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Freedom for the Jackson Family

A 1837 bill of sale between the executors of Major Isaac Hite Jr. and Manual Jackson for the purchase of Jackson’s son, Emanual, tells one of the few stories we know about a former Belle Grove slave. Emanual was purchased for $800, which is about $21,000 in today’s currency. It states “Isaac Hite, now (deceased), in his lifetime, agreed with Manuel Jackson, a free man of Color that he would sell to him a Negro boy, named Manuel, the son of said Manuel Jackson.” Financial records from after Isaac Hite’s death in 1836 show this large sum received in three payments:

January 20 By cash of Manuel Jackson in part purchase of his son $450.00
January 21 By cash of Manuel Jackson part purchase of his son $50.00
January 21 By cash from Bond for Manuel Jackson $300.00

The bill of sale notes that the final payment was done by a loan with “a note with Jno Scroggin as security.”

A February 2, 1841 document tells us more:
I Emanual Jackson, of the Town of Birmingham, in the County of Allegheny (Pa.), but formerly of Frederick County (Va.), from motives of parental hereby manumit and set free from slavery, my son Emanual.

This story raises many questions. How did Isaac Hite Jr. and Manual Jackson come to have this agreement? Why did the father wait four years to free his son?

Belle Grove staff found these documents through the exhibit “Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries.” It featured transcripts of legal documents in Pittsburgh from 1792 to 1857 of slaves, freed Black people, never enslaved Blacks, and indentures that were discovered in 2007 by a supervisor in the Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds. Because of their historic significance, the County gave these records to the Senator John Heinz History Center. The museum partnered with the University of Pittsburgh Library to create the exhibit.

Ann T Hite et al Bill of Sale to Manuel Jackson         
Know all men by these presents, that we Ann T Hite, J S Davidson and P Williams Jr Executors of Isaac Hite, decd and the said Ann T Hite, and J S Davidson, in their own right, and said P. Williams Jr for his two children Philip W. and Ann H Williams, Isaac F Hite, Walker M Hite, P. Elizabeth L Hite, Rebecca G Loder and said J S Davison, P Williams Jr. and Isaac F Hite, Trustees for said Rebecca G Loder, for and in consideration of the sum of Eight hundred dollars to them in hand paid by Manuel Jackson the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have granted, bargained, and sold, and by these presents, grant, bargain and sell, unto the said Manuel Jackson, a Negro boy named Manuel aged about 21 years, Given under our hands and seals, this 18th day of January 1837. [Note that the sale document uses the spelling “Manuel” and the manumission document uses “Manual.”]

Photograph from Allegheny County (Pa.) Recorder of Deeds Manumission and Indenture Records, 1792-1857, MSS# 494.
Courtesy of the Detre Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Cente

Additional archival documents in Virginia indicate that Emanuel Jackson Sr. purchased from the Hite family his son Frank and his daughter Betsy Ann. Two additional letters to the Hite's son Isaac Fontaine Hite discuss Emanuel Jackson Sr.'s purchase of his son Daniel (read the letter here) as well as Daniel's wife and their three children (read the letter here). The Jacksons settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Research on the Jackson family is ongoing, and it is a powerful story of resilience, agency, tenacity, and the enduring power of family ties despite a system that sought to destroy them.

To learn more about this amazing story, visit the online exhibit "The Jackson Family: A Story of Resilience & The Enduring Love of Family."

Not all families were as fortunate as the Jacksons. The Hites sold their enslaved "property" and families were broken apart.