…in Lawrence County, thirty years after death
When I first posted the article on the Lawrence County papers more than two years ago, I knew that I had only covered part of a larger story, and in the process introduced an additional mystery or two.
Later, in the final paragraphs of the posting called “Quo Vadis, Simon Favre, Jr.?” I said that perhaps a trip to Lawrence County was in order. In anticipation of what I might find, I offered a paraphrase from Favre Histree 1719 to 1989, by Beauregard Favre: Graves took all for his two sons.
Now, after making that trip last week and finding a file marked Box 10-11, I must retract the paraphrase and alter my conclusion: Graves took all, spent all, wasted all, with little thought to his two sons.
This is my conclusion. It may be based partly on prior observations as reported in the several articles about Simon Favre, his estate, and the second marriage of his widow. In that acknowledgement I am making a subjective judgment, hopefully not prejudiced against the facts now to be studied. Readers not familiar with the life and death of Simon Favre may do well to familiarize themselves with prior postings under the subject “Our Pioneers,” especially the one titled “Lawrence County Archives.”
The New File
Essentially, it is the record of the legal attempts by James Graves to recover that portion of Simon Favre’s estate in the possession of his children.
Named as respondents are the male heirs of Simon, and the husbands of his daughters. They are James Murphy, the husband of Margaret Favre, and John Armstrong, the husband of Eucarise Favre. It is the husbands who are named because the law at the time effectively gave the husbands ownership of the property of the wives.
In the main, Box 10-11 contains a partial history of the further distribution of the Favre estate, the actions of the widow Favre’s new husband, Isaac Graves, and the legal pursuits of Graves’s son John to acquire something from his father’s estate.
I regret that I did not find the final judgment of the Lawrence court, but for our purposes, the information about the Favre family, Isaac and Celeste Graves, and the two Graves brothers, is more valuable than the outcome of the trial.
Reading this new information, particularly as found in the depositions, one might well come to an understanding that the law was one thing, while the practice was another. I am not speaking of law as it relates to Pray, Monet, Swift and Stone, but as it was perceived and practiced by the ordinary laymen, family heads, parents, and others involved in the operation of a family and the ultimate division equitably of an estate, created with a lifetime of hard work, sacrifice and planning.
It is indeed ironic that John Graves would seek a solution in a court of equity, when in fact his father did almost all possible to destroy any semblance of equity. When I think of this man and Simon Favre, I am reminded of the scene in Hamlet in which the protagonist compares for his mother the images of his father and his uncle: “Look here upon this picture, and on this.”
It is in the tone of the witnesses’ answers to the interrogatories that one can sense that they know the law, not questioning its rightness or wrongness, but still express their dislike for the way it was practiced by Isaac Graves. They sense a difference between the letter of the law and its spirit.
In the same vein, people like Monet and others are careful not to besmirch the characters of one another, but they do not have the same reservations about their deeds. Perhaps related in a moral sense was the inference about the slave girl Maria. This is found in the testimony of Charles Nicaise, reported more fully below. It is difficult to interpret this line of questioning and not thinking of it as an insinuation against the morals of Isaac Graves. It appears to be an acknowledgement of the normalcy of the use of a young slave girl while at the same time showing displeasure of the actions of men including Isaac.
In those prior investigations, I admit that I felt strongly that if there were more information to be found in Lawrence County, it would reflect of the legacy of Simon Favre, Jr., the illegitimate son of Simon and Rebecca Austin. Hopefully, there would be some closure to the young man’s right to his inheritance both from his father and his mother, as spelled out in his father’s will.
The new file does no such thing. In fact, what it does show is that there were continued reflections of the law’s delay, and the insolence of his mother’s husband, and perhaps hers too, as well as blight upon the judgment of Rutilius Pray, perhaps the most noteworthy jurist of Hancock County.
Similarly, I expected to find some clarification of the plantation described in the estate properties in the earlier Lawrence County papers. There is still mystery here, concerning the fact that it seems to have been left out of the property list in Simon’s will, and that there was no mention of slaves. Normally this is placed at the beginning of the list of assets because of their value. Previously, I had thought that Simon must have bought the plantation in question in the span between the time when he made his will and the time of his death. Nothing in the testimony sheds light on this, and the nature and location of this farm and its large number of slaves remain a question.
A Man named Isaac Graves
Proceeding through these papers does not give absolution to the man Isaac Graves. What we had assembled before about him certainly did not lionize him, either before or after his marriage to Widow Favre. The following is from “Quo Vadis, Simon Favre, Jr.?”
In 1812, Graves was on the Tax Rolls for Marion County, paying minimum for one white person, $1.00, signifying that he owned nothing of value. In 1819, Tax Rolls show Graves with 2,760 acres and 25 slaves.
Meanwhile, there was other information about Isaac Graves being reported. On the Tax Rolls of Lawrence County for 1814, Graves still had no property; he paid the
minimum tax of 66 cents. In 1815, he was one of many who petitioned Congress because he was unable to make payments on land because of Creek War and War of 1812.
Census records are also revealing. In 1820 Graves appears as having no slaves, at variance with the tax roll of 1819, but it is evident that about that time he had acquired substantial properties. By 1830, he had owned 41 slaves, with a like number in 1840. In that year the census shows he was between 70 and 80 years old. Presumably he died either in 1840 or soon afterward.
Reading deeply into the new documents, I confess that as much as I might deplore the actions of Graves as he involved himself in the estate of Simon Favre, he may not in the main have been acting illegally. This leads also to the actions of his son John, whose manners may have been distasteful and who in some proceedings made misstatements of facts, but as the law was in those days, he was – I believe – acting legally.
Mississippi Law, 1840s
At this point, a review of Mississippi law is appropriate.
Until the middle of the 19th century, women had no almost no control over property once they were married, being considered possessions of their husbands. Under English, American and Mississippi law, property belonging to a woman before marriage belonged to the husband at marriage. This is the principle of coverture.
Mississippi was first state to pass a Married Women’s Property Rights law. This law, passed in 1839, dealt primarily with slaves as property, brought into the marriage by the wife. It guaranteed her the right to receive income from their work, and protection against husband’s debts. She was also allowed to own their increase. However, husbands were still in charge of buying, selling, and managing such property.
One purpose of the law was to enable a father who owned slaves to be able to pass such to daughter, thereby preventing sons-in-law from dividing plantations.
Somewhere I read that the woman has these rights, but only with the consent of the husband. That does not seem to have been so, but it is clear that the husband had all the right to deal with the slaves, including the right to sell them.
Part of the new law said that even during coverture, slaves given to a woman by gift or inheritance would belong to her. Further, in case of her death, such slaves would go to the children.
There is an interesting history below the surface of this law. An important link in this evolution of women’s right actually goes back to a Chickasaw woman who married, moved to Mississippi, and proclaimed her rights to slaves which she previously owned. She based her argument on the fact that the Chickasaws acknowledged such ownership by a woman, leading to a change in the law. Even while women’s status was being elevated, that of Native Americans was not. The words of JFH Claiborne are quoted: “It is singular that an uncivilized tribe of Indians in the territory of Mississippi, in this respect, have anticipated the action of more enlightened communities in a reform of the common law…in strict conformity to the highest principles of equity.”]
Monticello, Seat of Lawrence County
With the help of a very experienced and hospitable staff person in the archives of the court house, I was able to search the likely records: Book 1 of the Chancery court; Probate Book B (there is no extant copy of Book A); and Land Deed Book 1, all with little success. I had searched under the names Favre, Depew, Graves, Oston, Austin, and even Fontanilla, finding only a couple of meaningless deeds involving the name Graves.
At that point I remembered my original request of several years ago dealt with something called File 11. That turned out to really be one of the series of metal boxes housing the original documents of various suits and court actions. It was in Box 10-11 that I found records relating to suits by John Graves, first son of Isaac, born before the marriage of the latter to the widow Celeste Favre.
Almost immediately, it became evident that suits in Lawrence County had occasioned the transfer of all the papers relating to the Favre estate from Hancock County and New Orleans. These were the papers sent to me a couple of years ago. One mystery solved.
There were many pieces of paper to be examined, all within a time constraint. They seemed to be of two sorts: smaller documents, consisting of only a few pages, sometimes only one, but in total the bulk of the file; four bound documents, each of substantial size. I tried to at least glance at each one of the many pieces, but in the final hour the four larger items were copied.
The four are:
- John Graves’s 1843 petition to the Lawrence County court for a new judgment against heirs of Simon Favre. This was copied only in part, for reasons of time and because I knew that I had the entire amendment copy, #3, below.
- Monet’s answers for various respondents, dated March 1843
- John Graves’s amendment to #1 above, dated August 1843
- Depositions by Toulme, Nicaise, et al, dated July 1845, including those of White, Monet, Pray, Favre, Hutchinson, Brown, Nancy Arnold, Thomas Doby, Jos. Chalon, Asa Russ, Euranica Fayard, Thomas Brown, John Martin, and Marson.
The list of witnesses did not leave out many from the upper strata of the community of Hancock County. A partial cast of characters who are players in this drama may lend to an appreciation of this process:
J. B. Toulme – important official and developer of Shieldsboro, later mayor
Elihu Carver – important early surveyor and sometime sheriff
Noel Jourdan – important official in Hancock; chief justice of Quorum Court
Julius Monet – important official, lawyer and judge
Samuel White – one of elder settlers and property owners; often chosen as commissioner
P.R.R. Pray – US House of Representatives, Hancock Judge, Judge of High Court and Misdemeanors
Thomas Doby – owner of two sections (2 square miles) on Pearl River, Spanish grant
Joseph Chalon – New Orleans lawyer, property owner in Hancock
Asa Russ – wealthy land speculator in Hancock
John Martin – owner of commercial pier at Shieldsboro
Armand Duplantier – owner of Magnolia Mound Plantation, Baton Rouge; brother-in-law of Celeste Favre (Favre and Duplantier married sisters from important Rochon family of Mobile.)
John Henderson – an important lawyer who was elected to the United States Senate in 1837. He lived in Shieldsboro for a couple of years, and then moved across the bay and developed Pass Christian and Henderson Point.
Observations and Analysis
The greater part of this article will consist of notes extracted from the original documents in the four categories listed above. The complete notes follow this section, in which an attempt is made at observations of facts, patterns, and untruths. Moreover, the general tenor of feeling about Isaac and John Graves is explored.
Importance of these legal actions lies in the revelation of a number of facts previously unknown. The notes will show that we now have the approximate dates the marriage of Celeste and Isaac (1817 or 1818), as well as the year of their deaths (1840), and the fact that Isaac died intestate.
We also know now that James Graves was the half brother of John, as he was born to Celeste and Isaac.
Questions raised in earlier articles about the actions of Isaac and Celeste were validated. Their manipulations of court decrees, replacement of Duplantier as executor, attempts to deprive Simon Jr. of his legacy, and other questionable actions are confirmed by Monet and others.
In the end, it becomes clear that a well-ordered estate, planned by an intelligent, educated and caring man, has been reduced almost to nothingness.
The new law of 1839 might have fit these circumstances, but apparently was not used in the arguments. Some validity might have been found in the testimony of Peter Moran regarding Celeste having slaves prior to marriage. One wonders why it might not have been used as a defense on behalf of the respondents. .
Another question arises as to why Celeste, probably educated and from a prominent Mobile family, did not utilize another legal maneuver to safeguard her ownership rights, that being the appointment of a trustee to manage here slaves. In a different family history, this was clearly done in the case of one of the Russ sisters. Her brother, Asa Russ, was named as trustee for her slaves before she married.
Although not spelled out clearly, it is evident in the interrogatories that much attention was being paid to a so-called “family meeting,” which Isaac asserts was a function in which he bought out all the Favre heirs for $2,000 apiece. It is indeed curious that no mention is made to contradict his claim that the children had come to the age of majority in 1825. It appears that only John and Augustine had met that requirement.
Many other questions may be raised about Celeste, such as whether she knew of the background of Isaac Graves. One might even wonder about how much her acquiescence contributed to the problems of her children by Simon.
The integrity of some people was questioned in the documents, specifically those of Pray and Jourdan. The Pray incident is described in full in Monet’s deposition. To cover it briefly, Monet seems to have witnessed an illegal request of Pray by Isaac Graves, but accepts the job for $300. In the same story, Graves indicates that Jourdan will willingly accept the proposal without questioning it.
In other comments, both Pray and Jourdan are highly regarded, especially by Monet. Judging by the Lawrence County papers previously covered in another post, Jourdan exhibited his honesty when he refused the estate’s count of cattle, saying that it should be cut in half, as half belonged to the children. Thus Jourdan was attempting to reduce the amount over which Isaac would take control. He was hardly a man who would accept something at face value.
Perhaps more in-depth thinking about the actions of John Graves is in order, but it would appear on balance that he probably did have a right to some of the slaves at his father’s death. The letter of the law of the times may well have been on his side.
#1: John Graves petition for a new judgment – March 1843
In this document, Attorney A. Stone addresses the Honorable Robert H. Buckner, of the second Chancery District, in Monticello. It is dated the first Monday in March, 1843. Stone identifies the orator as John Graves, 21-year old son of the late Isaac Graves, who died in 1840. It is stated that the father had married about the year AD [blank] with Celeste Graves, widow of Simon Favre, who died in 1813. Favre had left a will, written in the French language. It is marked (A), “and furthermore the Respondents who are to be made parties to this bill are called upon particularly to admit or deny the correctness of the will.” Orator then states that he has in a friendly manner requested that the named persons deliver to him, or to administrator White, the slaves of his father’s estate. Those named are James Murphy, John L. Armstrong, John Favre, Augustin Favre, Onezin Favre, and James Graves.
[It is shown later in a different document, that James Graves is the half brother of John, having been born of his father’s union with Celeste.]
Heirs are accused of “confederating together with divers other persons.” It is claimed that “orator can only have adequate relief in this Honorable Court.” He asks that heirs be interrogated, also that the value of the slaves in question be delivered to him. He suggests a writ of [illeg] be entered into, “commanding them on a day therein named and under certain pain to appear….”
Signed, A. Stone [a partner in the attorney firm Swift and Stone]
#2. Monet’s Answers for Respondents – March 1843
Monet was a distinguished lawyer in Shieldsboro of Hancock County. Highly respected, he also served as a judge. The writing appears to be in his own hand, a tiny, tight but legible script. It almost takes a magnifying glass to read, but what he says in this multi-page answer is loud and clear. It not only defends the Favres, but it accuses the accuser.
He begins by naming the Favre heirs as respondents, but James Graves is not included. He then reserves to the respondents their rights of exceptions “to the many errors, imperfections, and misstatements,” summarizing the charges in Graves’s petition. Next, he recounts those facts which are admitted:
Isaac Graves and the widow Favre married in either 1817 or 1818.
Isaac Graves died in 1840. Celeste died a short time later.
Simon’s will was written in French and probated in Louisiana “according to the laws of that state.” Respondents deny that it is invalid in state of Mississippi; they are “unable to judge the correctness of its translation, but admit it to be good.”
James Murphy is the husband of Margaret Favre and John Armstrong the husband of Eucarise Favre.
The testamentary executor did not cause an appraisement of personal effects. They believe it true that Armand Duplantier Sr. was appointed jointly with Celeste but never attempted to discharge any of his duties.
One Joseph Chalon acted as executor for about one year after Simon’s death, and proceeded in all manners without any legal authority. Court of Probate does not show any such appointment of Chalon.
They deny that debts of estate was rendered before 1826 in amount of $32,885 to the orphan’s court of Hancock, and deny that the executor “ever rendered any return whatsoever” of the estate.
They accept “and verily believe” that estate consisted of 56 negroes, 500 head of cattle, 50 horses, stock of hogs, schooner named Pearl of about 30 tons with all her sails, etc., household furniture valued about $300, 4 yokes of oxen, and following lands:
1200 arpents on West Pearl, British grant
800 on East Pearl
1200 on East Pearl
300 on East Pearl, Spanish grant
Island between E and W Pearl
400 in Mobile
400 on Tombigbee at place known as “the bottle”
800 at Pearlington.
They accept that debts are due estate of about $3,000. Debts due from estate were $13,855, and that to satisfy these Celeste and Chalon, acting as executors, sold 35 Negroes at New Orleans for $15,932.
Money was collected with exception of $680, the price of a Negro sold to Auguste Peytavin.
Debts due in Mississippi Territory did not exceed $200 “besides the sum of $3,347 specified in said will as being due to Simon Favre Junior.”
There remained 22 named slaves belonging to estate.
They deny that $30,000 more of sales were made by testamentary executor previous to marriage of Celeste and Isaac. They admit marriage took place about 1817 or 1818 and that they had a son named James, now about 21 years old.
They deny that the executor was removed or withdrawn about the time of the marriage. They admit that the estate was not then finally settled. Orphan’s Court of Hancock does not show that “complainant’s father or any other persons whatsoever were ever qualified as testamentary executor.”
“Exhibits submitted by complainant were never signed by justice of orphan court…as required by law.” Exhibits are wrong and fraudulent.
Final accounts rendered to the court were at a time when Isaac Graves was acting as executor, “setting and presiding as one of the associate justices of said Court and rendered the decree homologating said accounts in his own Favor.”
They claim that decree was rendered “fraudulently… and obtained to defeat a suit at law brought by Simon Favre Junior for the recovery of the sum of $1500 devised to him by Said Will of Simon Favre Senior.”
They deny that at the time of the marriage to Isaac, Celeste owned all the slaves in her own right, while they admit that she had possession of them, but as the widow of Simon and the mother of his heirs. The slaves therefore never became the property of Isaac Graves.
A previous court proceeding was reviewed by Monet for respondents. They had in 1836 employed John Henderson, Esq., to enforce their rights to the estate by a suit in the Superior Court of Chancery; that suit remained undecided.
They admit to increase of 17 named slaves and to the deaths of six.
It is admitted that after death of Isaac, Celeste applied to be administrator of his estate, but she died a few weeks after the granting of letters of administration. Once again, Sam White appears, having been appointed by Court of Probate.
They deny that possession of Negroes as taken by respondents was fraudulent. They do admit to have taken possession, spelling out the divisions and naming which slaves belong to the named heirs.
It is reviewed that Sam White brought suit against respondents in Hancock Circuit Court in October 1841 term. Suit was decided in 1842, allotting five slaves to estate of Graves, and balance, twenty named slaves, belonging to respondents.
They say that at time of marriage to Isaac, debts of estate were only $150, to Amos Lott, and $3347 due to Simon Junior. Also, at time of marriage, Isaac Graves “was not possessed of any property of any kind, that he did not claim any, that he has not since inherited of any, and that he never had in his possession any other property….that previous to the marriage he was hired by the month to run the schooner Pearl.”
From the time of the marriage, Graves had disposed of and sold at different times cattle, horses, etc., also lands, a tract of 400 arpents in Mobile, said to be of great value, selling price being $2000. In addition he sold several valuable named Negroes.
“The amounts of sales were applied to the said Isaac’s use by those means the said estate has been wasted and respondents immensely injured and fraudulently deprived of their rights by said Isaac Graves, who by several illegal and fraudulent means acquired to himself the titles to their lands and disposed of their property.”
In detail, the actions of Graves in asking the Orphan Court in 1826 for permission to sell lands are questioned, as he was sitting as one of the associate Justices of the said court. “The sale made by said Graves acting as executor, he, said Graves, bid off at his own sale, and in his own name, the following tracts of land: One tract of 640 acres on East Pearl called the Wasted house for $320; another tract of 958 acres on East Pearl at a place commonly called Favre’s old place for $500; one tract of 640 acres on East Pearl at Walkaya bluff for $320; another tract was at that time sold to Benjamin Singletary which land was situated on the West Pearl in the state of Louisiana for $600, and contained 600 arpents, which sales were fraudulent and made to cheat and injure respondents.”
Monet ends his plea, asking “to be hence dismissed with their reasonable costs and charges in this behalf most wrongfully sustained.”
Document is signed by J.C. Monet, attorney for Respondents
#3. John Graves Amendment – August 1843
Addressed to Judge Robert Buckner, this document begins by listing all the defendants, including half brother John Graves. After reviewing that Simon Favre had been resident of Hancock and died in1813, it states that his last will “has never been by any court of competent Jurisdiction vacated, annulled, or in any manner set aside.” The orator shall show that “said will, for some cause, was recorded in the office of the Probate Court of the Parish of New Orleans.”
It is stated that Arman [sic] Duplantier was appointed in will as one of executors, that he lived in New Orleans, that he did not perform any duties imposed on him by will, “that he left the same to be performed by Celeste Favre, assisted perhaps temporarily by one Joseph Chalon,” who received some authority from Orphan Court of Hancock.
Orator will show that soon after death of Simon, executor caused an appraisement to be made of goods and chattels, etc. Total amounted to $20,575. Claims against estate were said to be $36,233. On July 25 and October 24, 1814, executor sold at auction certain goods and chattels and land, but “exactly of what description your orator is not informed as the Book containing an accounting of said sales is in possession of JC Monet Esquire who has refused to deliver it up.” Sales amounted to $26,956, which was applied to debts, leaving $9,275.
In 1817 or 1818, Isaac Graves, father of orator by a previous marriage, married Celeste Favre, and “expended large sums of money and much [illeg] care and diligence in and about the support, clothing, and education of her children.”
In about September 1821 was born James Graves, the only fruit of the marriage.
Meanwhile, it is claimed that land claims of Favre were ratified, rejected or modified by the US. In 1825, when children of Favre had come to age of majority and estate still unsettled and many debts were still unpaid, children were “somewhat complicated from the nature of their relations toward each other, the said Isaac being entitled by right of his wife to a large portion of said estate, he the said Isaac to appease all contention or any unkind feelings, gave to each of the said children a negro slave for life and money and other property,” estimated to be $2,000, “in consideration of which they renounced all further claim whatsoever on the estate.”
“There being debts still due and unpaid…Celeste obtained an order for the sale of all lands.” They were sold according to law or $3,560. “Four of said tracts were fairly and honestly purchased by said Isaac Graves, he being the highest and best bidder.” Money said to reduce debt to $5715, which was paid off by more sales and advances made by Isaac “out of his own private funds.”
Orator avers that from 1826 to death of Isaac in August 1840 he continued in possession as undoubted owner of the Negroes, claiming his father was either bona fide purchaser, or as the husband of Celeste the true and only owner.
Orator says he had been living in territory of Florida but now is citizen of Hancock.
Within a few weeks of death of Isaac, Celeste died. Samuel White applied for letters of administration of estate of Isaac Graves, who died intestate. In orator’s absence in Florida, “defendants fraudulently combining and confederating together and acting by the most illegal and corrupt advice of said White” without any authority took possession of the slaves. There follows a list of which defendant got which slaves, by name, age and value.
Orator returned from Florida in July next and to his “astonishment that said White has wholly neglected to take steps for recovery of slaves, at which time he hired attorney and commenced suit. Before it came to trial, White proposed that he had better dismiss the cause and pay the costs. Trial went to jury in April 1842 term. Jury returned only nine named slaves to orator. He claims corrupt partiality on part of White, showing in his refusal to change venue or to carry case to high Court of Errors and Appeals. As White failed to recover, action of detinue was brought. [Detinue: action to recover property lost unfairly.]
It was stated that White would not challenge jurors and that they were “unsafe and biassed [sic] in favor of defendants, but after the very iniquitous verdict was rendered in said cause, said White objected to his counsel moving for a new trial thereof saying that he would have nothing more to do with it.” He also refused to take the case to the High Court of Errors and Appeals. It was believed that such court would have decided for orator “for many other errors done and committed by the said Judge in said cause.”
Another argument was that orator was almost an entire stranger in Hancock, and that defendants had wide acquaintance and influence.
“By taking the slaves as aforesaid nothing whatsoever was left to satisfy your orator for that portion of said Favre’s estate of which his father became to owner by his intermarriage with Celeste Favre, who was entitled by the will of said Favre to one-half of his estate even allowing for the sake of showing in a strong light the wickedness of the transaction, that said Isaac Graves had never satisfied the children of said Favre for their portion.”
It was said at this point that half brother James and orator were the only heirs of Isaac Graves.
A new complication was narrated in which James Graves petitioned the Probate Court of Hancock in 1843 to give him the administration of his father’s estate. This was so ordered, White being told to prepare of his administration and that then letters of administration should issue to James. John saw this as wicked, violent, fraudulent and nefarious, leaving him without any means of obtaining his rights, asking therefore that he be granted relief in a court of equity. [This is defined as a court that is authorized to apply principles of equity, as opposed to law, to case brought before it.]
Orator then said that some of defendants reportedly were in failing circumstances (no evidence was offered), and that they might sell or remove a slave or two and that they did not seem to have sufficient other property to satisfy a claim. Suggestion was that judge should have all said slaves be put in possession of an administrator, who would have to give sufficient bond. Further, each of defendants should give bond “with good and sufficient security” and that if all fails slaves should be delivered to orator.
Another suggestion was that the judge should order a commission of three persons to make a study of the Negroes and report in whose possession, what the value of each is, whether any died and their value before death, and if any had been sold, etc.
Orator questions number of witnesses who were “Frenchmen.” “Nearly all of the jurors…were Frenchmen and understood but little of the English tongue, nearly all of the defendants were either Frenchmen or spoke or understood that language. The attorney who principally managed the case…was a Frenchman…and in it [French] addressed the jury, whereas your orator’s is an American and understands but little of the French language.” It was said that it was believed that the presiding judge was ignorant of the language. “Notwithstanding this the attorney for the defendants was allowed to address the jury in the French language, and a translation of the same was not permitted.” It was also argued that the attorney has “great personal influence” over the jurors.
There was also “gross partiality of the sheriff” who persisted “in summoning Frenchmen almost entirely as the jurors.”
Defendants were “high handed, fraudulent and wicked” and their conduct was sanctioned in a court of Justice.” Thus, a decree for a new trial was requested.
Document is signed by John Graves, the names Swift and Stone showing below as Solicitors for Complainant.
#4. Depositions – Toulme, Nicaise, et al
In addition to the many individual depositions included in Box 10-11, there is one packet which stood out. These are clipped together, and so I selected them for review. All were taken before commissioner Charles A. Folsom at Gainesville, then the county seat of Hancock, except that given by Monet, which presumably was done at Shieldsboro. All are dated July 1845.
Of those individual depositions not copied, I have noted the names of the following: Wingate, White, Monet, Pray, several Favres, Hutchinson, Brown, Wheat, Moody, Francois Ladnier, Nancy Arnold, Thomas Doby, Joseph Chalon, Asa Russ, Euranica Fayard, Thomas Brown, John Martin, and Marson. Where there are names duplicating those depositions copier, it is assumed that some witnesses were deposed more than once.
John B. Toulmine (usual spelling, Toulme)
In Circuit Court case of 1842, involving Samuel White vs. heirs of Favre, he was sworn interpreter. He said that a good many of the Creoles understand English, but all the testimony introduced was translated. The court did refuse to have the speech of Mr. Stone’s opening statement, but Mr. Monet in his address in French did not use any argument that did not arise from the testimony.
He further stated that Gen. Pray was upright and fair, and that he believed Graves to be an honorable, upright man. Noel Jourdan was considered a “highly honorable man.”
He did allow that the French Creole community does not understand English perfectly.
Toulme signed on July 15, 1845
He knew Graves from the year 1819 when Graves already was married to Celeste. Marson lived with the family about nine years, while he ran the schooner Pearl. He paid Graves about $4000 net proceeds from earnings of the Pearl in period of about 2 ½ years. For awhile, he had bought schooner from Graves. The Pearl could clear about $1000 per year. (This was similar to other comments about Pearl, some saying as much as $1500; it was considered to be very profitable by all.)
Witness stated that Graves say that the estate of Favre was declared insolvent for the purpose of preventing the collection of a legacy in favor of Simon Favre Jun.
In 1825 he heard Graves say that he was worth at least $25,000 clear, but that Graves never owned any property other than that of the Favre estate. He also said that Graves was in the habit of selling cattle; when cattle were sent to New Orleans, the proceeds went to Graves.
Each heir had his own brand for his cattle, as OF, AF, JF, LF. A division had been made in a family meeting, it was said, but Marson was not there at the time. After John Favre became of age he had the Negro man Tomas and the schooner Pearl, but Marson did not know how he got them. He heard that Onezin had the schooner Adelaide.
Signed by D. Marson on 15 July 1845
Francis Ladner – Interrogatory
In answer to a question about the value of Favre estate, Ladner said at least $40,000. Asked if Graves used the property of the estate as his own, he said that he used it as such. About schooner Pearl, he stated that Graves sold it. About slaves sent to New Orleans, he answered that 30 to 35 were sold. He was able to identify by name some of those sold and to whom, and to further identify which may have been descendants of slaves of Simon Favre.
Ladner was asked a question about Graves selling cattle, to which he replied that Graves had done so, but also that at the time of Graves’s death there were not many left. When asked whether Graves had any property at time of marriage, he said, “I do not know of any.”
Ladner knew that Duplantier had come there and took some horses. He knew Chalon well, but did not know whether he had assisted in the estate. “Witness states that Isaac Graves was an active business man and an early riser for at times he did not sleep at all but do not know whether said Graves was a money making man.”
Ladner signed with his mark on 14 July 1814
Nicaise said he had known Simon Favre since he was 12 or 13, at the time Favre had quit the Indian nation and established himself at Pearl Town, and after he was Indian interpreter at New Orleans. [N.B. Pearl Town was the town of Napoleon, not to be confused with Pearlington.]
He thought Favre was worth about $80,000 at least. He had everything necessary to carry on an extensive farm.
About slaves, he understood that Madame Favre had sent 36 to New Orleans.
Asked about Graves having been possessed of any property before marriage, he answered that he knew of none. Asked whether Graves used the property as his own, he stated that he had used it from the time of his marriage until his death.
Nicaise also thought Pearl was able to earn 1200 to 1500 per year. “It was one of the best schooners on the Lake of about 30 tons burthen.”
He also heard about a family meeting but could not tell from whom he had heard such.
Asked about a slave named Maria, he said he knew her since she was small, but did not know who owned her. When asked whether Graves exercised ownership, he answered: “I do not know that he exercised more authority over her than others.” He states that she had children, and was then asked, “What proportion of the children were Negroes?”
Also asked about a family meeting, he said that he heard something about it but was not there and could not say.
Nicaise signed with his mark on 14 July 1814.
Monet, speaking of the schooner, said he knew her as belonging to Graves. It could easily have cleared $1000 to $1500 per year. During the time he knew Graves – he had frequently been to his house – he never knew him to possess any other property. Hehad heard Graves say that John Favre, Augusten, Onezin, Louisa and Margaret Favre would be entitled to a considerable portion of estate when settled.
Witness says that sometime in 1825 or 1826 he was at the office of PRR Pray, attorney in Pearlington, when he heard Graves say that he wished Pray to tell him what he would charge to create “to make out an exhibit to be presented to the Orphan Court which would represent the estate of Simon Favre as insolvent. “Pray asked him if he had the necessary vouchers to establish the insolvency. Graves answered that he had none, that all there was necessary would be to make out an account showing that certain sums had been paid of sufficient amount to cover the returned inventory of the property and other assets of the estate that everything was arranged so that there would be no difficulty to pass the account in the Orphan Court – that Noel Jourdan would ask no question and would render whatever decree he Pray would deem sufficient to accept the purpose. Pray said he would charge him $300.” Graves agreed and said he wanted it “as soon as possible so as to defend a suit at law pending against him brought in the name of Simon Favre [Junior] for the amount of a legacy mentioned in Simon Favre’s will of $1500 which he wanted to avoid paying.”
Monet went on to say that Graves was in the habit of selling cattle every year, and to brand the young cattle born of Simon’s cattle with his – Graves’s – brand, which was IG. In a few years, they would all have Isaac’s brand.
Monet was able to recall certain slaves who were sold and in some cases to whom.
Monet affirmed that he was attorney for the respondents in suit brought by estate of Graves, and he “knows no combination agreement or understanding between defendants and Samuel White…on the contrary there was a great ill will among the parties.” The trials were done fairly and openly before three juries. In the first there were 5 French jurors; in the second, 6; in the third, only 3. “All of them understood the English language more or less.” The court had refused to have the arguments of counsel translated, “but all the evidence, papers and changes were translated.
Monet said Pray was “high minded honorable man and that he would do no dishonorable action. He also stated, “I knew Isaac Graves and felt that he stood in the estimation of the community as an honorable man.”
There is mention of the $3000 made to Simon Favre, Jun., son of Rebecca Austin.
Witness knew Noel Jourdan and that he was a gentleman, and that JB Toulme was “incapable of an improper act and that he was an honest and upright man.”
Monet signed of 15 July 1845.
This witness knew Simon Favre before and after his marriage, and that he was in New Orleans as interpreter to the Indians. He thought Favre had 60 or more Negroes, about 1,000 head of cattle, and 80 to 100 horses, principally mares.
Moran recalls some things in addition to what others remembered: Madame Favre had some Negroes previous to marriage, and also some cattle.
He also said Simon died in Mobile, and had not been there long before death.
Moran signed with his mark on 14 July 1845.