In 1838, George Hays, owner of several plantations and about 180 slaves, died leaving a wife and three small children. In his will he appointed William P. Gould and four other men as executors. In 1839, the other four men having declined the executorship, Gould qualified as such and took possession of the property as administrator of the estate. In 1844, Gould's administratorship was revoked but he continued to work the estate until January 1845. In 1852, when Gould tries to render a final account of his administratorship, the children and heirs, Charles, Mary, and George Ann, by their next friend Robert Leachman, sue. They charge Gould with waste and mismanagement, and specify a number of misdeeds committed by Gould during the years of his administratorship. They point out in particular that he hired an overseer who had a "cruel, brutish and inhuman disposition." The petitioners recount several examples of the overseer's abuse. He abused "a negro man by the name of George, by cruelly whipping him and putting out his right eye;" he abused "another negro man by the name of Claiborne by getting him down and jumping upon his back with the heels of his shoes;" and he beat a third slave so brutally that he later died. Moreover, Gould failed to provide slaves with "blankets or other bed clothing," pushed women to labor long hours in bad weather, and forced slaves to live in "miserable Hovels not fit for horse stables." Most of the "breeding women on said Plantations were rendered almost entirely barren, and worthless as such" and "are subject to continual miscarriages," the petitioners lament, while a large number of children have died. The heirs estimate that the maltreatment and malnourishment of the female slaves have cost them the loss of some forty children through either barrenness of the females or abortions. They also estimate that they lost another fifteen children due to neglect in their tender years. The Hays children, two of them still minors, seek an injunction to prevent Gould from settling the estate and to get compensation for the financial cost of his mismanagement.
Result: Granted; appealed; affirmed.
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Repository: Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama