Certificates of Freedom

Many early black residents of Sangamon County were former slaves. Below are some of the certificates of freedom they were issued by their former owners or, in some cases, by judicial action.

Note that Phoebe “Feba” Rountree Fleurville referred to in the third set of certificates was the wife of William “Billy the Barber” Fleurville, a Haitian-born transplant to central Illinois and a friend of Abraham Lincoln dating from the two men’s New Salem days.  

Jameson “Jamerson” Jenkins (final group of papers), a teamster and neighbor of Lincoln transported the president-elect and his belongings to Springfield’s Great Western Depot when Lincoln left Springfield for his inauguration. He also reputedly played an important role in the Underground Railroad in Springfield.  

Sylvania White’s Certificate of Freedom — 1826

Know all men by these presents that I William Archer of Sangamon County do hereby assign and release to Scyrus White (alias Scy a man of colour) a Black girl named Sylvania now about twenty years of age which I hold by virtue of a claim of entry or Register under the laws of the late Territory of Illinois and it is expressly understood that I do hereby relinquish all claim to the said girl Sylvania fully and absolutely in every respect whatsoever for value received as witness my hand and seal the seventeenth day of July 1826.

William Archer his X mark

Edward Voluntine’s Certificate of Freedom-1826

State of Illinois, Sangamon County August 3, 1826. I Stephen Stillman do hereby certify that Edward Voluntine, a coulard boy was delivered to me by Doct. Joseph B. Stillman in Shawneetown, Galetin county, with orders to keep ____ boy until he the said Joseph B. Stillman should call for him–Since that time which was (I believe) sometime in March 1820 and is now twenty one years of age and of course free according to the laws of the State. The said Joseph B. Stillman having never called for him–To the best of my knowledge the said boy was twenty one years of age on the sixteenth day of July one thousand Eight hundred and twenty six–

Given under my hand & seal this third day of August 1826 Stephen Stillman Recorded March 6th 1827

Phoebe, Isaac, Daniel and Judah Rountree Fleurville: Certificate of Freedom — August 1826

In the Matter of the application of Feba Fleurville (formerly Feba Rountree), Application for Isaac Rountree, Daniel Rountree & Certificate of Freedom Judah Rountree,

And now at this day came Feba Fleurville (formerly Feba Rountree) Isaac, Daniel & Judah Rountree, and application having been made to the Court. It is ordered, that the original certificate of freedom of said Feba, Isaac, Daniel & Judah be entered upon the records of this Court by the Clerk thereof and that he endorse a certificate on said original certificate stating the time the same was entered, and the name and description of the person producing the same and that the following evidence of their freedom be entered upon the records of this Court, and a copy thereof be granted to each of them when applied for the same. To wit: Barren County Kentucky This day I have sold Lucy to herself for twenty years work done by her to be free and eight of her children Free them and all their future increase from this day until the end of the world to wit Feba, Betsy, Isaac, Nancy, Daniel, Judah, Thomas and Sophia I do relinquish all my right and title to the above nine slaves to themselves from me my heirs and all other persons forever as witness my hand and seal this 13 day of August 1826

Henry Rountree

Witness to my hand Bird Strange ___ Handy ___ Forbes

State of Illinois Sangamon County

This affiant Edmund Taylor, first being duly sworn deposeth and saith that he is acquainted with Feba Fleurville formerly Feba, Rountree, Isaac, Daniel & Judah Rountree, that he is informed and believes that the witnesses to instrument of writing herewith attached and of which the above is a true copy, reside without the jurisdiction of the Court in the State of Kentucky. That he is acquainted with Henry Rountree who executed said instrument hereunto attached and believes the writing and signature to be his handwriting from having seen him write, that he came to this State in or about the year 1829. When he rented a farm from said deponent. That he then brought with him said Feba, Isaac, Daniel & Judah, ever since which year 1829 said Feba, Isaac, Daniel & Judah have resided in this State, and have been regarded and recognized by said Henry Rountree who executed above described instrument as absolutely free, and said deponent further saith that said Feba, now the wife of William Fleurville & residing in Springfield Illinois is of a copper color about thirty two years of age, hair straight about five feet one inch and a half high, with a mole on the right side of her nose just under the eye, and said deponent further saith that said Judah Rountree also residing in Springfield, Ills is also of a copper color, about twenty two years of age, straight hair, about five feet one inch high And said deponent further saith that said Daniel Rountree residing also at Springfield, Ills is also of a copper color, about twenty-five years of age, though apparently rather younger, hair somewhat inclined to curl, well proportioned & likely, and about five feet eight inches high.

And said deponent further saith that said Isaac Rountree residing also at Springfield, Ills is also of a copper color about twenty nine years of age, straight hair, rather heavy set about five feet ten inches high & high check bones, and somewhat stooped when walking Edmund Taylor

Subscribed before me this 30th day of March 1843 J. Calhoun, Clerk of Sangamon Circuit Court, Ill. J. Calhoun Clerk.

Macklin Shelby’s Certificate of Freedom — 1830

Tuesday, March 4, 1834

Macklin Shelby a colored man presented the following certificate of Freedom which is ordered to spread on the record.

State of Illinois Circuit Court Nov. Term A. D. 1830 Jo Davis (sic) County

I James W. Stephenson clerk of the Circuit Court in and for the County of Jo Davis and State aforesaid do hereby certify attest and make known that at the November Term of our said Circuit Court A. D. 1830 Macklin Shelby (a man of colour) brought suit against Messers. Gratist, Prattle and Gratiot in an action of assault and battery and false imprisonment at which said term of said Court the said Macklin obtained a Judgment against the said Gratist, Prattle and Gratiot for costs and the said judgment operates and confers to the said Macklin his Freedom and by the Laws and Constitution of the State of Illinois.

I do further certify that the said Macklin by virtue of said Judgment is entitled to all the privileges of a free man of colour.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said court at Galena this 25th day of April A. D. 1831. Attest James W. Stephenson clerk

Frank Shelby’s Certificate of Freedom — 1830

Frank Shelby a colored man presented the following certificate of Freedom which is ordered to spread on the Records.

State of Illinois Circuit Court Nov. Term A. D. 1830 Jo Davis County

I James W. Stephenson clerk of the Circuit Court in and for the County of Jo Davis and State aforesaid do hereby certify attest and make known that at the November Term of our said Circuit Court A. D. 1830 Frank (Shelby) a man of colour brought suit against Henry Gratist, Bernard Prattle, and J. B. Gratiot in an action of assault and battery and false imprisonment in which said Court and at said term the said Frank obtained a judgment against said Gratist, Prattle and Gratiot for costs and said judgment operates and confers to the said Frank his freedom, and by the State Laws and Constitution of Illinois he the said Frank is entitled to all the privileges of a free man of colour.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said court at Galena this 25th day of April A. D. 1831. Attest James W. Stephenson clerk

Major, A Man Of Colour, To Daniel Cutright — 1838

Indenture and Freedom Agreement Tues. Sept. 4, 1838

This Indenture made and entered into this 31st day of August 1838 between Daniel Cutright of the County of Sangamon and Major a man of color Witnesseth. That whereas the said Daniel Cutright heretofore brought the said Major who was then a slave the property of said Cutright in the said State of Illinois by reason whereof the said Major claims a right to his freedom. Now for the settlement of all controversy it is agreed that the said Major shall serve the said Daniel Cutright faithfully for the term of two years as follows, he is to live with said Cutright from now until the 25th day of December next and after that time until the expiration of two years from this date the Said Cutright is to hire out said Major at some good place if he chooses within the limits of Sangamon County and is to receive the hire for the time above specified and at the expiration of the said term of two years the said Daniel Cutright is bound to give him up and suffer him for the remainder of his life to go, be and remain free and unmolested and the said Cutright binds himself not to remove said Major out of the limits of Sangamon County.

Given under our hands and seals this day and date above written Daniel Cutright his Major X mark

State of Illinois Sangamon County

Before me, the Undersigned, Clerk of the Sangamon County Commissioners Court personally came Daniel Cutright and Major a man of color who are known to me to be the real persons who and in whose name there foregoing instrument of writing was executed and acknowledged their signatures thereto to be their free and voluntary act and deed for the purpose therein expressed.

Given under my hands and seal this 1st Sept. 1838 C. R. Matheny Ck.

Nancy Collier: Freedom Papers — 1843

Lewis A. Collier To—Free papers to Nancy a Mulatto Woman & others

State of Louisiana City of New Orleans

Be it known that this day before me Achille Chiapella a Notary Public in and for the City and Parish of New Orleans duly Commissioned and sworn—

Personally came and appeared Lewis A. Collier residing in the Paris of Concordia in this State who produced and exhibited unto me a certain document purporting to be an act or Deed of Emancipation of Slaves executed under private signature the thirteenth August eighteen hundred and forty one at St. Clair County, State of Illinois and required of me to make record of the same in my Current Register, and in Compliance with said Request I have Transcribed said Document the same being in the words and figures following viz—

State of Illinois St. Clair County

Know all Men by these presents that I Lewis A. Collier of Concordia Parish in the State of Louisiana for a good and valuable consideration do hereby manumit, emancipate and set at liberty one Mulatto woman called Nancy aged about thirty five years and Mother of the hereinafter mentioned Liza and henry—Also a one Mulatto man called Albert aged about thirty years the Husband of Liza and the father of Caroline and Francis hereinafter mentioned—Also a mulatto girl called Liza aged about Twenty three years—Also the Two mulatto children of Liza called Caroline aged about four years and Francis aged about three years.—Also one Mulatto man called Henry aged about Twenty two years. Henry, Nancy and Liza being the same purchased by me from William H. Goodin and Henry N. Templeman of Richmond City Virginia and also were raised by a Mr. Goodin of Fredericksburgh in Virginia. Albert was Purchased by me from John P. Burton of Henerico County Virginia and he was raised in said City of Richmond by Dr. Trent.

Witness my hand and seal this thirteenth day of August in the year 1841. All of which Slaves are now in the County & State aforesaid of Illinois.

Signed Sealed & Delivered In presence of Henry W. Moore (Signed) Lewis A. Collier

“And having so Transcribed said document in this my Current Register I have annexed the same to these presents to remain for recourse, said—document having been first duly paraphed by the said appearer the undersigned Witness and me Notary – And the said Lewis A. Collier declared and acknowledged that this Deed of Emancipation was signed by him in the State of Illinois St. Clair County on the thirteenth August 1841 and that the Slaves therein named were at that date of Emancipation in said State of Illinois that said Deed was Executed in presence of the subscribing witness Henry W. Moore, that the foregoing emancipated slaves are now on his plantation on Lake St. John, in the said Parish of Concordia, State of Louisiana, as free persons, and are entitled to all Civil privileges as such with faculty to emigrate to any of the free States without Molestation at any time they may think fit so to do—Done and passed at New Orleans this Seventh February eighteen hundred and forty three in presence of Herman Lucas and Carlile Pollock Junior Witnesses who have signed their names with said appearer and me Notary
H. Lucas C. Pollock Jr (Signed) Lewis A. Collier

I Certify the foregoing to be a true copy of the original act on Record in my office New Orleans this 8th February 1843.

NOTARY SEAL

State of Illinois Gallatin County

I Leonard White Clerk of the Circuit Court for said County do certify that I have Recorded the within Deed of emancipation together with the certificate and attestation fully in my office in Book C, pages 50 & 51 kept for the purpose of Recording the evidence of Freedom of Persons of Color

In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and the seal of said Court at Equality this 11th day of August A. D. 1843 Leod. White

John Bundy, a Colored Man, Former Slave of William David Jarret

Springfield, Ills 2 Aug 1843

John Bundy of _____ Lick Cr. Coloured Man states in (pension(?)–of I. B. Loose) while plowing corn & stopt to rest one very hot day in Bundy’s field his former Master who had moved from Virginia living in the same neighborhood and having hired to said Bundy to plow corn h____ down his head said Jack how times have changed round once you belonged to me now I belong to you—said D. Jarett Jack had bought himself and given $600–previously to his Master Wm. David Jarret.

Jamerson Jenkins Certificate of Freedom Papers

State of North Carolina Wake County this 12th April 1838

Dear Sir after compliments to you in your address to James M. Mungrum in your letter and to assist his mother in obtaining a copy of the freedom of Jamerson Jenkins which I Ezra Gill of the County and State aforesaid do hereby certify that the Mother of Jamerson Jenkins is known hear by the name of Nancy Jenkins formerly now married to a free man by the name of Stephen Harris and I the said Ezra Gill one of the acting Justices of the Peace in and for the County and State aforesaid do further certify that the son of the above Nancy Jenkins was known by me to be a freeman of colour and further certify that I gave him a permit to leave this Country for him to make a visit to Gilford County some time in the summer of 1835. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal the day and date above written.

Ezra Gill

State of N. Carolina Wake County April 12th day A.D. 1838

I Peleg S. Rogers one of the acting Justices of the Peace in and for County State aforesaid do certify that that the above is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and fully concur with the above Certificate.

Peleg S. Rogers

State of N. Carolina Wake County April 16th day 1838

William Laues one of the acting Justices of the Peace for the County & State aforesaid do certify that I have been acquainted with Jemerson Jenkins & his wife Gilley for several years and they have passed for free people and further I believe them to be free to the best of my knowledge. Given under my hand this day as the above day & date

William Laues

Jamerson Jenkins I have complied with your request by your friend further I can state that your mother is very desirous you would come back to this Country and also I want you as soon as this get to hand to write me a letter and let me know all about your affairs. April 16th day 1838

Jas M. Mangrum

Sources

The Early African American Population of Springfield, Illinois (1818-1861), Richard E. Hart.

History of Sangamon County, IllinoisTogether with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages and Townships, anonymous, Inter-State Publishing Co., 1881; pp. 369 & 409.

Erastus Wright Manuscript File, Manuscript Division, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.schs-logo-22

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