Just acquired, a fascinating and perhaps a hopeful document related to slavery.  This is a bill of sale for a slave, but it is possibly a case of a husband buying his wife out of slavery.

The first part reads, “Know All Men by these presents that I Catherine M. Folwell of Nashville, State of Tennessee, Widow, for and in consideration of the sum of Six Hundred Dollars to me in hand paid by Dow Johnson, now of Boston in the State of Massachusetts, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby bargain and sell unto the said Dow Johnson, his executions & assigns forever a certain negro slave called Jane Johnson aged about 25 five years.  And I, the said Mrs. Folwell do warrant the said negro to be a slave for life [the words: ‘to be sound, healthy, &’ have been crossed out] sensible, and warrant the title to said Dow Johnson, his heirs & assigns forever against all persons whatsoever.  In witness whereof I do herein set my hand and seal this 23rd day of December A.D. 1852.  Catherine M. Folwell.  Witness:  Ira Conwell and Jesse W. Page.”

It’s quite possible that this bill of sale was written by one of the witnesses, perhaps Conwell.  On the second page is a lengthy endorsement by the Clerk of the County Court F.R. Chatham who attested to the validity of the bill of sale on January 31, 1853.  Below this is the written endorsement of Phinehas Garrett County Registrar recording the bill of sale into the records of the County. One the third page is written, “This Bill of Sale is according to the Laws of Tennessee, and this negro woman Jane is to be delivered to Revd. Abiel Abbott [sic.] Livermore at Cincinnati, Ohio to be sent on to Boston, Massachusetts.  Francis B. Fogg.”

Reading between the lines, it is possible that Dow Johnson remained in Boston and was most likely a freed slave (whether by purchase or escape is not known).  However, he was prudent enough not to go to Tennessee on his own. Abiel Abbot Livermore was a Harvard-educated, New Hampshire native who became a Unitarian minister in 1836. He was editor of the Christian Inquirer, NY.  He was called to the parish in Cincinnati in 1850 and no doubt had abolitionist leanings.  Thus he helped arrange the purchase of and passage for Jane Johnson who was probably the wife of Dow Johnson.  More research must be done on this document to prove or disprove these possibilities.

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