Monday, January 4, 2010

Adaline Graham Wilson's Will and "Lize"

Ann Eliza Wilson, 1913
Adaline Graham (1822-1900) was one of William and Margaret Graham's youngest daughters. She and her husband John M. Wilson had no children who lived beyond infancy. But, they "took in" many children to raise. They were fairly affluent and well-respected in the community. Adaline's will and subsequent lawsuit, is like having your genealogy handed to you on a plate. For these two documents, I will highlight the names of the individuals so genealogists can find their ancestor easily. But, my favorite part of the will concerns "Lize" her former slave.

Last Will of ADALINE WILSON deceased

I, Adaline Wilson of Jefferson County and State of Missouri do make and publish the following which is my last will and testament.

Section 1- I direct that the expenses of my last sickness, and funeral and my debts which I may owe at the time of my death shall be paid out of the assets of my estate.

Section 2-[describes the marker and railings for the cemetery]

Section 3-[$250 to the executor for maintenance of cemetery]

Section 4-[Thomas J. Miller, one of the children they raised, gets real estate] Sections twenty nine and thirty one, and thirty two in Township Forty one, North of the Base line in Range Three, East of the Fifth Principal Meridian, Situated in Jefferson County.

Section 5- I give, devise, and bequeath to Frederick A. Harbison [Amanda Graham Harbison's son] Subject to the charge hereinafter Created therein-all of my Real Estate Situated in Sections Eighteen and thirty in Township Forty one, North of the Base line in Range Three, East of the Fifthh Principal Meridian, in Jefferson County, Missouri, Embracing my home farm. It is however in my will in respect thereto, and I so direct, that Said Frederick A. Harbison, his heirs grantees or devisees Sell annually during the natural life of the colored woman, Anna Eliza, commonly known as Ann Eliza Wilson, who was at one time, a slave of John M. Wilson, my deceased husband, pay to her the said Ann Eliza, out of the annual crops which shall be raised on said Real Estate the Sum of one hundred dollars which payment is to be made in cash realized from the proceeds of such crops, and are to annually made on or before the first day of March in Each and Every year during her life. . .I further direct that if Frederick A. Harbison and his heirs, grantees or devisees Shall at anytime fail to cultivate said Real Estate, so as to raise crops out of which Such annual payments be made, then in that event said Ann Eliza Shall have authority and right to take possession of all of Said Real Estate and may cause the Same to be cultivated for the payment to herself of Such annual payments and costs and Expenses properly incurred in making, Saving, and disposing of such crops, _____ her option, or that of her Guardian in the event of her inability to exercise an intelligent option, Said Real Estate may be sold under decree of the proper Court and the proceeds of it kept at interest to the end that such annual payments may be made to her from the principal sum of said fund. . .

I'm no lawyer but I think this means if the Harbisons didn't raise and sell the crops for Ann Eliza's support, the land would go to her. Click here for a aerial view of where I think the farm was. But, there's more. . . .

I further direct that said Ann Elize shall during her life . . .have the Exclusive use of the log dweling house now in Said Real Estate, as her dwelling house, together with one half acre of land adjacent to the same to be selected by her for her use as a garden. She shall also have the right to freely use water from the spring formerly used by my husband, and myself for family use. She shall also have at all times during her life the right to take from any part of Said Real Estate all fire wood necessary and proper for her use, together with timber to make and keep in repair fencing around said dwelling house and her garden and I direct that said dwelling house be put in good Condition and be newly roofed---unless I should have it so roofed and put in good condition during my life and that cost of the same as well as that of the fencing of such Garden Spot be paid out of my Estate if it shall become necessary for Said Real Estate to be sold. . .

In addition to the foregoing I bequeath to Said Ann Eliza the sum of one hundred dollars in money to be paid to her by the Executor of this will out of my assets of my estate, also one feather bed, one bedstead and bedding, with bed clothes for one bed to consist of five covers namely two quilts, two blankets and one counter pain, all of which are to be selected for her by the Executor of this will. Also my oldest bureau, my cook stove. . . and vessels used with it. . .six chairs, my best dining table, one set of plates, one set of cups and saucers, one sett of table knives and forks, two feather pillows with slips for same, and one feather bolster with slip for the same.

After the bequeaths to other relatives, the will adds that:

. . .the deficiency [of legacies] shall be deducted from the amount of Each of Said legacies [if there's a shortage of assets] provided however that no deduction shall in any event be made on that account from any legacy or provision in this my will made for the Colored Woman Ann Eliza. . .

If there isn't enough money to go around, the heirs will NOT be able to dip into Ann Eliza's inheritance. Although Adeline Graham Wilson is not my ancestor (her sister Mary Graham Brown, is), she is the kind of ancestor I want to be.

Be a good ancestor. Stand for something bigger than yourself. Add value to the Earth during your sojourn." Marian Wright Edelman (1939 - ) American activist founder of the Children's Defense Fund.

No comments: