APPENDIX 5

THE CALVITS AND SLAVES

http://users.ju.edu/jclarke/josephcalvitapp5.htm

 

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The evidence is not clear, but it seems that some of those with the Calvit/Higdon families taking the flatboats down the Mississippi took slaves with them, and this likely includes the Calvit/Higdon families themselves.  Regardless, the two families quickly became enmeshed in the slave-driven, plantation economy of Spanish Louisiana and subsequently the Mississippi Territory and State of Mississippi.  Court records supply some of the details.  The issue is particularly worthy of note because Joseph Calvit’s daughter, Martha,  married Joshua Giles Clarke, who, as Mississippi’s first Chancellor, wrote at least two decisions that gave slaves at least some rights.  It is unclear how many slaves the Clarke household had, although Patsey Calvit as a child had received as a gift at least one, three-year-old girl, obviously to be groomed as a personal servant.  Note that neither Mary Dean Calvit Higdon nor her son, Jeptha Higdon, was literate enough to sign his name.  Abstracts of the court records of Natchez between 1787 and 1798 illuminate the intimacy the Calvits had with the slave economy.

 

Thomas Calvet, of District, to Louis Fontenot, of Opelousas, negro girl, “Fanny”, aged 12, nat. of Carolina, for #340, recd. Calvet signs with his mark. Wit. as above. Trevino.[1]

 

Stephen Holston sells to Mary Higdon, negro woman named Rosa, nat. of America, aged 35; for $400 paid. Holston signs. Mary Higdon makes her mark. Off. wit.[2]

 

William Calvit sells to Samuel Regner negro boy “Hayson”, aged 10, nat. of S. C., for $350.  paid.  Both signed.[3]

 

John Montgomery sells to Frederick Calvit a negro lad “Dick”, aged 14, nat. of Va. for $400 paid. Both sign.[4]

 

Wm. Calvit sells to Alexander negro girl “Hannah”, aged 6, for $260. Both sign.[5]

 

Wm. Calvit to Don Peter Surget negro “Hector”, 35 to 40 years, nat. of Africa, $400 paid.  Both sign.[6]

 

John Gilbert sells to William Calvit negro “Prince”, aged 20, nat. of America for $450, in hand paid.  Both sign.[7]

 

John Baptiste Perret sells to William Calvit negro "Marinetta", aged 25, nat. of Guinea, for $500 payable $250 at end of this year; $250 at end of 1789.[8]

 

George Proffit and David Ross sell to Joseph Calvit and John Lum a negro man and a negro boy, both brutes, for $850, payable one-half end of this year, other end of 1789.[9]

 

Thomas Irwin to Jeptha Higdon a new negro, for $500, $100 Jany. 1789, $400 Jany. 1790. Signed Thos. Irwin, Jeptha (X) Higdon.[10]

 

Thomas Irwin to Frederick Calvit a new negro, for $500, $100 in Jany. next; $400 Jany. 1790. Both sigh.  Natchez, 14 ________ 1797, William Vousdan, atty, for Thomas Irwin ack. to have rec’d. full amount.[11]

 

Thomas Irwin to William Calvit two new negroes, for $1000, payable $200 Jany. next, $800 Jany. 1790, negroes to be mortgaged, likewise two others, “Sam” and “Matthew”.  Both signed (p. 154) 12 May 1795.  William Vousdan, atty. for Oliver Pollock, charged with the recovery of debts due to Thos. Irwin, ack. to have rec’d. from Joseph Calvit, brother of above William Calvit, full payment of above.[12]

 

Thomas Irwin to Frederick Calvit negro aged 25, negro boy, aged 12, both newly arrived, for $933; $200 Jany. next; $733 Jany. 1790. (p. 156)  William Vousdan, atty. for Thos. Irwin, ack. to have recd. from Frederick Calvit, the total amount in the foregoing sale. 14 Aug. 1797.[13]

 

Ebenezer Rees, of this Dist., merchant, to Benj. Balk two negroes, nat. of Guinea, for $1790, payable Jany. 1790. Jeptha Higdon surety for same.[14]

 

Ebenezer Rees to Jeptha Higdon negro "Jesse", nat. of Va., and a negro wench “Day", age 9, nat. of Africa, for $650, payable Jany. 1790.  Benj. Balk surety. 8th April 1794, Ebenezer Rees takes the above two negroes back and cancels mortgage.[15]

 

John Brown bargains and sells to Jeptha Higdon three slaves, "Nancy", "Jenny", and boy "Pyramus", for $500 (Spanish). Wit: Leonard Wollf.  We the subscribers cer the above mentioned negroes are the property of John Brown. William (X) Colbert, James Colt Leonard Wollf.  (Note: The signatures of the foregoing were evidently written by the same hand. Translator.)[16]

 

Thomas Irwin to William Vardaman an African negro girl, for $500 (Mexican) on terms, William Calvit surety. Signed. 6 Sept. 1791.  Jno. Hervy, atty. for the estate of E. G. Gallande agrees to take back above negro.[17]

 

George Proffit to Frederick Calvit negro girl, aged 10, for $500 Mexican silver, to be paid Jany. 1791. p. 378.  Mary Higdon petitions that in Jany. 1790, she empowered her son, Frederick Calvit to purchase a negro girl for her use from George Proffit, By reason of the death of her son Frederick, she is unable to prove by his testimony that sd slave was thus purchased for her account and is actually her property. Being informed that David Ross is now in this District, petitioner prays that he be cited to declare as to sale.  Apr. 5, 1793.  Ordered that David Ross appear before me to answer on oath to the interrogation in above petition. Gayoso.  6 Apr. 1793, David Ross appeared and says that he, as exr. of will of sd George Proffit, received from Mary Higdon $460 for a negro girl the same sold by sd George Proffit to Fred. Calvit who has not paid any sum on account thereof and it is known to deponent that Frederick Calvit purchased sd negro for his mother, Mary Higdon.[18]

 

Joseph Calvit to Thomas Calvit, negro wench "Jane," aged 15, and negro boy "Harry," aged 12 for $800.00 paid and signed Joseph Calvit.[19]

 

Andrew Beall, atty. for Walter Beall, to Mary Higdon 4 negroes, natives of North America, for $500, $200 of which paid and $300 due June 1792. Mary (X) Higdon.[20]

 

Ebenezer Rees to Mary Higdon negro man, “Jesse”, aged 35, nat. of Va., for $450, on terms. Mary (A) Higdon, Ebenezer Rees.[21]

 

Peter Bryan Bruin and Elizabeth Edmond, his wife, sell to Thomas Calvet, of this a negro boy "Toney", aged 15, nat. of Va., in payment for which he delivered to us 18 cows with their calves and two oxen in full satisfaction for the same. Signed: P. Bryan Bruin, Elizabeth bruin, Wit: Bryan Bruin, Thomas Calvet, George W. Humphreys. // Sir: I have no objection to Colonel Bruin’s exchanging a negro with Mr. Thomas Calvet for cattle. June 27, 1794. Signed Alexander Moore. To Capt. John Girault.[22]

 

Mary Higdon makes a free gift to Daniel and Gideon Higdon of a negro girl named "Jenny", aged 7, and a boy, "Prince", aged 5, which said negroes and product to be divided equally between sd Daniel and Gideon. Mary (X) Higdon.[23]

 

Thomas Calvit, of this District, planter, of his own free will and accord, out of the great love which I bear to John and James Calvit, sons of my brother, Joseph Calvitt, minors, a gift of a negro wench, “Sene”, aged 21, with her son “Isham”, aged 4, and a negro lad “Harry” aged 8, which said slave with all their children, male and female, to be divided between said John and James Calvit when they shall be of age to manage their property.  Signed. // Joseph Calvit, father of said minors being present accept the foregoing gift of my brother in their favor, receiving said slaves in my possession and binding myself for their care.[24]

 

Thos. Calvit, of this District, planter, of my own free will and accord, and account of great love to Patsy Calvit, dau. of Joseph Calvit, gift of negro girl “Phillis”, aged 3, Joseph Calvit, father of said Patsy being present, accept the foregoing gift of his brother, Thomas Calvit, in her favor, receiving the said slave into his possession, binding himself to the care of same for his daughter, Patsy Calvit.[25]

 

To His Excellency: Jeptha Higdon represents that some time in the year 1785, his mother, Mary Higdon, did give to him under certain conditions some negro slaves and other property, the document concerning which was recorded in the Archives of this Government, by Commandant Philip Trevino; wherefore the petitioner begs Your Excellency will be pleased to order a copy of said document to be made out for him. Jeptha Higdon.[26]

 

Mary Higdon, of this Government, to John Calvit and James Calvit, both sons of Joseph Calvit, my son, gift deed of negro man “Jesse”, aged 35, to belong to said two children equally.  Joseph Calvit accepts same.  Signed: Joseph Calvit. Mary (X) Higdon.[27]

 

John Bolls, to Joseph Calvit, both of Natchez Dist., negro man “Ned”, aged 20, nat. of Guinea, bought from Messrs. Ross and Proffit in 1788, for $400.  Both signed.  Wit: Abram Ellis.[28]

 

Robert Stark to Mary Balk negro woman "Lucy", aged 40, for $300, paid. Thos. Calvit signs for Mary Balk. Wit: Thos. Wood, George Cochran.[29]

 

Robert Stark to Thomas Calvit, both of the District, negro “Juby”, aged 21, for $500, paid.  Both paid. Wit: Thos. Woods, Geo. Cochran.[30]

 

Jane Rapalje versus creditors of George Rapalje.  Jane Rapalje petitions, in relation to the negro named "Robin", detained in prison in this City, as the property of her husband, that the said negro was purchased by her husband with the sum given to her by her brother, Abraham Ellis, who may be interrogated on the subject, as will appear by a note on the back of the deed of sale from William Calvit, which said deed will be found among the papers seized by the Commandant of Natchez when the husband of the petitioner was arrested, and your petitioner represents further that Daniel Clark, of this District, merchant, was securety for the value of the said negro, in case the facts thereinstated are not available at the time fixed by Your Excellency, for the necessary inquiry to be made by the Commandant of the Dist. Of Natchez. Petitioner asks that the enquiry be made and the said negro delivered to your petitioner. Signed: Jenny Rapalje. // The Commandant of the Post of Natchez will make the enquiry necessary to ascertain whether the negro named Robin be the property of Jane Rapalje as proceeding from a gift made to her by her brother, Abraham Ellis, and Daniel Clark will be accepted as security for the negro, which is hereby fixed as $400, at which said negro is appraised. New Orleans, 4 Dec. 1785.   Signed: Estevan Miro. // At Fort Panmur at Natchez, 16 March 1786.  In pursuance of the foregoing decree of His Excellency, Don Estevan Miro, Gov. Genl. of this Province, I, Don Carlos de Grand-Pre, (p. 125) have caused Abram Ellis to appear before me, who, being duly sworn, declared that he did really make a present to his sister a short time after her marriage with George Rapalje, consisting of a horse, saddle and bridle, valued at $120, and twelve head of cattle, that he did not know how they had been disposed of or to whom they were sold but he remembered to have heard that George Rapalje and his sister had bought a negro from William Calvit, named Bob or Robin, and paid for him in cash, which is all that he knows of the matter, except that William Calvit and Don Estevan Minor could give better information in the case. Signed: Abram Ellis. Before Carlos de Grand-Pre. // On the same day, appeared William Calvit, who, on oath, declared that he had sold a negro to George Rapalje and his wife. Q. How was the negro called and what payment made? A. He sold to George Rapalje a negro named "Robin”, who paid the greater part of the purchase in cattle and the balance in specie, and at the time of the delivery of the said cattle, the said Rapalje declared that the said cattle belonged to his wife, who was present and reserved one milk cow out of the number, for her own use.  Signed with the witness and interpreter, James Herman, James Mcintosh, with the Commandant.  At the same time, appeared Estevan Minor, who declared on his word of honor, it is true that Abraham did give his sister a horse, which the deponent afterwards bought for $80.  He signed as above. // Having examined the papers, negro 'Robin* is confirmed to Jane Rapalje, as proceeding from the present made to her by Abraham Ellis. New Orleans, June 9, 1786.  Signed Estevan Miro.[31]

 

Col. Williams petitions that, pursuance to a decree of the Gov. Gen. of the Province, permitting him to make a search through the Province for slaves which have been stolen from divers inhabitants of the U.S., for which persons he was attorney, taking declarations and transmitting same to the Superior Tribunal. He found in the possession of Richard Harrison a negro woman, named "Jane" with her children; in the possession of John Bisland a man named "John"; and in possession of William Calvit a negro woman named "Alice" and her daughter. Therefore he asks that these men be ordered to appear before the Commandant, as well as Henry Manadue, William Henderson, Mrs. Henderson and Jesse Wheeler, as witnesses. June 12, 1790.  Signed: Turner Williams. // Grand-Pre orders that these men appear before him on the 16th. // Notified by John Foster, Constable. // Williams was empowered by Peter Walker and John Tear to seek and restore slaves for them.  Said slaves were in Kentucky and he found them in possession of Andrew Beall in this District, and he asks that James Harrod, William Tinsley, Francis Williams and Dewitt be summoned as witnesses.  Witnesses appeared; Jas. Harrod testified that he knew the negro Isaac in Kentucky and he was in possession of James McFadden who brought him from North Carolina to Henry French, who later told deponent that he wanted to take his slaves to another country or he would lose them.  The deponent was preparing to make a voyage and French arranged to come along with him and brought four slaves.  He left on a flat boat and French, who had come down the river in a pirogue, got on his flat boat.  When we came to Great Falls, our only stop, Henry French hid the negroes.  French could not be questioned as he was not in the District. // William Henderson declared that about ten years ago, together with a certain Burnet and others Americans were under command of Gen. Clark in S.C. and the said Gen. having given orders to plunder that part of the country, then in possession of His Brittanic Majesty, permitting them to appropriate to their own use whatsoever (p. 222) they might find, they got hold of sundry negroes who said they belong to Scott and King, who had joined the British, and they believed the said Burnet sold said slaves to Richard Harrison and William Calvit, planters of this District, which he had gotten possession of like many others, but he cannot say positively that the said slaves were sold to Calvit and Harrison.  Signed William Henderson. // Turner Williams reports that he had not been able to locate the slaves that he was looking for, and that he would have to go back to Kentucky and get more evidence to support his claim. He would return later.[32]

 

Phoebe Calvit versus William Calvit.  Phoebe Calvit, lawful wife of Wm. Calvit, represents that by reason of the cruelty and ill-usage of her husband, she has been obliged to leave his house, and finds herself with nothing wherewith to subsist, and although she had property before her marriage, consisting of a negro, a bed and furniture, valuable horse and saddle, her said husband refuses to restore any part thereof but has sold her negro, without the consent of the petitioner, that Thomas Vause, of Bayou Pierre, is acquainted with the state of property of your petitioner before her marriage, and she asks that said Thos. Vause be ordered to appear to prove same, and that her husband be ordered to restore to her the bed and other property possessed by her before her marriage, and that she be allowed such support by her husband as Your Excellency deems just, observing that during the twelve years of her marriage she has received nothing from him, not even clothing. Natchez.  19 Dec. 1795.  Signed: P. Calvit. // p. 352.  Bayou Pierre. Nay 20, 1796.  Came Thomas Vause before me and declared on oath that, about 13 years ago, he was called in by William Calvit and Phoebe Crawford to write a bill of sale of a negro boy named “Peter”, from said William Calvit to sd Phoebe Crawford, which he did and witnessed a saw the said negro boy delivered by Wm. Calvit to Phoebe Crawford.  This transation [sic.] took place in Holstein in North Carolina.  He thinks the consideration mentioned in the bill of sale was 80 pounds.  He also remembers that Phoebe Crawford did let Wm. Calvit have a horse which he saw Wm. Calvit sell to Capt. Thomas Aimey, but for what sum he does not remember.  Signed: Thomas Vause.  Before me.  P. Bryan Bruin.[33]

 

Phoebe Calvit versus William Calvit Agreement made between William Calvit and Phoebe, his wife, namely: The said Wm. Calvit consents that Phoebe, his wife, shall live separate in a house near to him, which house shall be considered her own and shall not be in any manner subject to his order or commands, nor molested nor troubled by him, or any of his family.  The said William Calvit also binds himself to furnish her subsistence separately, that is to say, to furnish her with good and wholesome "provisions of the country for herself and two children, sufficient for her housekeeping, also a spinning wheel, cards and cotton, and to allow his negro woman to wash her clothes and that of her children, likewise 4 cows and calves, to milk for her use, a young negro named Sam for her servant and a horse at such times as may be thought needful, and for the full performance of these conditions, he binds himself in the penal sum of $500 to be paid to her and her heirs. Sig: William Calvit Wit: William .Pounteney, William Smith. Certified to be a faithful translation into the English language. Sig: Jean Girault. [No date.][34]

 

Phoebe Calvit versus William Calvit.   Phoebe Calvit represents that by agreement between herself and William Calvit, her husband, dated 14 March 1795, her said husband bound himself to allow her a separate maintenance but your petitioner, having received so much ill treatment from him, was impelled to seek her residence elsewhere.  She lived a long while with Mr. Gaillard and others until her husband, having made many fair promises to the late William Savage, curate of the parish, who persuaded your petitioner to return and live with her husband again and she did, but in fear.  But from ill-treatment, she cannot continue to do so. She had a slave before her marriage, a horse, bed and furniture and a side saddle.  The negro belonging to her was sold by her husband without her consent to Dr. Farrar; asks an order that he deliver her another negro of equal value out of his own stock to be appraised by Thomas Vause and Daniel Miller, both of Bayou Sara, who knew the value of the petitioner's slave and other property. Sig: Phoebe Calvit.[35]



[1] Book A, p. 237, n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in McBee, comp., Natchez Court Records, 29.

[2] Book A, p. 326, Jan. 5, 1787, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 37

[3] Book B, p. 30, Dec. 19, 1787, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 47.

[4] Book B, p. 36, Jan. 3, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 48.

[5] Book B, p. 38, Feb. 9, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 48.

[6] Book B, p. 46, Jan. 15, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 48.

[7] Book B, p. 48, Jan. 16, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 49.

[8] Book B, p. 90, May 20, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 52.

[9] Book B, p. 103, n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 53.

[10] Book B, p. 150, Aug. 18, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 57.

[11] Book B, p. 152. Aug. 18, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 57.

[12] Book B, p. 153. Aug. 18, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 57.

[13] Book B, p. 155. May 26, 1789, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 57.

[14] Book B, p. 175. Nov. 5, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 59.

[15] Book B, p. 176. Nov. 5, 1788, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 59.

[16] Book B, p. 296. June 5, 1789, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 67.

[17] Book B, p. 335. Oct. 2, 1789, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 70.

[18] Book B, p. 377. Jan. 8, 1790, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 73.

[19] Book B, p. 466. Sept. 9, 1790, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 80.

[20] Book B, p. 526. Sept. 12, 1791, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 86.

[21] Book C, p. 72. n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 96.

[22] Book C, p. 114. Apr. 7, 1794, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 101.

[23] Book C, p. 124. Apr. 30, 1794, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 101-02.

[24] Book C, p. 269. May 10, 1795, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 113.

[25] Book C, p. 270. May 2, 1795, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 113.

[26] Book C, p. 157. Oct. 27, 1794, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 105.

[27] Book C, p. 375. Feb. 20, 1796, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 121.

[28] Book C, p. 376. Feb. 24, 1796, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 121.

[29] Book C, p. 390. Apr. 8, 1796, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 121.

[30] Book C, p. 392. Apr. 28, 1796, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798  in Ibid., 122.

[31] Book E, p. 124. n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 173-74.

[32] Book E, p. 220. n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 181.

[33] Book E, p. 202, n.d. Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 351-52.

[34] Book F, p. 60. n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 241.

[35] Book F, p. 452. n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 284-85.