Mary et al. vs. Buffard, William T – Petition for Freedom

The Freedom Papers comprise of a series of court documents regarding a petition for freedom filed on October 30th, 1843, in Greene County, Missouri, by a female African American slave named Mary.

This twelve page collection is a classic example of the personal strife and injustices African Americans were forced to endure before emancipation. Mary filed a petition in Greene County, Missouri for her freedom, and for that of: Jefferson, Mariah, and Jerry, her three minor children. Mary claimed that she had been freed in the will of her former owner, Matthew McClain, Sr. in the County of Henderson in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Mary claimed that McClain Sr. “forever freed” her upon his death. However, the Administrator of the estate, ignored the wishes of McClain Sr. as stipulated in his will, and sold her to William B. Edwards. Edwards later brought her to Missouri. In Missouri, Edwards sold Mary and her children again, this time to William T. Buffard, of Niangua County.

Mary also filed a petition against Buffard, seeking damages in the amount of one thousand dollars. She claimed Buffard was guilty of assault, having beaten, bruised, ill treated, and imprisoned her for the duration of one month without any probable cause. In the interest of each of child, Jerry, Jefferson and Mariah, she filed three additional petitions for damages in the amount of one thousand dollars for each. The charges were based on assault, having beaten, bruised, ill treated, and imprisoned them for a month without any probably cause.

Buffard, neither admitted to enslaving Mary and her children, or the violent means that he employed to do so. He further filed a motion to dismiss her claim for freedom and damages, citing that “there (was) no order of Court permitting said Plaintiff to sue (and) collect.”

Contributed by the Greene County Archives and Records Center

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