indentured servants

Samuel Smytheman, the Indentured Servant

White indentured servants came from all over Great Britain.  Men, women, and sometimes children signed a contract with a master to serve a term of 4 to 7 years. In exchange for their service, the indentured servants received their passage paid from England, as well as food, clothing, and shelter once they arrived in the colonies. Some were even paid a salary. When the contract had expired, the servant was paid freedom dues of corn, tools, and clothing, and was allowed to leave the plantation. During the time of his indenture, however, the servant was considered his master's personal property and his contract could be inherited or sold. Prices paid for indentured servants varied depending on skills.

Transported convicts, both men and women, were sold to plantation owners as another form of labor. One-fourth of the British immigrants to the colonies were convicts. Most of these convicts were male, young, unskilled, and poor. The usual crime was grand larceny. Generally, the only people exiled were those judges felt could be rehabilitated. Convicts performed the same type of work as indentured servants but were less trusted. Their length of service was usually longer than that of indentured servants. Like indentured servants and slaves, convicts frequently ran away. Political prisoners also were shipped to the colonies. Most of these were convicted following religious persecutions.

Samuel Smytheman was an indentured servant that was sentenced to 7 years in the colonies along with wife, Elizabeth Eaton for petty theft.  The following transcript is of the entry of the trial and the judgement of Samuel, Elizabeth and two accomplices, James and Ann Haycraft.  The photocopies of the trial and judgement can be found to the left.  This information was obtained by Ron Smotherman via the London Research Service. Ron is a researcher for the Smotherman family.  Thanks to Ron for his efforts.

Transcribed Version of Samuel Smytheman Trial and Sentencing