… whether they are paupers or not!

Synopsis of P.L. Ferrell v. Hilliard Boykin, 61 NC 9 (1866), a North Carolina Supreme Court case:

An unmarried free negro woman gave birth to a child in Nash County.  She and the child lived there until December, 1856, when they moved to Wilson County, where the child continued to reside until the time of the trial.  In June, 1857, soon after his mother’s death, the child was bound [apparently in Wilson County] by his mother’s husband, who was also his reputed father, to the defendant, Hilliard Boykin.  At November term, 1857, Nash County Court bound the child as an apprentice to the plaintiff, P.L. Farrell, who demanded that Boykin deliver up the boy. Boykin refused, and the suit was brought.

From the decision: “In the course of argument here, it was said that the County Court of Nash ought not to have assumed jurisdiction over the boy, unless that of Wilson had returned him thither, as a pauper.  The answer to this is, that it is the duty of the court to bind out all free base-born colored children, whether they are paupers or not!  At least such was the law at the time of this transaction. It was assumed by the Legislature that children in their condition would be neglected, and so the courts were directed to bind out all of that class. In the present case, the County Court of Nash County, being responsible for the proper nurture of the boy, was not to wait until he became a vagabond, and has been cast back upon it as a pauper, by the county of Wilson; but it was its duty at once to exercise its legitimate control, and bind him as an apprentice.”

Judgment for plaintiff.  The holding: “An illegitimate free negro child who has not gained a new settlement by a year’s residence in some other county is, for the purpose of being apprenticed, subject to the jurisdiction of the county in which its mother lived at the time of its birth.” “A master may recover damages of anyone who, after demand, detains an apprentice.”


P.L. [Pleasant Luten] Ferrell is listed as a head of household in the 1860 federal census of Bailey township, Nash County NC.  There is no free colored apprentice in his household.   On the other hand,  John, 11, and Zilpha Brantley,9, both mulatto, are listed with Hilliard Boykin in the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County.

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