Thursday, August 9, 2018

Celestia, In Haste

A probate file can be full of all sorts of unexpected details. Mostly, in the case of the deceased George Edmund McClellan, details on the value and sales of his various northern Florida properties were the items most disputed, along with complaints by his various heirs about how George's executrixhis now-remarried widow, Celestia R. Grantwas going about the business of settling his debts.

Besides the rumor that the executrix was planning to skip town with the estate's proceeds undistributed, the letters in the McClellan file revealed insinuations that Celestia was indulging in pleasure trips to various Florida cities, for instance, and billing the cost to the estate.

All told, the entire situation of having someone's unfinished business dumped in her lap must have been a trying experience. The constant complaining by family members surely did not help.

Celestia seemed always to be in a rush, breezing in and out of the picture, leaving whirlwinds of complaints in her wake. In one undated letter, for instance, she began with,

Hon. Judge Rice, I am in great haste and cannot wait your return. Mrs.[?] told me I would find the list of articles desired to be sold at your office and...

Somewhere in the timeline between George's passing in 1866 and the settling of his case years later, Celestia's husband, Dr. John Grant, must also have died. I can find no record of that, nor location of his burial, but letters from George McClellan's probate file lead me to make that conclusion.

Among many other receipts in the McClellan file was one from W. M. Ives, attorney for the plaintiff, acknowledging receipt of "payment in part" in a suit against Celestia. The plaintiff, incidentally, was Mary A. McLeranthe Mary of the Red Scarfwho, as a widow in her own right, had had George McClellan provide appraisal services in the settling of her own husband's estate, back in 1860. This, once again, cements the concept of the intertwined relationships evident in the small community of Wellborn, Florida.

Attached with that receipt from attorney Ives was a note from Celestia. Once again, it was written in a hurry, undated, and opening with a curt salutation,
Judge J. W. Rice,
Sir. I arranged the Mrs. McLeran debt with Col. Ives. I enclose you the receipt...

After adding several mundane details, the letter, seeming to have been written on a mere scrap of paper, continued on the reverse:

I will leave this in Live Oak as I pass through en route to Indiana, Please send me a copy of all this year's returns as soon as you get them fixed up. Also make out your fees when you know what they are,
     In haste,
          Celestia R. Grant.

Images from the Suwannee County, Florida, probate file of George Edmund McClellan, courtesy

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