slave hire

The estate of Rhoda Shallington.

W.E.J. Shallington‘s mother died about four years after her son. Her estate consisted almost totally of promissory notes, but “There is one negro boy belonging to the estate 18 years old” and “There is one negro woman belonging to the estate 42 years old.”  005277156_01824.jpg

Rhoda Shallington’s personal effects were sold off, and her enslaved property hired out on 28 December 1864 for what all parties believed would be a year. Both the boy Arch and the woman Dilley went to her son David Pender Shallington for hyper-inflated rates that approached the sales prices of just a few years before.

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Estate Records of Rhoda Shallington, Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The estate of W.E.J. Shallington (or: “Hines has gone to the Yankees.”)

When Dr. W.E.J. Shallington died without a will at the end of 1860, his widow Sarah Shallington relinquished her right to administer his estate to David L. Hardy. The Shallingtons had minor children, and Hardy had the unenviable task of managing the estate to provide income for the family during the entirety of the Civil War.

Dr. Shallington held six people in slavery, and on Christmas Eve Hardy hired all of them out through 1 January 1862. Willis went to William Hamlet for $156.00; Hines to Gray B. Sharp for $60.00; Ann to widow Shallington for the nominal sum of $1.00; and Critty and her two children to Hamlet for $31.00. J.D. Rountree rented the Shallingtons’ house and lot in Wilson for $15.00

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Though the account is not in the estate file, Hardy likely rented out the group 2 January 1862 through 1 January 1863 as well. The process repeated on 2 January 1863, with Willis, Hines, and Critty and her children going to J.H. Bullock and Ann remaining with Sarah Shallington. George Barefoot rented the house and lot at a cut rate.

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The following year, the hiring out took place at Joyner’s Depot [Elm City] for the period of 28 December 1864 to 28 December 1865. (Or so the parties intended. Events at Appomattox would intervene.) Willis, Critty and her children went to Jordan Winstead at inflated rates (reflected also in the house rental); Ann, to Sarah Shallington. Hines, perhaps smelling freedom in the air, had “gone to the Yankees.”

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With no enslaved labor to tap as a resource, by 1869 D.L. Hardy’s account of rentals contained a single line item: “6 March 1869, To amt rec’d for rent for house & lot from David Strickland cold. [colored] to Jany 1st 1870 $14.00. The house was vacant for 2 months as I could not rent it out at the 1st Jany 1869 on satisfactory terms.” Strickland renewed his lease on 1 January 1870 at an increase of four dollars a month.

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In the 1860 census of Coopers township, Wilson County: Roda Shallington, 69; [daughter-in-law] Sarah, 36; and Mary Ann, 15, Caroline, 12, and Fredrick Shallington, 1. Roda claimed $5000 in personal property, and the rest of the Shallingtons, $3800. (This constant amount likely represented their (anticipated) inheritance from recently deceased W.E.J. Shallington.)

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: David Strickland, 30, farm laborer; wife Fillis, 28; and children Isaac, 2, Amanda, 12, and Samuel Strickland, 8; William Farmer, 1; and Jane Mosely, 9.

There are no Shallingtons, black or white, listed in the 1870 census of Wilson County. (In fact, I have found none of the men and women listed in W.E.J. Shallington’s estate using the surname Shallington.) However, in the 1880 census of North Wilson township, Wilson County, widow Sallie Shallington, 55, is listed as a member of an otherwise African-American household: Aaron Edmundson, 31, well digger; wife Ann, 26; and their children Earnest, 5, and Hattie, 3. (The census taker, perhaps startled by the unexpected arrangement, wrote a W over the B he initially recorded for her race. Also, this may be the Ann hired out above, if that Ann were a child.)

Estate Records of W.E.J. Shallington, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The hire of Patrick.

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The hier of one Negro man Patrick left in the last Will and Testament of Thomas Williamson Dec’d to Dempsey Williamson (his son) hired out by the Admr’s of said Dec’d for the term of one year on the following conditions said negro is to have the following conditions said negro is to have the following clothing 1 suit of woolen 2 suits of cotton 3 pare of shoes 2 pare of woolen socks 1 hat and 1 Blanket and if said negro is cald for before the Expiration of his hier to be returned and pay in perpotion said negro is not to work on Railrods nether in Ditches

The hire of Patrick To Edwin Fulghum $80.00

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Thomas Williamson’s executors hired out Patrick during the settlement of Williamson’s estate. This document sets remarkably precise terms for Patrick’s hire, including changes of clothing; several pairs of shoes; restrictions on the type of work he would be put to (see here to understand why); and, in effect, a cancellation clause. Edwin Fulghum was a neighboring white farmer whose wife Mary was a Williamson. The document is undated but was probably executed about 1857.

Estate File of Thomas Williamson, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org. 

He complained of having suffered excessive cold.

The case reached the North Carolina Supreme Court in late December 1860. The core legal question was misleadingly simplistic — was there a breach of contract? After all, two men had died, and two others had suffered serious injury. They were enslaved though, and what was at issue was not their welfare, but the financial injury to their owner as a result of their mistreatment.

In a nutshell, a man named Raiford, acting as the agent of William K. Lane, rented out four enslaved men — Jack, George, Wright and Abram —  to work on a railroad project. (Lane lived in far northeast Wayne County but, presumably, the contract was entered into in Wilson County. It is not clear where the four men ordinarily lived.) When the contractors sought to work the men as far away as Jones County, Raiford agreed on the condition that they be safely housed. The contractors agreed. Instead, in the teeth of a heavy snowstorm, they penned the men in drafty shanties and left them to ride it out.

The testimony is all about the condition of the shelters in which the men were housed, but the suffering of Jack, George, Wright and Abram — and the banal brutality of slavery — emerges unbidden.

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William K. Lane v. John C. Washington & J.D. Burdick, December Term 1860.

Where a plaintiff declared upon a special contract to provide slaves, hired to work upon a railroad, with good accommodations, also on the implied contract of bailment to provide them with ordinary accommodations, it was held that the lodging of the slaves, in the dead of winter, in huts built of poles and railroad sills, without door shutters, and without chinking in the cracks, which were large, and which huts were proved to be inferior to others ordinarily used for such purposes on railroads, was a breach of the contract as alleged in both counts, and entitled plaintiff to recover.

“THIS was an action on the CASE, tried before SAUNDERS, J., at Fall Term, 1860, of Wilson Superior Court.

“The plaintiff declared in five counts, as follows:

“1st. For a breach of contract in taking the slaves Jack, George, Wright, and Abram, below Bear Creek.

“2d. For a breach of contract in not taking good care of said slaves, and furnishing them with good accommodations.

“3d. For breach of the implied contract, arising on the bailment, to take ordinary care of the said slaves.

“4th. For the hire of said slaves, Wright, Jack, and George, nine days each, at eighty cents per day, and for the hire of Abram, six days, at eighty cents per day.

“5th. For the hires of said slaves, for the times mentioned in the 4th count, for what they were worth.

“The title of the plaintiff, to the slaves in question, was admitted. The plaintiff introduced one Raiford, who testified, that prior to the heavy snow storm of January, 1857, as the agent of the plaintiff, he hired said slaves to the defendants, who were partners in a contract for making the Atlantic Rail Road, at the rate of eighty cents per day; that they were not to be carried below Bear creek, a point on the line of said railroad; that the above contract was made with the defendant Burdick; that on the next day, Burdick told him that he wished to take the said slaves below Bear Creek, into the edge of Dover swamp, below Kinston; that he (witness) told him that if they were well taken care of, he would as soon they should work there as any where; that Burdick replied that they should be well taken care of, as defendants had good accommodations there for a hundred hands; that he (witness) replied that on those terms they might go; that the slaves were carried off by Burdick, on that or the next day; that they were gone some eight or ten days, when Wright, George and Jack came home frost bitten; that Wright died of phneumonia, about ten days thereafter, and the other two were laid up about two months; that he never saw Abram after the hiring, but learned that he died in Kinston; that this was about the 29th of January, 1857, a short time after the heavy snow storm which occured in that month. The witness further testified that during the week succeeding the return of the slaves, he went down to the place where the slaves had been at work, in the edge of Dover swamp; that he examined the shanties erected by the defendants for the accommodation of the hands; that there was one at the Heritage place, where the overseer stayed, near where the country road crossed the railroad, and on the right hand side of the country road going to New Berne; that this was a square pen, made of pine poles, with large cracks, through which one might thrust his double fists, and scarcely seven feet high; that there was no shutter to the door; that the top was flat and covered with plank, and that it would not shed water; that there was no chimney and no floor, no bed clothing and no cooking utensils, and that the fire was made in the middle of the house. The witness further swore that there was another shanty, above the Heritage place, at Tracey swamp; that this one was some thirty or forty feet long, and from sixteen to eighteen feet wide, built of pine poles; that there were large cracks between the poles not half stopped, and loose planks laid down for flooring; that along the centre of this cabin, and at the distance of a few feet from each other, logs were placed on the ground, and earth placed between them as a place for building fires; that it had no chimney, but instead thereof, there was an aperture, three feet wide, at the top of the roof, for the escape of smoke, but that this shanty had a door to which there was a shutter. Witness further stated that there were other shanties for the accommodation of the hands, just below the Heritage place, at the distance of a mile or a mile and a half; that these latter were made of cross ties or sills of pine timber, eight feet long, and from eight to ten inches square, used in the construction of the railroad track; that these ties were placed on top of one another, to the height of some six feet, on three sides, thus leaving one end or side entirely open, that the covering was also composed of these ties, placed near together, and he saw no other shanties for the accommodation of hands; that those above described were nothing like as good as are ordinarily used on works of the kind, and were nothing like as good as an ordinary horse stable. Witness further stated, that he saw, during this visit, at the Heritage place, one Parrott, an overseer of the defendants on this work; that Parrott told him that if he had been well, the slaves in question would have been better attended to, “that it was a bad chance there any how;” that Parrott also told him that the slaves stayed “just below there,” pointing in the direction of the shanties last described. The witness further stated that he had seen other shanties on the Wilmington & Weldon railroad.

“Dr. C. F. Dewey testified that he was called to see the boys George, Wright and Jack, on the 21st of January, 1857; that they were frost bitten — George badly — Wright not so badly, and Jack slightly; that Wright died in about two weeks, of typhoid pneumonia, and that he complained of having suffered from excessive cold for two weeks. He further stated that the other two would be more liable to be frost bitten after this. Wright had no cold that he could see, at his first visit.

“One Robertson testified that he had been travelling through there some time previous to the snow aforesaid; that he had seen the cross tie shanties, and one, which he supposed to be the Tracey swamp shanty, which was at the Heritage place, on the right hand side of the stage road, leading to New Berne; that none of the chinks were shut; that it had no chimney, and had a flat roof; and that it lacked a great deal of being as good as ordinary, and would be a very poor horse stable; that these shanties were about ten steps from the road, and that he had never been nearer than this to them; that the only other shanties he had ever seen, for such purposes, were on the N. C. Rail Road.

“John C. Slocumb stated the conversation between Raiford and Burdick to have been as follows: Burdick said he would like to take the slaves below Kinston, into the edge of Dover swamp. Raiford asked if they had good accommodations. Burdick replied, yes, for a hundred hands. Raiford replied if the accommodations were good, and the hands would be well taken care of, he would let them go.

“Another witness testified to the same conversation, giving as Raiford’s last reply, that he did not wish the hands so far from home, but would not object to their going down for two or three weeks, provided the accommodations were good.

“William C. Loftin testified that he lived in Dover, about four miles below the Heritage place, and had seen these shanties; that he had never seen any as poor, (sorry) any where else, and that they were not as good as an ordinary stable; that the Tracey swamp shanty, on the west side of the swamp, had a roof with an opening along the top, some three feet wide, that it had large cracks, was made of pine logs, and was twenty five or thirty feet long, and fifteen or eighteen feet wide; that the cross tie shanties were about a mile and half below the one just described; that he had four negroes in the defendants’ employment, who stayed at these shanties, and that two of them were frost bitten, though he had heard that one of them had fallen into a ditch, and remained there some time; that at the time of the snow storm, the hands of defendants were at work on the road, a quarter of a mile below the Heritage place, in the edge of Dover swamp. On cross examination he stated that these shanties did not deserve the name. He further stated, that the only other buildings of a like nature he had ever seen was as he passed along the line of railroads after their completion, and, also, that he did not examine these shanties till after this suit began. He further stated, that the defendants had no other accommodations for hands, at, or near the edge of the swamp. He also stated that the Tracey swamp shanty could not be seen from the stage road, so as to be examined, and that he did not go near enough to it, to see how the logs were laid for building the fire, or how the planks were laid for sleeping.

“None of the witnesses knew whether the slaves in question had remained at the shanties during the snow, nor when they had left the employment of the defendants, nor which of the shanties they occupied, except from the conversation between Raiford and Parrott.

“The defendants’ counsel was proceeding to state the defence, when his Honor announced that he should instruct the jury, that, upon the plaintiff’s own evidence, there was no breach of the contract declared on in the 1st, 2d and 3rd counts, and no want of ordinary care. That on the 4th count, there was a special contract of hiring, and the plaintiff was entitled to recover, at the rate of eighty cents per day, for each slave while in the defendants employment, if the witnesses were to be believed. The case was then put to the jury, when his Honor charged them as above set forth. Plaintiff excepted to this charge. The jury found for the defendants on the 1st, 2d and 3d counts, as also on the 5th, and for the plaintiff on the 4th, ($25). There was a judgment for the plaintiff for $25.00, from which he appealed to this Court.”

Justice J. Battle wrote the opinion reversing the Wilson County Superior Court judge. After highlighting details of the witnesses’ testimony, Battle held: “The result of our examination of the testimony is, that the lodging of the plaintiff’s slaves in any of the shanties, described by the witnesses, was not the taking such care of them as a man of ordinary prudence would take of his own slaves employed in similar business, much less, was it the taking good care of them and furnishing them with good accommodations. For the error committed by his Honor, in his instructions, in relation to the second and third counts, there must be a reversal of the judgment, and the grant of a venire de novo, and this renders it unnecessary for us to notice, particularly, the other points made in the case. The reversal of the judgment in the plaintiff’s favor, on the fourth count, follows, necessarily, from the grant of a new trial to him on the second and third.”

American Advocate (Kinston, N.C.), 22 January 1857.

The fellow ought to hire for $100.

To Jacob S. Barnes, Esq.

Wilson Post Office, Edgecombe County, N. Carolina

State of Alabama, City of Montgomery

My dear Sir,

After my best respects to you & your good lady, Susannah & Caroline, and all my friends, my enemies I need not care for, I wrote to say to you what I wished to say before I left but could not see you. We arrived this day Sunday at 2 o’clock after travelling all night last night in the Stage. I want you to hire out for me at the first day of January next the negro man that you hired last year belonging after I am done with him to the widow of James A. Barnes and Theophilus Bass. Please say to Theophilus & the widow I think though I have not settled the Estate yet the hire of the negro the year 1851 will be sufficient to pay with what is in my hands all the debts of the deceased though the debts are more than I expected. Inclosed you will find some advertisements. Please set them at Tosnot, Stantonsburg & elsewhere. I think the fellow ought to hire for $100 the years 1850. Take a good note & two good securities. We are all tolerable well. We are agoing to rest until tomorrow evening. I shall get (home) Wednesday next if nothing happens.

Accept my best wishes for your health & happiness.  /s/ Wyatt Moye

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Wyatt Moye was both a founding father of Wilson County and a committed slave trader. With partner Richard Adams, Moye regularly traveled from eastern North Carolina to Mississippi and Louisiana to sell enslaved African-Americans. Moye was executor of James A. Barnes’ estate and — away on business — he sent instructions to Barnes’ brother Jacob S. Barnes hire out an enslaved man again for one hundred dollars to pay down the estate’s debt. In a sobering reminder of the reality of chattel slavery, Moye cautioned Barnes to get a good note, i.e. a promise to pay the cost of hire, and two good securities, i.e. properties promised to Barnes’ estate in the event of non-payment.

Who was the “negro man” repeatedly hired out? Barnes’ will, drafted in 1848, is explicit:

“Item 4th. It is my will and desire the negro fellow Charles is to be hired out as long as my wife lives and the money arising from said hire to be applied enough of it to pay my debt if it is required for that purpose, and if not one half of his hire to pay to Theophilus Bass and the other half to my wife Sarah Barnes.”

Barnes had owned 24 enslaved people, a group that likely included Charles’ parents or siblings, if not his wife and children. Barnes split the group 11 ways — including a directive to sell one woman immediately. Though Charles was to join three others bequeathed to Barnes’ widow, his repeated hire separated him for years from the comfort and company of those who knew him best.

Letter found in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, “a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian,” republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society, March 2003.

They unlawfully hired their time of their master.

An enslaver could, and often did, rent the services of an enslaved person to others for specific tasks or under long-term leases. Under North Carolina law, however, enslavers were prohibited from allowing their slaves to rent their own time. That is, to come to their own terms and arrangements for working for others for wages that they either kept for themselves or split with their masters. Slaves who hired their own time created their own wealth, a dangerous circumstance. There was a wide gulf between law and reality, however.

Dennis, a man over whom white Wilson County carpenter John Farmer claimed ownership, was indicted on misdemeanor charges of hiring his time at July term, 1859, of the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.  Five years later, at July 1864, jurors indicted Farmer himself for allowing the entrepreneurial activities of enslaved women named Mary, Lucy and Silvia.

The jurors for the State on their oath present, that Dennis, a Slave the property of John Farmer (Carpt) at and in the County of Wilson on the first day of January 1859 and on divers other days and times as well before as afterwards up to the taking of this inquisition by the permission of the said John Farmer his master, unlawfully did go at large, the said Salve having then and there unlawfully hired his own time of his said master, contrary to the form of the Stature in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State.

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John Farmer may have been the John W. Farmer of Wilson township, Wilson County, who is listed in the 1860 slave schedule as the owner of ten enslaved men and women.

Court Cases Involving Slaves, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

The estate of Ann Williamson.

Documents in the 1822 estate files of Ann Williamson of Nash (now Wilson) County include several references to the sale or “hier” of enslaved people. Williamson was the widow of Joseph Williamson, and Bartley Deans was her executor.

Williamson executed a will in 1807, fifteen years before her death. The will included three enslaved people — women named Pat and Rachel and a boy named Arch.

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A partial inventory in Williamson’s estate records also lists Arch, Rachel and Pat. Rachel and Pat are listed together at one place in the documents and may have been mother and daughter. (Note that, as she was only ten years old in 1822, the Pat in Williamson’s estate could not have been the Pat in her 1807 will.)

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Here, the record of the sale of “Negro gal Pat” to Eatman Flowers for $353.88; the hire of Arch, first to Jesse Sillivant, then to Thomas Williamson; and the hire of Rachel to Ford Taylor. Arch and Rachel were hired out repeatedly.

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Williamson’s estate also included a man named Jack. Below, a receipt for partial proceeds from the sale of Jack to John Watson, executor of Luke Collins:

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In addition, Ann Williamson’s inventory showed that she possessed an elderly enslaved man named Sesor [Caesar] that she had inherited from her husband Thomas Williamson.

Estate of Ann Williamson (1822), North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.