Elizabeth: A Tragic End

In 1838 Thomas Williams and William N. Ivy formed a partnership in order to purchase slaves in Virginia, transport them to Louisiana, hire them out to a local timber company for a year, and then sell them for a profit. Williams sent one free African American man, three enslaved men, and one enslaved girl named Elizabeth on the schooner Choctaw, which sailed out of Norfolk, to Ivy, who awaited their arrival in Louisiana. Ivy could not understand why Williams had sent Elizabeth, also known as Lizzy or Betsey. In a subsequent suit against Williams, Ivey wrote that “(Lizzy) could be of no service to the concern in Louisiana & was in fact purchased by the said Williams in manifest opposition to the intents and interests of the concern.” On February 15, 1839, Ivy sold Elizabeth for $480 at a public auction in Franklin, Louisiana, to Ethan Allen, declaring that Elizabeth was in perfect health.

The day after purchasing Elizabeth from Ivy, Allen sold her to John Johnson, who then sold her on March 8, 1839, to William B. Lewis for $613. On April 4, Elizabeth was sold yet again, this time to Lewis’s relative Thomas H. Lewis for $650. Lewis brought Elizabeth to his home in Opelousas, Louisiana, about eighty-five miles north of Franklin, where she worked as a house servant for the Lewis family. About two weeks later, Elizabeth suffered “a most violent fit that lasted nearly three hours, it incapacitated her from work for three or four days.” The seizures occurred on a regular basis. On April 29, 1839, Dr. John M. Jewell, a local physician, examined her and offered a diagnosis of epilepsy.

Lewis returned Elizabeth on May 23, 1839, to his relative William B. Lewis, who traced her previous owners all the way back to William Ivy. Lewis filed suit against Ivy to recover the amount he paid for Elizabeth, plus interest. Lewis’s family members, Dr. Jewell, previous owners of Elizabeth, and others provided extensive testimony on how Elizabeth’s poor health diminished her value as a slave.

In August 1839, William B. Lewis placed Elizabeth in the care of Dr. Jewell. Two months later, she experienced a series of “strong convulsions” and died on October 23, 1839. She was thirteen years old. 


Read more about LIzzy: http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/out_of_the_box/?s=lizzy