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Silas Burke's affidavit, transcribed

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Chancery case 1847-002, John Bell etc. vs. Anna M. Fitzhugh and Robert Hall. Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery of Fairfax County, Virginia.



June 3, 1845


This deposition of Silas Burke taken by consent of parties, to be received as evidence in a suit defending and undetermined in the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for the County of Fairfax in which Nace Henson, John Bell and Alfred Gwinn — suing as paupers — are complaining and Anna B. Fitzhugh and Robert Hall are defendants.


Deponent first being duly sworn deposeth and says that the Misses McDonald, who was owner of the Complainants above referred to occupied a tenement on the Ravensworth estate when he undertook the management of the same in the year 1823, at an annual rent of 1200 pounds tobacco, that they then had and owned a number of slaves, among whom was the boy Alfred one of the complainants, Nace Henson and Jno Bell (having been sold before for rent, as he understood) —


After being at Ravensworth several years and having waited on the old ladies at different and sundry times to collect the rents in arrears, and finding them destitute of every thing necessary to their comfort, deponent tendered his sewing at various times and made proposals to them to undertake the management of their property, all of which was from time to time declined, deponent was forced in justice to his employer to detain for rent, and the boy called Alfred then about 12 years old was taken by Eliab C. Butler then a constable for Fairfax County and sold at Fairfax Court House after having been regularly advertised on the 3d Monday in April 1828, that being Court day.


Some objection was made to the sale, it having been stated that he was not a slave for life and at the instanter, he himself of B. Hooe Esq., deponent went to the clerk's office and examined the will of Alexander McDonald, and returned and directed the officers to proceed and sell him as a slave for life. Being satisfied that he was such, no further objection being made, the sale proceeded and finally he was [illegible] out to deponent, for this agent of W.H. Fitzhugh Esq at 4300 pounds tobacco -- tobacco then being worth from $4 to $6 per hundred -- deponent found from examining his books that the rent in arrears at that time was 3600 pounds tobacco, that the constable's fees and commission was 461 pounds tobacco, making the sum total of 4061 pounds tobacco which left a balance to the credit of Missses McDonald of 239 pounds tobacco. 


Then Misses McDonald remained on and occupied the same leased tenement from that time till the 1st January 1836. When the last of them having died, I took possession of the tenement as the agent of Mrs. A. M. Fitzhugh, the widow of Wm. H. Fitzhugh, dec'd. No rent having been paid or received from the time Alfred was sold, leaving rent due and in arrears at the expiration of the year in which the last one died (1835) amounting to 8161 pounds tobacco or about $400.


The other slaves of the Mister McDonald except Alice, the mother of Alfred (who was the cook and house servant of the old ladies), and another very old and infirm woman having died, ran off to the North. And they having none left but Alice, Mrs. Fitzhugh determined to render them any service in their old age, and so instructed deponent not to molest them further. Alice now remains on the tenement occupied by her mistress not legally as a free woman but from the mere courtesy of Mrs. Fitzhugh and her agent.

[signed / Silas Burke]

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