Does anyone have information about HARRIET PANE or PAYNE, a "freed woman" of Fayette County, AL who filed a suit against the estate of David Thornton (late 1860s/early 1870s)and won? I assume the phrase "freed woman" means that Harriet Payne was a former slave but am not 100% sure of that fact. Here is a summary of what I know about the situation from the estate papers of David Thornton (summary of those papers available at http://www.rootsweb.com/~alfayett/Thornton.html). The public auction mentioned was in December 1867 at the residence of the late David Thornton.
"Several head of livestock were sold at the auction: "a horse, a yoke of oxen, a red cow, a roan Heifer, a pied Heifer, a Speckeled heifer, a Dark Dun cow, a Black headed cow, a White and Spotted Horse, a Sow and six shoats, and five head of sheep."
"One of the most interesting documents to me in the entire set of estate papers is the following addendum to the Sale Bill filed with the court by P.W. Thornton:
"I think it proper to remark that the above cattle, sheep, and hogs were claimed by Harriet Pane a freed woman under an instrument of writing from deceased which I doubted being a good claim and therefore Sold them as above Believing that Said Sale was legally and fully conducted ___ he would ask your Honor its approval and that its report of this same be received, recorded, and filed. All of which is respectfully submitted. P.W. Thornton, Administrator" (from page 309, The Estate Papers of David Thornton, Fayette County, Alabama)
"Obviously, either at the day of the sale or prior to the sale, a former slave (?), Harriet Pane, presented the administrator of the estate a written document from David Thornton which transferred ownership of the "cattle, sheep, and hogs" to her. Grandson P.W. Thornton, acting as administrator for his grandfather's estate, disregarded Harriet Pane's written claim and sold the livestock. Later, in other court documents dealing with the settlement of the estate of David Thornton, it is clear that newly freed Harriet Pane exercised her legal rights in the courts of Fayette County and sued successfully for damages. On a court document filed in April, 1876, is an entry of an amount paid for the "Cost in the Suit of Harriet Payne's Estate for $80.00" which would indicate to me that the court upheld her claim that David Thornton granted her ownership of the livestock. It would be most interesting to read the court documents of this lawsuit from Fayette County, Alabama. I find it most interesting that a "freed woman" would exercise her legal rights and prevail in this matter in post-Civil War Alabama. In my opinion, this
is a case worth reading more about.
"Also on Page 375, The Estate Papers of David Thornton, Fayette County, Alabama, is a listing of the notes "given for property, sold, and recovered by Harriet Payne." There is a list of the persons who bought property but the copy is so bad that the amount cannot be determined. It is interesting on this list, however, that the "waggon", oxen, cows, heifers, sheep, and hogs are listed as being recovered by Harriet Payne. On Page 376 are three other entries regarding the saga of Harriett Payne and the livestock: there are entries for amounts paid (amounts not readable) for "Paying J. Pickle cost in case of Harriet Payne,""Paying B.W. Wilson cost in his Suit of Harriet Payne vs Estate," and "Paying William Dutton, no receipt, for wintering cow Sold and recovered by Harriet Payne."
"It is obvious that Harriet Payne clearly won her suit against the estate of David Thornton. What would be even more interesting would be to know of her prior relationship to the estate — is she, for instance, a freed Thornton slave? And why would David Thornton grant her, in writing, ownership of a portion of his estate? And when was that document written? (I have been told that after David was robbed and beaten, that he survived for some time prior to dying but have no proof of that fact.)"
Summary from my transcription of the David Thornton Estate Papers
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