Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: emancipation

The predicament.

As we have already noted, according to the laws of the colonial period, illegitimate children acquired the status of the mother, and this ruling explains the predicament of John Oggs’ children. Oggs was a bachelor whose housekeeper and cook was his slave, a Negro woman named Hester. By her he fathered four offspring, two males and two females. To “my gairl Alley (Alice)” and “my boy Jesse” he devised an equal interest in the plantation whereon he lived. To “my gairl Prudence” and “my boy Charles” he bequeathed the “land on the Island.” The total acreage of his real estate was between two and three hundred acres. He had failed, however, to provide for the manumission of either the mother or her children and since the law prohibited a slave from owning real property, the complications produced by the will became immediately evident. Here were properties clearly intended for individuals who were unable to exercise the privileges of ownership.

This peculiar state of affairs continued for a period of eighteen years, the boy Jesse having died in the meantime, when John Hamilton solved the problem by sponsoring a special legislative enactment, doubtless at the behest of interested persons in Camden and in Pasquotank. Following are quoted pertinent passages from the act finally passed by the State Legislature: “And whereas, the within mentioned Hester, and her children Charles, Alley and Prudence Oggs, are recommended to this General Assembly by several very respectable inhabitants of Camden and Pasquotank, as worthy of being manumitted and set free agreeable to the intentions of their father John Oggs. . . . Be it therefore enacted, that the said Negro woman Hester, and her children Charles, Alley and Prudence Oggs, are hereby manumitted and set free to all intents and purposes, and to possess all rights and privileges as if they had been born free.”

Exercising their long-delayed rights of ownership, for a few years the Oggs heirs sold and bought real estate. The father had owned one tract located in a neighborhood now known as Wickham, and the other was on Indian Island. Prudence finally purchased fifty acres on Indian Island, where she apparently spent her last days. Hester and the other two children later assumed the surname of Dixon. Eventually they sold all their possessions and departed for parts unknown.

Excerpt from Jesse F. Pugh, Three Hundred Years Along the Pasquotank (1957).

He has accumulated $6000 in livestock, negroes and money, and he petitions for freedom.

To the Honorable The General Assembly – of North Carolina –

The petition of Ned Hyman (a slave) humbly complaining sheweth unto The Honorable The General Assembly aforesaid, that your petitioner now residing in the Town Williamston in the County of Martin & state aforesd, and by occupation a farmer — was born some fifty four or five years ago the property & slave of one Jno. Hyman of Bertie County, that sd Master Saml., that after sd Master Saml., in whose possession and under whose control and management your petitioner lived and served from the time up to the death of sd Master Saml — which happened some time in the year 1828 — Since that time your petitioner with little exception has been under the control of the Executor of his sd decd. Master. Your petitioner would further state, that during his long period and through every change of Master or service your petitioner has been a faithful and an honest servant to the interest of him or her whom it was his duty to serve — and of this he hopes he can give the most satisfactory testimonials. Your petitioner would further state that some time about his Twenty-seventh year he intermarried with one Elizabeth Hagans a free woman of Colour with whom he has lived in friendship and harmony with little or no exception ever since; (and although your petitioner has been informed that the sd union or marriage did not constitute your petitioner & sd Elizabeth “husband & wife” in the Legal acceptation of that phrase — yet your humble petitioner would ask the indulgence of your Honorable body and hope that it will not be considered at all presuming, to use these words, through out the remainder of this petition and the other writings accompanying it, when ever there may be necessity for them or either of them, instead of words — of like import –) Your petitioner would further state, that through the indulgence and advantages which his kind & benevolent master extended to him, aided by his industry prudence and frugality and seconded by the virtues and exertions on the part of your petitioners wife — Elizabeth, (not less profitable,) your petitioner has had the good fortune to accumulate an estate worth from five to six thousand dollars; consisting of lands chiefly live stock negroes and money, the right & title to all which except the money is vested in your petitioners wife Elizabeth — Your petitioner would further state that it was the wish of his decd Master Saml. Hyman expressed to his family often times during his last illness that your petitioner after his death should do service as a slave to no person — but that as far as was consistent with the Laws of the State he wished him to be free — alleging as the reasons, that your petitioner had been a trusty faithful and obedient servant to him through a long period of years; that your petitioner would further state that in furtherance of this kind and benevolent wish of your petitioners decd Master for your petitioners future freedom and happiness, his Executor Jno. S. Bryan has (At your petitioners request) sold your petitioner to your petitioners sd wife Elizabeth. — that your petitioner by his sd. wife Elizabeth has three children Penny, Sarah, and Ned — the two daughters are of full age, the son nearly so — that your petitioner has been informed that by, either the death of his sd wife Elizabeth or a change in her feelings or disposition towards your petitioner, your petitioner might not only lose his whole estate but even that portion of freedom and happiness, which by the kindness of his wife he is now permitted to enjoy. But your petitioner in justice to his kind and affectionate wife Elizabeth would further state, that she is not disposed at all to abridge in the least degree the liberty or happiness of your petitioner but wishes and desires (if consistent with the will of the Honorable The Genl. Assembly aforsd) that the same may be inlarged & increased — that she is therefore perfectly willing and anxiously desires to give up her sd title to your petitioner to the Honorable Genl. Assembly aforesaid that they may confer the same (by an act of manumission) to gether with such other liberties and privileges & immunities as other free persons of Colour now by law enjoys, — upon your petitioner — that to this end & for this purpose the sd Elizabeth the wife of your petitioner will unite with your petitioner in praying The Honorable Genl. Assembly aforesad — that they would take his case into consideration and to pass such an act in favor of your petitioners manumission they as they in their wisdom may deem meet and proper — that in Confirmation of the sd Elizabeths sincerity in this prayer and request she will most willingly Sign this petition with your petitioner — Your petitioner considers that further enlarging might be trespassing too much upon the time of The Honorable the Gen. Assembly aforesaid — But in conclusion however your petitioner would further stat that from this facts already stated it must be apparent in what an unpleasant and grievous situation your petitioner is placed — He has by laboring of in the nights and as such other spare times as his master would give him and by his prudence and frugality acquired an estate which (Say nothing of the uncertainties of life) he has not the assurance of enjoying even for a day — that he in a single hour might be placed in a worse condition than the day he began his life — that your petitioner has by his faithfulness and extraordinary attention to his masters business and interest secured his esteem and favor and obtained his sincere wishes that your petitioner should be freed — & the nearest your petitioner has been able to approach an end so desirable to his decd Master, is, to have your petitioner vested in your petitioners sd wife Elizabeth — that it must be evident to the Honorable The Genl. Assemble from these facts in what a precarious condition, stand the property, the liberty and [e]ven the happiness itself of your petitioner — Your petitioner together with his wife Elizabeth therefore pray the Genl. Assembly aforsd in tender consideration of his unhappy and grievous condition to pass such an act for his benefit and relief, as in their wisdom may seem meet & in their justice may seem right & proper & your humble petitioners is in duty bound will ever pray &c   Ned X Hyman, Elizabeth X Hagans

Test Wm. B. Bennett, E.S. Smithwick

 

 

An act to emancipate Ned Hyman.

An Act to emancipate Ned Hyman, a slave

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That Ned Hyman, a slave belonging to Elizabeth Hagans, of Martin county, is hereby with the consent and at the request of his said owner, emancipated and set free; and by the name of Ned Hyman, shall hereafter possess and exercise all the rights and privileges which are enjoyed by other free persons of color within this State: Provided, nevertheless, that before such slave shall be emancipated, the petitioner shall give bond and good security to the Governor and his successors in office, in the County Court of Martin county, that the said slave shall honestly and correctly demean himself as long as he shall remain in the State, and shall not become a parish charge; which bond may be sued upon in the name of the Governor for the time being, to the use of the parish and of any person injured by the malconduct of such slave.

Chapter CIX, Public and Private Laws of North Carolina, 1833-34, North Carolina State Library.

The poor fellow is an orderly and honest seaman.

To the Worshipfull the Justices of Perq’s County Court Now Siting

The Petition of the Subscribers in Behalf of a Certain Negro Man Named James formerly the Property of Thomas Newby of the County Aforesaid Humbly Sheweth That some time in the Year 1776 the said Thomas Newby Manumited the said Negro Man James, that since that the Greater Part of his time he has been Employed as a Seaman, and has made Several Voyages from this State & Virginia in the time of the Last War, and that he has Twice, or more been made Prisoner by the British, That he Embraced the Earliest Opportunity in Making his Escape to Return to this Country being the place of his Nativity, where he has a Wife & Children, That once during the War between America & Great Britain he Entered himself onboard of one of the American armed Vessels, That during the Time of his Servitude with his said Master, he behaved himself as a faithfull Servant, and Rendered his Master great Services as a Seaman, and that since his freedom we have reasons to Believe he has Continued to behave Orderly and Honest. We are therefore willing to hope that on your Worships Maturely considering and Weighing every particular, you will be of opinion that the Poor fellow is Intitled to some small share of Merrit, If that should be your worships Opinion. We earnestly Solicit (in the poor fellow behalf) that you Will permit an Entry to be made on the Minutes of your Court allowing the Fellow to have done Something Meritorious, and for that Reason you will give a Sanction to his freedom, that he may with Safety Visit his Wife and Children, when It will be in his Power to Render further Services to this State, as an able Seaman, & Your Petitioners Shall ever pray &c   /s/ Thos. Newby [and nine others]

[Granted.]

Slave Records, Perquimans County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

A petition to emancipate an old and faithful companion.

State of North Carolina, Robeson County –

To the honorable the Judge of the Superior Court of Law in and for the County aforesaid –

The Petition of Henry Barnes humbly shews to your Honor that he is desirous to liberate his slave Judith Barnes who is more than fifty years of age – that he hath not received in money or otherwise [illegible] or value or any part thereof [illegible] to petition for her emancipation nor consideration of any kind to be paid [illegible] The said Judith was born a slave and conducted herself as such with great fidelity to her owners and on one occasion when Mrs. Jacobs – the wife of Zachariah Jacobs was suddenly taken in labor without ever having practiced as a midwife, by her skill or good memory on it and attention she delivered the lady and was the means of saving both the mother and child – since that time she has occasionally assisted the other women in like situations and has been serviceable in that way in her neighbourhood without however adopting it as a business or a source of profit – that your petitioner was also born a slave and many years ago was liberated by his master – that his slave Judith was and still is his wife and by that by his economy and industry he was enabled to own money enough to purchase her of the administrator of her last master – Thomas Waters – and to pay for her and has held her as his slave for more than ten years – that your petitioner is between 60 & 70 years of age and feels that he is becoming quite infirm and can not expect to live long; and it would be in the highest degree distressing to reflect that his old and faithful companion should after his death be [illegible] as a slave – Wherefore your Petitioner prays for [illegible] to emancipate her and your Petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray &c

State of North Carolina, Robeson County   }

Harry Bryan makes out that the matters and things set forth in the within petition as of his own knowledge are true and those otherwise stated he believes to be true

[No date.] Slave Records, Robeson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

In the 1850 census of Southern Division, Robeson County: Judith Barnes, 63, with Daniel, 17, and Martha Fort, 8.

Please free Clara, two years old.

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina

The petition of Thomas Johnson of Washington County humbly sheweth that he is the owner of a mulatto slave named Clara (Clary), about the age of two years, whom he is desirous to emancipate. Your petitioner therefore prays your Honorable Body to pass a bill to liberate said slave and that she may be called by the name of Clara Johnson and your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray.  /s/ Thomas Johnson

General Assembly Session Records, November-December 1813, Box 3, North Carolina State Archives.

I ordain that my wife and seven children shall be free.

In the name of God, amen, I Abraham Jones of the County of Anson in the State of North Carolina, farmer, being very Sick and weak in body, but of Perfect mind and memory, thanks be given to God; calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die do make and ordain this my last will and Testament; that is to say, principally and first of all, I give and recommend my Soul into the hand of Almighty god that gave it, and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in decent Christian burial, at the discretion of my executors; nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection, I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God, and as touching such Worldly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless, me in this life, I give, demise, and dispose of in the following manner.

And first of all as my wife Lydia was the purchase of my money: lest any person should after my death take advantage of my family to indeavor to bring them into bondage, I do hereby will Ordain and Establish that my wife Lyddia, and Seven Children which she hath had by me which she hath had by me which I own as the offspring of my body, viz Isaac, Jacob, John, Thomas, Abraham, Lewis, and Sucy Shall be free from any slavery servitude bondage or any incomberance whatsoever as touching anything that might arise from the adore sd purchase of my wife Lyddia, and I do hereby release relieve and diliver them and each of them, from any claim or demand whatsoever of any person or persons claiming under any right or title from me  ___ otherwise giving them their freedom and that forever. And as to the division and distribution of Lands and other property I demise in the following manner.

I will and bequeath to my son, Isaac the sum of thirty Shillings Sterling, money of South Carolina, I will and bequeath unto my son Jacob fifty Acres of land where he now lives to be so laid off as not to cross the Big branch it to include his house where he now lives.

I will and bequeath to my daughter Suckey one horse of the value of twenty pounds N.C. Currency a side sadle, and one Cow and Calf to e delivered to her  in two years after my death.

I will and bequth unto my beloved wife Lyddia, all my moveable property, together with the use and full possession of the remaining Part of my land, to wit 200 acres (to have the sole command of all my Real and personal Estate) after my Lawful debts are paid) during her life or Widdowhood

I will and bequth unto my Children, viz John, Thomas, Abraham, Lewis, and Suckey, at the death or marriage of my wife, an Equal division of all my moveable Estate, and the land to be divided equally amongst my sons, John, Thomas, Abraham and Lewis, and lastly I appoint, my wife and my trusty friend Stephen Thomas as my sold Executrix and executor, establishing this my last will and testament disannulling all other wills and bequests whatsoever                  Abraham X Jones

Signed pronounced Sealed and established in the presence of us

Frame Woods, John X Martin, Benjamin X Thomas

—–

State of North Carolina

Anson County          July Court 1805

Then the within will was duly proved in open court by the oath of Benj. Hinson one of the witnesses thereto and Ordered to be recorded    Ted Robinson Clk

Will Book 2, page 77-78. Office of Clerk of Superior Court, Anson County Courthouse, Wadesboro.

Abraham Jones appears in the 1790 census of Anson County as the head of a household of nine free people of color.

He was formerly a slave and wants to free his wife.

To the Worshipful the Justices of the Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions for the County of Craven

The Petition of Robert Lisbon humbly sheweth. –

That your Petitioner was formerly a slave, and in consequence of his meritorious services was on the petition of his master emancipated under the license of this worshipful Court. Your Petitioner further sheweth that being married to a negro woman slave the property of John C. Osborn usually named Venus, your Petitioner purchased the said Venus and is now in law her master. Your Petitioner sheweth that the conduct of the said Negro woman Venus has been highly meritorious and exemplary and that your Petitioner is anxious to be permitted to emancipate her. He prays that your Worships on being satisfied of these facts will graciously accord him a licence to set her free. And your Petitioner will ever & gratefully pray.  Robt Lisbon by Will: Gaston

[Judgment granted.]

Records of Slaves and Free Persons of Color, Craven County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Three women emancipated.

Captions of the Laws Passed by the General Assembly of North-Carolina, in December, 1812.

EMANCIPATION.

1. An act to Emancipate a Negro girl named Violet.

2. To emancipate Isabella and Jane, two Negro slaves belonging to the estate of James Allen, deceased.

Star, Raleigh, 25 December 1812.

Concerning Hannah, a likely young handsome female with good qualities.

The bond of Doctor Nesbitt and his letter to Mr Jonah Clark, (concerning a certain mulatto woman called Hannah, who formerly belonged to said Clark) having lately been put into my hands, and understanding that Dr Nesbitt still threatens to make another attempt to carry her off in a clandestine manner, I have thought proper to lay them before the public through the medium of the Wilmington Gazette.

John McFarlane

Wilmington, April 16, 1805

—–

Know all men by these presents that I, Robert Nesbitt, of the State of South Carolina, Physician, am held and firmly bound to Jonah Clark, of North Carolina, planter, in the sum of four hundred pounds, current money of the state of North Carolina, for the payment of which sum to the said Jonah Clark, his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns, I, the said Robert Nesbitt, do hereby bind myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators firmly by these presents sealed with my seal and dated this 24th day of April, 1797. The condition of the above obligation is such, that whereas I, the said Robert Nesbitt, have purchased and possessed myself of a certain Mulatto Female slave, named Hannah, late the property of the said Clark, which said mulatto slave I, the said Nesbitt have agreed with the said Clark, to manumit and set free, free, whensoever he, the said Clark, or any person for him or his representatives, or any person for them shall pay, or cause to be paid to the said Nesbitt, the sum of three hundred and forty Spanish milled dollars, or in case of my death, to my representatives; now, therefore, if I, the said Robert  Nesbitt, or my representatives, shall at any time after the date of these presents on application of said Clark or his representatives, and the payment by him or them as aforesaid, or the sum of three hundred and forty dollars aforesaid, manumit, emancipate and set free agreeably to law, the said mulatto slave Hannah, so that she shall not be thereafter subject to the control, or command, or debt, or demand of any person whatever as a slave. Then the above obligation to be void, otherwise to to remain and abide in full force and virtue.

In witness whereof, the said Robert have hereunto set his hand and seal, the day and year aforesaid.

Robert Nesbitt (Seal)

Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of G Hooper

—–

Mr Jonah Clark,

It surprised me not a little at the return of my boy, without Hannah, after you had promised me so faithfully that she should be sent whenever called for, now after being with you near one twelve month, immediately upon sending for Hannah, down comes Sye with a letter from you mentioning Hannah’s unwillingness to come, likewise that Sye would deliver me three hundred and forty dollars at the same time, putting me in mind of justice and honor in the nature of the contract between  yourself and me. Gods know if any justice or honor were thought of either by yourself or me when that penal bond was given you by me, as you well know I was obliged to do so, to get my property delivered to me by you — but again Sye never delivered this money as your letter to me specifies, no it is sent down to an Allston with a letter to them to see this business done and should I refuse to emancipate your daughter Hannah, to commence an action against me immediately for the recovery of the Penalty — but you were too fast, you thought you had things to your wishes, not knowing it was necessary that the wench must be down on the occasion as the law requires.

I would notwithstanding have sent Hannah up for her cloths not Sye and being apprehensive of the consequence would not venture as you have deceived me more than once, you will deliver the clothes to my servant or cause them to be delivered at the request of Hannah and myself.

You may conceive a great deal of honor in my penal bond, but there is really none except what the laws of my country will make me comply with, which is either to emancipate Hannah or pay the penalty of eight hundred dollars which when paid will be no more than four hundred and sixty out of my pocket, and believe me, should you push, and I expect nothing else and indeed it is my wish, will and shall exert myself to pay you in your own coin, that is, will endeavour to procure your antique mouldy papers wherever they may be procured either below or above the value, for am not a little irritated at your conduct after my handsome behaviour to you and yours. But on the contrary if you will leave it in my breast to emancipate, which I promise you I shall on these conditions — that she continue with me my life, I will return you the money that I have received from you by Mr Allston whatever intent it might have been given for. I wish you to consider the business maturely as it concerns Hannah’s welfare much, like consider if you have any bonds still out unpaid, if you have, be assured I will endeavour to purchase them, likewise consider what an enormous price negroes sell at in So. Carolina, a likely young handsome female with good qualities and disposition will bring a price extraordinary. I have been offered for Hannah 1290 by one 1730 dollars by another but Sir, that and twice as much more will not tempt me to part with her, unless am provoked and find it not safe to keep her (that is to say people of bad stamp should put notions in her head to abscond from me, which I am certain she will never do otherwise.

However to come to a conclusion whatever has been said above is really from a candid mind, that never meant to injure you nor yours, but rather were it in my power would assist if occasion wanted and I request you to write me as candidly by my servant, whatever you think on the subject and what you wish to be at, whether you will accede to my proposals or what you first intended, am prepared for either, Hannah says she is satisfied with my offer.

I remain Sir, expecting to hear from you by my servant, your most obedient

Robert Nesbitt

Waccamaw, 15 Nov 1801

Mr Jonah Clark, North Carolina

N.B. I have been just now inform in bringing the horse across the river to the main, he has got staked and he being the only horse I can spare, the other being rode down, Sye will deliver this to you, unless I change my mind.

Send the clothes belonging to Hannah over to Mr Howes so that when my boy should come he may not be detained unnecessarily.

R.N.

Wilmington Gazette, 23 April 1805.

[Sidenote: This is not, strictly speaking, a document about a free person of color, as I don’t know whether Hannah was ever emancipated. It is, however, a fascinating — and appalling — glimpse behind a curtain.

In a nutshell, Clark sold (or, in effect, mortgaged) his own daughter Hannah to Nesbitt for $340, and Nesbitt agreed to free her upon reimbursement of payment. The girl, however, apparently remained with Clark for a year. When Nesbitt sent for her, Clark’s slave Sye delivered a message that Hannah was unwilling to come, and Clark was ready to pay the $340. The girl eventually went to Nesbitt’s, but Clark did not pay Nesbitt directly. Instead, he sent the money to an intermediary with a threat to sue Nesbitt if he did not free the girl. Nesbitt was outraged and threatened to sell Hannah in South Carolina if Clark did not let him keep her his lifetime (with money refunded.) John McFarlane submitted Nesbitt’s letters in a Wilmington newspaper to expose Nesbitt’s threats to the public. – LYH]