Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Beginning of the End for Pleasant

In February 1870, my 4th-great-grandfather Pleasant Flatt was beginning a new life with 3rd wife Nancy Dowell Hubbard in Metcalfe County, Kentucky. Pleasant had moved his family north from Overton County, Tennessee to East Fork, Metcalfe County, combining the Flatt family with five children from Nancy's first marriage to James W. Hubbard. Three weeks after their marriage, on 23 February 1870, the couple signed a promisory note with wealthy farmer Frederick J. Miller for $138.37. It is not clear what the loan was made for.

Pleasant and Nancy did not pay the debt, and by April 1870, Miller took Pleasant and Nancy to court. The files collected at the Kentucky State Archives by fellow researcher Linda include a copy of the summons to the Sheriff of Metcalfe County commanding Pleasant and Nancy D. Flatt to appear before the Court on the first day of the June term, 1870. The summons was executed on 20 May 1870. I do not know how the case was resolved, but it does appear that Pleasant was not well off. The case foreshadows another more substantial case in the State Archives filed by Pleasant Flatt against Porter Masters on 27 June 1872.

Flatt sued Masters, stating in June 1872, Masters "unlawfully assaulted beat, bruised and broke Plaintiff's jaw bone with rocks, sticks buckets and staves." Flatt sought $1000 in damages.

The case file includes a deposition from John G. Flint, taken 26 March 1873. He was 22 years old and had worked on Masters' farm in 1872. Flint stated that Flatt and Masters were partners, and during 1872 he overheard the two men agree to a contract around the 1st of May 1872. In the contract, the men agreed to cultivate corn on land that they had originally expected to cultivate tobacco. Flint stated that Masters had separately agreed with him to take Masters' place in the partnership with Flatt, and Flatt objected to this. Flint wanted Masters' land for tobacco, Flatt wanted the land for corn.

KY State Archives, Flatt v Masters.

Flatt claimed that Porter Masters entered into a contract in 1872 to cultivate a crop together. Masters would provide the land and all the necessary implements, Flatt would provide the labor. The agreement was to cultivate 25 acres of corn, and Flatt would receive one fourth of the corn as compensation. Flatt said they agreed to cultivate "by their joint labor about seven acres in tobacco, 3 acres of which was cleared at the time of the making of the contract and of which Plaintiff was to receive one fourth of all the tobacco grown." Flatt also stated they agreed to clear the remaining four acres in tobacco, and Flatt was to receive one third of all the tobacco grown. Flatt would also take care of the wheat growing on Masters' farm and receive one fourth of the all the wheat grown. Masters was to furnish good pasture for his milk cow during the year and haul water necessary for Flatt and his family.

Flatt wrote that he did cultivate the 25 acres of corn, which made 7 barrels of corn per acre (175 barrels, 43 and 3/4 barrels of corn belonged to Flatt under the contract). When Flatt delivered the corn, he said Masters refused to let him have anything, "driving him from the field with threats and curses." Flatt said the corn was reasonably worth $150 per barrel or $66.62. Flatt claimed to raise 35 bushels of wheat, and Masters refused to allow him his share.

Flatt stated after they had cleared the 4 acres of land for tobacco "with great labor," Masters refused to plant the 4 acres with tobacco. Flatt argued that if the tobacco had been grown on the 7 total acres as contracted, it would have been worth $200. Masters did not provide the pasture for the cow or water, which meant Flatt had to "carry water for about one mile for the use of himself and family." Flatt's complaint was filed by Edmonson, Kentucky lawyer George Price.

Flatt's deposition was taken on 6 February 1873 at the home of Marion Stephenson in Metcalfe County. He claimed to be in very bad health. In 1872, he and his family lived on the land of Porter Masters (they originally moved there in December 1871). Flatt said that he worked from the 10th of February 1872 until the 1st of May clearing the land on Masters' farm. "As the weather was so bad, I could not work I will say 45 days in all." They also had to carry water from a cave "about one fourth of a mile from my house."

The next part of the deposition references his children. His attorney Price asked Flatt if he lost any time in the crop season. Flatt responded that he lost 8 days around the first of June, "but I had my children at work to make up the time which they did and on the eleventh day of June, Masters beat me so I lost two weeks but I had six of my daughters in the crop most all the time to make up my lost time."

Among Flatt's six daughters working in the field in June 1872 were my 3rd-great-grandmother Nancy Jane (age 17) and her sisters Margaret Ellen (age 15), Susanna (age 14), Martha (age 12), Cansada (age 10) and Mary (age 7). I can only imagine the conditions they worked in during the spring and summer months.
Cornfield at Sunset by John William Inchbold (1860) via Google

The next post will cover the cross-examination of Pleasant and counterclaims by Porter Masters.

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