When I read through the document I ran the gamut of emotions from fascination to frustration. My first "Well, rats!" moment came when I realized it wasn't a statement written in Samuel's own hand, or wasn't even written by someone else in a personal but dictated style. I would have really liked that! No such luck. It was just your run of the mill statement coded in the sort of obtuse legal wordage that's confusing enough to make you forget what the beginning of the sentence was by the time you get to the end! But then I reminded myself to stop whining. The fact that I had the document at all was simply serendipity.
Before Samuel submitted his statement he named a few initial witnesses he wished would testify on his behalf. The initial list was:
WITNESSES FOR PLAINTIFF
David Rankin &
Sarah his wife
I'm pretty sure that it was common practice then (as now) to transcribe the testimony during trial, but if this was done in this case any record of such transcription is gone. That's disappointing; I would've loved to have such records. It would've been quite interesting to read what any of these people would have said in court to convince a jury that they knew anything at all about the monetary value of Julia Ann's daughterly services.
I did some preliminary research on these witnesses. I was curious to learn whether they were any relation to Samuel. I didn't turn up much and most of what I did find came from Charles Hanna's Historical Collections of Harrison County.* I did find all of these men on the 1840 Harrison County census, taken three years after the trial. Not all lived in the same township as Samuel did. In the census of Moorefield Township, David Cunningham lived 18 houses down from Samuel and David Rankin lived 21 houses down. All are enumerated on page 93 of the census. Timothy Titus and John Mitchell are living five houses apart from each other in Cadiz Township. Both men are enumerated on page 35 of the census. David Rankin was the son of Thomas Rankin and Nancy Foreman and was born around 1790. He married Sarah Porter on 20 Mar 1819 in Harrison County. The will of Timothy Titus, also found in Harrison County, was dated June 2, 1857; date of probate, Jan. 19, 1859; wife, name not given; children, Uriah, William L., Samuel, Jonathan, Eliza, Timothy, Jane Irons, Susanna Middleton, and Mary Ann Wallace.
So far, none of the names I've been presented with ring any bells with what I know of Samuel and his family. This does change, however, as more witnesses are named. But that will come when the witnesses are served.
Samuel then submitted his statement to the court. It reads as follows:
Harrison County Sct
Samuel Browning v James Beck
Common Pleas (after?) June 1837
Samuel Browning complains of James Beck of a plea of Trespass On The Case for that whereas the said James Beck contriving and wrongfully and unjustly intending to injure the said Samuel and to deprive him of the service and assistance of Julia Ann Browning the daughter and servant of him the said Samuel heretofore to wit in the first day of July in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred thirty six (row) divers other days and times between that day and the day of the commencement of this trial at Harrison County debauched and carnally knew the said Julia Ann Browning then and there and from thence for a long space of time to wit hitherto being the daughter and servant of the said Samuel, whereby the said Julia Ann became pregnant and sick with child, and so remained and continued for a long space of time to wit for the space of nine months then next following, at the expiration whereof to wit on the twenty fourth day of March in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and thirty seven at Harrison County aforesaid, she the said Julia Ann was delivered of a child, with which she was so pregnant as aforesaid, to wit at Harrison County aforesaid; by means of which said
(Pg 2) several promises she the said Julia Ann for a long space of time to wit from the day and year first above mentioned hitherto became and was unable to do and perform the necessary affairs and business of the said Samuel Browning, so being her father and master as aforesaid, and thereby, he the said Samuel during all that time lost and was deprived of the service of his said daughter and servant to wit at Harrison County aforesaid; and also by means of the said several promises he the said Samuel was forced and obliged to and did necessarily pay, lay out, and expend divers sums of money in the whole amounting to a large sum of money to wit the sum of Five thousand dollars in and about; the nursing and taking care of the said Julia Ann his said daughter and servant, and in and about the delivery of the said child to wit at Harrison County aforesaid, to the damage of the said Samuel of one thousand dollars and therefore he brings suit.
Dewey & Stanton
attys for Pltff
I was frustrated at the repetitive "to wits" and "aforesaids" that distracted me from the meat of the statement but after I weeded those out some of the wordage made me chuckle. I shook my head a few times, too. I recalled that Julia had said in her testimony (see this post for that) that she and James Beck had been together sometime in July but that she was unsure of the date, and that she had only been with him the once. Samuel is a little more specific, stating not only that he knew the date his daughter had been with Beck (1 July) but that there had been more than the one time Julia and James would admit to. Samuel accuses Beck of visiting his daughter in the carnal sense more than once. I'm curious; did Samuel know this to be true or did he merely suspect it? Did Julia admit it privately but not publicly? Or, as I suspect, did Samuel dress up the facts to make his case sound more like seduction and less like something that Julia Ann willingly participated in?
On my initial read of the last words of the statement I found myself thinking, "So, Samuel would have us believe that in the year that had transpired since Julia became pregnant (the nine months of Julia's pregnancy and the three months since), he'd spent five thousand dollars for her and the child? Oh, come on!" I really found it hard to believe Samuel even had that kind of money, much less that he'd spent it on only one of his children. I also wondered why -- if it really was true -- that he'd be satisfied settling for damages amounting to a paltry one thousand dollars.
Then I took another, harder look at the document. Is is just me, or did someone change the amount? I swear that looks like the wide sweep of a capital "O" underneath the "F" of the five. I wonder who decided to change that? The lawyers? Samuel?
It seems like embellishment to me. Or maybe, just maybe, a father's anger showing through. Talk about a glimpse into Samuel's personality!
Next time, subpeonas are issued and the trial begins.
((*Historical Collections Of Harrison County, In The State of Ohio, With Lists Of The First Land-Owners, Early Marriages (to 1841), Will Records (to 1861), Burial Records Of The Early Settlements, and Numerous Genealogies. Charles A. Hanna. New York, 1900.))