[transcriptions of Martin and Phillis Becknell, Free Colored Persons v. B.H. Epperson, Executor of the Will of Mary Becknell, Deceased, Case No. 3912, Red River County, Tex. (Feb. 21, 1871), in Mary Becknell Estate Papers, Typescript Collection (C995) (microfilm), Vol. 17, No. 477, The State Historical Society of Missouri]
To the Honorable A.H. Latimer, Judge of the 8th Judicial District of the State of Texas, sitting for said County of Red River:
The petition of Martin Becknell and Phillis, his wife, who are free persons of color, residing in said County of Red River, respectfully shows unto your honor that on the __ day of __ 1864, Mary Becknell then residing in said County, departed this life leaving a will, appointing Benjamin H. Epperson, executor thereof; that said will was duly probated at the May Term, 1864 of the County Court of said County, and that the said Epperson duly qualified as such executor.
Your petitioners further show, that at the date of said will, to wit on the 7th day of October, 1862, your petitioner Martin was very old and inform being then sixty-eight years of age, and that your petitioner Phillis was about sixty years old, and subject to Epileptic fits, that (unless freed by the events and laws growing out of the War) they were then slaves belonging to the said Mary Becknell and that their lives had been spent in faithful labor as slaves; and hence were unable by reason of age and infirmity to earn a livelihood, and would of necessity be a charge upon their owners, if slaves, and upon the State or County, if free. Your petitioners further show, that the said Mary Becknell recognizing the legal and moral obligation which has devolved upon her to provide for the support of your petitioners as her old and faithful servants, made provisions in her said will for the payment [to her daughter Cornelia Collins] of five hundred dollars by installments for their support – which will more full appear from the copy of said will which is hereunto annexed, marked “Exhibit A” and made a part of this petition.
Your petitioners further show that the said Cornelia Collins mentioned in said will is dead; and since the death of said testatrix never did anything towards the support of your petitioners; and that no part of said sum has ever been paid to them.
Your petitioners are now over seventy years of age and physically unable to earn a livelihood by work and would pray your honor to have said executor cited to answer this petition.
[signed] Gaines and Wooten [Reuben Reid Gaines and W.E. Wooten]
[Epperson admitted the claim in the answer he filed.]
Tuesday, February 21st 1871.
On this day this cause coming on to be heard and the same being submitted upon the petition and answer, to the Court, It is ordered adjudged and decreed that the Plaintiffs are entitled to recover the sum of five hundred Dollars, from the Estate of Mary Becknell to be paid in installments, that being the sum which the testatrix directed to be paid to Cornelia Collins for their support.
And it is further ordered and decreed that the Defendant, the Executor be directed to pay to the said Plaintiffs or to the survivor in case of the death of either the sum of One hundred and fifty Dollars per annum until the said five hundred Dollars are paid, that said payments be made in sums of fifty dollars, one every four months, out of any funds in the hands of the Executor and that if he shall not be in funds of the Estate and shall advance the same or any part thereof he shall be entitled to charge the same to the Estate and interest upon the advance at the rate of ten per cent until he can be reimbursed from the proceeds of the sale of said Estate.
It is further ordered and adjudged that the clause in the will of deceased referring to the sale of land, means that the said land may be sold when either tract will sell for ten dollars per acre and that the Executor may subdivide the said tracts as he may deem expedient, and sell the same in such subdivisions and if the aggregate price of the said subdivisions of either tract shall be equal to ten Dollars per acre, it will be a compliance with the provisions of the will.
And it is further adjudged that the Executor may sell either tract when he can get as much as ten Dollars per acre for it and in case either tract is sold for a sum exceeding ten Dollars per acre, the other may be sold when it will make a sum that will make the aggregate sales equal to ten Dollars per acre for the two tracts and that said Executor pay the costs of this suit from any funds in his hands or that he may receive, belonging to the Testatrix’s estate.
[signed] A.H. Latimer