Nathaniel Owen vs. Jacob Bale, contributed by Alan Jones
Complainant Nathaniel OWENS
Defendant Jacob BALE
Green County, Kentucky
Circuit Court Records 1810 – 1811
OWENS says that last fall his negro, Bob, ran away. OWENS says Jacob BALE seduced the negro to runaway and did secrete him with a view to purchasing him at an undervalue. OWENS sold Bob to BALE for $400, OWENS says BALE planned the escape. BALE offered OWENS $100 for him, and said that was enough “for a negro that had run off to Pennsylvania.”
OWENS said BALE told Bob to go to Lexington, but Bob went toward Nolin1. BALE left word for Bob to come home and amazingly, Bob returned.
OWENS says BALE called Bob to him in the Lash2 field before he ran away.
The answer of Jacob BALE –
He says the statement is slanderous that he harbored Bob. He paid $400 for Bob. Besides Bob’s bad habits, he’s of very precarious health, which has been artfully concealed by OWENS. BALE told OWENS if he would retract his statements he might have Bob back. BALE did not in anyway attempt to harbor Bob.
Deposition of Joseph COGDAL taken Dec. 31, 1810 at the home of Wm HERNDON.
He says: Early in Dec. 1809, I had been to Greensburg and on my way home I was in the company of Jacob BALE where he had stopped with his wagon to take in a load of shingles. Nathaniel OWENS came up at that time and made a halt. We were both invited to help in with the shingles. After the load was in, BALE, OWENS, and myself started. OWENS asked BALE where a path took off that led to Capt. GOLDSBY’s. BALE said he would show it to him when we got there. I think it was between sunset and dark when we got to the path. The first chat was by Jacob BALE about Mr. OWENS. Bob being run away. BALE suggested that Bob had gone to the same place that he had gone the last time he ran away. OWENS said he thought Bob was still in the neighborhood and would come in as soon as some person would buy him. BALE immediately offered to buy him. OWENS said he’d sell him for what he was worth. OWENS said if BALE got him he could pay, and if he didn’t he wouldn’t pay. OWENS wanted to sell him on surety, but BALE wanted to buy on chance. BALE told me he wanted me to change my memory about the conversation, which made me think about it more clearly. The next day I rode with BALE to Wm MUNFORDS. I asked BALE if he was serious on buying the chance on the negro and he said yes. He would give a hundred dollar horse for Bob.
Deposition of Wm TRIBBLE, taken at hom of Wm HERNDON on Dec, 31, 1810.
TRIBBLE says he and OWENS were at the home of Jacob BALE, when OWENS said he would finish the trade. BALE offered OWENS $100, but OWENS refused. OWENS said Bob was still in the neighborhood, because he had not taken his clothes. Mr. BALE then offered $300 for him, but OWENS wanted $400. BALE took it.
Depostion of John DURRETT taken on Dec. 31, 1810.
DURRET was at Mr. RAFFITERS with BALE and OWENS when they discussed BALE buying the negro. I heard Mr. BUCKNER, James tell BALE what he said. James said he told BALE that he saw Bob and asked Bob why he didn’t go home to his master and didn’t he know BALE has bought him. Bob said he knew it and had been there, and BALE had directed him, in order that BALE had might appear innocent, to go towards Danville or Lexington and ther be taken up as a runaway and say he belongs to OWENS. Bob told him he’d go to Nolin and stay with a free negro.
Deposition of Wm BUCKNER taken on Dec. 31, 1810.
Nathaniel OWENS came to Green county Circuit Court to inform me that his negro, Bob, had run away. He wanted me to check with a negro I have and inquire if he had seen Bob. The negro said he hadn’t seen Bob, but understood that he was to runaway to BALE and BALE would keep him until OWENS was willing to sell him. I wrote to OWENS, and he, Gen’l BARBEE and John THURMAN came to my house and we wrote to BALES. Asking him to meet us at Wm SYMPSON Jr. and answer charges. BALE didn’t come. They later met at W. RAFFITIES and discussed it. The negro was called on and he said about new year 1810 he saw Bob at old Mr. SKAGGS. Bob told him he’d seen BALE who told him to go to Danville.
1 Nolin was a river in 1810 but has since been damned up to serve as a lake and resort.
2 This was clearly written as “Lash” but later references call it “Lick.” Which is a Salt Lick where natural salt is found in the ground.
Deposition of Wm HERNDON.
Says in March, 1809, he hired Bob for 10 mos. from OWENS. In the fall, OWENS informed him that he needed Bob. I told OWENS if I couldn’t keep Bob until I returned from Orleans that I would give him up. I was convinced that Bob had stolen 2 pair of shoes when working at the Lick. A few days later, Bob came on my plantation and I informed him of the changes and told him to never set a foot on my property again unless his master sent him. I reported the theft to OWENS. OWENS and I went to the field to see Bob. Bob denied stealing them, but said he had bought them from a negro man that had taken them from his master. OWENS told him, not to deny it, and shamed him, but very moderately. Bob ran away that evening. OWENS asked if I would help find him. We thought going to see Jim at Mr. BUCKNER’s would be a good start because he was honest. He had a negro woman of old Henry SKAGGS for a wife. She was the mother of Bob’s wife and both living on the same plantation. Jim said that Jacob BALE had told Bob to come there and he would conceal him and buy him and he wouldn’t have to go to OWENS again. Bob’s wife was to go to BALE’s mill in a few days. She did and said that KERSEY’s wife (BALE’s daughter) had told her that they had Bob in a very secure place but that KERSEY talked of moving him. BALE had Bob concealed in a cave where he had at one time concealed YATES’ Milly. He feared that BALES was a bad man and would be a means of corrupting more negros besides Bob. Later, Bob asked HERNDON if he had heard the story that he was harboring Bob. HERNDON told him yes and I gave him the details. Mr. BALE was going to call OWENS to an account for what he said about his harboring Bob. They met at my boat. They sat on the rocks and talked. BALE said that he hoped OWENS didn’t think he was as bad a man as the circumstances were against him. BALE said he had called Bob out of the field to ask why he had left HERNDON’s. They came back to the boat and OWENS made a public declaration of what he had said.
Deposition of Nancy HERNDON taken on Dec. 31, 1810
Says Bob worked for her husband and Wm HERNDON in the spring of 1809. He worked at the salt works. He took 2 pair of shoes. Wm went to OWENS to inform him of Bob’s conduct. The same day, Jacob BALE came to her house and asked questions about Bob. He asked if OWENS was going to send Bob down the river with HERNDON. She told him that she didn’t think so. BALE said Bob told him that OWENS intended sending him down the river for pilfering, and I wanted to know if it was true. Nancy told him about the shoes being stolen. BALE said it would all cause Bob to take a trip and he would cross the Atlantic Ocean and OWENS would never get him again. BALE said Bob was an honest man and OWENS was a bad master. Later, in another conversation, BALE told Nancy that he didn’t say Bob would run away and that he had never heard of such a place as the Atlantic Ocean.
Deposition of Charles SKAGGS taken April 27, 1811.
Says he had a conversation with Nathaniel OWENS. OWENS stated that he had attempted to tie a negro fellow of his, by the name of Bob, for stealing some shoes, but the negro ran off from him and lost his hat on the way. He was also with OWENS when he told BALE that Bob had been in his charge for some time, and he would not charge for the time if he would give Bob back to him. BALE told him that if OWENS would sit him down on the same ground that he took up, he would give him the negro. OWENS made no reply.
Deposition of Wm VAUGHAN.
OWENS came to my father’s after Bob had run away and BALE had bought him. My father asked OWENS if he had gotten the negro that ran away. OWENS said yes, that he had got him in black and white. He said he sold him to BALE for $400. My father said that was a high price to give for a runaway negro in Pennsylvania and he wouldn’t have done it.
Deposition of Archibald RHEA taken Dec. 17, 1810.
He was present at the conversation of OWENS and BALE at the boat on Green River. BALE said when he was going to Mr. COWHERD’s, he saw Bob hauling corn in a field that belonged to OWENS. He called to Bob and asked if he was home from HERNDONs and then asked the way to Mr. COWHERDs. OWENS accused BALE of harboring Bob in a cave and also of harboring YATE’s negro.
Deposition of James DeSPAIN taken Dec. 15, 1810.
He heard OWENS say that the reason he suspected BALE of having Bob was because he had a negro, Moses to run away. OWENS got Peter DeSPAIN and FISHER to go look for him. They went by James GOLDSBY’s, who went with them. When they go to BALE’s, DeSPAIN and FISHER stopped and GOLDSBY went to the house. He called or knocked. There was a candle lit in the house. He asked BALES who was lying by the fire. BALES said he didn’t know because he had just come from the mill. GOLDSBY told him it was Moses who had run away. He told BALE to guard the door while he got the other men. When he returned, BALE was at a different door and Moses was gone. Later, BALE purchased Moses.
Deposition of Capt. James GOLDSBY taken Dec. 15, 1810.
Says a few years ago, after OWENS returned from a journey to Pennsylvania with a negro called Bob, who had run away, Peter D’SPAIN and a FISHER called me in the night when I was in bed to go with them to find Moses, a negro belonging to OWENS and had run away. We went by Wm GOFF’s and on to Mr. BALE’s. We decided that I should go to the door. I saw by a candle that someone was lying on the floor and asked BALE who it was. He didn’t know. He said it wasn’t one of the boys from the mill. I told him mit was Moses and asked him to guard the door while I got the other two men. Two of us would go to the back door and the other to the front door with him and take him. We saw someone come out but couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman in the fob. We spoke and he jumped over the fence and ran away. We chased but lost him. I asked BALE why he didn’t guard the door and he said he went to the back door.
Deposition of Robert McCLANAHAN.
I was told by OWENS and others that BALE was harboring negroes (Bob and Moses) in order to purchase them, and that he even went to a field where Bob was working and called him to him and had a conversation with him. I was told when he observed some person laying on the floor in his house, he suspected it was someone of the mill. When GOLDSBY came, BALE said he was directed to go to the back door, which he did, BALE saw Moses get up and go out the front door where he thought the men do be and would catch him. BALE requested me to go with him to a place belonging to General BARBEE where the affair was to be dismissed. I went and on the way we passed a field of Mr. OWENS where he had talked to Bob, I had mentioned this to BALE at an earlier time and he denied it. At this time, BALE observed that the negro was not working at the upper tract of the field, but was at work not exceeding 30 yards from the fence. BALE said he was asking directions.
Deposition of Wm UNDERWOOD taken Feb. 19, 1811 at the home of Joseph AKIN.
I understood that a contract had taken place between BALE and OWENS for a negro called Bob. BALE told me he had given $400 for the chance to get Bob. Bob is an excellent farmhand, hustler, and waggoner.
Deposition of Gibson UNDERWOOD taken Feb. 25, 1811 at Daniel BROWN’s.
He was at Jacob BALE’s mill in Jan. 1810. A negro came to the opposite side of the creek and called. My cousin, Chitester UNDERWOOD and I went and brought him across. He had a blanket tied to his back. My cousin told me it was the negro that OWENS had sold to BALE. He was cleanly dressed, so didn’t look XXXXXXXXXXX the man often now, BXXXX.
Deposition of Chiterister UNDERWOOD taken Feb. 25, 1811.
Repeated the story of Gibson UNDERWOOD.
Deposition of Wm SKAGGS.
I advised BALE to give Bob up to OWENS. BALE said if he would place him in the same footing that he was before that he would give him up, but OWENS would whip him.
Deposition of Charles BROWNLEE.
I heard BALE say he called the negro to the fence to ask directions to James COWHERD’s. He had thought Bob was working at HERNDON’s.
Deposition of Joseph SRIGLEY taken Dec. 20. 1810.
I was with OWENS and BALE when they were loading a wagon with shingles. I heard the conversation where BALE offered $100 for the runaway negro, because he might be in Pennsylvania.
Deposition of Jacob CAULK taken Dec. 20, 1810.
He lived at Mr. BALE’s and attended to his sawmill nearly 5 weeks (except Sundays) in par of November and December, 1809. During that time, he heard about Bob running away. He, CAULK, was with BALE both day and night, but never saw the negro there. When I worked for McCLANAHAN, I heard OWENS talking to McCLANAHAN about getting the negro back again. He was Robert McCLANAHAN. He lived in the neighborhood of John K ABNEY and Joseph SRIGLEY. Robert is the only person that I know of by that name in Green Co. I sometimes helped in the grist mill at BALES.
Deposition of Robert McCLANAHAN.
He was asked by the complainant – “Was I ever more than once at your stillhouse?” No.
Deposition of Elizabeth KERSEY.
She never communicated with Bob’s wife or any other negro, that he had Bob. Mr. CAULK said that Mr. OWENS went to his stillhouse where McCLANAHAN was and they were discussing Bob.
Deposition of John KERSEY.
He knew nothing about Bob while run away, nor did he ever talk of concealing him.
In these court records there is no indication of the outcome of this case. Perhaps that would be kept in a different set of court records or perhaps no sentence was made and the matter was dropped.