Special Records

Apprenticeships in Madison County after the Civil War

by Thomas L. Aud, archivist

     Following the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, many former slaves had no means of livelihood nor money to purchase lands or other property. Many of these newly freed "colored" people, especially the children whose parents were deceased or not known, would become apprentices to their former owners until they reached the age of maturity—girls until 18 and boys until 21 years.  

     The citizens who petitioned the Madison County Court for the care and rearing of these children, including those of relatives or friends, agreed to "teach and instruct the said child/ren in the trade and occupation of [e.g. farming] and to read and write…or cause the same to be done…and find sufficient diet, lodging, washing and apparel, and other necessities suited to an apprentice, both in sickness and in health; and also take care of his morals, and treat him with humanity, and at the end of the time [age of maturity] will give (him/her/them) [a good suit of Sunday clothing and his everyday clothing and one hundred dollars in money]." The covenant would be signed by the petitioner and his security and addressed to the chairman of the county court.

     Some of these files clearly state that the children being apprenticed were former slaves of the petitioner. For example, on January 25, 1865, Alexander Jackson, through his attorney, John S. Brown, submitted a hand-written petition to the court stating "that previous to the recent war between the United and Southern States, he was the owner of a negro woman by the name of Martha, and of her four children, of the respective names and ages as follows: Elijah aged about fourteen, Silas thirteen, Paul nine and Harriet about seven years; that the mother of these children, Martha, and the father of Elijah and Silas are dead, and that for protection and support said Elijah and Silas are altogether dependent upon you petitioner. He further states that after the death of their mother, which occurred about five years ago, Paul and Harriet remained in his possession, and were carefully clothed, fed, and in other respects well treated, and that no person either before, or since the death of their mother, in the character of a father ever claimed to be such, or manifest any interest, until a very recent period when a certain freedman calling himself Charles Ellison, and assuming to be their father, attempted to take them from the plantation of your petitioner, and was only restrained from the accomplishment of his purpose by the interposition of the agent of Freedman’s Bureau of this county, who upon a proper investigation of the matter, decided he was not entitled to their control or possession."

     In another document filed by attorney Brown, granted by the Court (Archibald S. Rogers, Chairman) on February 5, 1866, it was noted that Paul and Harriet had "a reputed father by the name of Charles Ellison, who did not during the life time of their mother, nor until very recently either attempt to do anything for their support or manifest any interest in them; that under pretence of supporting them, he attempted to take them from petitioner..." It was stated that the supposed father, Charles Ellison, was attempting to claim the children so as to have them work for him and thereby better his situation and worth.

     These files have been faithfully abstracted by Mrs. Starla Jones Dougan and the typed notes are also available at the Madison County Archives. There are 120 files, some with the same petitioners but with different apprentices. The majority are for "colored" or "of color" or "Negro" but there are a few noted as being white, such as: Joseph Evans, age 3, a white boy, bound to William A. Dungan in the occupation of farming; Thomas Adams, age 8, white, to Jonas Mayo; and Enoch Lafayette Lawler, age 11, white, bound to E. J. Rice, the husband of Jane Lawler who raised him after his father, Manuel Lawler, and wife died. Most were apprenticed to work on farms, but some trained as seamstresses, housekeepers, in the art of mechanics, or the elementary branches.

     These documents can serve as proof on the ages of various people, especially of the former slaves whose records are not as available, and for family genealogists of the children, their parents and/or grandparents or other relatives, and the property owners/petitioners. They also relate the history and the conditions of many people in the years from the end of the Civil War until 1911 in Madison County, Tennessee and are, therefore, very valuable records worthy of review and preservation.

Apprenticeships to whom apprenticed

Listed alphabetically by petitioner's last name; you may search for other references to names/words/year, etc. by holding "Ctrl-F" and enter word/phrase.   

 Paupers’ Files in Madison County

by Thomas L. Aud, archivist

     After the Civil War many citizens of Madison County were destitute and in poverty. The Madison County Court provided limited funds for their support, coffins and burials. These files extend from 1868 to 1899 and are filed chronologically. A spreadsheet has been created listing all the paupers alphabetically, along with those who petitioned the court on their behalf, and the year. Notes include race (if noted in the original), relationship (if any), comments on the pauper’s health, age, cause of and place of and sometimes date of death, and various other details. Several were unnamed but as much information as noted has been listed, e.g., child, adult, blind, age, etc.

     These documents reflect the harshness of the times as evidenced by some bodies being found in various places, e.g., in an old barn, on a street, in a well, having been dead for several days, froze to death,  etc. before a coffin could be provided. While every effort has been made for accuracy, errors are inevitable. Researchers should request copies of originals for own reviews. Only years are listed since dates of petitions were not always the dates of death or burial. Unnamed individuals are included if other notes or information about them may be of use to researchers. Variances in spellings were frequent and expected by the various petitioners.

     Requests for financial support were verified by affidavits of citizens who knew the paupers. Some requests were for money, e.g., to buy railroad tickets to move family to another state, and some were rejected. Requests for increased support or for higher priced coffins were usually rejected and only the standard costs allowed.

     Often coffins were requested from undertakers by city police chief, city mayor, justices of the peace, or other officials. Original files contained more information useful for researchers, e.g., military service of a Civil War veteran, etc. Some coffins were noted as being certain sizes for the deceased: for children, large adults, 3 ½ to 6 feet, etc.

     Some of the businesses which provided pauper coffins for $1.50 to $3.00 were McAlexander and Hadaway, Swink Brothers, Robinson & Umphlett, G. Hauser Company, R. E. Hopper’s Company, Umphlett & Graves, Landis & Company, and many by individuals. Several invoices from these businesses were included on their letterheads.

     These documents are even more valuable for the years between 1880 and 1900 when census records no longer exist. They may be the only records of the deaths of many people who probably did not own land nor left any wills. Many of these reports may also be in county minute books.  The original documents were organized through the dedicated efforts of volunteers and part-time archives staff members.

     Researchers may request scanned images of any document to be sent by email, letter, or in person. If there are known errors, please contact the Archives.

Paupers in Madison County, Tennessee:  Support & Coffins

     This spreadsheet has been created as an alphabetical index which can be searched using "Ctrl-F" and inputting word, name, phrase, year, etc.

Make a free website with Yola