Discoveries from the Lowndes County Circuit Court Records

This Fall semester, the Local History Department worked with two interns from the Mississippi University for Women history department.  One of the interns, Whitney, worked on indexing the Lowndes County Circuit Court cases.  There are thousands of cases, none of which have been indexed. This makes it impossible to know where to look for a case.  Whitney’s work will provide access to these cases for our patrons and open up a whole new world of historical information.

During her internship, Whitney discovered many interesting things hidden away in the Circuit Court records.  Many of the cases deal with assumpsits, or a form of action for the recovery of damages caused by the breach or non-performance of a simple contract.  As a result of an assumpsit, a persons property could be sold to cover the damages.  Pre 1865, this might also include African American slaves. 

Below is the post that Whitney wrote for this blog where she shares her discoveries about local African American history and her conclusions about how monetary value was determined for said slaves based on an 1839 case she uncovered in the Circuit Court records.

Whitney’s Post:

Below is a Lowndes County Circuit Court case that I discovered while indexing the Circuit Court cases as part of my internship at the Local History Department in the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library. The case shows a sale of property that was involved in the case. The list includes what the property is, the amount, who bought the property, and the price that was paid. Within this list of property are slaves, both men and women. This document gives the name, gender, and age of the slave as well as their monetary value.

The case reminded me of a quote I once read by President Thomas Jefferson where he said, “I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man on the farm.”[1]  The value of a slave seems to be linked to the gender and age of said slave. Although there could be other underlying causes, like health, ability, or certain skills which would affect their worth, such information cannot be deduced from the information provided in this document.

The first example is a woman, Dinah, whose age is not listed, but is said to have a child, and is therefore most likely still within her child-bearing years. This information can show that as a woman of child-bearing age, she is considered of higher monetary value than most of the men. Her monetary value is higher than the young boy, named Moses, and the man named Jacob. Her ability to reproduce gives her more worth in the transaction, and what Jefferson said actually had some sway in the trading of slaves. The 30 year old man, Jeff, is valued at $785, which is higher than the value given to Dinah at $550, so this might be because he is a younger man. Dinah is still listed, however, at a higher cost than the other men sold in this document, including the 15 year old boy Moses.

Another example is that of, Jeff, who is 30 years old. Jeff, valued the highest, is still in his prime physical shape. Therefore, he would be able to start working immediately and is still young enough to work. The woman and her child, Dinah, have the second highest worth, and this could be attributed to the examples listed above.

The others are a little more difficult. The 15 year old boy is third, and that makes sense considering he is almost a full-grown man and will have many years of labor left to give. The other two, however, are a puzzle. The woman is worth more than the man, even though they are the same age. She is 50 years old, which could be assumed she is past her child-bearing years. The differences between the man and the woman of the same age could be linked to the skill set that they bring with their purchase, which would sway their monetary value in the sale.

Below is the transcription of the court case with the sale of property, as well as where to access this specific case. There are also other things being sold in the case besides the slaves, such as horses and stables and the like. What struck me most, though, was how they valued the slaves that were sold in this transaction and the reasoning for this. Gender and age seem to have a definite connection to the value placed on the individuals.

Transcription of Moseley & Murdock v. Cockrell & Blakely, Box L.3, Case 1653.[2]

Levied this Fifa and sundry others on and sold the following property at sundry times to the persons & for the sums mentioned

A Negro man named Jeff 30 years old to Thomas Townsend   785.00
“ “ Woman “ Nancy & her child  “      “     550.00
“ “ Boy “ Moses 15 years old to Samuel Butler    525.00
“ “ Woman “ Dinah 50 “ “ “ Davis Cockrell    305.00
“ “ Man “ Jacob 50 ” “ “ James Eckford     220.00
1 Sorrell [sorrel] horse to Davis Cockrell    60.00
1 “ “ “ “    90.00
1 Gray “ “ William Wells    50.00
1 Pair Dunn horses “ James Harrison   186.00
1 Break wagon “ Henry Dickinson    50.00
1 Livery Stable “ “ “   20.00
80 acres of land N ½  E ½  SW ¼ & N ½ W ½ SE ¼
S. 6. R. 18. W. J. 17 to Henry Dickinson     130.00
Square 30 South Main Street Columbus H. Dickinson    305.00
$400.00 in Brandon Bank notes R. Loftis    108.75
$400.00 “ “ “ W. Humphries     101.00
A Negro man named Joe 49 years old to Wyatt Randle    200.00
                                                                                                = $3685.75

Jep paid Jail fees 56.00
“ “ Keeping horses 44.80
“ “ paid printers fees 18.00
                  
= 118.80

=3566.95

Also on a Mulatto boy named Henry a Barber the sale of which said boy was forbid not being indemnified he was not sold. No more property found in my county. The above sum of money not being sufficient to satisfy all the executions in my hand against said defendant the same is brought here into court to be applied as the court may direct.

Oct 1st 1839

Bibliography

Dubois, Carol and Lynn Dumenil. Through Women’s Eyes: An American History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.

Moseley & Murdock v. Cockrell & Blakely, Box L.3, Case 1653. Accessed at Billups-Garth Archives at Columbus Lowndes Public Library. Circuit Court, 1837.


[1] Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil, Through Women’s Eyes: An American History, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012), 142.

[2] Moseley & Murdock v. Cockrell & Blakely, Box L.3, Case 1653. Accessed at Billups-Garth Archives at Columbus Lowndes Public Library. Circuit Court, 1837.

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Published in: on December 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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