A while back, someone asked me about the estate records of Benjamin Odell. I’ve made partial indexes of many of the early probate books for Rabun County, so I was able to quickly go to the right pages in two of those books to find information recorded on Benjamin’s estate. I’m not going to post the entire estate proceedings here (that would take a lot of room), but I did want to point out a few interesting items that could be used to answer the questions many researchers might have about this family.
Benjamin Odell died intestate before 15 June 1836 when Allen R. Gaines and John H. Sloan applied for Letters of Administration on his estate. The Court appointed William Kelly, John S. Henley, Wm. Jones Sr., James C. Jarrard, Geo. Lutes, H. H. Armstrong, and H. T. Moseley to appraise the estate at the same time that the Letters of Administration were entered into the record.1
Benjamin left an extensive estate upon his death, including two slaves, land in Rabun County and elsewhere, and a slew of personal goods.2 Because of this, the records created while settling his estate are fairly extensive.
Several of those records involved appointing a guardian for Benjamin’s “minor heirs” who were named as “Lewisa an idiot[,] Elizabeth, Emaline, Rachael, Charity[,] Sary ann, Margaret, James Clayton, Catharine Jane and Benjamin.”3 While Martha Odell, Benjamin’s widow, made the application for guardianship, the clerk noted that the minor heirs “all” requested Samuel Farris as their guardian. Normally such a request would indicate that all of Benjamin’s children were at least fourteen years of age (the age at which minor orphans could request their own guardian in Georgia) but no more than twenty-one, the age of majority.4 It would be difficult, however, for one married couple to have nine living children spanning that short age range, discounting “Lewisa” as she would have needed a guardian regardless of age. It’s more likely that the clerk summarized the proceedings, with the elder children agreeing to Samuel Farris as guardian, the younger not having a legal say in the matter, and the clerk not noting the difference in his rush to record the goings-on of two separate courts.5
And what about the two slaves? As it turns out, those are mentioned by name as well. On the first Tuesday in March, 1837, Samuel Farris and Henry T. Mosely purchased, respectively, the slaves Ben and Charles from Benjamin’s estate.6 Ben was sick at the time of the sale, a fact brought to the Court’s attention in June 1841 when Samuel Farris applied for a reduction in Ben’s sale price due to his inability to perform the work for which purpose he had been bought.7 Ben spent at least a year suffering from “the white swelling” between 1837 and 1841, in spite of care by a Doctor. Samuel “dispaired of his ever being cured.”
In addition to the records highlighted above, there are numerous other items of interest contained within Benjamin’s estate records, most notably the sale of Benjamin’s land and personal effects, the latter of which gives a good list of people who could be family and close friends of the Odells.
If Benjamin Odell were my ancestor, then I would not end my research with these estate records. At the very least, I would investigate related deeds and court records. For instance, I know for a fact (due to my work with Rabun County’s early Superior Court records) that the administrators on this estate were involved in several related court suits. Each of these additional records, either individually or when taken as a whole, has the potential to answer other questions Odell researchers might have, such as: Where did Benjamin’s family live before they came to Rabun County? Who were his siblings and parents? And what was his wife’s maiden name? As Judy G. Russell said in her article about Josias Baker, don’t stop there!8 Intestate records can be more illuminating than a will, and they often point to other records containing wonderful information about our ancestors.
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1. Minutes 1826 – 39 Rabun County: 69 – 70; Probate Court, Clayton, Georgia.
2. Ibid., 73, 82 – 85, 113.
3. Ibid., 76 – 78.
4. That conclusion is an over-simplification of the matter, but roughly true. Young girls of that era were often considered of age if they were 18 or married. In the latter case, the husband usually acted in the woman’s interest or on her behalf when her parents’ estates were settled. The most that we can conclude from Benjamin’s estate records, however, is that the girls were not married, because the clerk’s wording was too vague to draw any conclusion about the age of any of the minor heirs except that they were under the age of majority or otherwise needed a guardian to oversee their legal affairs.
5. At the time Benjamin’s estate was being settled, James Bleckley was the clerk of the Superior Court and the Inferior Court.
6. Minutes 1826 – 39 Rabun County: 113.
7. Minutes 1838 – 1850 Rabun County: 94 – 97; Probate Office, Clayton, Georgia.
8. Judy G. Russell, “”Don’t Stop There!” Connecting Josias Baker to His Burke County, North Carolina, Parents,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 99 (March 2011): 25 – 41.