A by-name “Appraisement” document for 13 slaves, four of whom were “Valueless”, belonging to a female Alabama plantation owner’s estate. The estate of Henrietta. M. H. Clarke.
A by-name “Appraisement” document for 13 slaves, four of whom were “Valueless”, belonging to a female Alabama plantation owner’s estate

A by-name “Appraisement” document for 13 slaves, four of whom were “Valueless”, belonging to a female Alabama plantation owner’s estate

Perry County, Alabama: January 1, 1860. Unbound. This two-page appraisal measures 7.75” x 12.75”. It bears three horizonal file folds. In nice shape. When evaluated by a panel of four appraisers, the 13 slaves identified in this document were valued between $0 and $1,650 each. Their names were: Bass, Matilda, Woodson, Mary, Elijah, Jess, Bass, Sarah Francis, Old Elijah, Old Jess, Old Rachel, Lucy, and Betsy. The four “valueless” slaves were Old Jess, Old Rachel, Lucy, and Betsy. Very good. Item #009596

Henrietta’s Clarke’s will was first presented for execution in probate court on July 23, 1859 and all of her “real, personal and mixed” property was scheduled to be evenly divided between her four children. It appears that later, perhaps after the division of property was under way, the estate received unpaid bills due to creditors. To meet these debts, the family requested permission from the court “to sell some of the negroes belonging to said estate.” This appraisal, dated nearly six months after the will was filed, is likely related to the “necessary” slave sale referenced in court documents.

Out-side of Henrietta’s will and associated documents, available through Alabama, Wills and Probate Records, 1753-1999 online at Ancestry.com, Clarke family documents are scarce at best. However, a 1860 Slave Schedule available at the Census Office shows 42 slaves were owned by Robert Clarke of Woodville (now Uniontown), Perry County, Alabama.

“Valueless” slaves are not often found on slave sales or appraisal documents. It is probable that the family members selected the 13 slaves to be sold by name, expecting each to have at least some value. However, the appraisal panel, which was likely appointed by the court, saw things differently.

When slaves became too old or ill to work on a plantation, they were not freed or turned-out to fend for themselves. They continued to receive the same type of shelter, food, and clothing they did when they were productive. Often, they were used to watch slave children while their parents worked in the fields, assist the household slave staff performing light work, or even in some cases caring for ill or injured slaves if the plantation had a sick house. (See “When slaves became too old to work or disabled. . ..” online at Quora.com and Follett’s The Sugar Masters. . ..)

An unusual and uncommon appraisal of named slaves done for a female slave-holder’s estate that includes a number of “valueless” slaves.

Price: $750.00

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