William Terrell Lewis, Surry County, North Carolina
1792 Response to Complaint of Jonathan Haines to Court of Equity, Salisbury District
Estate File of William Ridge
In the Court of Equity
The separate answer of William T. LEWIS to the Bill of Complaint of William, Thomas, Mary, Elizabeth, Sythe, & Winnifred Ridge, Infants by Jonathan Haynes their next friend.
This defendant now & at all times hereafter saving to himself all legal benefit & advantage of enacting to the many errors, untruths, insufficiencies, & imperfections, in the said Bill, for answers thereto or to so much thereof as he is advised is material & necessary for him to answer. Saith, he admits that William RIDGE father of Complainants departed this life about the time in the Bill enpossessed intestate leaving a widow, & the Complainants his children, but not his only children for besides the Complainants, he left a son called Godfrey who died in or about the year 1781 leaving a widow & a child or children who are yet living as this defendant believes. He also left a daughter named Nancy now the wife of John FIELDER;
As to this defendants having rec'd a conveyance from John FIELDER of the negroes SALL, & NANN in the Bill named in trust for the Complainants and that the same was made in the name of said William RIDGE the father deceased and ante dated this defendant saith that the whole narrative of the Complainants in the particular is entirely fictitious & groundless. The said FIELDER did not ever execute or propose to execute any such conveyance or to make this defendant a trustee as the Bill sets forth. It is true that the said John FIELDER (then being the husband of the aforesaid Nancy one of the daughters of the intestate) did together with Winifred the Mother of the Complainants & administrator of the estate of the said intestate & the aforesaid Godfrey RIDGE whose name was signed at his request by said FIELDER execute a Bill of Sale conveying to this defendant the said Negroes SALL & NAN, but that before this time that is to say in the life time of said William the intestate, said Godfrey ____ had been drafted to serve as a soldier in the Army & for some delinquency was by law obliged to serve in the Continental Army for three years or during the war, or find a sufficient substitute to do that service for him; the said William the intestate, on that account agreed to pay this defendant one hundred & twenty pounds to furnish such substitute, and this defendant did accordingly furnish a substitute, by which said Godfrey was exonerated and discharged from personal service. The said intestate in consideration thereof to discharge himself of the payment of the £120 aforesaid did by a Bill of Sale which he executed on or about the 5 day of May 1780 convey to this defendant the Negoes SALL & NAN in the presence of two witnesses who subscribed their names thereto. This defendant was an Officer in the Army and became an object of revenge to the Tories who in his absence from home on public service, plundered his house and destroyed many of his papers. Upon his return home he searched among those which had been saved but could not find the aforesaid Bill of Sale executed by the intestate. And this defendant did verily believe the same had been destroyed, he therefore applied to the said Winnifred, the widow & said Godfrey, and the said FIELDER the only [persons interested in the estate who were of age and mentioned the loss of Bill of Sale and requested them to execute another which they readily agreed to, knowing the Justice of such request. And this defendant admits the Negoes SALL and NAN have had the issue named in the Bill and this defendant hath the said Bill of Sale executed by the intestate, and which he afterwards fortunately found among his papers, the same has been duly proved and registered, and he is ready to produce it when requested.
As to the Negro KATE and her children this defendant saith it is true he took out an attachment against the effects of Nathan ALLIN, not on a fictitious or unjust demand and to procure possession of said Negro KATE and her children for the unjust and shamefull purpose in the Bill in this behalf sett forth but for a large, and this defendant believed very just debt due to him from said ALLIN who had absconded. The said ALLIN was then married to said Winnifred the widow of the intestate, and in her right was entitled to part of the estate of said intestate; no division had been made thereof that this defendant knew of and the said KATE & her children were therefore attached. Whilst they were in possession of the Officer on the said attachment THOMAS AYERS in the Bill named informed this defendant that said KATE and her children belonged to him for that the intestate had conveyed her to him in his lifetime and that he could prove it- which this defendant believed to be true and therefore purchased the title of said Tho's AYERS and took said KATE and her children by force of such purchase, and this defendant avers that he made said purchase bone fida for a valuable consideration, believing the title of said Thomas AYRES to be good. Afterwards the said Winnifred the widow, as Administrator of the said intestate brot [sic] a suit against this defendant which she failed in and was adjudged to pay cost wherein an execution issued & the same Negro KATE & her children were again secured by the Sheriff on his & sold on or about the 13 of July 1780 and sold as the property of the intestate or the said widow and children of the intestate for ten years, & this defendant again purchased them afterwards to wit at Surry County Court in ___ term.
William COOK, Esq'r and the aforesaid Jonathan HAYNS as Guardian of the Complainants sued this defendant in an Action of Trover for the same Negroes KATE and her children and for the Negroes SALL and NAN & their children, and on the tryal it appeared to the Court & Jury as this defendant understood and believed that the said Negro KATE and her children were the property of the Complainants but the the said Sale of NAN and their children did of right belong to this defendant and therefore the Jury gave a verdict against this defendant and assessed damages as in the Bill is stated for the value of said KATE and her children, with which verdict as this defendant was informed and believes the said Guardians were well satisfied & particularly the said Jonathan HAYNS who to testify his satisfaction procured some Spiritous Liquor and generously treated the Jury,- and this defendant never heard at that time of any discontent on their part, or any design to appeal from the verdict of the Jury, indeed this defendant has reason to believe that the Counsil employed in the cause by the said Guardians gave ___ opinion that they could only recover the value of said KATE and her children; this defendant however was in truth much disatisfied with said verdict for besides that an objection lay against the said Guardians recovering at all suing that the estate of the intestate had not been divided, and that a brother and sister not made parties to the suit were also entitled to part, this defendant had in truth some claim on the said KATE and her children on account of said ALLIN who was largely in his debt and whose wife was as the Bill states entitled to a third, also on account of the purchase afforesaid for ten years and the sum of £270 was as he thought too large for KATE & her children.
Therefore he resolved to appeal to this Court on the law side and he denies most positively that he intended to lull the said Guardians into security & thereby prevent them from appealing, he meant no more than to procure Justice for himself. It is true this defendant did not prosecute said appeal & did compromise with William COOK one of the Guardians but he did so by persuasion of his friends & paid the two hundred & twenty pounds whether said COOK had or had not a legal power to receive the full amount of what was recovered and to give a receipt and discharge for it as could compel this defendant to prosecute the appeal this defendant was not a competent judge. He believed said COOK had power to acquit him or receive payment or he would not have paid.
As to this defendant having deprived the said guardians, on their said suit, of the benefit of Thomas RIDGE testimony he saith the charge in the bill in this particular is altogether false this defendant neither knows nor believes that said Thomas RIDGE could, if he had spoken the truth have said anything on tryal that related to the suit, to the best of this defendants knowledge and belief the said Thomas RIDGE was not privy to any one transaction of this defendant relative to the several purchases or bills of sale under which this defendant claimed the Negroes he was thus sued for or any one of them, but as this defendant believes he was not in that part of the Country where any of the transactions happened at the time they did happen. This defendant does not recollect to have seen him from the year 1782 til about 1789 or 1790- and then he was brot [brought] to a Smiths Shop belonging to this defendant in costody of an Officer under a charge of some felonies, which it was said he had committed in Morgan District, the Officer being about to convey him to the Gaol of that District broat him to be Ironed- and after that was efected he carried him said Thomas RIDGE away and this defendant heared afterwards that somewhere in Wilkes County he escaped, but this defendant avers that the charge in the Bill that this defendant was privy to such escape or in any wise concerned in procuring it is entirely false. This defendant also denies that he issued a warrant to apprehend said Thomas RIDGE or does not recollect such a thing or act.
The defendant admits he was one of the Securities of Nathan ALLIN in the Guardian bond in the Bill mentioned but he denies that he said Nathan hat done any injury to the Complainants as far as the defendant knows or believes, except it may be wrong in him to carry off an old horse of small value belonging to the estate of the intestate, but this defendant believes he is the creditor of the Complainants and not the debtor. He returned to the County Court of Surry an inventory of the intestate's estate which came to the hands on his intermarriage with the widow of the intestate. A copy whereof attested by the Clerk this defendant is ready to produce. There appears to have been only one Negro man and one women two children one horse two feather beds & three head of cattle and two small children the complainants were small, he maintained & clothed them all for about two years. His wife was entitled to a third of the Estate, yet when he went away he left everything except the horse before mentioned and some trifle besides not exceeding twenty pounds in value as this defendant has been informed & does believe. This defendant further saith and he has been informed and does believe that the Negro man has since been sold by William COOK & Winnefred ALLIN the Ad'r and the money arising from that Sale turned to grate advantage in the purchase of a part of a tract of land for the Complainants William & Thomas- The money recovered from this defendant for KATE & her children has as this defendant has also been informed divided between the Complaints the daughters & when delivered to him or kept by said COOK for their use, Mary, Elizabeth and Sythe being of age have rec'd their parts and given receipts to said COOK and are as the defendant is informed satisfied. And this defendant denies all unlawfull combinations.
All of which this defendant is ready to aver and prove as this honorable Court shall direct.
NC State Library and Archives, CR085.508.136, Estate Records, Rowan Co., NC, Folder: William Ridge (1785)
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