Daniel Dill’s younger brother Peter (my 4x-great-grandfather) and another brother John apparently traveled to Mobile, Alabama in February 1858 to see what was holding up the settlement of Daniel’s estate. They quickly concluded that Daniel’s friend Edwin Gould was managing the estate for his own benefit and not for the benefit of the heirs.
As we saw in Part 9, Peter filed a petition with the court alleging that Gould has failed to perform some of his most basic duties as an administrator, in particular, he had failed to provide annual accounting statements. The court scheduled a hearing for March 25. In the meantime, Gould pulled together a couple of petitions and got the estate’s accounts in order1. He filed a response on March 1 that contained a wealth of genealogical data, leading us to some new clues about Daniel’s wife and possibly Daniel’s own heritage.
Gould also filed two accounting statements with the court, one for the period 7/1/1855 through 3/1/1857 [ref 1098], and a second one for the period 3/1/1857 through 3/1/1858 [ref 1140].
Gould has very detailed itemized entries and receipts for expenses, but his records are kind of sloppy when it comes to income. In both statements, the income for hiring out the slaves Sam and John is listed as a single line item for the entire accounting period, with no detail as to who they were hired out to and for what periods and amounts. The first accounting statement also includes a receipt for $1509.10 [ref 1077] for Gould’s own services and expenses incurred in caring for Daniel before he died.
Peter’s attorney has a heyday with all of this and on March 23, just two days before the hearing, filed detailed objections to Gould’s accounting [ref 1142]. Peter objects specifically to Gould’s claimed expense for $1509 because it appears to be for medical services, and Gould was not a doctor and in any event, there is no proof that such services were even provided to Daniel. Peter also questions whether Gould was collecting the full amount due on the hiring of the slaves.
Gould’s attorney is able to file a rebuttal that same day [ref 1145], and he finally included detail on who hired the slaves and for how much [ref 1147-1148]. There is a squabble about a deduction made for John’s work on Sundays. Gould claimed:
The above allowance [a deduction of 22 months Sunday wages] was always made to the Boy John to pay his washing up and during Mr. Dill’s life time and I have found it necessary and for the benefit of the estate to continue it as an encouragement to him without which I should not have been able to get much work or wages out of him.
And then with respect to the woman Nancy, who was perceived to be an unnecessary expense to the estate:
For the negro woman Nancy, I have never received any wages. She is very old and said to be more than one hundred years old, she is the mother of John and I have not asked the leave of the court to sell her, because it would be futile and I considered that it would be proper and humane to sell her and her son together. She is a very small expense as will be seen by the accounts.
The probate file contains some notes from the hearing that was held on March 25 [ref 1155-1160]. They are very difficult to read, and I’m not sure if they are the notes of a court reporter or the notes made by the judge himself. They include a lot of detail about Daniel’s illness and about his business affairs.
Several witness were called, including:
- Mr. Shotwell, a grocer, told of hiring the boy John from Gould for $40 per month [ref 1155]. Gould’s accounting, however, shows that he usually collected only $30 per month for John. A hastily scribbled receipt for $40 per month appears in the record [ref 1150] but it looks kind of dubious.
- Frank Hartel, testified that he had leased Daniel’s store and had known Daniel since 1853 [ref 1156]. Hartel was friendly to Gould’s case and testified that Daniel “thought more of Gould than all his relatives”.
- Gould himself testified, as did two of his sons [ref 1156-1157], about how they fully handled Daniel’s affairs in the years before his death and tended to his health and well-being throughout that time.
- Mr. Spuller, another confectionary business owner in Mobile, had often hired Sam and said he always dealt with Daniel directly and had never gone through Gould [ref 1158].
- Frederick Bromberg, Daniel’s next door neighbor, said he hand known Dill for twenty years and had always observed that Daniel handled his own affairs and never saw anyone nursing him during illness [ref 1158].
- Mr. Weborn, a local cabinet maker, often hired out Daniel’s slaves but his dealings were with Gould [ref 1160].
So the judge definitely heard conflicting testimony. Peter’s attorney must have really hammered on the claim for $1509. On March 26, the day after the hearing, Gould’s attorney submitted a very detailed explanation of how Gould’s claims could be fully proven through the testimony of George Rode, one of Gould’s former clerks at the drugstore and who had helped Gould tend to Daniel [ref 1151-1152]. The petition goes on and on in great detail and describes how the esteemed Mr. Rode has returned to his home in Frankfurt, Germany and that Rode’s deposition is essential to proving Gould’s side of the story.
I think at this point, Gould knows he’s not going to be the administrator; he’s now trying to save his own neck. If the judge disallows Gould’s expenses, Gould will have to pay back the estate. As we saw in Part 7, Gould seemed to have perpetual money troubles. He had filed for bankruptcy in 1842, and he had a history of being delinquent in his tax payments. He had already paid himself the $1509 and had likely already spent it – there was probably no way he could pay back the estate.
On March 27, the judge issued his orders. Gould was out as administrator, and Daniel’s old clerk Lewis Ayers was in [ref 1154]. I suspect Lewis had been in the background all along and perhaps been the one to tip off Daniel’s relatives. The order also names Henry Levant and Frederick Bromberg (Daniel’s neighbor) as additional administrators should Ayers not be able to fulfill his duties. The judge also ordered a new appraisal of the estate [ref 1223].
Another hearing was scheduled for November – this hearing would determine whether or not Gould owed money to the estate and if so, for how much.
Peter and John probably left for home after the March hearing, likely congratulating themselves on a job well done. What they didn’t realize was the heartbreak they had set in motion. Lewis Ayers immediately got to work, and one of his first tasks was to sell the slaves.
1All references to the probate file are image numbers from Ancestry’s online version. See Original Will Records, Daniel Dill, Pigeon Hole No 85, Files 9-41, 1814-1946, Index, 1813-1957; Author: Alabama. Orphans’ Court (Mobile County); Probate Place: Mobile, Alabama.