Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: negro-stealing

A free negro succeeded in making his escape.

More re the alleged Negro-stealing free Negro, Micajah Burnett:


 Weekly Standard (Raleigh NC), 20 September 1848.

The agent of white men in stealing negroes for sale.

Kidnapping. – At Wayne Superior Court last week, the Grand Jury found true bills, for stealing Slaves (with intent to convey away, and sell, and dispose of) against Bryan Sanders, Needham Stevens, John P. Williams, and Micajah Burnett (a free negro.) The Defendants removed their cause to Sampson County, except Burnett, who has escaped to the North, and will probably soon turn lecturer on Abolition, to our tender-hearted friends in that region. We hope his prospects of success and fame, may not be marred by the fact that he has for some months been the agent of white men, in stealing negroes for sale at the South – and has largely shared in the profits. He can doubtless talk very affectingly and feelingly on the horrors of the internal Slave trade, having been extensively engaged in it himself.  Raleigh Register.

Hillsborough Recorder, 18 October 1848.

Free mulatto negro-stealer.

Negro Stealing. – It is stated in the Edenton Gazette, (N.C.) that the noted Willis Edge, a free mulatto, of negro stealing memory, was shot on the 8th ult., in Hertford County, when in the act of arresting him for another offence of the same kind, lately committed.

The Adams Centinel, Gettysburg PA, 7 April 1824.

He once sold a free negro named Wingfield.

State v. John C. Hardin, 19 NC 407 (1837).

John C. Hardin (and John Haney, whose case went to the Supreme Court separately) was indicted for negro-stealing in Rutherford county. Hardin’s trial was removed to Burke County, where he was convicted on both counts in the indictment.   At trial, the State proved that a slave, the property of Nancy Davis, was stolen, or seduced, or went, from Davis’ Rutherford County plantation, on the fourth Saturday of July, 1836.

A witness named Robins testified that on the day after the slave disappeared, he saw Haney at a meeting house in the neighborhood. Haney told him that a negro had come to him the preceding night a little before day and requested that Haney go that evening and tell Hardin to meet him at a place called Webb’s old field that night, about an hour after dark. In the course of the conversation, Haney remarked, “Hardin has missed the one he has been trying to secure; but good luck will come after bad. Tell him, this boy has come to me.” Robins and Hardin went to the place and at the time appointed. Haney whistled and “a large negro-man” When asked where he had come from, Haney said, “He came from the widow Davis.” Haney then remarked, “You, Robins, must take him off. It will be a safe trip, as the widow has not energy to press like some people. In the mean time Hardin will keep him till you get ready to start.” As Haney left, he remarked to Hardin, “You know our agreement,” to which Hardin replied, “yes, it will do.” Hardin, Robins, and the slave then went to a point about a half-mile distant from Hardin’s house.  Hardin thought there might be somebody at his house and directed Robin and the slave to stay in the woods until he checked and returned. Hardin did not return that night, but came with food the next morning. Hardin, Robins and the slave agreed that Robins would take the negro to South Carolina and sell him; that Robins would leave that day and to prepare; and that the enslaved man would meet him the next day at a point designated on the road. All proceeded accordingly, and Robins and another associate, Williams, carried the slave to South Carolina and sold him for nine hundred dollars. Williams was paid part, Haney was paid one hundred and forty-five dollars, and Hardin was paid two hundred and fifty-five dollars. (Hardin insisted upon having the largest share because of “his having tried so long to get a negro, in which he met with bad luck.”) Robins testified that his habits had been moral and upright until he met Hanes and Hardin, who influenced him to join a club that had members spread over the country.  This was his first adventure in selling slaves. However, when further pressed, Robins admitted that he had once sold a free negro named Wingfield for one thousand dollars, of which he gave two hundred dollars to Wingfield himself (for agreeing to be sold); two hundred dollars to a man in South Carolina for helping him to sell Wingfield; one hundred dollars to Haney; ninety dollars to Hardin; and the rest for himself. Robins also stated Haney told him and Hardin, “You know our plan is to steal the negro again and sell him over, so you must make up something to pay for doing that,” and each gave Haney twenty-five more dollars. 

Hardin was found guilty and sentenced to death.  He appealed, arguing  that (1) the jury relied upon the uncorroborated testimony of a co-conspirator, and (2) he had only conveyed away, not stolen, the slave.  The state supreme court rejected the former argument, but agreed with the latter, i.e. that Hardin was a “mere accessory” to the actual theft of the slave.  Venire de novo awarded.

Something wrong was going on.

State v. Edmund Martin, 34 NC 157 (1851).

Edmund Martin, a free man of color, was indicted in Forsyth County Superior Court for stealing a slave named Giles, the property of George W. Smith.  The State’s first witness was Edward Booker.  Booker testified that in late October or November 1850, he was on his way south with his son Henry and a man called Null carrying a load of tobacco belonging to a man named Hamlett in Stokes County.  They stopped at a campground near Martin’s property.  There one of Null’s horses became violently ill, and Martin helped secure and administer aid.  While they treated the horse, Booker gave Martin two or three drinks.  Martin told Booker that he “liked his looks,” asked if wagoning was a slow business, and told him that he could put him into a business that could make money much faster, if he could be trusted.  Martin could make Booker “rich as Hairston.” Booker asked if Martin was referring to horses, and Martin replied that he was not, but his stock was worth $600 to $1200 a piece, “and, by being smart, [Booker] could make five or six hundred dollars in a few weeks.” Booker admitted that he would like to make more money in an honest business.  Martin did not explicitly disclose his plans, but Booker inferred them and agreed to call on Martin when he returned in five or six weeks.

On the first Saturday of December, Booker returned and agreed to enter into business with Martin.  Martin told him he had several slaves concealed at some distance – “he could not keep them near him for fear of being suspected: that there were a great many fox hunters around him, and he had frequently been tracked by their dogs, and been compelled to stand in water up to his waist for an hour at a time in cold weather.” The slaves believed that Martin was going to send them to a free state.  While Booker and Martin were talking, a man named Rains came in to speak privately with Martin, and Booker learned that Rains, too, was going to transport slaves for Martin.  Booker agreed to return around Christmas when Martin would have a slave ready.  Booker was to take the slave, sell him, and divide the profits with Martin.  Booker returned the Thursday after Christmas, but Martin told him he could get things ready before Saturday.  Their plans were thwarted by the arrival of another white man, who persisted in staying all night despite Martin’s efforts to get him to leave.  On Sunday Booker returned to Martin’s house. Martin gave “Jeff.,” a slave, a dram and told him to fetch the slave.  Some time after midnight, Booker heard someone enter the kitchen-end of the house, and Martin brought the slave Giles to him and told him they needed to leave as soon as possible.  Martin told Booker to get his horse and go by himself to Thompson’s lane about a mile away.  There were too many wagoners camping nearby and his neighbor Swicegood’s dogs were “very bad.” Martin would take Giles via short-cut and meet him at the lane.  Booker took Giles to Salem to “Mr. Lash,” but, as the Forsyth jail was not completed, took him on to the jail in Germantown.  Booker, who claimed he  had been pretending to work with Martin in order to catch him in his crime, immediately sent word to Giles’ owner Smith.  Booker met with Smith, and the two hatched a plan.  Booker returned to Martin with $400 counterfeit money and a fictitious note for $300.  He paid off Martin, who was quite pleased, and made arrangements to take another slave, this one a blacksmith.  Booker then went to magistrate McDonald to tip him off to his and Smith’s plan.  When he returned to Martin’s, Martin chained his horse to the smokehouse, confronted him with the counterfeit money, accused him of betrayal and threatened to kill him that night.  Martin said that he belonged to a Murrel clan, and his brothers would kill Booker if he did not.  Another white man there opined that Booker had treated Martin badly.  Booker, alarmed, left without his horse and went to a neighbor’s house.  The next day he sent for magistrate McDonald and had Martin arrested.

Wallis McDonald, the magistrate, testified that Booker had come to his house, about four or five miles from Martin’s, and with some minor variations told him essentially what he had testified to on the stand.

Richmond Swicegood testified that he lived about 300 yards from Martin, that he saw Booker at Martin’s house frequently, that he thought “something wrong was going on” and decided to watch the house.  The night was very wet and rainy, but he “slipped up near” the house and heard Martin trying to get rid of Wood, the white man that Booker testified would not leave. Martin went into the kitchen house, and Swicegood stood near a crack and heard Martin tell his son Henry, “I never told your mother ‘till yesterday what Booker was staying here for.”  Martin then said that “by being smart” he could make five or six hundred dollars in six or seven weeks; “it was a dangerous business, but he did not know any better they could do.”  Satisfied that Martin was up to no good, he decided to consult a neighbor.

G.M. Smith testified that he lived in Davidson County, about seven or eight miles from Martin; that his slave Giles left without permission on 22 November 1850; that he found him in the Germantown jail on 8 January 1851; that he sold Giles immediately; and that on his way home from Germantown he saw Booker, who saw him and Giles.

At the close of evidence, the court’s instructions to the jury included a warning that Martin “was to be tried as if he were a white man” and that “they were to divest themselves of prejudice on account of his color.”  Having, perhaps, done so, the jury found Martin guilty, and he appealed to the state Supreme Court.  Citing State v. Hardin, the court ordered a new trial on the grounds that, as there was no evidence Martin had actually the slave from his owner, he could not have committed a capital felony under the statute.

I was stolen from my parents.

State of Virginia, Southampton County  } SS.

On this 7 day of March 1834 personally appeared in open court before the Justices of the county court of Southampton now acting Drewry Tann (a Free man of Colour) a Resident of said county aged about seventy five years who being first duly sworn according to Law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed June the 7th 1832.

That he enlisted under Capt. Hadley in the County of Wake in the State of North Carolina (and states the manner he came in the service as follows) that being born free in the county of Wake he was stolen from his parents when a small boy by persons unknown to him, who were carrying him of to sell him into to [sic] Slavery, and had gotten with him and other stolen property, as far as the mountains on their way, that his parents made complaint to a Mr. Tanner Alford who was then a magistrate in the county of Wake State of N. Carolina to get me back from those who had stolen me, and he did pursue the Rogues & overtook them at the mountains and took me from them & my parents agreed that I should serve him (Tanner Alford) until I was twenty one years old, when he had served Alford several years (Six years) it came Alfords time to go in the army (or he told me so) and told me if I would go in the army he would set me free on which conditions I readily listed under Capt. Hadley for eighteen months as he was told and marched to Charleston and thence to Jameses Isleand where he served out his term of enlistment that he had a discharge and was about returning home when a Capt. Benjamin Coleman (who told me he lived in Bladen County N. Carolina) took his discharge from him and tried to compel him to remain in the service & be his waitingman – his name is to be found in the Records of the State of North Carolina as he is informed by Mr. Deverieux of the City of Raleigh N. Carolina & the term of his enlistments as well as the fact of his enlisting under Capt. Hadley as state above – he cannot state at what period of the war he entered the service. General Green was the commander in chief, Col Lightly & Capt Lightly. Adjutant Ivy that he served in the N. Carolina Regiment, that he has no other documentary evidence than that refered to in the Archives in the State of N. Carolina at the City of Raileigh and knows of no person living who can testify to his service. He hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to a pension or annuity except the present & declares that his name is not on the pension roll of the agency of any state.  Drewry X Tann

The said Drewry Tann states that he was born in the county of Wake N. Carolina in what year he does not know, that he has no Record of his age, that he was living in Wake County N. Carolina when he was Enlisted and that he has lived since the Revolution in the countys of Northampton N. Carolina and Southampton Virginia. That he lives in the county of Southampton at this time.  That he listed volluntarily in the army under Capt. Hadley. He since as before stated on Jameses isleand near Charleston S. Carolina when there were some English prisoners & he was sometimes stationed as a guard on them, Gen Green was the commanding officer Col and Capt Lightley & Adjutant Ivy are all the names he can at this time remember he does not know what regiments he served with – he did secure a discharge from the service & Capt. Coleman took it from him & what has become of it he cannot say. He is known to Mr. Edwin G. Hart Mr. W. Owens John Hart Col. Clements Rochelle James Maggett Davis Bryant and many others.    Drewry X Tann

Sworn to and subscribed in open court this 17 day of May 1834

From the file of Drewry Tann, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives and Records Administration.