…..a question of human dignity
Probate records in a county like Hancock can be a valuable source of information, especially since our courthouse burned in 1853, destroying virtually all deeds and court actions that came before. Fortunately, owners of properties often came to the courthouse afterwards and had their documents re-recorded.
Similarly, probates that postdated the fire are sometimes found to contain papers that were brought to the court action and remained there. Thus, there are sometimes signatures of some of our early officials and settlers. A case in point is found in the file described below. Moreover, one document in the file attests to an action dated 1840.
The particular file which attracted me contained the name Favre in the index, and that is probably why I pulled it. It proved to be an unusually thick file, containing many papers and covering several years.
In short, it was a suit brought in 1852 by the administrators of the estate of Lawrence Fayard against Francois Favre. The legal actions took at least four years, ending about December 8, 1856. At least fifteen witnesses were subpoenaed; among them were some of the most important members of the community and county officials. These included Julius Monet, John Toulme, James Johnston, John Graves, Stephen Mead, Marceline Favre, Benjamin Sones, David Johnston, Mary Favre, and Charles Favre.
There are 56 documents in the file. Some relate to the estate of Mrs. Fayard, who had died in 1850; it was administered by another pillar of the county, Asa Russ.
At least one witness who was called to testify in the suit was expected to travel two days, and was therefore awarded $5.00 for expenses.
Monet, as attorney for the plaintiff, corresponded with a notary public in New Orleans for verification of a document dated February 4, 1840.
When the trial finally went to jury, the instructions were detailed, consisting of seven charges. In all, the dispute revolved around a little slave girl, age ten at the time the suit commenced; she had been sold off at age six from her mother.
Her name was Caroline; her mother was Lucille. They had no last names, as though they had never fully existed. But the court decided that Caroline was indeed in existence, and appraised her at $600, or worth $4.00 per day when hired out.
Thus an award was made to the plaintiff for the loss of an asset. There seems to be an absence of any information as to what young Caroline might have been called upon to say in her behalf.