Guide to the Contract transferring temporary service of indentured servant Peyton Cook, January 14, 1860
Contract transferring temporary service of indentured servant Peyton Cook C0364
Published by George Mason University Libraries
Indentured servitude was a common practice in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries in the United States. There were a number of reasons why individuals entered into an indenture, some being the prohibitive cost of passage to the Americas, or the lack of an economic head start in life. Indentured servitude is generally defined as "a contract by which an apprentice was bound to serve a master, who undertook to teach him a trade, or by which someone bound himself to service in return for money or passage to the colonies. Indentured servitude in Virginia was a kind of temporary slavery. While still serving their time, servants were under the total authority of their masters and they could be bought and sold like slaves. They 'took up their indentures' when they became free" (Monticello.org, 2018.) Adults generally served 4 - 7 years as an indentured servant, while children would serve longer. During most of the 17th century, indentured servants were the main source of agricultural labor in the U.S. Some indentured servants were treated well and fairly, leaving their indenture with property and a skilled trade, but many others were treated no better than enslaved individuals. Indentures could be extended for a variety of reasons, including breaking the law or the servant getting pregnant. Eventually, the popularity of identured servitude waned as the the profitability of using the labor of enslaved peoples increased.
Contract transferring temporary service of indentured servant Peyton Cook, written on January 14, 1860. In the contract, Cook's master R.B. Sherrard agrees to lend Cook into the services of John W. Brown and W.D. Brown of Winchester, Virginia for a period of just under a year. The Browns agree to return Cook to Sherrard, who resides in Bloomery, Virginia (now West Virginia) on December 25, 1860 with a host of new clothes and items provided to him in the interim in order to keep him comfortable, as well as to pay Cook's taxes. This contract also states that the Browns must pay Sherrard $100 upon or before the return of Cook for the use of him during that year. This item was originally described as a contract for an enslaved person, however, the lack of racial description and the services described in the contract indicate that Cook was not enslaved, but indentured.
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There are no restrictions on personal use. Permission to publish material from Contract transferring temporary service of indentured servant Peyton Cook must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
The Special Collections Research Center also holds the Indenture for a miller apprenticeship for Hugh Ogden in Loudoun County, Virginia.
Bloomery (W. Va.)
A digitized version of this document can be found here: Contract transferring temporary service of indentured servant Peyton Cook.
Contract transferring temporary service of indentured servant Peyton Cook, C0364, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
Purchased from Lorne Bair in February 2011.
Processing completed by Amanda Brent in June 2019. EAD markup completed by Amanda Brent in June 2019. This collection used to be a part of the Virginia historical documents collection, C0034.
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