Slave labor contract Between Wm. Belser and Wm. Boyd for hire of 24 slaves to work on the South Carolina Rail Road, March 1849


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The Charleston- Hamburg line was the first railroad in the state, but it did not survive as the only railroad for long.  Beginning in the 1830s, there was a movement to connect the state by rail, and building these railroads required a large amount of labor.  White laborers, often immigrants, found employment on the railroads as did enslaved laborers.  Life as a slave did not always tie an individual to a plantation, as many masters hired out their slaves to increase their own income.  This labor agreement between William Boyd and William Belser shows how these arrangements were made.  The two men agreed that Boyd would provide clothing for and lose payment for any day that his slaves could not work because they had run away, while Belser, on behalf of the South Carolina Rail Road, arranged to provide shoes and not deduct payment for any days that the laborers were ill.  As slaves, the twenty-four men discussed in this contract had no voice in the agreement.  They would work for the railroad for eight months at a rate of eighty dollars a month, paid directly to their master, William Boyd.  The total sum that Boyd received would have been roughly equivalent to $45,926.40 in 2003.  The use of enslaved labor in the construction of the railroad illustrates how southern culture influenced the railroad and how in turn the railroad supported the slave economy. 


Labor agreement, 8 March 1849, between Wm. Belser and Wm. Boyd, for hire of 24 slaves.  Isaac Nelson Papers.  Manuscripts Division.  South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.


State Of South Carolina

Richland District March 8th, 1849

This is to certify that we Dr. Wm Boyd of Williamsburgh District & Wm. S Belser Lawrence Belser & James Gad^sden known as contractors on the Charlotte - & SoCa Rail Road as the firm of W S Belser & Co have entered into an agreement this following agrement viz Dr. W. Boyd has hired to Wm Belser & C Twenty four slaves to work on said Road for Eight months from 1st January, last Dr Boyd agrees to lose all time by absconding Wm Belser & Co to lose the time of sickness Dr Boyd is to clothe his own slaves in the employ of Wm. Belser & Co,  Wm. Belser is to furnish the necessary shoes at the expense of the company Dr Boyd agrees to receive as payment for the hire of said Negroes five hundred dollars on or about the 1st. of April next & five Hundred Dollars more (these two payments being in part) on or about the 1st. of July next & the remainder of the expiration of the time for which said negros were hired & for the rate of hire is eighty dollars for each slave for eight months making for the whole nineteen Hundred & Twenty dollars

Wm S Belser & Co.
W.S. Boyd

Argeement Laborers
W Belser & Co & W Boyd

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of places and regions and the role of human systems in South Carolina.

Indicator 3-1.2 Interpret thematic maps of South Carolina places and regions that show how and where people live, work, and use land and transportation. (G, P, E)

Indicator 3-1.4 Explain the effects of human systems on the physical landscape of South Carolina over time, including the relationship of population distribution and patterns of migration to natural resources, climate, agriculture, and economic development. (G, E, H)

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicator 3-4.6 Explain how the Civil War affected South Carolina’s economy, including destruction of plantations, towns, factories, and transportation systems. (E, H)

Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

Indicator 3-5.1 Summarize developments in industry and technology in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century, including the rise of the textile industry, the expansion of the railroad, and the growth of the towns. (H, G, E)

Indicator 3-5.2 Summarize the effects of the state and local laws that are commonly known as Jim Crow laws on African Americans in particular and on South Carolinians as a whole. (H, P, E, G)

Indicator 3-5.4 Explain the impact and the causes of emigration from South Carolina and internal migration from the rural areas to the cities, including unemployment, poor sanitation and transportation services, and the lack of electricity and other modern conveniences in rural locations. (H, E, G)

Standard 4-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and its impact on the institution of slavery.

Indicator 4-5.2 Explain the motives for the exploration in the West and the push for westward expansion, including the concept of manifest destiny, economic opportunities in trade, and the availability of rich land. (G, E, H)

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.1 Compare the industrial North and the agricultural South prior to the Civil War, including the specific nature of the economy of each region, the geographic characteristics and boundaries of each region, and the basic way of life in each region. (G, E, H)

Indicator 4-6.6 Explain the impact of the Civil War on the nation, including its effects on the physical environment and on the people—soldiers, women, African Americans, and the civilian population of the nation as a whole. (H, P, G, E)

Standard 5-1: The student will demonstrate an udnerstanding of Reconstruction and its impact on racial relations in the United States.

Indicator: 5-1.5 Explain the purpose and motivations behind the rise of discriminatory laws and groups and their effect on the rights and opportunities of African Americans in different regions of the United States. (P, G, E, H)

Standard 5-2: The student will demonstrate an udnerstanding of the continued westward expansion of the United States.

Indicator 5-2.1 Explain how aspects of the natural environment - including the principal mountain ranges and rivers, terrain, vegetation, and climate of the region— affected travel to the West and thus the settlement of that region. (G, H)

Indicator 5-2.3 Summarize how railroads affected development of the West, including their ease and inexpensiveness for travelers and their impact on trade and the natural environment. (G, E, H)

Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major domestic and foreign developments that contributed to the United States' becoming a world power.

Indicator 5-3.3 Explain the effects of immigration and urbanization on the American economy during the Industrial Revolution, including the role of immigrants in the work force and the growth of cities, the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy, and the rise of big business. (P, G, E, H)

Standard 5-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of developments in the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in 1992.

Indicator 5-6.2 Explain how humans change the physical environment of regions and the consequences of such changes, including use of natural resources and the expansion of transportation systems. (P, G, E)

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.

Indicator 8-3.1 Explain the importance of agriculture in antebellum South Carolina, including plantation life, slavery, and the impact of the cotton gin. (H, G, E)

Standard 8-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of Reconstruction on the people and government of South Carolina.

Indicator 8-4.1 Explain the purposes of Reconstruction with attention to the economic, social, political, and geographic problems facing the South, including reconstruction of towns, factories, farms, and transportation systems; the effects of emancipation; racial tension; tension between social classes; and disagreement over voting rights. (H, G, P, E)

Standard 8-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place inthe United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Indicator 8-5.1 Summarize the political, economic, and social conditions in South Carolina following the end of Reconstruction, including the leadership of Wade Hampton and the so-called Bourbons or Redeemers, agricultural depression and struggling industrial development, the impact of the temperance and suffrage movements, the development of the 1895 constitution, and the evolution of race relations and Jim Crow laws. (H, P, E)

Indicator 8-5.4 Compare migration patterns within South Carolina and in the United States as a whole in the late nineteenth century, including the population shift from rural to urban areas, migration between regions of the United States, the westward expansion, and the motivations for migration and settlement. (H, G, E)

Indicator 8-5.5 Summarize the human, agricultural, and economic costs of natural disasters and wars that occurred in South Carolina or involved South Carolinians in the late nineteenth century, including the Charleston earthquake of 1886, the hurricane of 1893, and the Spanish American War. (H, G, E)

Standard USHC-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and the resulting regional conflicts that took place in America in the nienteenth century.

Indicator USHC-3.1 Explain the impact and challenges of westward movement, including the major land acquisitions, people’s motivations for moving west, railroad construction, the displacement of Native Americans, and the its impact on   the developing American character. (H, G, E)

Indicator USHC-3.3 Compare economic development in different regions of the country during the early nineteenth century, including agriculture in the South, industry and finance in the North, and the development of new resources in the West. (E, H, G)

Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.5 Summarize the progress made by African Americans during Reconstruction and the subsequent reversals brought by Reconstruction’s end, including the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau, gains in educational and political opportunity, and the rise of anti–African American factions and legislation. (H, E, G, P)

Standard USHC-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place in the United States during the second half of the ninnteenth century.

Indicator USHC-5.5 Explain the causes and effects of urbanization in late nineteenth-century America, including the movement from farm to city, the continuation of the women’s suffrage movement, and the migration of African Americans to the North and the Midwest. (H, G, E, P)


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