AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum Archive
Re: Clemance Marie Masse/Sam
Sam, Sem, Seme (Fusilier) Family
Gabriel Fusilier de la Claire
In 1793, Sam acquired two tracts of land. One tract, measuring ten arpents square, located on the lower part of Bayou Teche adjacent to the land of Andre Masse was purchased for an undisclosed sum. The other, also owned by Andre Masse was donated to Sam, his son-in-law. This plot was four arpents by the usual depth.
Sam had a natural son, Esope.
On 26 August 1797, Sem purchased his natural son, variously called Esope or Pierre Esope, and gave him his freedom.
The document says in part Etienne Sem, free mulatto, resident of this post, moved by sentiments of love that he has for Pierre Esope, mulatto, his son, and wanting to give him a sign without mistake of his tenderness, confess and declares, having from this moment on and for always give to Esope, his son, full and complete freedom without any reservations nor money, obligations nor---, making him a pure gift and the gift freely given, without reserving any other rights or power than to serve for him as a father by his advise and instruction in his Christian life and honesty and to take him back when he sins, if that should be the case, wanting him to enjoy all rights and prerogatives which come with liberty from this time on as he promised to Auguste Soileau who has sold him to him under that condition--and the condition (that) he abides with the voluntary and spontaneous consent of Magdelaine, free black lady, his legal spouse, by means of which Pierre Esope will be freed of all servitude and slavery and will remain under the authority of his natural father, Sem, as a free child.
The last statement indicates that Pierre Esope had not reached his twenty fifth birthday which was the age of maturity under Spanish law.
Two years later on 1 June 1799, Sam and Magdaleine appeared before Martin Duralde, commandant of the post and executed the following act of adoption.
At the Opelousas, the first day of the month of June of the year 1799, appeared in front of us, Martin Duralde, captain of militia and commander, civil and military, of this post, appeared in person Etienne Sem Fusilier, free mulatto and Magdelaine Mas, free negress, who as legitimate spouses united by the holy sacrament of marriage within Holy Mother Catholic Church, Apostolic and Roman, with free will and with spontaneity have declared that Providence having deprived them up to now of a legitimate child and wanting to reward their industry, ---and economies with some wealth, they have resolved and have agreed without afterthought to the freedom and intentions of one another ------Magdelaine Mas took as solemn oath that she freely engaged herself without any constraints to the present unanimous deliberation to name an heir of all their belongings of any nature that this wealth may exist, before being surprised by death--- of Pierre---known under the name of Esope, natural son of Etienne Sem as a clear testimony --- having obtained his freedom and also his attachment to them, and wishing on their part to respond by a benefaction toward such meritorious disposition, they confer and declare in common agreement that they adopt as their son Pierre Esope with all extension permitted by law, naming him as their unique heir, after their death, of all their goods present and in the future in whatever location and -- that there may be, they want that because of the double quality that they give him, he may dispose of their property without interference of relative on either side who may have pretensions of the succession of either of them, now or ever. The goods (property) they have being the fruit of their toils and sweat, it is their intention and will to give all to him as if he was a child born of their legal marriage.
If it happens that this act goes against the rights of some pretender from either side, they ----to the rigor of the law, giving all that is possible to Pierre Esope, who from this moment they regard as their son and ask that he be regarded as such, and as their only heir in justice and everywhere (?); and in return for this gratitude, that will be his, after the death of one and of the other. they impose on him the obligation to assist them and not to abandon them until the end of their days.
However, the present adoption takes place in the case of no legitimate child, it is --- and their will is that against all odds a child could issue from their marriage --- the rights which --- from nature.
To this document, they made their marks. They had no indications at that time that both Sem and Esope would proceed Magdaleine in death and although Magdaleine left a will the litigation over the estate would go back and forth in the courts, reaching the Louisiana Supreme court two times. The case remained active for over twenty-five years and in all probability resulted in lawyers getting all the estate.
During the next ten years a number of documents were executed by Etienne Son Fusilier involving sales and purchases of land and slaves. Copies of these are in my files.
The most significant documents are found in the American State Papers. After the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the United States in 1803, it became necessary to determine the legal ownership of land. Many tracts had been abandoned or sales not recorded.
Each owner of land was required to submit a legal survey. Even then the points of the survey of Sams land used such landmarks as a red oak tree, a persimmon tree and a sweet gum.
Each claimant was also required to bring proof that he had utilized the land continuously for the last ten years. Sam furnished such proof with the testimony of John Baptiste Heran who certified that San had inhabited and cultivated the three tracts he claimed for about thirty years.
On September 11, 1811, the land board certified his ownership. Sam died shortly after in 1811.
On 15 December 1811, Magdalaine appeared before the judge of the parish to carry out his deathbed request that Pierre and Louis, slaves of Sam's be freed. The act was completed 31 .
Esope died in 1820 and Magdelaine died on 30 Sept. 1824.
Harrison Thomas LaTour
LaTour Research Services Inc.//
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