• 1804 Maryland-Kentucky Female Slave and Two Children Ownership Disputed

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    WILLIAM CLAGETT was a member of the House of Delegates for Washington County in 1791 and 1792. He was also Chief judge of the county courts of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington and Allegany Counties. He has signed this highly interesting slave document offered here as Chief Justice of the Fifth Judicial District of Maryland certifying the document.


    The lawsuit is described in this 2 pp, 8 x 13, August 7, 1804, document, involving a female slave and her two children. Written in early 19th century legalese, the case involved Joseph Wright and John Nicholls Jr. and what others are testifying to regarding their knowledge of the case. Zephaniah Harrison said that Joseph Wright of Kentucky told him that he had purchased a pregnant female slave [“a slave with child”] from slave owner John Hammond, that the money was provided by John Nicholls Jr. of Frederick County, MD. Nicholls had authorized Wright to make the purchase on his behalf.  It appears as though the woman gave birth to the child and a second child and that Nicholls felt that the female slave would challenge the legality. “She could have them laid hold of [seized].”  The authorization for the purchase was made five years earlier and Nicholls is trying to gain possession of the slaves.

     

    In small part, “…On the 7th day of August in the year of our Lord Eighteen hundred and four between the hours of six o’clock in the morning and seven o’clock in the evening, then came Zepheniah Harrison (1766-1819) of said county…at the house of Wm Hobbs…two of the Justices of the Peace…sayeth that Joseph Wright now of the state of Kentucky told…  Zepheniah Harrison…he purchased a Negro Woman and two children of John Hammond of the county and state first above written [Frederick County, MD], with the money of a certain James Nicholls, and for the use of James Nicholls aforesaid. The reason…was as he, the said Joseph Wright, said that James Nicholls Junior had got a woman with child…authorized…Joseph Wright to purchase the said negroes in his own name for the said James Nicholls use…

     

    “At the same time came Sarah Harrison, wife of the said Zepheniah Harrison…saith that touching a lawsuit…between James Nicholls & Joseph Wright concerning a negro woman and two children this Despondent knows nothing of her own knowledge…

     

    Toning, folds with some archival tape repairs at the center fold. Minor paper loss at the folds affecting a few words. Early Frederick County, MD, seal intact.

     

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