Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Squabbling Siblings

Mary (Hearelson) Wells died on 12 December 1882 in Troy, Illinois. She was the widow of James M. Wells and mother of nine children, seven of which were still living at the time of her death. She died intestate and the court appointed Frank A. Sabin as the administrator of her estate. Her estate was not completely closed until 26 July 1884.

Mr. Sabin filed the paperwork to probate her estate on 11 January 1882. Included in one of the initial filings was an affidavit from Mary's son, Daniel Boone Wells, which provided the death date and location; an estimate of the value of her estate, which was $500; a list of heirs; and a request to immediately probate the estate. The heirs were:
  • Henry Wells, son
  • Alexander Wells, son
  • Thomas Wells, son
  • George Wells, son
  • Daniel Wells, son
  • Caroline Murphy, daughter
  • Clementine Riggin, daughter
  • Addie Wells, granddaughter
  • Frank Wells, grandson
Addie and Frank Wells were the children of Mary's son Madison Frank Wells and Sarah Smith. Madison died about a dozen years before his mother. Son, Perry Wells, was also deceased but left no children.

Mr. Sabin filed a bond of administration then hired three appraisers to assess the value of Mary's personal property. The appraisal was filed in February. Her personal property was valued at $521 against liabilities of $790. Mr. Sabin informed the court that the estate's personal property and chattel would not cover the liabilities and the real estate must be sold. He told the court that Clementine Riggin and her brother Daniel Wells lived in the deceased mother's home.

It should be noted that Clementine Riggin's husband died sometime in 1881 and she had six children 10 years old or younger. Daniel Wells was also married and had one infant son at the time.

Exceptions to allowance of award, courtesy of

The first hint of trouble came after the appraisal was filed with the court. On 14 March 1883 attorneys for Daniel Wells filed an exception to the allowance of award. Three reasons were listed in the exception:
  1. No child lived with his mother at the time of her death; therefore no allowance should be paid to any of his siblings.
  2. The amount of the allowance was excessive in view of the estimated value of the estate
  3. Other good reasons
Because Clementine lived with their mother at the time of her death in order to care for her, she was entitled to an extra allowance over and above their portion of the estate. Daniel was objecting to the amount his sister received.

Thomas Wells and his wife, Mary; Henry Louis Wells and his wife, Alice; and George Washington Wells and his wife, Ella, agreed with the administrator of their mother's estate should sell the one-acre lot and house in Troy. Alexander Wells and his wife, Eliza; and Sara Caroline Murphy and her husband, John Henderson Murphy, lived out of state and apparently never responded to the court. However, Daniel Wells; the widow of Madison Frank Wells, Sarah (Smith) Wells; and her children, Addie and Frank, had issues with the proposed sale and joined Daniel in his protest.

First page of defendants' response to petition to sell the estate's property;
courtesy of

The joint and several answer of Daniel Wells, Sarah Wells, Addie Wells, and Frank Wells, defendants in the above cause, to the petition filed therein; these defendants for answer therein to say they admit the petitioner was appointed administrator of said estate, that an inventory and appraisement bill have been returned, but deny any sale bill has been filed.

They also deny that a just and true account of the personal estate and debt of said deceased has been rendered to said court by said petitioner, and these defendants allege that more than the sum of five hundred dollars can be realized out of the personal assets of the estate. They also deny that the just debts and demands against the estate amount to seven hundred and ninety dollars as alleged by said petition; that said sum is made up, in part, of the sum of six hundred and fifty dollars which was allowed to a co-defendant, Clementine Riggin, a daughter of the deceased Mary Wells, as an award.

And these defendants aver that the said Clementine Riggin was married fifteen years before the death of said Mary Wells, and she and her husband lived together in their home separate from the said Mary Wells, and so continued to live up to the time of the said husband's death which occurred about one year prior to that of said Mary Wells. That after the death of her husband the said Clementine Riggin lived and kept home with her children at her own home until about two months prior to the death of the said Mary Wells when she and her family moved to the house of the said Mary Wells, taking all of her household goods with her at the request of her mother and for the purpose of keeping house for her and taking care of her. And these defendants aver that the said Clementine Riggin was not residing with said Mary Wells at the time of her death in any such sense as would entitle her in law to an award as a child of the said Mary Wells.

These defendants therefore deny that there is any deficiency of personal estate to pay the debts against said estate, but in the contrary that a just and proper settlement of said estate then would be personal estate to distribute among the heirs.

That said the real estate should not be sold and that the petitioner is not entitled to any of the relief prayed for in said petition and that said petition should be dismissed.


The court responded by denying the petition filed by attorneys for Daniel Wells and ordered Mr. Sabin, the estate administrator, to publicly advertise a public auction of the real estate held by the estate of Mary Wells.

About two years after the death of Mary (Hearelson) Wells, Mr. Sabin filed a final accounting with the court.

Final accounting of the estate of Mary Wells; courtesy of

No money was left for the heirs and only Clementine Riggin, my great great grandmother, received any money from her mother's estate because she supposedly lived with and cared for her mother during the final few months of her life. How the siblings got along after this is unknown.

In a final twist, Theodore Augustus Riggin, brother-in-law of Clementine Riggin, bought her mother's house and one-acre lot in Troy.

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