decent burial suitable to the wishes of my relations & friends & pay all funeral expenses together with my just debts howsoever & to whomsoever owing out of the money that may first come into his hands as part or parcel of my estate.

Item, I give & devise to my beloved wife Mary Lamb all the tract of land & plantation whereon I now live including my mansion house & all outhouses & other improvements whatsoever to her the said Mary Lamb to have & to hold for & during her natural life or widowhood in lieu of her dower & thirds of my real estate.

Item, I give and devise to my grandson Nathan Wall all this tract of land whereon I now live except the life estate of my wife derived in a former item on this my will & except the maintenance of my old Servant mentioned in another item to have & to hold to him & his heirs in fee simple forever.

Item, I give & devise to my daughter Mary Morgan, wife of William Morgan, all that tract of land whereon Elizabeth Stanton now lives known by the name of the Morgan Place to have & to hold to her & her heirs in fee Simple forever.

Item, I give & bequeath to my Said beloved wife Mary Lamb all the household & kitchen furniture all the horses & cattle & hogs & all the farming tools & all my other property on this plantation, all the crops of every discription that may be on the plantation whereon I now live & all the provisions on hand at my death for & during her natural life or widowhood except what may be necessary to pay all funeral expenses together with my just debts to be Selected & Sold by my executor for that purpose provided there Should not be money Sufficient on hand.

Item, My will & desire is that all the Crop Stock & provisions on hand at the death of my wife all the improvements of husbandry & all other personal property belonging to the estate Should be Sold & the money arriving from such Sale Should be equally divided among my children, except Mary Morgan, Share & Share alike to them & their personal representatives forever.

Item, My will is also that Luce, a free woman of Colour formerly in my Service Shall have a comfortable maintenance from my home plantation during her natural life or whenever She may chose to live thereon.

And lastly, I do hereby constitute & appoint my Son in Law William Chamness my lawful executor to all intents & purposes to execute the my last will & testament according to the true intent and meaning thereof, hereby revoking & declaring utterly void all other wills & testaments by me hereuntofore made. In witness whereof the Said Nathan Lamb do hereunto set my hand & seal this 4th day of May AD 1839.  Nathan X Lamb. Witnesses Daniel Swain, Anna Swain.     

Probated February term, 1845.  Randolph County Courthouse.