Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Workday Wednesday: From apprenticeship to occupation

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Recently I received two InterLibrary Loans, both of them about apprenticeships in North Carolina. The first, which I am currently reading, is Labor of Innocents: Forced Apprenticeship in North Carolina, 1715-1919, by Karin L. Zipf (2005). Still in the first chapter, I have already begun to understand the world view of the elite white establishment...going so far as to create a judicial network of wealthy property owners. I was surprised at the discussion about laws in North Carolina concerning eligibility for voting in elections. Perhaps I shouldn't have been, but the more wealth a Caucasian male could produce, the more types of elections he became eligible to vote in, and only the wealthiest could qualify to run for an office...most of which dealt a life-term. Gender also played a large role in power. No surprise there...except that upon a husband's death, a surviving wife was required to petition the court to receive a return of her dower, up to one-third of her husband's estate.

In the estate records of William Carter (1867), his widow, Rachel G. (Wade) Carter, started the lengthy process to have her dower returned in the March Term (second Monday, the 11th), A.D. 1867. The estate file consists of 32 pages. It appears there was a trial held in the June Term (second Monday, the 15th), A.D. 1868 to solemnize the verdict of the jury which had appeared before James E. Fleming, Sheriff of Craven County on May 26, 1868. She was to receive "her dower and thirds in the lands of William Carter deceased as described..."

While this ties in with the estate records I had been analyzing, my motivation for reading the book was to understand the process and background of the apprenticeships of Isaac Carter (1840-1918), and also of his father Isaac Carter (1805-abt. 1852). I wanted to see what bearing, if any, they affected on their life work.

The elder Isaac had first been apprenticed by the court on March 13, 1811 to a known Quaker who presented a front of helping slaves, and orphans and minors apprenticed free persons of color to return to Africa. Further documentation, however, proved that he had a scam going on, which must of been part of the reason why Isaac and his siblings were removed from his guardianship and placed as apprentices in their uncle's care. In the first case he had been apprenticed as a cooper; in the second placement he was apprenticed as a shoemaker. An interesting note is that his father was still living at the time of his apprenticeship. Either his mother was already deceased, his father was unemployed for a year or more, or the family had applied for assistance from the warden of the poor, who would be required to report the names of his children.

The younger Isaac had been apprenticed as a farmer on December 12, 1853 following the death of his parents. He was placed by the request of his grandparents into the custody of a good friend and neighbor who lived one mile away.

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The next book I will read is Children Bound to Labor: The Pauper Apprentice System in Early America, edited by Ruth Wallace Herndon and John E. Murray (2009).

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