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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Emancipation in Mecklenburg VA

Thanks! Yesterday a LVA Librarian said that VA slaves emancipated by either will or deed did not need any other legal document. But your explanation of passes makes sense to me. Hard to believe FPOC would be carrying those documents around.

The suit in chancery was filed in 1858 on behalf of Big Peter Burnett, Little Peter Burnett (my great, great great grandfather) and other slaves who were freed under the will of Pleasant Burnett. In addition to freeing more than half of his slaves, Burnett also ordered his executors to pay for their transportation to Ohio and to purchase land for them there. Pleasant died in 1854, but his will was not probated until 1858. Once the suit was filed, the estate finally agreed to liberate the slaves in November of 1858 when the contracts hiring them out expired. The land in Ohio was purchased in August, 1859. Almost immediately, most of the liberated slaves relocated to Hardin County. They can be found there in the 1860 census under the surnames Burnett, Hick and Baskerfeld.

Yesterday's trip to LVA: I photographed the court's decree ordering the emancipation plus more than 70 pages in the two chancery files. Seems the estate's main argument was that the slaves could not be liberated until its debts were fully settled (implying these slaves might need to be sold to satisfy said debts.) This argument is specious in light of the value shown in estate inventories and sales. The should-be-freed persons continued in bondage for 4 1/2 years (hired out for rent by the estate to neighbors). By the time freedom finally came, one woman was dead and two men were too old to make the trip “to the promised land.” SO sad.

I looked at 2 other boxes of Mecklenburg manuscripts at LVA; there was nothing about the Burnett slaves. I now suspect there is no registry of their emancipation because they left Virginia immediately (and weren't going back). I will still check out both the Order book and the Freedman's Bureau records because you never know what you’ll find.

At this point I have the will, the deed, the court order, probate records and the chancery files. Until April of 2014 and for more than 10 years before, all we had was a 1860 census record showing the Burnett family came from unknown parts of VA. A rather long recitation but I thought there might be interest. Selvina and Kelly thanks for the helpful suggestions!

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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