My great-great-grandfather Christian Pearson died on October 16, 1908. A brief review of the last years of his life will help explain how his will was sorted out.
We know from a letter written in January 1905 that Christian was very anxious for his son Will (my great-grandfather, also known as P.W.) to come home and take care of the homestead farm. Christian’s wife Johanna sent her own letter a few weeks later, also imploring Will and Clara to come home. Will and Clara and their first two children Elmer and Herman (my grandfather) were then living in Laramie, Wyoming where Will was an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad.
To the best of my knowledge, here’s how things stood in 1905:
- Christian and Johanna still owned their original 80-acre homestead in the West 1/2 of the Southeast 1/4 of Section 26 in the Chapman Precinct
- UPDATED 10/7/2014: Christian and Johanna had also acquired
twothree adjacent farms: 160 acres in the Southwest 1/4 of the same section, and 80 acres in the East 1/2 of the Northeast /14, also in the same section, and 80 acres in the south 1/2 of adjacent Section 27 for a total of 320400 acres in Sections 26 and 27. These parcels combined with the homestead farm are what I’ll call the “Chapman Farm” from here on.
- In 1901, they had also acquired 160 acres in Section 32 in the Stocking Precinct, which I’ll call the “Stocking Farm”
We know that Will agreed to come back to the Chapman Farm in 1905. I have three legal documents that describe the terms under which Will came back to the farm. All of these documents were dated April 3, 1905.
- Will signed a one-year lease on the Chapman Farm for $880.
- Will purchased from Christian all of the livestock, implements and tools that Christian held on the homestead portion of the Chapman Farm. Will signed a promissory note in the amount of $2,738.75 and it was due on or before April 3, 1910. The inventory of livestock and implements is detailed and specific.
- Christian and Johanna also agreed to to buy the Chapman Farm for $220 per year starting in 1906. These payments were to be made “during the lifetime of said Christian Pearson only”.
What does all of this mean? I think it means that Will struck a pretty hard deal with his father.
Will and Clara had it pretty good in Laramie. Will had a secure job with a good future. But I suppose they longed to get back to Nebraska, Clara especially. Her parents and siblings were all still living in the Swedeburg vicinity. She probably wanted her children to grow up with the large and growing clan of Brodd cousins. Will, on the other hand, had basically run away from home as a young teenager, I’m guessing it was mainly because he didn’t get along with his father. Now his parents were begging him to come home and save the homestead farm. And maybe he felt some nostalgia for the homestead farm where his father had broke the prairie sod in 1873.
The three documents from 1905 are all very professionally prepared and type-written. He also had them all recorded with the County. It seems Will had learned a thing or two about business during his years in Wyoming. It appears that Will set the terms for his return, hired an attorney to put it in writing, and then presented it to his father as a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Will got a clean one-year lease for the Chapman Farm and was able to buy his father’s livestock and equipment over a five-year period. He was also able to get some sort of lease/purchase deal on the Chapman Farm for which he was to pay $220 per year to his father until he (Christian) died.
I noticed that in Christian’s letter to Will in January 1905, he was wanting to lease the Chapman Farm to Carl Oscar for $1100 or $1200, and Will ended up getting it for $880 – another indication that Will struck a hard bargain with his father.
These aren’t the kind of documents that you would prepare if you had a close relationship with your father. I get the sense that Will needed it in writing because perhaps Christian had a history of “re-interpreting” arrangements that had been previously agreed to (I’m just speculating here…)
Anyhow, it seems that Will’s agreement with his father held for the remainder of Christian’s life. Will and Clara lived and worked the Chapman Farm, and daughter Edna was born there in 1907. After Christian died, however, Will and Clara bought their own farm north of Ceresco in Richalnd Precinct Section 20.
It was said that the four boys all received farms or cash equivalents after their father died. (Apparently, Christian was of a mind-set that his daughters would be cared for by their husbands; Lena and Lydie received no land at all.) When it was all said and done, here’s how things ended up:
- Will and Clara had the 160-acre farm in Richland Precinct Section 20 that they had purchased in 1908 (still in the family)
- Fritz ended up with the Chapman Farm
- Oscar ended up with the Stocking Farm (still in the family, now owned by the Norman Pearson Trust)
- I’m not sure about Ernest. He lived for a time across from the Chapman Precinct farm; I wonder if he owned a portion of it since it was double the size of the other two farms. Ernest stayed there only 2 or 3 years before acquiring a farm in the Waverly-Prairie Home area. Perhaps he sold his share to Fritz.
So it will be interesting to how the probate records sorted this all out. It seems like Will had bought the Chapman Farm from his father with a pretty sweet deal – why is it that he ended up buying a different farm and Fritz got the Chapman Farm?
In our next post, we will take a look at Christian’s will. This will be different from the two other probate files I’ve looked at. Both Gust Rudeen and John Martinson died without a will. That meant that the court had to appoint an administrator to supervise the estate until final probate. The administrator had to keep track of all income and expenses and show a final accounting the court. This doesn’t happen when there’s a will. The executor of the will just has to file papers with the court showing that he has carried out its terms. There are no ledgers of income and expenses. In a way, it makes for a less interesting file.
But there are still some interesting tidbits that show up in Christian’s file.