|Mitchell County, North Carolina
Children indentured as apprentices were usually orphans or children whose parents were unable to care for them. The Court would bind such children to a master "to live after the manner of an apprentice and servant" until a specified age -- usually twenty-one for boys and eighteen or twenty-one for girls. The apprentice was typically bound to "faithfully serve his [the master's] lawful commands; every where gladly obey; he shall not absent himself from his said Master's service without leave, but in all things, as a good and faithful servant, shall behave towards his Master." Some indentures use the phrase "demean and behave himself."|
The master, in return, agreed to provide the apprentice's "sufficient diet, washing, lodging and apparel, fitting for an apprentice; and also all other things necessary, both in sickness and in health." The master usually also agreed to instruct the apprentice, or have him instructed, in reading and writing (and later arithmetic) and in a trade or occupation. Finally, the master usually (but not always) agreed to make certain provisions for the apprentice at the end of the indenture. For example, M. D. Wiseman agreed in 1863 to provide Martin Carpenter with "a horse bridle & saddle" when Martin reached twenty-one years of age. Some indentures make no such provision, and some substitute an annual cash payment after the apprentice reaches a certain age. In some cases the master posted bond to guarantee his performance of his obligations.
Although the terms of the indenture seem harsh by modern standards, it's clear that in many cases the master (who was sometimes a relative) was more interested the apprentice's welfare than in obtaining cheap labor.
Indentures remained subject to the court, and the court had the right to determine whether a master was living up to his obligations under the indenture. The court also had the right to terminate an indenture, sometimes substituting a new master for the old one. At least one Mitchell County indenture was terminated at the master's request, due to the "willful and unruly disposition" of the apprentice.
The North Carolina State Archives has Mitchell County apprentice records dating from 1863 to 1906.