Georgia Freedwoman to the Freedmen's Bureau Acting Assistant Commissioner for Georgia

[Taliaferro County, Ga., February 5, 1866]

Taliaferro County

The petition of Harriet Hill a freedwoman formerly belonging to G B Hill known as Burrell Hill of the county of Coweta in said State, shows that she is the mother of 7 children, 4 of which are now living with her, the oldest of the 4, an invalid, and all of the 4 unable to support themselves–  The three oldest aged 17– 19 & 22 years respectively are now in Coweta County Ga and detained or held there by their former owner G. B. Hill of said county under the following stated circumstances–  About 6 weeks before christmass last she made a contract with Charles Axt of said County of Taliaferro, and moved herself and 4 youngest children to his place, and contracted with him for the year 1866 as follows: that at the 1st of Jan,y 1866 the 3 oldest of her children together with the wife of the oldest of her sons, was to come to said Axt, and all of them were to live on his place the year 1866, and work for him on his farm, and to receive one half of the crop for their labor–  that after making this contract, the said Axt fearing they would not have the means (the 3 oldest) to defray their travelling expenses to this county (Taliaferro) at the close of the past year, went himself to see them, and they stated to him they were each of them to get for their labor for 1865, 10 Bushels of corn and 50 Lbs of meat and feeling satisfied they would have ample means for this purpose left them–  About the 10th of Jany, as they did not come as she had expected to do, she went to said county of Coweta to look after them, when one of them (for she was not allowed to see all of her children) told her, they wanted to come to her, verry much, but that they did not have the means to come with, that the said Hill with whom they had been at work for the year 1865 had not paid them anything for their work but claimed they were indebted to him for clothing furnished them, and also informed her the people in that section had declared in concert, to prevent any of their former slaves leaving them, that they would kill such of their former slaves who dared to leave their former owners, by which threat they were forced to comply with the terms offered them by said Hill for the present year, contrary to, and without their own free will–  that they are allowed by him but 10 dolls pr month, and he furnish them with food and clothing and charges them for both, and deducts the same out of their wages–

That about the 20th of Jan,y she made another effort to get them with her, by applying at the office of Freedmans Bureau in Atlanta for relief in this matter, but failed to obtain it–

She then went on to Coweta to see the said Hill, (her former owner) to try and get her children, when some of the whites in the county frightened her from her purpose by telling her, that if she “fooled around there, she would get a rope around her neck” which threat caused her to leave and desist from this purpose of trying (for the second time) to obtain her children–  She now represents that by reason of her not being able to get her children with her, she is unable to comply with her contract with the said Chas Axt, and will be by reason thereof be unable to support herself and 4 youngest children–

that her oldest son who is of age, and his wife who are willing to come and live with her, and carry out the above named contract, are detained and restrained under the causes above stated–

The said Hill her former owner told her when she went after her children about the 10th of Jan,y that she was welcome to take all the little trash, but the working hands belonged to him (G B Hill) like they had always done

Therefore she prays that you will afford her proper relief, by restoring to her and her children their rights, that they shall receive proper compensation for their services for last year, and that they shall be allowed to come and assist in her support by enabling her to carry out her contract for the present year with the said Axt–

This she considers her right, and prays you may assist her in obtaining–

All of which she most respectfully submits

Harriet X Hill petr

Harriet Hill to Brig Genl Tillson, 5 Feb. 1866, enclosed in Charles Axt to Brig Genl Tillson, 5 Feb. 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 632, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Signature witnessed by a justice of the peace who also attested to Hill's oath before him that the facts in her petition were true “so far as they come within her own knowledge” and that “so far as derived from the knowledge of others, she believes them to be true.” The petition is in the handwriting of Charles Axt, who forwarded it to General Davis Tillson, the acting assistant commissioner, in a brief covering letter that suggested “the probability of a combination on the part of both people and Agent of the Bureau, in Coweta county, to prevent the freed people from the full exercise of their rights.” In reply, Tillson's adjutant informed Axt that “the case will at once be investigated, and if the children referred to have been restrained of their liberty, the parties doing this will be arrested and punished.” He noted, however, that Harriet Hill “had no right to contract for the Son who is of age.” (Capt W W. Deane to Mr Charles Axt, 9 Feb. [1866], vol. 12, p. 439, Press Copies of Letters Sent, series 625, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 576–78.