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Apr 09

Whims in Wills

Curious Obligations Attached to Deeds of Property.

The eccentricity of men shows itself in no more extraordinary form than in obligations attached to deeds of property by which some whim of the seller is forced upon all future owners.

The Quakers who founded Philadelphia sometimes asserted themselves in this way after death. The owners of some of the valuable lots in that city are compelled to build houses of no more than two stories upon them. Upon others back buildings cannot be erected “least God’s air and sunlight be hindered unduly in their goings.”

A plantation in Virginia was left by George Jordon, a lieutenant colonel under Washington with the provision that “every owner thereof shall hold on Oct. 15 of each year a religious service in his home where prayer shall be offered and a sermon preached in memory of my daughter Fortune, and this obligation shall hold good though a thousand generations shall pass.”

A valuable property in Pennsylvania was bequeathed to a church on condition that the congregation each year should send a rose to the head of the family who gave it. Nearly two centuries have passed, but the rose was given last year to a descendant of the kindly though whimsical donor.

It was not an uncommon act in England during the middle ages to leave an estate encumbered with a dole, which was sometimes bestowed in a fantastic way. An heir was obliged to give flitches of bacon yearly to the married woman who never scolded her husband or so many loaves of bread or stacks of fagots to poor soldiers.

The owner of a house in Smithfield is said to have been compelled on the anniversary of a certain martyrdom to cover a gravestone in the churchyard of St. Bartholomew’s with shining sixpences for the widows of the parish.
The eccentricity of men shows itself in no more extraordinary form than in obligations attached to deeds of property by which some whim of the seller is forced upon all future owners.

Source: The Gainesville News, Gainesville, Georgia, 24 April 1907.

Courtesy of Patricia K. Jones, Oakwood, Georgia.