Unbound. This one-page manuscript “Deed of Emancipation” measures 8” x 13” and was signed by Barbary (Barbara) Wilson and four witnesses on January 5, 1822. In nice shape.
The document reads in part:
“Know all Men by these presents that I Barbara Wilson of the County of Bath and Commonwealth of Virginia being upon principle opposed to holding any person in Slavery and for other good causes and considerations me there unto moving have liberated emancipated and forever quit claim and by these presents liberate emancipate and forever quit claim to and discharge from my Service my white Child Slave named Sarah Jane aged about five months and I do bind myself my heirs executors and administrators forever to release and discharge from my own or their Service the said white Child Sara Jane and her future increases. . ..”
This famous case is well documented and a summary can be found in Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1838, pages 19-22.. Very good. Item #009903
Barbara Wilson, an octogenarian, was an unmarried daughter of Irish immigrants who settled in the Shenandoah Valley before the French and Indian War. In 1764, Barbara was injured by a tomahawk blow to the head when American Indians attacked her family’s homestead. Sixty years later after two sisters who had lived with her died, Barbara inherited 14 slaves, six of them children or infants. Barbara, being opposed to slavery, set them all free. The fourteen included an adult black male, Harry, three slaves she declared to be mulattoes, and ten slaves she declared to be “white,” perhaps in anticipation of a legal challenge which she was certain some family members would initiate.
Barbara’s relatives did immediately sue to have her declared of “unsound mind” as a result of her tomahawk injury which they maintained had been exacerbated by her old age. They were successful, and the 14 “freedmen” were remanded to a committee of guardians. When Barbara died three years later, her freedmen were again enslaved. All 14 of the Wilson slaves brought a counter “pauper suit” of their own, and the trial dragged on for the next 14 years. In the end, the Virginia Supreme Court determined in 1838 that although Barbara’s “health was very infirm, and her mind weak,” she was in control of her faculties when she freed her slaves. The 14 slaves regained their freedom and filed a claim to be paid for the work they’d performed while being “unlawfully detained” for 14 years as the court case drug on. It was denied.
(For more information about the American Indian attack of the Wilson’s homestead, see Morton’s A History of Highland County Virginia.)
Scarce. At the time of listing there are no other Wilson emancipation documents for sale in the trade. The Rare Book Hub reports that two have been sold at auction. OCLC shows three are held by institutions.