STATE OF INDIANA, CASS COUNTY, SS:
BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the 10th day of July, 1906, the following proceedings were had in the Cass Circuit of Indiana, in the matter of the Estate of Anna Simmons, deceased, as entered of record in Probate Order Book No. 31, page 589, which proceedings are in the words and figures as Follows, to-wit:
IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF ANNA SIMMONS, DECEASED PROBATE OF WILL, July 10, 1906.
Comes now on this 10th day of July 1906, John W. Markley, one of the subscribing witnesses and presents to the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court, for probate the will of Anna Simmons, deceased, dated May 14th of May [sic] 1906, and shows by the affidavit of John W. Markley one of the subscribing witnesses to said will in proof thereof, that at the time of execution of said will the said Anna Simmons was a person over twenty one years of age, of sound disposing Mind and Memory and not under any coercion or restraint, and that said decedent departed this life testate in Cass County in the State of Indiana, on the 16th day of June, 1906. And thereupon said will is admitted to probate by the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court as the last will and testament of Anna Simmons, deceased, And said will and the affidavit of John W. Markley in proof thereof are now spread of record by the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court, in the Will records of Cass County Indiana, as the last will and testament of Anna Simmons, deceased, which will and affidavit in proof thereof are in these words
In the name of the benevolent Father of all
I Anna Simmons wife of Montraville Simmons being of sound and disposing mind and memory do hereby make and publish this as my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking and making void any and all wills by me at any time heretofore made.
First: I direct that all my just debts be paid out of the first moneys coming to the hands of my executor hereinafter named.
Second. I will devise and bequeath to my children, Moncy A. Bassett, Doctor T. Simmons, Susan Bassett, Montraville Simmons Jr. and Edward Simmons, a certain mortgage and debt secured thereby, which mortgage is executed by Montraville Simmons March 23rd 1903, to me to secure money advanced to said Montraville Simmons by me of funds received from my father, as a portion of my interest in his estate. Said mortgage is recorded in the Recorders office in Cass County Indiana in mortgage record No. 49 page 314, but the devisees aforesaid are not to compel a collection of said debt as long as the interest on said debt is paid by the said Montraville Simmons.
In the event that said Montraville Simmons becomes incapacitated for work and has no income so he is able to pay any interest on said mortgage & it becomes necessary to foreclose said mortgage to preserve the property and debt, it is my desire that the children above named look after the comfort of their father and to such end that they use such p[art of the prcoeeds said mortgage as is necessary to provide for his subsistence and comfort.
I hereby appoint Doctor T. Simmons my son to act as Executor of this my last will.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 14 day of May 1906. Anna (X) Simmons
Witness Benjamin D. Bradfield
Subscribed by the testator in our presence as his last will and testament and at her request, subscribed by us in her presence and in the presence and in the presence of such other as witnesses to said last will. John W. Markley, Benjamin D. Bradfield
Beyond the gobsmackedness of finding that Anna Henderson Simmons had a will at all, there is this:
- The will is dated just a month before Anna died on 16 June 1906. Her mind was sound, but she knew her body was failing.
- All she left to her children was the mortgage she held on her husband Montraville Simmons’ property. She had secured the mortgage to ensure that Montraville repaid a loan she made him.
- Incredibly, she cites as the source of the money lent “funds received from my father, as a portion of my interest in his estate.” Funds received from her father’s estate???? Anna’s father, James Henderson — my great-great-great-great-grandfather — died about 1890 in Wayne County, North Carolina. I have found no probate records for him there or anywhere.
- Montraville executed the mortgage on 23 March 1903. According to a lawsuit Anna filed in December 1905 — which had the effect of stalling claims by Montraville’s many and exasperated creditors — Montraville was in debt to her for $3500. While some small portion of that may have been inherited from her father, it is hard to believe that James Henderson’s estate totaled $3500, much less that his estate remitted that amount to the one child (of his dozen or so then living children) that he had not seen in 30 years.
- Even if their father defaulted on the mortgage — and despite his abuse of his family, about which more later — Anna wanted her children to care for him. She could not have known, of course, that her compassion would be wasted, as he would remarry within the year and set off a new wave of scandal.
- To wit, from the 9 April 1907 Logansport Pharos-Tribune: “Married [to Emily Langford] March 11 and separated March 16, and in the meantime to have another darky come along and love his wife right in his presence is the ‘terrible’ experience which Montraville Simmons was ‘his’ during this short but eventful honeymoon.” Montraville (described as a “darky of large proportions”) claimed that Emily allowed William Wilson to “hug, kiss, caress and fondle” her in his presence and, when he protested tried to kill him with a flatiron. Montraville filed for divorce, but on 9 July 1907, the Pharos-Tribune reported that the Monticello, Indiana, paper had reported that Montraville “is gathering up the ragged remains of his matrimonial venture in our local colored colony” and had dropped the divorce action. This dysfunction roiled on into 1908, when the Logansport Daily Reporter alerted Cass County that Montraville had beaten Emily badly for breaking a mug and spilling his beer.
- Witness Benjamin D. Bradfield was an Irish-born doctor who practiced for decades in Cass County. John W. Markley owned a title company.
- Dock Simmons did not prove to be a worthy steward of his mother’s estate. (To be fair, the “more notoriety” label was probably more applicable to his father than to him.) From the 9 February 1909 edition of the Logansport Times:
- Anna’s legacy disappeared under a flurry of lawsuits. Later newspaper reports show that by 1909 Montraville and the children were under siege by various creditors holding judgments totaling hundreds of dollars. Montraville Jr. died in 1910 at the tender age of 28; his father followed two years later.