01 May 2018
A Close-up of Papa's Will
Week 18 (April 30-May 4):
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley © 2018
David George Sr. made his will 2 July 1861 in Henry County, Georgia and died two months later. He meticulously laid out the way he wanted his estate to be handled. On the initial reading, one notes that he divided it equally among his 12 (and named) children — and everything was to be sold after the death of his wife, Sarah (he left her more than 400 acres of land, plus personal property). His widow would outlive him by 15 years, and the results of the Civil War changed the fortunes of this and many other Georgia families, of course.
In the will, were the following bequeaths:
SIXTHLY — To my daughter Margaret Awtrey, wife of Eldridge Awtrey, (my 3-great-grandmother) for her sole and separate use for and during her natural life, free and exempt from the debts and liabilities of her present or a future husband, I give and bequeath one-twelfth part of the money arising from the sale of property remaining after my bequest to my wife are satisfied, after the following deductions have been made from said twelfth part, namely, four hundred dollars ($400) for a piece of land heretofore given her. And ten ($10.00) dollars for a cow more given to her than the rest of my children. The property in this article contained at the death of Margaret Awtrey shall pass to and become the property of the children, and representatives of children, of said Margaret forever (I mean by the representatives of children, the children of children) . . . [Margaret was then about 49 years of age and had been married to Eldridge Awtrey for 30 years, and was the mother of nine children.]
ELEVENTHLY, To my daughter, Mary Bartlett, wife of Robert E. Bartlett, I give and bequeath, in like manner, for and during her natural life, free and exempt from the debts and liabilities of her present or future husband, a twelfth part of the net money arising from the sale of my property, heretofore directed to be sold, without any deductions and I hereby appoint my son Casey [Carey] W. George trustee of the money in this article to my daughter, Mary Bartlett. The money in this article contained (at the death of my daughter Mary Bartlett) shall pass to and become the property of the children, and the representatives of the children, of said Mary forever — (I mean by the representatives children, the children of children.) [Mary was 37 years old, married young, in fact she had been married 22 years and was the mother of eight children at the time her father wrote his will].
Eighteenthly, I hereby appoint my son David George trustee of the money devised to my daughter Margaret Awtrey, wife of Eldridge Awtrey, in the sixth article of this will and of all other moneys hereafter devised to her in this will.
Nineteenthly, After the death of my beloved wife, I desire and direct that the property given to her in the third and fourth articles of this will be sold by my executors hereinafter named and appointed, and that the net proceeds be equally divided among the above named legatees: that the shares of Margaret Awtrey, wife of Eldridge Awtrey, and of Mary Bartlett, wife of Robert E. Bartlett, go to them with the same restrictions that the sums heretofore devised to them in the Sixth and Eleventh articles of this will, and that the same individuals by [be] trustees of said moneys, that have heretofore been appointed to the sums of money heretofore bequeathed to the said Margaret and Mary.
However, taking a close-up look at David George’s will, a couple of things puzzle me. He had five daughters, and they were all married at the time his will was made, but he treated the daughters differently.
My Margaret was his eldest child and she was to have $400 deducted from her total amount of the estate “for lands given to her” and $10 deducted for a cow (her father evidently kept track of everything, and her inheritance at her death was to go to her children, plus her brother, David George Jr., was the trustee of this money. His daughter Mary (wife of Robert E. Bartlett) was left her inheritance without deductions, but her brother, Carey George, was to be the trustee of the money and upon her death, it was to go to her children.
His other daughters Martha (wife of John J. Stanley), Louisa (wife of Pleasant P. Johnson) and Sarah (wife of Francis M. Clayton) were left their inheritances without any deductions or restrictions. His seven sons were left their shares without any deductions or restrictions.
Now, it is not unusual to find inheritances being settled up this way, particularly when some of the heirs have received loans, land, or property that the others did not. And, I understand 19th-century culture whereby the men handled the money, but after a close-up look at this estate, my question is “Why were Margaret and Mary treated differently from their sisters?
The genealogyist part of me is delighted to have an ancestor who left a detailed will, naming all of his children, plus full names of all of the daughters’ husbands. However, the writer part of me has a gut feeling there is much more to this story, which means back to the records in the red clay country of Georgia to see if I can unearth the real reason why he treated Margaret and Mary this way.