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Trial of Frank (slave of William Peters)

September 12, 1831 – Executed


At a Called Court of Oyer and Terminer held for Sussex County at the Courthouse on Friday the 2nd day of September 1831 for the trial of Solomon a negro man Slave the property of Nancy Sorrley of the County, Preston and Nicholas negro men slaves the property of Hannah Williamson of the County, Jim and Isaac negro men slaves the property of Samuel Champion of this County, Fed and Shadrack negro men slaves the property of Ann Key of this County, Boson and Frank negro men slaves the property of William Peters of this County, Booker a negro man slave the property of Samuel A. Raines of the County and Squire a negro man slave the property of George Goodwyn of this County charged with having uttered, used and spoken seditious words and threats to conspire and rebel and to assist and aid the blacks to murder the whites of this Commonwealth.


Present William Parham, William Thornton, Henry L. Harrison, Robert Eldridge, & Robert Key, Gent. Justis.


For reasons appearing to this Court the trials of the aforesaid prisoners are adjourned to Monday the twelfth day of the present month.


William Parham, J.P.



[September 12]


The Court met according to adjournment on Monday the 12th day of September 1831. Present Thomas E. King, William Parham Jr., Thomas Hunt, William Parham Sr., William Thornton, James Dillard, Henry L. Harrison, and Robert Eldridge, Gent Justs.


Frank, a negro man slave the property of William Peters of this county was led to the bar in custody of the Jailer of this County and having James French Esquire appointed as counsel to defend him in his behalf pleaded not guilty to the charge and for his trial putteth himself upon God and the Court. Whereupon sundry witnesses were charged, sworn and examined on behalf of the Commonwealth, to wit:


Beck a negro girl slave the property of Solomon Parker states that at the last May meeting at the Racoon Meeting House there was a party of negroes around the Well and the prisoner said he was going to join the black people to murder the white people. She was told by the negroes that if she told the white people about it that they (the white people) would shoot her down like a squirrel and would not bury her. She heard the thing spoken of by a number of negroes for eighteen months but she said not believing they were in earnest. On the Saturday night before and the Monday night of the last Southampton elections it was spoken of more boldly and the threat that the white people would shoot her if she told of it was repeated. She gave the information to her mistress on Wednesday after the insurrection broke out (which was the day she first heard the insurrection had broke out on hearing her mistress say to Mrs. Godwyn she wondered if any of her negroes were concerned. She had no recollection of ever being told by any person that if the negroes should be convicted on her evidence that she must be set free nor has she ever had an idea that she was ever to be free.


Solomon D. Parker says that the evidence given by the witness on this occasion corresponds to the best of his recollection with evidence she has given on a former occasion, and that he had no reason to doubt that she is a person of truth. She has made communication to him on a former occasions on other subjects, from which discoveries were made by him.


The Court after hearing the evidence and maturely considering the same and the prisoner heard in his defense by and through his counsel is of opinion that the prisoner Frank is guilty of the offense of which he stands charged and so sentence him to be hanged by the neck until he be dead and it’s ordered that he be remanded to Jail there to be safely held until Friday the 23rd day of the present month and it’s further ordered that the Sheriff of this County so that between the hours of two o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon carry the aforesaid sentence into execution.


The Court appraised the value of the said Slave Frank to be four hundred and fifty dollars.


Ordered that William Peters pay James S. French ten dollars for defending his slave Frank this day condemned to be executed.

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