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The Freedmen's Bureau Online

Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Tennessee
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865 - 1869
National Archives Microfilm Publication M999, Roll 20
"Indentures of Apprenticeship Dec. 1865 - Feb. 1868, Contracts: Jan. 1, 1865 - Jan. 1, 1868"

Miscellaneous Freedmen Work Contracts - Tennessee

Indentures were preprinted or hand written forms giving pertinent data concerning the contractual parties, dates of apprenticeship, and including a statement of the obligations and responsibilities of each party.

     This indenture made and entered into on the 1st day of Jan 1866 by and between Benj. F. Duncan of the 1st part and William Duncan, Dandridge Ward & Steven Rembert - all col'd of 2nd part. Witnesseth that the party of the 2nd part has this day entered into a contract with the party of the 1st part to work all of Benj. Duncans farm he now resides on (except 17 acres) (B. F. Duncan securing the services of Dock Hunt, (col'd) to help on farm). B. F. Duncan is to draw a portion of said crop in the same proportion that the parties of the 2nd part do for securing services of Dock Hunt. The land; services mentioned is to be one third planted & cultivated in corn and two thirds planted and cultivated in cotton. The corn crop is to belong exclusively to B. F. Duncan and one half of the cotton crop. The remainder of cotton it being one half is to go to the party of the 2nd part all of which is to be well cultivated and gathered together by partys of 2nd part with the services of Dock Hunt. We of 2nd part agrees to treat the lands we have the use of well and attend well to them. The team is to be furnished by B. F. Duncan. We of 2nd part agree to furnish oursleves in provisions and clothing or if we draw the same from B. F. Duncan we are to pay a small (?) market price for them to be taken out of our crop hereafter. We of 2nd part agree to obey all orders from B. F. Duncan or anyone he may appoint foreman on the place and attend to stock etc. on place and when we are not at work in crop to do anything on farm that is to be done. In short we agree to make good farmhands and if we fail to make a good crop and each of negligence or laziness we agree to forfeit enough of our part to make B. F. Duncan's part equal to that portion of a good crop heretofore mentioned. We of 2nd part agree that we will be charged one dollar and 30/100 for each day we miss from work to be charged respectively to our accts. by B. F. Duncan and at the end of the year it is to all to be added up and our half of the (illegible) to be divided equally and credited to each ones acct. and the other half is to be credited to B. F. Duncan. We of 2nd part agree to be polite and attentive to our duty. Signed in the presence of


H. F. (illegible)                                                        William (X) Duncan
W. B. Palmore                                                          Stephen (X) Rembert
Hugh Cowan                                                             Dandridge (X) Ward
F. F. Stewart                                                             B. F. Duncan
C. A. Hill

      This indenture of Bargain and agreement made and entered into in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight and Sixty Five (1865) Dec 23 by and between Thomas J. Ross of the County of Shelby & State of Tennessee of the first part and the Freedmen on the Rosstown Plantation in County & State aforesaid whose names will appear below of the second part, witnesseth that whereas the said Thomas J. Ross agrees to employ the said Freedmen to plant and raise a crop on his Rosstown Plantation for the year 1866 in Shelby County, Tenn. On the following Rules, Regulations and Renumerations. To wit-the said Ross agrees to furnish the land to cultivate, and a sufficient number of mules & horses and feed them to make and house said crop and all necessary farming utensils to carry on the same and to give unto said Freedmen whose names appear below one half of all the cotton, corn and wheat that is raised on said place for the year 1866 after all the necessary expenses are deducted out that accrues on said crop. Outside of the Freedmen's labor in harvesting, carrying to market and selling the same and the said Freedmen whose names appear below covenant and agrees to and with said Thomas J. Ross that for and in consideration of one half of the crop before mentioned that they will plant, cultivate, and raise under the management control and Superintendence of said Ross, in good faith, a cotton, corn and oat crop under his management for the year 1866. And we the said Freedmen agrees to furnish ourselves & families in provisions, clothing, medicine and medical bills and all, and every kind of other expenses that we may incur on said plantation for the year 1866 free of charge to said Ross. Should the said Ross furnish us any of the above supplies or any other kind of expenses, during said year, are to settle and pay him out of the nett proceeds of our part of the crop the retail price of the county at time of sale or any price we may agree upon-The said Ross shall keep a regular book account, against each and every one or the head of every family to be adjusted and settled at the end of the year. We furthermore bind ourselves to and with said Ross that we will do good work and labor ten hours a day on an average, winter and summer. The time to run from the time we commence to the time we quit. The time we are going to and from work shall not be computed or counted in the time. We further agree that we will loose all lost time, or pay at the rate of one dollar per day, rainy days excepted.

     In sickness and women lying in childbed are to loose the time and account for it to the other hands out of his or her part of the crop at the same rates that she or they may receive per annum.

     We furthermore bind ourselves that we will obey the orders of said Ross in all things in carrying out and managing said crop for said year and be docked for disobedience and further bind ourselves that we said Freedmen will keep up the fences around the enclosures, and lots especially and if any rails be missing by burning or otherwise destroyed by said Freedmen, we will pay for the same or otherwise reconstruct the fence anew at our expense-we futhermore agree and bind ourselves that the Freedmen's half of the crop shall be divided among the laborers as follows

     The nett sum told shall be added together, and divided by the number of hands that raise it and find out what an average share will be then divide among the hands as follows

     --First class working men and non breeding women shall have 1/10 more than second class of woman and boys and girls from 14-18 year, same ratio.

     --All first class single women with children and second class of same description shall have the sum prorate as the first and second class of women with children provided they work 10 hours a day, as the others or make their time good up to 10 hrs a day out of their wages or part of their crop. Boys & girls from 12 to 14 years of age is to be graded the same rate.

     --All is responsible for all farming utensils that is on hand or may be placed in care of said Freedmen for the year 1866 to said Ross and are also responsible to said Ross if we carelessly, maliciously maltreat any of his stock for said year to said Ross for damages to be assessed out of our wages for said year, all of which is understood by us Freedmen in the foregoing contract, or agreement, the said Ross assigning his name and ours following. It is further agreed by us whose names appear below that we will keep a sufficiency of firewood hawled up at all times and make fires in the room of said Ross, when desired, attend to all stock properly, under direction of said Ross.

     --It is further agreed by a special agreement with Herod and his wife Linda, whose names appear below that the said Ross furnishes one fourth of provisions consisting of meal, and meat for said year. Furnish medicine and hire attention whilst in sickness to himself wife and four children, Ralph, Rinda, Osborn and Zackery. Rinda is to act as nurse and have her meals and clothing free for her services to said Ross. Osborn & Zackery to wait in minor matters, Ralph to work on the farm. The foregoing obligations are sufficiently understood by us as Freedmen and hereby assign our marks with names attached, with a witness, the said Ross assigning first.


Wm. Stublen                                                                            Thomas J. Ross
                                                                                                Herod (X) Pap

                                    The special agreement with Herod & wife Linda applies to all below.

Witness to the last five names                                                    Thomas J. Ross
C. W. Hill                                                                                  Samuel (X) Johnson
                                                                                                   Thomas (X) Richard

                                                                                                   Tinny (X) Fitch

                                                                                                   Jessie (X) Simmons

                                                                                                   Sophe (X) Pruden

                                                                                                   She assigns for Henry & Frances
                                                                                                               Henry (X) Pruden

                                                                                                               Frances (X) Pruden

                                                                                                    Elijah (X) Smith

Tyre H. Walton Contract, Dyer County, January 1, 1865.

Tyre Walton & Patrick Light have this day entered into an agreement as follows. T. H. Walton is to furnish a mule or horse plow, feed for said mule or horse-also provide for said Patrick & wife. Patrick is to furnish his & his wife clothes and pay their own Doctors bills-said Patrick (illegible passage)-In consideration for said Patrick's labor he is to have (illegible) of the crop. (Remainder of agreement illegible---handwriting barely visible).

                                                        Tyre H. Walton
                                                        Patrick (X) Light

Patrick wife to do the house wash for said Walton


     W. H. Parks and Jess, a freedmen formerly belonging to said Parks, have entered into the following agreement. Jess is to work for said Parks during the year 1866 with the other farm hands. He is to work under the direction of Parks and heretofore is to have one half the corn & cotton he makes and will have a garden patch to himself. Is to pay for his provisions and clothing out of his part of the crop, but they are to be furnished him by said Parks at their fair value. Said Parks furnishes him a comfortable cabin for his family and if the parties hereto cannot agree upon what is one half of what Jess makes then they are to leave it to witnessed men to settle it. Said Parks furnishes everything necessary to make the crop and if Jess works at anything else besides the crop, repairing fences, moving manure or other (illegible) say work about the farm he is to be paid for such work at the rate two hundred dollars per year.

Jany 4 1863                                                               H. Parks {seal}
R. H. Parks                                                                Jess (X) Parks
C. S. Parks
T. S. Wyatt                                                                W. B. Tipton Supt. Of Dis.
                                                                                   For Dyer County, Tenn

fees paid


     Know all men by these Presents, that L. W. Smith of the County of Dire (Dyer) State of Tennessee held and firmly bound to the United States of America in the sum of one hundred and sixty dollars, for the payment of which I bind myself, Heirs, Executors and Administrators firmly, by these presents in this Contract. That I am to furnish the persons whose names are subjoined (freed laborers) Quarters, Fuel, substantial and healthy Rations, all necessary Medical Attendance and Supplies in case of sickness and the amount set opposite their respective names per month, during the continuation of this Contract-the laborers to be paid in full before the final disposal of the crop which is to be raised by them on plantation of the lumber sawed by him and rel. in the County of ____________ State of ______________.

  No.   Name                       Age           Rate of pay per month

  1. Jas. Brown                 35                18.00
  2. Isaac Lilure               26                18.00
  3. Henry Ward              35                10.00
  4. Lucinda Anderson    23                  5.00


     December 14th 1865. An agreement between A. Cherry & Andy Jordan for 1866. A. Cherry agrees to furnish Andy twenty acres of land to cultivate and one horse and two set of gears one turning plow one shovel plow and feed for the two horses and a house to live in and Andy Jordan agrees to cultivate the said 25 acres of land and geather the crop and deliver one half of the cotton and one half of the corn that he raises on said land to A. Cherry for his part.


W. W. Beasley                             Andrew Jordan aged 45                    A. Cherry
H. Redick Jr.                                Ziller aged 25                                     Andy (X) Jordan
aged 14                                      W. B. Tipton Supt. of Dis.
aged 12                                  Dyer County, Tenn

     Know all men by these presents that Mr. J. G. Thomason & Co. and heirs and family bound unto the United States of America in the sum thirteen hundred dollars for the payment of which we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents in this contract that we pay to the persons whose names are subjoined (freed laborers) Quarters, Fuel and substantial Rations, the amount set opposite their names per month during the continuance of this contract, the laborers to be paid in full before the termination of its year.

   No. Name                             Age                   Rate of pay per month

  1. Anthony Stevens             37 years             18.66 2/3
  2. Charly Stevens wife       26                       18.00
  3. Francis Stevens              16                       Farmhand will ration
  4. Bailey Swope                 18.00

      The laborers are to work well and faithfully for the said J. G. Thomason & Co. within Steam Saw Mill in Dyer County, Tennessee for and during the year 1866.
      The said laborers are to be responsible for loss of time and the sum shall be deducted from their wage respectively due them-
     The amount paid by the said J. G. Thomason & co. for medicine and medical attendance for the said laborers shall be likewise withheld from their wages due the laborers for whom the sum may be (illegible).

This covenant is to commence on the 1st day of Jany 1866 and terminate with the year 1866.

Given in duplicate at Dyersburg this 26th day of December 1865.

J. G. Thomason & Co.
W. B. Tipton Supt. FB

Dec 26 1865

Dyersburg, Tenn

I, Marshall King obligate myself to give Lewis Harris one fourth of all the corn, cotton and tobacco that is raised on my farm. I will furnish 25 acres of land also 2 horses and farming tools. That I am to furnish Quarters, Fuel, Substantial and healthy Rations. I Lewis Harris agree to furnish my clothes and medical attendance and supplies in case of sickness. I also agree to loose the time that I am sick.

Marshall King
Lewis Harris

Article of agreement between Mrs. E. B. Malory & servant girl Charlotte for the year 1866.

The said girl Charlotte is to cook, wash iron & attend to any and all domestic duties that may be required of her. Is also to feed and take special care of all stock belonging to said Mrs. Malory. Is also to cultivate whatever ground Mrs. Malory may desire.

Is to be a good and faithful servant and execute any and all orders promptly, that said Mrs. Malory may suppose to give. Said Mrs. E. B. Malory is to furnish said Charlotte with a comfortable room to board her & her two children, to clothe them comfortably, & pay the Doctor bills of the same.

Witness our hand and seal

This 25th Dec 1865


J. D. Powell                                                  Mrs. E. B. Malory {seal}
                                                                     Charlotte (X) {seal}

     A contract with Morning Smith (John & Alice 15 years old) agrees to work for me W. W. Davis this ensuing year and I agree to give her eighty dollars for her services and more to spin & make her own clothes. Said Davis is to furnish cotton per to make them wheel and one pair to two older children & to obey in all things and if their time is out they are to forfeit their wages. This 20 Dec 1865.

W. W. Davis

W. B. Tipton, Supt. of Dis.
for Dyer County, Tenn


     This indenture made and entered into between Mark Spence of the County of Dyer & State of Tennessee of the first part and all of his Negro farmhands to wit Charles, Nat, Edd, Henry, Bill, Margret, Tennessee and Mary, being the parties of the second part witness that the party of the first part both least and to farm let unto the parties of the second part about sixty or seventy acres of corn land and some eighteen or twenty acres of cotton land for the term of twelve months from the start of the contract which the parties of the second part binds themselves to cultivate well and pay the party of the first part one half of the crop, to be gethered and delivered into the crib of the party of the first part. The party of the first binds himself to furnish all necessary farming implements also mules or horses to cultivate said farm and to feed said team. The parties of the second part agree that the above girl Mary shall stay in the house to wait on the party of the first part for which service the party of the first part agrees to feed and clothe said girl. The parties of the second part bind themselves to gether and take care of the crop now in the field and to keep the fence in good repair and to keep plenty of firewood and to attend to feeding and taking care of all the stock of the party of the first part. The parties of the second part bind themselves to feed and clothe themselves and pay their Doctors Bill. The parties of the second part further bind themselves to cut & get out the wheat crop now growing and to deliver said wheat into the barn of party of the first part on which the party of the first part bind himself to give to the parties of the second part the amount of wheat that may grow on three acres of the ground that being all the party of the first part is to pay for taking care of said crop. The paties of the second part binds themselves to work up the apple crop if any for one half of the proceeds and also to work the garden and potato patch. In witness whereof we have set our hands and affixed our seals this December the Twenty-Eighth day One Thousand Eight Hundred & Sixty Five.

Test. - J. E. Spence                                                    Mark Spence
N. R. Prichard                                                            Charles (X) Spence
He that fails to comply                                                Nat (X) Spence
with the above contract                                               Edd (X) Spence
shall forfeit his or her wages.                                      Bill (X) Spence
                                                                                    Margret (X) Spence

                                                                                    Tennessee (X) Spence

                                                                                    Mary (X) Spence

                                                                                     Henry (X) Spence

     This contract made and entered into this 29th day of December 1865 between Joel A. Light & Tom and his wife (freedmen) all of Dyer County, Tennessee. The said Light agrees to furnish the land and horses and tools feed for horses and their provisions and give them one third of the crop they may cultivate. The above named parties Tom & his wife to pay their own doctors bills & furnish their own clothing and to do all necessary work on the farm repairing & taking care and feeding stock and the said Tom's wife is to assist in doing work about the house & to milk and cook when necessary. This contract to continue for one year from this date.

                                                                    Tom aged
                                                                    about 29 years

                                                                     Lydia aged
                                                                     about 24 years


J. D. Whitson
J. H. Fowlkes

                                                                    Thomas (X) Light
                                                                    Lydia (X) Light