Thursday, September 5, 2013

Beware the Paddy Rollers!

There have been many dark days in Kentucky history. Some of those days even lasted for decades. I'm referring to the times when local men, called paddy rollers or patty rollers, patrolled the streets and back roads of his county. Some paddy rollers took their duties to an extreme, earning them a reputation for being ruthless and cruel.

Patrollers have a long history in Kentucky. An Act directing the County Court to appoint patrollers goes back to late 1799, according to A Digest of the Statute Laws of Kentucky, Vol. II, 1834. The Act states that county courts should lay off districts within the counties and each district was to appoint a company of patrollers to serve 12 months. Each company consisted of a captain of the patrol and several to serve under his direction.

The function of these patrollers was to patrol within the assigned bounds in their county, "and visit negro quarters and other suspected places of unlawful assemblies of slaves. And any slave found at such assembly, or who shall be found strolling about from one plantation to another, without a pass from his or her master, mistress, or overseer, shall receive any number of lashes on his or her bare back, at the discretion of the captain of the patrol ... not exceeding ten."  It is no wonder slaves feared the patrollers.

In some counties, patrollers were paid for their services. In western Kentucky, however, I've never seen an entry in the county court minutes that states patrollers were paid.  By 1836, patrollers could be removed by the county court for "neglect of their duties or malfeasance in office."

In 1841, the Act regarding patrollers was amended. It now stated the following: "That, for ever fugitive slave which sd. patrol may apprehend and deliver to the owner, or secure in jail so that the owner gets him or her, if from the same county where the patrol is established, twenty five dollars, if from any other county, fifty dollars; which the owner or owners of such fugitive slave shall be bound to pay, upon the delivery of said fugitive slave, to person delivering the same, for the use and benefit of said patrol." At this time, only men who were at least 25 years old and were "housekeepers" within the county could be appointed a patroller.

Below is a document showing the appointment of a company of patrollers in Livingston County, Kentucky in 1805.

We the subscribers Do promise and agree to serve in a patrole company for the space of one year without fee or [illegible] in Capt. Brutons and Capt. Youngs  company and we further agree and oblige our Selves to act in conformity to the Laws rules and regulations of this State in such cases made and provided   Given under our hands  3 Oct 1805   Signed by   Wm. Lacy, David Patterson, John Reed, Wm. Thompson, Wm. Sandefur, Robert Lacey

Document provided by Jerry Bebout.

Published 5 September 2013, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

No comments: