Monday, June 7, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - the Will of Isaac Read of Sudbury

Genea-blogger John Newmark (who writes the excellent TransylvanianDutch blog) started his own Monday blog theme many months ago called Amanuensis Monday. What does "amanuensis" mean? John offers this definition:

"A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another."

My subject today is the probate records of Isaac Read (1704-1780) of Sudbury, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He married Experience Willis (1709-1787) in 1730, and they had eleven children.

The will of Isaac Read of Sudbury was written 15 May 1780, and proved on 14 June 1780. The will reads (from Middlesex County [MA] Probate Court, packet 18,507, on FHL Microfilm 0,421,500):

"In the Name of God, Amen. I, Isaac Read of Sudbury in the County of Middlesex in the State of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, yeoman, being of sound disposing mind, though infirm in body, sensible of my own frailty and mortality, do make and ordain this my last will and testament. Firstly committing my soul into the hands of God, hoping for salvation through Jesus Christ the only Saviour of Men, and my body to be decently buried, at the discretion of my executor, hereafter named, in hopes of a Reformation to a blessed immortality --- and as to the temporal estate which God has given me, I dispose of that in manner following ---

"Item. I give unto my beloved Wife Experience the use, improvement and the disposal of all my moveable estate within Doors, and if not disposed of by her, in her life time, my will is that it be equally divided among my five daughters, my clock excepted, which I mean shall remain in my house and be considered as the property of my son Jacob, after my wife's decease. I also give my sd wife, the improvement of the third part of my dwelling house and barn and one third part of all my lands, which will remain after the lands shall be taken off which I give to my daughter Lois Hill and to my grandson Nathan Read, hereafter mentioned, and also one third part of my stock of cattle, and one third part of my husbandry utensils, these to be for her life and improvement, during her natural life.

"Item. I give and bequeath to my son Jacob Reed, the remainder of all my estate, both real and personal, including my Bonds and Notes of hand (excepting the lands, herein after named, which I give to my daughter Hill, and to my grandson Nathan Read); to him and to his heirs and assigns, that is the remainder of my dwelling house and barn and lands with all their appurtenances, he paying all the debts, dower and legacies, ordered in this my will, and twelve thousand pounds lawful money, to be equally divided between my four daughters Experience, Sarah, Mary and Ruth.

"Item. I give to my Daughter Lois Hill my house and barn, with all my lands, lying in Framingham, where now they dwell, with all the appurtenances thereof; also about four acres of meadow adjoining said farm, though lying in Sudbury. The east side of Sd meadow lies on the River, the North and west sides thereof lie against other of my land. I also give her another piece of meadow near Capt. Moses Stone's, containing by estimation about two acres, the south side of which lies on the River, the north side bounded by a woodland side hill belonging to me, and ye westerly side by lands which I improved as a pasture; but out of what I thus give to my daughter Hill, my will is that there be paid one thousand pounds, to be equally divided among my other four daughters, which with what my son Jacob is to pay them, and what they have already received, is each of their full portions of my estate.

"Item. I give unto my grandson Nathan Reed, in addition to what I had before given to his father Isaac Reed deceased, a piece of land known by the name of the Clay Pitts, which is now inclosed by itself with a fence; also four acres of west meadow, so called, lying in East Sudbury, and on the side which joins to and of Silas Goodenow, running from Lannum Brook, so called, to the shore. Also a piece of woodland lying near Mr. Jonathan Graves, containing about three acres, be the same more or less - also ten acres of woodland, lying in what is called the new Grant in Sudbury bounded upon the highway and running from the lands of Uriah Hayden to the lands of Mr. Osborn - which together with the money he has already had with other favors, is to be considered as his full portion, and as a consideration for my use of his place.

"And my will is that the money which is to be paid by my son Jacob, and also that which is to be paid out of what I have given to my daughter Lois Hill, shall be paid in the same proportion, according as money shall depreciate or appreciate from this present day; and that it be all paid within two years next after my decease.

"And I do hereby constitute and appoint my son Jacob sole executor to this my last will and testament in full power and trust, ratifying and confirming this my last will and testament, revoking and disannulling all others, this fifteenth day of May Anno Domini, one thousand seven hundred and eighty."

"Signed, sealed and declared to be the last will and testament,
Jonathan Robinson .................................. his

Aaron Haynes .................................. Isaac + Read
Joseph Read ............................................ mark"

Jacob Read and Nathan Read apparently disagreed on some aspects of the estate, prompting the following:

"At a Court of Probate held at Concord within and for the county of Middlesex on Wednesday the 14th day of June 1780, by the Honorable Oliver Prescott Esquire, Judge of said Court -- Came into court on one part Jacob Read executor to the last will and testament of Isaac Read late of Sudbury in the said County, yeoman deceased, and on the other part Nathan Read one of the legatees therein named, and agreed to submit all matters of difference between them respecting ye deceased's estate to Jonas Dix of Waltham, Esqr and Ephraim Wood Jr and Joseph Hosmer both of Concord Esquires and that the determination of them by the said judge, all three being first notified and all parties warned of the time and place of meeting. And they are to report to the Judge as soon as conveniently may be.

"By the order of the Judge ............................... James Winthrop Regr"

A month later it was reported:

"Middlesex ye July 15th 1780 -- to the Honorable Oliver Prescott Esqr Judge of Probate -- in observance of the within commission we attended the service and after spending ????? days reasoning with the parties upon the premises we prevailed upon them to agree in such manner as both rejoiced therein -- all which is humbly submitted,
Jonas Dix
Ephraim Wood Jr
Joseph Hosmer"

There is no inventory mentioned or shown, nor a distribution of the estate included, in the probate packet. It is not known whether the legatees received the sizable inheritance from their father.

Trying to interpret the probate process in this will and the two other legal papers is difficult. My best guess is that:

* Son and Executor Jacob Read objected to the provision to pay four of his sisters 3,000 pounds each within two years of his father's death. The estate may not have been worth that much, but it is impossible to know the value of the estate without an inventory of the real and personal property.

* Grandson Nathan Read may have objected that he didn't receive a large sum of money like the four daughters of Isaac Read.

* Daughter Lois Hill did not complain in court, but was on the hook for paying 1,000 pounds to her four sisters. Perhaps Lois (Read) Hill, who resided in nearby Framingham, was unaware of the probate proceedings until after the agreement.

* Unfortunately, there is no distribution in the probate packet that might explain the actual size of the estate, and the names and residence of the legatees.

* The persons named in the will are wife Experience (Willis) Read, son Jacob Read, grandson Nathan Read (son of son Isaac Read, who died in 1759), daughter Lois (Read) Hill (wife of Jonathan Hill of Framingham), and daughters Experience, Sarah, Mary and Ruth (listed without married names).

* Assuming that the list of children above are those living in 1780, it is apparent that children Isaac Read, Samuel Read, Samuel Read, Eunice Read and Asahel Read were deceased before the will was written. The only ones that I have a death date for are Isaac Read (1731-1759) and Asahel Read (1753-1775), who died as a result of the fight at Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775.

* My interest in this is the daughter, Sarah Read (1736-1809), who married in 1755 to Norman Seaver (1734-1787), and resided in Westminster, Massachusetts in 1780. Norman and Sarah (Read) Seaver named a son Asahel Read Seaver, born 22 October 1775.

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