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Court Records and Will of William Beazley

Frees Some Slaves Upon Their Coming of Age

William Beazley was born in 1761 in Virginia. He died betwen 24 Sep 1824, when he completed his will, and on 3 Oct 1824 when his executor directed three men to appraise his estate. His will was proved on 24 Oct 1824.

There is one item in William's will what is very unusual:

Secondly it is my desire that the following children (who are children of my negro woman Nutly) named Lewis, Job, Joel, Frederick, Eliza, Moriah, and Jane be kept and raised among my children until arrive at age, the boys 21 and the girls 18, at which time they are to be emancipated.

See the complete will.

Lawsuit Against the Estate

In April 1838, twelve years after William Beazley died, the heirs of the estate were sued by executor of the estate. William Major and others had loaned John Coons, the husband of Nancy Beazley, a about $1,630 (about $39,000 in 2021) from his personal accounts from 1834 to 1836. Coons had failed to pay the notes as agreed. Major bought the other loans and sued Coons. Coons pled , unable to pay his debts, had been imprisoned in September 1837. Nancy and wife (and he) were a recipient of one-eighth of his father-in-law's estate, he sought to claim that portion of the estate bequeathed to them. In Murray v. Beazley, Murray filed a claim asserting that three of the negroes belonging to the estate were being advertised for sale by Thomas Beazley, another of the heirs.

Eillis Beazley, the widow of William Beazley, had died. As William Beazley's will directed, her son Thomas Beazley set a date to sell three of the slaves in an apparent attempt to satisfy the claim of John Coons against the estate. William Major and the two other men owed money by Coons filed a suit with the court seeking an injunction against the sale. They insisted that the proceeds of any sale should be paid them, and not Coons. The court granted the injunction. The Culpepper County Sheriff took possession of the three slaves and hired them out to work. In October, Thomas Beazley sold the three negroes. He paid the debt, including interest, lawyer's fees, and court costs, to Major and the other plaintiffs.

This is the text of the court's final disposition of the law suit:

This sale in relation to the negroes has been confirmed by said Thomas Beazley giving his bond with Danl Threlkeld and David Bradford as his securities for the sum of three hundred and twenty dollars and one cent including cost of suit and is to be distributed at Defts costs. Witness our hand & seal this day 16th day of Aug. 1838. Thomas Beazley

Teste J. D. Lathams c.c.

The Price of Slaves

The average price of a slave in 1850 was $400 (about $10,000 in 2021).(1) This varied depending "on the slave's age, sex, and the region in which they were sold. Young adult males had more value as they were stronger, could work harder in the fields, and could be expected to work at such a level for more years. Young adult women had value over and above their ability to work in the fields; they were able to have children who by law were also slaves of the owner of the mother. Old and infirm slaves had low, even 'negative,' prices because their maintenance costs were potentially higher than the value of their production. Similarly, young children had low prices because the 'cost' of raising them usually exceeded their annual production until they became teenagers."

In the New York Times on August 22, 1863, Page 4, it was reported:(2)

In the farther States of the Southern Confederacy we frequently see reports of negro sales, and we occasionally see boasts from rebel newspapers as to the high prices the slaves bring, notwithstanding the war and the collapse of Southern industry. We notice in the Savannah Republican of the 5th, a report of a negro sale in that city, at which, we are told, high prices prevailed, and at which two girls of 18 years of age were sold for about $2,500 apiece, two matured boys for about the same price, a man of 45 for $1,850, and at woman of 23, with her child of 5, for $3,950. Twenty-five hundred dollars, then, may be taken as the standard price of first-class slaves in the Confederacy; but when it is remembered that this is in Confederate money, which is worth less than one-twelfth its face in gold, it will be seen that the real price, by this standard, is only about $200. In Kentucky, on the other hand, though there is but little buying or selling of slave stock going on, we understand that negroes are still held at from seven to twelve hundred dollars apiece.


(1) Measuring Slavery in 2016 Dollars

(2) Market Price of Slaves