Testimony by a South Carolina Freedwoman and Her Employer

Cainhoy  St. Thomas S.C.  May 16, 1866–

Betty Carrion, freedwoman, being duly sworn, says, I came to work for Mr. Detart last Sept.  He was to pay me 5$ per month feed me and my two children.  I have staid with him till a week ago last Friday.

He raised my wages in March (10th) to six dollars per month with provisions for myself and children.  He has paid me all but one month's wages and one dollar on last month's wages.  There was due me when I was discharged 7$.

Elizabeth, my cousin, came to see me from town and we were laughing and talking, no racket in the kitchen a week ago last Thursday night.  Mr. Detat came to the back door of his house and called to me and said who are all those you got in the kitchen making such a racket.”  I said, Who all I got in the kitchen, you don't allow my family to come to see me?  If they cant come to see me I will go away from the yard wherre they can come to see me.  He told me if I did not put them out of the kitchen he would come and put them out.  With that, they, Elizabeth, Susan & August, got up and went out.  He came then in the kitchen and told me to hush my mouth and I told him no, that I was speaking for my rights–that when I came to him he told me any one of my family or acquaintences could come and see me late or early.  He told me to hush my mouth or he would beat me   I told him he would have to beat me then that I was going speak for my rights.  He then picked up the ironing board, that taller than I am and struct me over my head, and I held up my arms, and he beat my arms, and continued to strike and beat me till the board split in two and commenced to split again.  He struck me as much as six or seven times.  The board was about 15 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick.

I did not try to strike him or do any thing but defend myself.  He left me then and came off into the house.  I think it was between 9 & 10.  I was waiting to hear when they had prayers in the house but had not head them.  When Mr. Dutart came to his door I was sitting down on the floor with the chile in my arms.

Next morning I cooked breakfast, had got through and got a board to iron with.  Henry freedman, came from plantation and I commenced and Mrs. Detart came to the kitchen and asked me if Henry could take it off me.  I said no, but I was only telling him how Mr. Detart beat me.  Mrs. Hamlin then came to the window and said to her why did she not send out and get two men and fasten me down and take me to Charleston and put me in jail.  No more was said but I got up my things and left the yard as Mrs. Detart had told then to leave.  I had received my months allowance–1 Bushel of Rice and a bushel of corn–for myself and children.

The month would have been up the following Thursday.  I had when I went away just a weeks allowance for myself and children.


James E Dutart–  I was in bed on Thursday night and heard a noise and spoke to my wife if she head the noise of laughing & talking.  I lay some time listening to it and finally got up and went to the window and found it was in my kitchen.  I then went to the back door and called two or three times to Betty–had to call pretty loud before she could hear me.  She came to the door of the kitchen and I asked her what company she had in there.  She, without answering my question at the pitch of her voice, said, what sir, am I not allowed to keep my company–if that is the case I dont stay here a minute longer.  She went on at this rate saying a great many things, when I said if you dont get that company out of the kitchen I will go there and see if I cant put them out.  I heard them hustling out.  I then barred the back door and went back to my bead.  She kept up the noise and quarrelling at me and I went again to the door and told her she must hush that noise.  I went back to my bed and the noise continued and the third time I got up and put on my clothes and went out to the kitchen and she was going on at the same strain.  I told her if she did not hush her noise she would tempt me to knock her.  She said knock then, you have to knock.

The ironing board hapening to be in the place which is about five feet long about 16 or 18 inches wide, and about 5/8ths an inch thick. I struck her with it two or three times, or at her, I think it hit the chimney which she threw herself up against.  The board was split in half.  I intended to intimidate her rather than hurt her.  It made no difference with her she went on with her talk and I threw down the board and came in the house.  I tried before I came in to quiet her but could not unless I killed her   Mrs. Detart then went in and tried to quiet her but could not–she would listen to no one.  This occured at 11 o'c. at night––'twas a little after eleven when I came in

She left my service next day, May 4th–  wages would have been due on the 10th when I should have owed her $7.15.  deduct 6 days time at 6$ per month ($1.20) leaves 5.90.  My acct. agt. her is one dress. 1.50, two aprons .50 and peck of rice .50 and peck of corn .33.  All $2.83.  Deduct this from 5.90 leaves $3.17.

Testimony of Betty Carrion and of James E Dutart, 16 May 1866, in Betty Carrionn vs. James Dutart, Miscellaneous Records, series 3293, Mount Pleasant SC Acting Subassistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. In the same file is a complaint made by Betty Carrion on May 9 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, at the headquarters of Captain David T. Corbin, Freedmen's Bureau acting subassistant commissioner for the parishes of Christ Church, St. Thomas, and St. James Santee. It claimed that James Dutart of Cainhoy, in St. Thomas, refused to pay $7.50 he owed her “for labor done and performed at his request” and that he had struck her with a board “without just cause or provocation, thereby injuring her greatly.” Elizabeth Allen and Susan Bright were named as witnesses. Also in the file is an undated memorandum with additional statements by Betty Carrion about the events of May 3. “Mr Dutart insulted some of my relatives who had come to pay me a visit,” she declared. “[H]e drove them out, though he promised on hiring me to allow my friends to visit me as long as they behaved. I told him if my friends could not visit me at night according to his promise, I would leave also. he told me to shut my mouth or he would make me, also that I had stolen 1/2 pint of Rice, But the Rice of which he spoke, was given to me by his wife to make starch, and I Bought some starch from the shop and kept the Rice. after telling him this and that If I did not speak for my rights, who was to do it, . . . he immediately took up the Ironing Board, with which he Beated me until it was split into three pieces. But I thought I would wait until my wages was due and while I was about my work the next day his wife drove me out, and when I asked for my money . . . he told me I should take the victuals which I ate for pay, and that my month wages was not yet due, and being a lone woman I come to the authorities for satisfaction.” Captain Corbin recorded his decision in a notation of May 17: “Parties present– Case heard and decision as to money due that there is $3.17 due Betty. Same paid in my presence.”

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 515–18.