Was Edith Jordan under the control of her negroes?

Edith Jordan, widow of Joshua Jordan, lived north of present-day Wilson in what was then Edgecombe County. Her 1835 estate file contains a remarkable set of depositions attesting to Jordan’s state of mind at the time she wrote her will. Specifically, had enslaved people influenced her decisions?

The file does not reflect the determination in Bartley Deans Executor of Edith Jordan vs. Joshua Jordan et al. Nor does an examination of Jordan’s will reveal any obvious cause for alarm. To grandson Josiah Jordan, she left Rachel and her two children Milley and Offey, plus Daniel; to grandson David Jordan, Sarah, Joseph and Morning; to grandson Jesse Jordan, Isaac and Mary; and to great-granddaughter Sarah Deans, Mary Ann and Julia.

  • The deposition of Harris Horn

Persuant to the annexed commission at the House of John Horn in Sumter County Ala. We caused Harris Horn to come before us on the 7th of October 1835, to give evidence agreable to said Commision after being Sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God Deposeth and Saith as followeth

Interogatories

Q. 1st Do you know the parties in this case

Ans. I know Bartlet Deans & Joshua Jorden

2nd Did you Ever know the Said Edith Jorden in her Life time and if you did Where Did She Lived and what was her Situation and property and how many negroes She posses’d.

Ans. I knew Edith Jorden She lived in Edgecombe County She had negroes but I don’t know how many

3rd Whether She was a person of able or firm mind to protect hersef or property or Whether She was not entirely at the Disposal of or under the controle of Some person for Ten or twelve years before her Death

Ans. I think She hardly was able to protect herself or property and could be controlled by her neighbors

4th Was it not your opinion that the Said Edith Jorden should have had a Guardian Several years before She Died.

Ans. I think She would have done better if She had of had a guardian

5th Did you ever know the Said Edith Jorden to Do any business in ten years prior to her Death Without Some person telling her What to Do or how to conduct the Same

Ans. What ever Trading She had Done of my knowledge was Don by Some Other person

6th Did not you think the Said Edith Jorden was under the controle of her negroes

Ans. I think She was.

Q. 7th State all you know about the contested will

Ans. I Did not know She had made a will               /s/ Harris Horn

  • The deposition of John Grice

Persuant to the annexed commission at the House of John Horn in Sumter County Ala. We cause John Grice to come before us on the 7th of October 1835 to give evidence agreable to said commission after being Sworn on the holy Evangelist of  Almity God Deposeth and Saith as followeth

Interogatories

Q. 1st by Pltff.

Were you ever cal’d on to witness a will of Edith Jorden if So State by Whome and all the circumstances attending it

Ans. I was and I think it was by the said Edith Jorden

2nd Whoo was present and Whoo was the Other Subscribing Witness

Ans. Myself Bartlet Deans and William Haynes the other witness

3rd Whoo Wrote the Will

Ans. Bartlet Deans

4th Was the Will red over in the presents of the Old Lady your Self and Haynes before assignd

Ans. It was

5th Did you and the other Witness assign in the presents of the Old Lady

Ans. We did

6th Did She assign in your presents

Ans. She Did

7th Whoo Did She Desire to keep the Will till her death and What reason Did She assign for it

Ans. Bartlet Deans asked her what he should do with the Will and She told him to carriet home and take care of it and She Said She Wanted us to keep it a Secret for She had a will before and She could See no peace until it was Destroyed and that She thought She ought to have a right to Do as She pleased with her property

8th how Long have you been acquainted with her and how fare did you live from her

Ans. I have known the Old Lady for fifteen or Sixteen Years and Lived Within about half mile of her nine or ten years

9th Did the Old Lady appear to be in her Sound Mind and Disposible memory at the time She assigned the Will

Ans. I think She was as much So as ever I Saw her

10th Did She have reason Enough to know what She was about and to express her wishes in giving her property away or not

Ans. She appeared at that time to have it I thought

11th Did you ever witness any other will for the Old Lady Except the one you witnessed with William Haynes

Ans. I Did not

12th if you recollect State how She Directed the Legacies Given in the will that you witnessed and whome to

Ans. I think She gave Josiah Jorden one negroe man by the name of Daniel one negro woman named Rachel and Two negro children and to David Jorden & Jesse Jorden She gave one of them three negroes and the other Two and to Bartlet Deans Jun’r child she gave Two Negroes

Interogatories

Q. 1st by Deft.

If you do not know at the time of the Subscribing of this Will by the Said Decd. That it was entirely by persuasion that it was made and that in reality that it was not her will but the wish of those that She could be controled by

Ans. I Do not.

2nd you can State beyond contradiction in your mind this Will is or was the Will of Some of her negroes

Ans. I Do not know that it was the will of her negroes

3rd Do you not believe that at the time of makeing this Will and long before that She was not competent to make a will

Ans. I think She was capable of makeing a will and ought to give her property to Whome She please

4th Did you not think She ought to have had a guardian years before her Death

Ans. I Did not

  • The deposition of Isaac F. Wood

State of Indiana, Randolph County  }  Suit pending before the honorable Court in Tarborough, Edgecombe County North Carolina, on the fourth Monday of November AD 1835 – Wharein Bartley Deans Executor of Edith Jordan dec’d is plaintiff and Joshua Jordan & others defendants

Deposition of Isaac F. Wood of Greenford Township, County of Randolph above said, sworn and examined on this the 12th day of October in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and thirty five, between the hours of Ten oclock in the morning and four in the afternoon and taken at the office of and before James C. Bowen a Justice of the peace of Greenfork Township, in the County of Randolph and State of Indiana, pursuant to the inclosed notice to be read as evidence in the above cause on the part and the half of the defendants, Joshua Jordan & others as follows to wit:  Isaac F. Wood of the Township of Greenfork, in the County of Randolph and State of Indiana of Lawful age being duly sworn to testify the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and being diligently examined, doth depose and say, that he has been acquainted with the said Edith Jordan for about fifteen years before he left Carolina, which was in date AD 1832, and that he wrote a deed of Gift, which the said Edith Jordan executed to her granddaughter Orpha Jordan which included all or nearly all the negroes she possessed at that time. He further states he does not recollect the date, but it was a year or two before the death of the said Orpah Jordan. He further states that he was the subscribing witness to said deed and believes that the said Mrs. Edith Jordan requested him the said Wood to take said Deed and have it recorded and he the said neglected to do it, because he thought the said Edith acted under the influence of her negroes. He further states the said Edith said the reason for giving nearly all her blacks to the one grand child was because the negroes wished it so and she did not want to part them. He further states he has written several other instruments wharin she conveyed her property, but does not recollect the dates or particulars relative therto. He further states that he does not believe the said Edith Jordan was capable of conveying her property, and that he thinks her negroes influenced her as they wished. He further states that he thinks she should have had a guardian many years before he left Carolina; And further this deponent sayeth not       /s/ Isaac F. Wood

Edith Jordan Will (1833), Edith Jordan Estate File (1835), Edgecombe County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

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