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October 11, 2013


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The Chowan County Courthouse in Edenton, NC... Haunted by the malarial ghost of Justice Wilson, still trying to escape his creditors.

Alfred Brophy

Owen, you are, of course, correct. Nicely done. I don't know the story of Justice Wilson, but this is where State v. Mann was tried, I believe. Sally Greene will know infinitely more about this than I do. And I think Martha also has a story about a manumission that took place here....

Really beautiful courthouse isn't it?


James Wilson, the only Supreme Court Justice to spend time in debtors' prison, was riding circuit in Edenton when he died in 1798. At the time, he owed Senator Piece Butler of South Carolina the tidy sum of $197,000.

Martha Jones

Cograts, Owen, and yes, Al. It's fascinating to observe how the Chowan County Courthouse tries to tie together its pasts. (Remember my earlier submission of the Talbot County Courthouse where they have "dueling" monuments: one to the Talbot Boys (who found for the Confederacy) and another to Frederick Douglass.) At Chowan, slavery is tied to the history of the courthouse through the "Harriet Jacobs" self-guided tour brochure. Recall Jacobs escaped from enslavement in part by hiding in her grandmother's attic for seven years. We are told: "In 1828, Hannah Pritchard purchased Molly Horniblow [Jacobs' grandmother] after her owner's death. Miss Pritchard petitioned the Chowan County court to emancipate Molly on April 28, 1828." We didn't find any mention of State v. Mann during our visit.

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