Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Court Doth Adjudge, Order and Decree

One of my favorite resources for Virginia genealogy research is the Library of Virginia. Several months ago I discovered that my great grandmother's half-siblings sued her and her full siblings over a piece of property in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1891. Fifty electronic images comprising the case file were available for download on the Library of Virginia's website.

The plaintiffs in the case were: Burwell David Mitchell and his wife, Martha Virginia (Beard) Mitchell, and E. M. Beard.

The defendants were: Effie Davis Beard, Sallie Birdell "Berta" Beard, and David Fleming Beard, Jr.

Old Bedford Court House in used from 1834-1930; photograph courtesy of
a Pictorial History of Bedford County, Virginia

One of he plaintiffs, Martha V., was the product of David Fleming Beard, Sr.'s first marriage to Ann Dooley, and was the only living child from that marriage at the time the suit was filed.  The defendants, Effie, Berta, and David, were products of David Fleming Beard, Sr.'s second marriage to Barbara Ann Mitchell. I do not know why their older brother, Albert Monroe Beard, was not a party in the case. Perhaps because he had moved to Roanoke, was married with two children, and had a job as a conductor with the railroad. The younger three children were still under the age of twenty-one at the time of their mother's death.

In a wonderful case of tangled tree roots and branches Barbara Ann Mitchell, the defendants' deceased mother, and Burwell David Mitchell, one of the plaintiffs, were brother and sister.

David Fleming Beard, Sr., owned 210 acres of land in Bedford County. After his death in 1878, his widow, Barbara Ann, continued to live on the property with her children. When she died in 1890, the three younger children found homes with relatives but did not immediately sell their father's land.

Case No. 3555, Mitchell, B. D. and Martha V. and E. M. Beard, Plaintiffs, vs. Beard, Effie et als, Defendants, began on 12 March 1891 when the plaintiffs filed their initial bill:

The complainants initial bill; image courtesy of the Library of Virginia

To the Honorable John D. Horsley, Judge of the Circuit Court of Bedford County:

B. D. Mitchell and Martha V., his wife, who was Martha V. Beard, and E. M. Beard, complainants, respectfully represent that David F. Beard departed this life several years ago, intestate, leaving surviving him his widow. Beard had the following children to wit: Martha V. Mitchell, E. M. Beard, Effie Beard, Berta Beard, and David Beard. The last three of whom are infants. At the time of his death the said David F. Beard was [illegible] and possessed of a tract of land containing 210 acres, mostly mountainous and of little value. The widow and infant children occupied this place until last September when she the widow died. 

These complainants believe such that the said tract of land cannot be conveniently divided in kind as the larger portion of it is mountainous and of little value. No adult presently on the homestead. The infants here found homes with their relations, and the land will hereto be either sold or rented. These complainants allege that it will be to the interest of all concerned were the land sold and the proceeds divided amongst the parties entitled to it.

To this end, therefore, that justice may be done in the premises, and as these complainants are without remedy save in a Court of Chancery, they may that Effie Beard, Berta Beard, and David Beard may be made parties defendants to this suit and be represented by their guardian ad litem to answer the charges and allegations of this bill, appoint a guardian ad litem, order a sale of the said tract of land, grant until complainants such other [illegible] and several reliefs as the nature of their case requires, and equity and good consideration may [illegible] and in duty bound they will ever may be.
B. D. Mitchell
Martha Mitchell
E. M. Beard

H C Lowry, Attorney

A pox on H C Lowry for his absolutely terrible handwriting! I had to call in cousin research collaborators for assistance with the transcription.

E. P. Goggin was appointed as the Beard children's guardian ad litem, depositions were taken by Attorney Lowry, and a decree was issued by the court. The judge found for the plaintiffs and ordered the land to be sold. He appointed H. C. Lowry as Commissioner in charge of the sale. The tract of land was duly sold to A. M. Beard for $441.00, or $2.10 per acre, who then defaulted on his first bond payment. Attorney Lowry was called back into service as Commissioner to oversee the resale and distribute the proceeds of the resale to the five children of David F. Beard, Sr. The case finally wound down with a final decree on 23 October 1901.

By the time the final decree was issued for Case No. 3555, Effie Davis (Beard) was no longer an "infant under the age of twenty-one years." She had been married for six years and had three children.

Effie Davis (Beard) Jennings; photograph courtesy of Janie (Moore) Darby

I have wondered if A. M. Beard, the first purchaser of the land, was the older brother of Effie, Berta, and David. His name was Albert Monroe Beard. But I'll likely never know.

At first I thought the plaintiff, E. M. Beard, was Edward M. Beard, Martha Virginia (Beard) Mitchell's brother. But that cannot be correct as Edward M. Beard died on 16 June 1863 in a Confederate States Army hospital in Richmond, Virginia, of typhoid. At this time, I am not sure who he is, though according to the case file, he is a son. One I must be missing.

If you are a member of Ancestry.com and would like to read a complete transcription of the case click here.

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