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Trial of Nelson (slave of Jacob Williams)

September 3, 1831 –  Executed


At a Court of Oyer and Terminer summoned and held for the County of Southampton on the 3rd day of September 1831 for the trial of Hark a negro man the slave property of Joseph Travis’s Est. Moses a boy the property of Joseph Travis’s Est. Davy the property of Levi Waller & Nathan the property of Jacob Williams charged with insurrection.


Present: Carr Bowers, William B. Goodwyne, Robert Goodwyne, James Trezevant, and Ores A. Browne, Gent.


The Court being thus constituted Meriwether B. Broadnax Attorney prosecuting for the Commonwealth filed an information against the said Hark, Moses, Davy and Nelson.




Nelson a negro man slave belonging to Jacob Williams was then set to the bar in custody of the jailor of this county and the Court doth assign James S. French Esq. Counsel for the prisoner in his defense and the prisoner being arraigned of the premises pleaded not guilty to the information . . . and


Jacob Williams a witness for the Commonwealth being sworn says he returned to his own home on the morning on which the insurrection took place in this County about eleven o’clock from some business which had carried him out and he saw the prisoner, who is the witness’ slave, dressed in his best clothes from the manner of the prisoner at the time a suspicion occurred to the witness that the prisoner had some intention of attacking him—witness had not heard of the insurrection—witness went to the woods to measure some timber—returned in the evening and found that his family had been murdered—after remaining some time he saw the insurgents again approaching and distinctly saw the prisoner among the foremost—witness made his escape and did not see the prisoner any more.


Caswell Worrell also a witness being sworn says that he overlooks for Jacob Williams the owner of the prisoner—that on Thursday preceeding the Monday on which the insurrection broke out the prisoner told the witness that they might look out and take care of themselves—that something would happen before long—that any body of his practice could tell these things—that on Monday August 22d he/came/ in the morning by Jacob Williams’s where the prisoner resided and found him from home—went to the new ground where the rest of the negroes were at work—that at about one hour after the prisoner came to the new ground dressed in his best clothes—complained that he was too sick to work—put on his old clothes which he had with him and desired witness to go to the house with him which he did and returned just before the insurgents arrived, and believed that the prisoner wished to [decoy?] witness home that he might be killed.


Cynthia a slave being charged and sworn states that on Monday the 22d of August last the prisoner came home early in the morning/seemingly/ very sick went to his house dressed himself very clean, while the negroes were in the yard, came into the kitchen asked for some meat took his Mistresses meat out of the pot cut a piece off said Cynthia you do not know me. I do not know when you will see me again—Stepped over the dead bodies without any manifestation of grief.—


Stephen a slave being sworn and charged says he and Mr. Edward Drewry went to Jacob Williams on Monday 22df August last for corn while consulting about who should go for a corn measure Mr. Drewry said “Lord, who is that coming” immediately the negroes rose up, killed Mr. Drewry, Mr. Williams’ wife and children, told Nelson to go with them, he seemed unwilling to go but insisted on dressing before he went—was forced to go with them lagged behind when he was guarded—went to Mrs. Vaughan’s but did not participate in the murders—that the prisoner drank with them and had his tickler filled by his own request.


The Court after hearing the testimony and from all circumstances of the cases are unanimously of opinion that the prisoner is guilty in manner and form as in the information against him is set forth and it being demanded of him if anything for himself he had or knew to say why the Court should not proceed to pronounce judgment against him according to law and nothing being offered or alleged in delay of judgment it is considered by the Court that the prisoner be taken hence to the place from whence he came where he is to be securely confined until Friday the ninth day of September Inst. on which day between the hours of ten o’clock in the forenoon and two o’clock in the afternoon he/is to/ be taken by the Sheriff to the usual place of execution and there be hanged by the neck until he be dead. And the Court values the said slave Nelson to the sum of four hundred dollars.—

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