Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Will of Reuben Henry Sanford

The first item in the file of the probate of the estate of Reuben Henry Sanford is the order of the court dated August 2, 1910. The court admitted to probate the will written by Henry on October 8, 1906. Martha Sanford, Henry's second wife, was appointed executrix. Three other individuals were appointed by the court "to make an inventory and appraisement of said estate." The appraisers were Arthur Taber, Ed English, and J[ohn] E[dward] Holtzclaw. English was a lawyer in Cameron, Texas, and Holtzclaw was the Sheriff of Milam County. He was also a relative, probably a nephew, of Martha Sanford's.

The inventory, also dated August 2, 1910, is next in the file. It shows that Henry Sanford was by the standards of his time and community a wealthy man.


11 horses of the value of $30 each $330.
15 cattle of the value of $10 each $150.
Household and kitchen furniture and farming
implements of the value of $200.
One wagon, value, $20.
One buggy, value, $20.
One surry, value $50.


282 acres of land on the J.J. Acosta grant in
Milam County, Texas, value $14,100.

The inventory notes that the personal property was community property while the land was Henry's separate property. Examining the real estate gives an opportunity to learn about Texas history and some research aids available.

At the Texas General Land Office, we can discover some information about the J.J. Acosta grant. In the Land Grant Database page, we enter "Milam" under "County" and "Acosta" under "Original Grantee." This produces an abstract of a land grant of 48,712.4 acres to Juan Jose Acosta dated 30 Sep 1833. Under "Remarks," it says, "On the San Andrés and Brazos; includes Tenoxtitlan. 1 league in Burleson Co., 2 in Falls Co., 8 in Milam Co. W. H. Smith, atty." Note that a "league" is equal to 4428.4 acres. Texas at that time was part of Mexico. And on the site there's a link that says "View PDF." There we find a twenty page grant written in Spanish. So, the Acosta grant was an original grant from the Mexican government. The GLO site tells us about the history of land grants in Texas, how to get translations of Spanish and Mexican documents, and how to find out about land transfers after the initial grant. This will involve ordering documents from the GLO and perhaps the county. It would be worthwhile to find out how and for how much the Sanfords acquired a portion of the Acosta grant.

The next document is the petition for probate filed by Martha Sanford. Like the preceding documents, the petition bears the watermark of "T.S. Henderson, Lawyer, Cameron, Texas." Henderson was a very prominent attorney in Milam County.

The most important document, of course, is the will itself. Henry Sanford's will, dated October 8, 1906, is about 1-1/4 typewritten legal pages. It has only very basic legal language necessary to convey his desires. Thus, it omits a lot of the hortatory language common in 19th century testamentary documents. Henry's first bequest is to his wife of all of his personal property and a life estate in his lands, described as "286-1/2 acres." (What happened to the other 4-1/2 acres missing from the inventory? Perhaps a new survey, or perhaps it was conveyed for some reason).

In the will, I learned for the first time the married names of Henry's daughters. I had been aware of his son Daniel from other records, but those did not establish clearly that they were father aandson. The will does that.

The will also shows that Henry Sanford was illiterate, having to sign by making an "x" as his mark. The will was witnessed by Jeff T. Kemp, then-Milam County clerk who later became county judge of Milam County, and Arthur W. Taber, later superintendent of the Texas State Confederate Home.

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