Saturday, September 22, 2007

HARP is Off to a Great Start!

HARP, the Historical Appellate Review Project, has had a great launch. We are already pursuing several cases and have had inquiries about several more. These may take months to resolve, but we'll tell the stories here!


One of the HARP cases I'm pursuing for my own family is that of my great-grandmother, Bettie Sanford Manson. She was born in 1872, one of four daughters of Billie Sanford and Emely Scott. She married Otis Manson in Rockdale, Texas, in August of 1890.

My father says he only saw his grandmother once--that was in 1948 in Midland, Texas, where she and Otis had moved their family in 1947 for reasons still not clear to me. He says that he saw her from a distance--she was standing out in the middle of a field. The family would not let him get any closer, explaining to him that she was mentally ill.

In an index of Milam County records, I found two cases in the 1930's concerning a conservatorship for Bettie Manson. When I tried to get the records, I was told that they were sealed and I would need a court order to unseal them.

I would like to know the reasons for the conservatorship and especially who applied for it. Otis Manson was an illiterate man; did someone persuade him that his wife was mentally ill? What was the evidence that she was mentally ill?

In this case, HARP will be going to court in Texas to move to have the records unsealed. Bettie Manson, her husband, and all of their children are deceased. Only three of her grandchildren remain alive; my father is one of them. As far as I know, none of her great-grandchildren recall her. She died in 1955 and her oldest great-grandchild was born in 1951. So there should be little reason to keep these records sealed.

This case will be interesting for its procedure as well as its outcome. It will be instructive as to how HARP goes to court. Stay tuned!

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