Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Case of the $12 Box Coat

Like everyone else, I've come across some "mysteries" in my family research. Particularly, with the Joslin family. In Nothing Special - A bit of a Mystery I mentioned the "separation" of James and Abigail Goodrich Joslin (my 4th great grandparents) and Why did he do this? discussed the land transactions made by James Joslin to his sons Lysander in 1841, and to Edwin and Joseph in 1844. The boys were only 16, 14, and 12 years old, respectively, at the time of the transactions.

The document that follows seems to be fairly straightforward. Lysander P. Joslin (my 3rd great grandfather) purchased a box coat from John Black on or before January 14, 1843 and apparently agreed to pay for the coat with manual labor. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a box coat was a heavy overcoat formerly worn for driving or a loose coat usually fitted at the shoulders.

In January 1843, Lysander would have been a little more than 17 1/2 years old (he was born May 1, 1825). Having worked and bartered for $9.75 of the $12.00 debt, Lysander evidently did not work for or pay the balance of $2.25 when due.

The following may or may not have any bearing on why the balance wasn't paid, but I think it might. On August 23, 1843 Lysander married Lydia Robison. By that time he had turned 18; Lydia would turn 18 in October that year. Their first (known) child, Anna Eliza was born in November 1844.

At any rate, John Black took Lysander to court in December 1844. Local court, but court nevertheless. The best part of all this is that Naby Joslin testified that Lysander was not of age when he went into debt with John Black. The document also mentions James Goodrich as a witness. Sufficient proof has not yet been found but I believe that James is Naby's brother. Naby being none other than Abigail Goodrich, Lysander's mother. Who else could provide verbal testimony that he was not of age at the time of the transaction? This is important. Why? Because we don't have "that" document that says that Abigail is Lysander's mother. There is evidence that leads to that conclusion, but no silver bullet. (Big Sigh)

But back to poor John Black. He had $2.25 coming to him. But he lost the case. And had to pay $2.04 3/4 in court costs, which included 50¢ for witness fees. Yep, that's right, James Goodrich and Naby Joslin got paid for their testimony. That wasn't unusual as other cases in the ledger indicated that witnesses were routinely paid. They had expenses, or maybe they were missing out on work. I'm certainly glad that Mr. Black decided to sue Lysander. It provided an interesting though somewhat puzzling document. I'm not too happy with Lysander because he skipped out on his debt. But we don't know all the facts of the case. I'm sure he had a good reason ;-)

The question that comes to my mind is how could minor children legally sign contracts for purchasing land (mentioned above) yet not be held responsible for incurring a debt while a minor?

Partial transcription/abstraction of the above document (click on the images for a larger version).

Troy Docket Ledger located at the Whitley County Historical Museum, Columbia City, Indiana on November 2, 2001 [No page numbers]

[first page]
John Black vs Lysander P Joslin}
In an action of debt
Bill filed which is as follows
Lysander P Joslin dr to John Black
December the 1 AD 1844 to one box coat a $12.00.

[The next section lists the dates he worked and amounts earned. He also provided a calf valued at $1.50 so there was a total of $9.75 paid, with balance owed of $2.25]

On which the following proceedings were had to wit
Summons issued dated February the 17th AD 1844 awarded to
George H Stocking constable of Troy township and returnable
on the 23rd day of February at 10 o'clock AM of said day
This day namely 23rd of February 1844 constable returned said
summons served on the 17th day of February 1844
and the parties present towit called Plaintiff Pleads that
he was a minor when the debt was contracted and offers
testimony to the fact Naby Joslin sworn and states that
the said defendant was not of lawful age when the debt
was contracted

It is therefore considered and adjudged that the Plaintiff pay all
costs taxed at $2.04 3/4) two dollars four cents and three fourths
James Grant JP

Labor by summons 12 1/4
two subpenas 50
sworn witness 6 1/4
Judgment 24
[subtotal] 93 3/4
Court fees 61
Witness fees James Goodrich Naby Joslin 50
paid the witnesses
[Total] $2.04 3/4

I do hereby acknowledge myself bail on the
above Judgement interest and all costs and acruing costs at the
expiration of thirty days from the rendition of the same (con'd over)

[second page]

as witness my hand and seal this 23rd day of February 1844
George H Stocking {Seal}

Received of John Black two
Dollars and four and three fourths
cents in full of the foregoing Judgement
James Grant
Justice of the Peace


Terry Thornton said...

You share some good History; you make some astute Observations; you include the Genealogy; and you tell a super good Story. Well done, HOGS Blogger!
Terry Thornton

wendy said...

You provided some wonderful documentation to go along with the summary! Thanks for sharing!