Children whose parents were unable to provide the necessities for them were sometimes apprenticed or "bound out" to someone in the community to learn a trade. Many of these children were orphaned, but others had parents who, desiring a better life for their child, chose to apprentice them to learn a trade. An apprenticeship was formalized by an agreement between the county clerk, who acted on behalf of the child, and the master to whom the child was apprenticed. These agreements or indentures, were recorded in the county court minutes and, depending on the time period, in separate Indenture of Apprenticeship books. Males were usually apprenticed until the age of 21 and females until they were age 18. During the term of apprenticeship, the child could not marry, must obey the master’s rules and keep his secrets. In exchange, the master was to provide decent food, lodging and clothing. At the expiration of the apprenticeship, the master was also to provide a new suit of clothing and sometimes a horse and/or a sum of money. The following entries have been abstracted from County Court Order Book 8 (1846-1848), County Clerk’s Office (Room 22), Madisonville, Kentucky.
10 Aug 1846, p. 18: An indenture of an apprentice Samuel Woodson Clerk of this Court with Elizabeth Killough exhibited into court and ordered recorded.
14 Sep 1846, p. 28: The clerk of this Court to bind the orphan Nancy C.E. Allen to John Hancock to learn spinning, knitting etc & the clerk also to bind out orphan James M. Allen to John Allen to learn the business of a cabinet maker.
12 Oct 1846, p. 35: It appearing that Rose a free woman of color hath three children, namely Nathan, Rinda and Arminda, who are poor and not likely to be brought up in honest courses ... a summons awarded Rose to shew cause why her children may not be bound as apprentices.
12 Oct 1846, p. 35: Susan Piland to appear at next term of court to shew cause why her sons Benjamin F. Piland and Isaac Piland may not be bound apprentices.
8 Feb 1847, p. 78: The clerk of this court to bind the children of Rose, a free woman of color, to John P. Cook. The children are Nathan, Rinda and Arminda; Nathan to be learnt the trade of a blacksmith and Rinda and Arminda to be taught spinning and knitting.
12 Apr 1847, p. 89: The clerk of this court to bind out Andrew H.G. Hankins to Tolbert Hibbs, farmer, until Andrew is 21 years old to learn the trade of farming.
11 May 1847, p. 116: Ordered that a summons issue against Mahala Williams widow to shew cause why her children Polly Williams Thomas Williams Charles Williams James B. Williams & Daniel Williams may not be bound out according to law.
11 Oct; 1847, p. 146: Thomas J. Williams who is 9 years old the 24th Decr next, orphan of Benjamin Williams dec’d, bound to Jonathan Foxwell, Farmer. The clerk is also to bind out Charles Washington Williams, orphan of sd. Benjamin Williams, to George Waetzel. Charles is age 7 years 4 Feb next.
1 May 1848, p. 218: The clerk to bind William T. Brinkley, orphan of William Brinkley dec’d, to James Fowler, farmer, until William T. is age 21, which will be about the 1st of May 1863. The clerk to bind Jane Brinkley, orphan of William Brinkley dec’d, to James Fowler until Jane is 16 years old, which will be about 1 May 1856, to learn spinning and knitting.
4 Dec 1848, p. 285: A summons ordered issued against William W. Wells to appear at the next term of this court to shew cause why his children, James M., William A.J., Margaret F.A., Rachel L. and Francis M. Wells may not be bound according to law, the court being informed by the Petition of sundry citizens that sd. Wells is idle, dissolute and without any visible means of procuring a livelihood and is incapable of bringin up his children in honest courses.