Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New acquisition: 1746-47 complaint against a black servant in Hatfield, Massachusetts

One of the main focuses of BC Law’s special collections involves documents created and used by working lawyers in colonial and early America. I recently purchased a complaint for our collection related to a 1746-1747 Hatfield case brought by one Ichabod Allis against a black servant (perhaps slave?) of a man named Seth Dwight. The defendant, referred to in the complaint as Medad Negro, is accused of burning down Allis's barn. Medad apparently confessed to the crime. On the back of the complaint, we can see that three witnesses, Elisha Allis (presumably the son of Ichabod, the complainant), David Belding, and Jonathan Bardwell, put up 10 pounds bond each to testify. That would have been quite a sum of money in 1747!
Israel Williams, the Justice of the Peace who wrote up the complaint, references Medad being jailed and bound over for trial in Springfield Superior Court. I'm investigating what happened in the aftermath of the complaint and will report back with any pertinent discoveries!
Images of the entire complaint, along with my transcription, will be posted on our Facebook page!

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