Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: capital crime

He saw his money walk into a white man’s pocket.

State v. Jarrott, a slave, 23 NC 76 (1840).

This case arose in Person County. Jarrott, an enslaved man, was indicted for the murder of Thomas Chatham, who was 18 or 19 years old.  A 14 year-old white boy named John T. Brooks testified that he went with Chatham to a fish-trap in the neighborhood in a Saturday night and remained until “about two or three hours before day.” They were the only white people present.  Jarrott and a free negro named Jack Hughes argued over a card game and called on Chatham to “keep the game for them.” After a second argument, Hughes refused to play anymore.  Jarrott snatched up the handkerchief they had been playing on, knocking a twelve-and-a-half cent coin into the leaves. When he was unable to find it, he said “he saw his nine pence walk into a white man’s pocket, and that any white man who would steal a negro’s money, was not too good to unbutton a sheep’s collar.” Further, he charged Chatham with being raised on and living on stolen sheep, accused him of stealing his money, threatened to kill him if he did not give it up, and brandished a stick over his head. Chatham invited Jarrott to search his pockets, and turned them out when Jarrott refused. When Jarrott then accused Chatham of hiding the money in his shoes, he pulled off his shoes and socks. Another man got a light, searched among the leaves, and found the coin near where Chatham stood, which was “some six or seven steps from the spot” where Jarrott jerked up his handkerchief. Chatham sat down near the fire and Jarrott “continued to abuse him, using very indecent and insolent language.”  Chatham asked Brooks for his knife, saying he wanted to cut his nails. He then told Jarrott that if he did not hush, he would stick it in him. Jarrott raised his stick and dared him, and Chatham chased him around the fire with a length of fence rail. Jarrott ran off, but returned and “said something.” Chatham picked up his fence rail and approached Jarrott with the knife in his other hand. Brooks heard two blows, then saw Chatham lying on the ground.

The testimony of Isaac, an enslaved man, essentially corroborated Brooks’, but he added that there was about a 15-minute gap between the argument about the money and Chatham’s renewal of the dispute and threat to stab Jarrott.

A free negro named Nathan Jones corroborated Isaac, but denied that Jarrott ever brandished his stick over Chatham. He also swore that Chatham said he would kill Jarrott that night or go to his master Monday and have him whipped, then would waylay him and shoot him with a rifle.  Two other witnesses testified about Chatham’s wounds (two to the back of the head, about two inches in length); his size (“small and slender for a boy of his age,” said one, “not tall, but stoutly built,” said the other); and Jarrott’s stature (“about six feet high, and of the ordinary size of negroes of that height; and was about twenty-three years of age.”)

Jack Hughes testified that Chatham swung at Jarrott and missed before Jarrott knocked him down and struck him several blows.

The jury found Jarrott guilty of murder, and the judge pronounced a death sentence.

The appeal focused on the judge’s jury instructions. Though not agreeing with his every ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict, establishing that “the same matters which would be deemed in law a sufficient provocation to free a white man … from the guilt of murder, will not have the same effect when the party slain is a white man, and the offender a slave ….”

Sentenced to be hung.

DAVID VALENTINE, a free man of color, convicted at the late Term of Guilford Superior Court, of the murder of Mrs. West and her grand son, in Davidson County, was sentenced to be hung Friday, the 19th instant.

Raleigh Register, 6 November 1847.

[Sidenote: is this the same David Valentine as in the linked post? — LYH]

A strange coincidence.

A WELL-AIMED SHOT – Ends the Career of William G. Whitney – The Shot Fired by Jas. Y. Christmas — Particulars to the Affair – What a Family Feud Lead to – Testimony at the Coroner’s Inquest – Christmas Sent to Jail.

Saturday afternoon, at 5 o’clock, James Y. Christmas shot and instantly killed Wm. G. Whitney, at No. 1326 I street northwest, in the building known as the Catacazy Mansion, and now occupied by the Misses Harrover, as a boarding-house. Here Mrs. Myra Clark Gaines had been living with her son and his wife and their three children and her son-in-law, Mr. Christmas and his three motherless children. The men had been in the hair-mattress business as partners, but, owing to some disagreements, the partnership was dissolved. Whitney then went into business with H.A. Linger & Co., 1117 Nineteenth street.

A STRANGE COINCIDENCE, associated with this homicide, is the fact that many years ago, previous to the war, the father of Mr. Christmas shot and killed a free negro in North Carolina, and was tried and hanged for the crime. A cousin of Christmas was also hanged for murder.

Evening Critic, Washington DC, 27 June 1881.

Sentenced to the gallows for stealing a slave.

At the late session of the Superior Court of Currituck County, N.C. a free negro man named Moses FULLER was sentenced to the gallows for seducing and stealing in conjunction with several other persons, a certain negro woman slave, contrary to a statute of the state of North Carolina, making the offense death without benefit of clergy.  He is to be executed on the 29th ins.

Baltimore Patriot & Commercial Gazette, 20 November 1822.

A severe punishment.


A free boy of color, named Ned Carroll, was convicted at superior court for Johnson [sic] county, in this state, two weeks since, of an attempt to commit a rape on a white girl; and sentenced to be hung on the 25th inst.  A severe punishment, but a just one.

Western Carolinian, 8 April 1828.

Death for kidnappers.

Crimes punishable with death in North Carolina for a single offence.

16. Taking a free negro or person of mixed blood out of the State with the intention to sell or dispose of him, &c.

Highland Messenger, Asheville, 13 March 1846.

A decanter of whiskey?

A free negro is lately condemned to be hung at Tarboro’, in this State, for forcibly entering a house and stealing a decanter of whiskey!

Highland Messenger, Asheville, 1 Apr 1842.