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Elizabeth (A Woman of Color)
vs.
Thomas Gregory & Harvey Robertson
 O. Bill, 1827

Source:  
Sumner County Chancery Court, Vol A - C
Nov. 1826 - Apr. 1844
TSL&A Microfilm # 23

Transcribed by Jan J. Barnes
© 2009

Page 988
To the Honorable William C. Henley Esqr. Judge etc. Sitting in Chancery
Elizabeth Gregory alias Elzabeth Belote humbly complaining sheweth unto your Honor that she is a citizen of Sumner County & was born free that she is the child of Lucindy Peringin a white woman with red hair.  That she was born in the state of North Carolina Rockingham County about thirty years ago on next Christmas that her mother & herself were in the said state & county aforesaid free and at liberty - that your Oratrix had a husband in said State by the name of Adam owned by William Whitmore about ten or twelve years since said Whitmore was about to leave State to live in Davidson County in the State of Tennessee & induced your Oratrix to move to the county of Davidson by the said Whitmore taking possession of a child of your Oratrix by the name of Dianah which she had by the said Adam & told your Oratrix that he would carry the child along with him to Davidson County which induced her to follow the said Whitmore to the county of Davidson.  Your oratrix lived with said Whitmore some years who delivered her over to one Harvey Robertson & told him not to sell her as she was a free woman.  Your oratrix was prevailed upon seven or eight years since the said Robertson & other persons under his influence to sign away her liberty for forty years which indenture was obtained
Page 989
by the fraud & management of the said Robertson & a brother in law of the said Robertson S. Linch & others who told her it would be better for her to sign the indenture & if she did not something bad might befal her.  The said Robertson gave to your Oratrix not one cent or any consideration whatever for the said indenture to your Oratrix but induced her to sign it without having any good person to inform her what she was doing or to give her advice what to do  That the said Robertson about six years since delivered her over to one Thomas Gregory whom your Oratrix prays be made made Deft. to this bill of complaint who has had her under his control ever since who pretends to set up a title to her for the remainder of the term of forty years & says that he has the said indentures with an assignment of the said Robertson that the said Gregory has hired her out & has but lately threatened to sell your oratrix  - all which actings &doings are contrary to equity & good conscience & tend to the manifest oppression of your oratrix.  Your Oratrix charges that said indenture was obtained through fraud & management & that your oratrix was illerate & ignorant of the nature of such an act & was thereby induced to sign it.  In tender consideration whereof & for in as much as your oratrix is remediless save in a court of chancery where matters of this nature are cognizable - to the end therefore that the defendant make true & perfect answer to the several allegations in this bill of complainant as if the same were again repeated & he more particularly interrogated thereto & by a decree of this honorable court the said deed or indenture be ordered to be delivered up & cancelled & your oratrix be taken out of the power of the Sd. Deft. & put at liberty.  Your Oratrix prays a writ to issue commanding your sheriff to take possession of your oratrix so she may be forthcoming at the final hearing of this cause unless the defendant should give bond & security for the coming of your Oratrix at the return of this writ & that he should not carry her out of the county of Sumner & shall in the mean time treat her with tenderness and humanity as your oratrix is fearful that the Deft. will send her off & sell  or carry her down the river your oratrix prays writs of subpoena as to issue commanding etc. directed etc. And duty bound your Oratrix will ever pray                                                                      Jno. J. White & J. C. Guild solicitors
                                                                                                                                        for complainant
State of Tennessee         Elizabeth Gregory alias Elizabeth Belote
Sumner County               this day personally appeared before me J.
                                        W. Baldridge Clk of Sumner Circuit Court
                                        & made oath that the matters & things contained in
this bill is stated of her knowledge are true & those things stated as of the knowledge of others she believes to be true.
                                                                                                                  Elizabeth (her) Gregory
                                                                                                                                      alias
                                                                                                                  Elizabeth (mark) Belote
J. W. Baldridge Clerk
Page 990
John L. Swaney makes oath that Harvey Robertson several years since stated to him that the complainant was a free person & that he was about to get her indentures for forty years & wishes him to do the writing which he done  I understood she signed them & understood that deft. claimed under them from Robertson & believe facts to be so.  John L. Swaney

Affidavit  I Elizabeth Gregory alias Elizabeth Belote do solemnly swear that owing to my poverty I am not able to bear the expenses of the last suit which I am about to commence & that I am justly entitled to recover from the defendant to the best of my belief an amount within the jurisdiction of the court in which I am about to commence my said suit    So help me God
Test J. W. Baldridge Clerk  Elizabeth X Gregory alias Elizabeth Belote  (Seal)

Demurrer
filed March 1828  
The Demurrer of Thomas C. Gregory Defendant to the Bill of Complaint of Elizabeth Gregory alias Elizabeth Belote complainant
The Defendant by protestation not confessing or acknowledging all or any of the matters in or by the said Bill set forth & complained of to be true in manner & form as the same are therein & thereby set forth & alleged he says he is advised that there is no matter or thing in the Complainants said Bill of complaint contained good & sufficient in law to call the defendant to account in this Honorable court for the same but that there is good cause of Demurrer thereto & he does demur thereto accordingly & for cause of Demurrer says that the complainants said Bill of complaint in case the same were true which the defendant does in no wise admit contains not any matter of equity whereon this court can ground any decree or give the complainant any relief or assistance as against me the defendant wherefore & for special reasons the defendant says that the complainant should have made Harvey Robertson & S. Linch & others whom she charges with all the fraud charged in her said Bill of complaint who are the only persons from her own sherring that equity can relieve or assist her against & for divers other errrors & defects in the complainants said Bill of complaint contained & appearing on the face thereof this defendant does as aforesaid demur in law thereunto & humbly causes the judgment of this Honorable court whether he is compellable or ought to make any answer thereunto otherwise than as aforesaid & this defendant humbly prays to be hence dismissed with his costs & charges in this behalf most wrongfully sustained
                                                                                                                     D. M. Fulton
                                                                                                                     Council for defendant

Page 991
Order at March Term 1829
This day came the parties by their attornies and the demurrer to the Bill is sustained & the complainant has leave to amend her Bill by paying all the costs of the amendment.
Amended Bill
The complainant prays that the said Harvey Robertson a citizen of (left blank) County be made Deft. to this Bill of complaint & that he answer all the allegations in complainants Bill - & let the said Gregory answer particularly if he did not know of the fraud & misrepresentations of the said Robertson in the obtaining of the indenture & that no consideration was paid by sd. Robertson to the complainant - & if he has not treated complainant as a slave ever since he has had possession of her - has he not frequently whipped & abused her - hired her out etc.  And give to the complainant such other & different relief as the nature of her case may require and as your honor may seem.
                                                                                                                     J. C. Guild sol. for compt.

The answer of Thomas Gregory to the Bill of complaint filed against himself & John H. Robertson in Sumner County circuit court by Elizabeth a negro woman.
This respondent now & at all times saving & reserving to himself all manner of benefit of exceptions to the manifold errors & uncertainties in the said Bill of complaint contained for answer & thereunto & unto so much thereof as he is advised it is material for him to answer unto he answers & says - That it is true as stated in the complainants Bill that about the seventeeth day of May 1832(?) respondent purchased from one John H. Robertson a yellow woman whose name is Elizabeth for the sum of Two hundred & fifty dollars Exhibit A. at that time the said Robertson held the indentures of the said Elizabeth in which she the said Elizabeth had bound herself under her hand & seal attested by subscribing witnesses for a valuable consideration to serve the said John H. Robertson for & during the terms of forty years from & after the said (left blank) day of May 1822 which paper is marked exhibit B & prays to be considered as a part of this answer.
Respondent further shows that after he obtained possession of said Elizabeth on the 12th day of August 1822 she the said Elizabeth requested respondent to draw or have drawn a new indenture & she the said Elizabeth would sign the same.  Respondent then applied to Jacob & Cook Esqr. who on the 12th day of August 1822 drew said indenture marked Exhibit C & made a part of this answer & read said indenture to said Elizabeth & informed her at the time that she was at liberty either to sign them or not sign them & she the said Elizabeth replied that she would sign them at the risk of her life for it was just what she wished to do &

Page 992
accordingly did sign said indenture in the presence of Thomas Stone Samuel Chappell & R. M. Sanford who were all called on to attest the same.  Respondent further states that he purchased said woman from John  H. Robertson by her express consent.  Respondent has frequently proposed to said Elizabeth that if she would refund him his purchase money which was $250. that she should have her indentures & respondent is now willing & proposes to the said Elizabeth that if she or any other person for her will refund him said $250. or even $200. he will loose the balance & deliver up her indentures.  Respondent will state that it was entirely out of humanity that he bought said Elizabeth at the time he purchased her she was lying sick without attention & respondent believes without his friendly interference she would probably have died for which attention respondent supposes Elizabeth felt somewhat grateful at the time she signed said indentures but which had long since escaped from her recollection respondent denies all fraud & combination with which he is charged & prays to be hence dismissed with his costs unreasonably expended in this behalf. Trousdale Sol.
                                                                                                               J. W. Baldridge Clerk

Replication filed 17th March 1830
And this Replicant saving & reserving to himself all & all manner of advantages of exceptions to the manifold insufficiencies of the said answer for a replication thereunto saith that he will aver & prove his said Bill to be true certain & sufficient in the law to be answered unto & that the sd. answer of the deft. is uncertain untrue & insufficient to be replied unto by this replicant without this that any other matter or thing whatsoever in the said answer contained material at effectual in the law to be replied unto confessed & avoided traversed or denied is true, all which matters & things is & will be ready to aver & prove as this honorable court shall direct & humbly prays as in & by his said Bill he hath aleady prayed.
                                                                                                              J. C. Guild Solr for compt.

Exhibit A in answer      Recd. of Thomas Gregory two hundred & fifty dollars for the hire of an indented girl Lizzy Perrigin for forty years this 17th of May 1822
                                                                                                             J. H. Robertson
State of Tennessee
Sumner County            This Indenture made & signed to by & between John H. Robertson of the one part & Lizzy Perigin of the other part both of the state & county first above written etc. is as follows that is today that the said Lizzy Perragin
Page 993
gives her indenture to the sd. J. H. Robertson for & during the whole time or term of forty years from & after the date of indenture during all which time I the said Lizzy Perragin do bind myself to obey all & every the commands of the said J. H. Robertson & further promise & agree not to absent myself from the possession of the sd. Robertson for the above terms of forty whole years and as above agreed to but wilfully & willingly obey all the commands of the sd. J. H. Robertson as my master for the term as above written & the said J. H. Robertson do promises & agree to furnish the sd. Lizzy Perragin with suitable clothes for and indented person of color & further promises to furnish such suitable diet as is common for such indented slaves eate & at all times while in the possession of sd. Robertson he is to treat her with common humanity agreeable to her behaviour in witness whereunto the parties have hereto set their hands & seals this day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred & twenty-two.
                                                                                                              Lizzie X Perigin (Seal)
Test  Smedley Lynch
George R. Steele

I assign the within indenture to Thomas Gregory for value rec'd of him this 14th day of May 1822    J. H. Robertson
with Lizey's child denor excepted

Exhibit C in answer
This indenture made this 12th day of August in the year of our Lord 1822 Witnesseth that I Elizabeth Perrigan a woman of color of lawful age hath of her own free & voluntary will place & bound herself unto Thomas Gregory as an Indented servant for the term or space of Forty years during all of which term of forty years the said Elizabeth Perrigan her said master will and faithfully shall serve his secrets keep his lawful commands gladly do & obey hurt to her master she shall not do nor wilfully suffer it to be done by others but of the same to the utmost of her power shall forthwith give notice to her said master the goods of her said master she shall not embezzle nor waste nor lend without his consent to any, from the service of her said master she shall not at any time depart or absent herself without her masters leave but in all things as a good & faithful servant shall & will demean & behave herself toward her said master & all his during the said term of forty years & the said master in consideration of the sum of one dollar in lawful money to her in hand paid shall & will also find & allow unto her meat drink & lodging also apparel suitable both for winter & summer during the Term aforesaid.  In Testimony thereof I have subscribed my name & affixed my seal day & date first above written.
Thomas Stone                                                                                    Elizabeth (her mark) Perrigan (seal)
Sam'l Chappell
R. H. Sanford

Page 994
Final Decree March T. 1834
Order at March T. 1833
This day came the parties by attornies & it appearing to the satisfaction of the court that publication has been made as directed by the order of this Court at last Term requiring the said Harvey Robertson to appear at the present Term of the court & plead answer or demure to complainants bill or the same would be taken for confessed & set for hearing exparte as to him. And the said defendant having failed to appear as afsd. It is therefore on motion of complainant by attorney ordered by the Court that said Bill be taken for comfessed against the said Harvey Robertson & set for hearing exparte at the next term of the court.
Be it remembered that this cause came on to be heard & was heard on the 18th day of March 1834 before his honor James C. Mitchell Esqr. Chancellor etc. upon the Bill answers peadings & proof in the cause & it appearing to the satisfaction of the court that the paper writing purporting to be an Indenture signed by complainant to defendant Robertson in May 1822 the assignment by Robertson to Deft. Gregory And the paper writing purporting to be an indenture signed by complainant to Thomas Gregory dated the 12th August 1822 was without consideration founded in fraud & contrary to the genius of our laws & therefore not binding upon complainant but void to all intents & purposes.  It is further ordered adjudged & decreed by the court that the said papers, writings, from complainant to defendant Gregory be delivered up & cancelled & that the complainant be hence forth discharged from the management or any contral whatever of the defend. or either of them & that she recover of the defendants the costs of this suit in her behalf expended & that execution issue as at law.  


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