Today, after having been busy for several days, mostly because of the holiday, I set out for the library again. (No ILL deliveries yet, I’m afraid.) I didn’t have much to do, but I thought I’d search out a death record for someone or other. However, the dates I was looking for weren’t there, so I instead took out the reel of microfilm for wills from the early 1900’s. I didn’t expect to find much, as my previous experience with the wills there had been that they are all administrations (no actual information about what was bequeathed to whom, just a basic overview written after the estate was settled). However, having nothing better to do, I decided to look for the administration for the estate of Elizabeth Gilbert Kulp, mother of Monroe H.; she died in 1902.
Finding her in the index was relatively easy (more than I can say for some indexes, they are NOT completely alphabetical most of the time and the handwriting only makes things worse). But when I proceeded to the proper page, I noticed that the information on each page seemed much longer than the typical will administration, which only took up about 1/3 of the page last time I found one. I suddenly thought to myself–could these be actual, complete wills? I could not read any of them, as I had the machine on its automatic scroll and the focus was not adjusted anyway, but when I slowed down at intervals I could see that these definitely weren’t the typical length of administrations, and it became more and more apparent that I might just have stumbled upon those elusive real wills. (Finding them has proved to be more difficult lately than you might think.)
Well, I was right. Page 404 contained Elizabeth Kulp’s entire will–just over a page for the main text, and another half page for executor and administrator information. And, the things I read–well, I was about blown away!
The main text reads as follows:
I, Elizabeth Kulp, widow of Darlington R. Kulp, late of the Borough of Shamokin Northumberland County Pennsylvania, Deceased, do make and publish this my Last Will & Testament. — I hereby authorize & direct my Executor hereinafter named, to sell all my real estate and convert my personal property not otherwise bequeathed, into money, as soon as conveniently may be done after my decease, and convey the same to the purchaser or purchasers thereof by good and sufficient deed or deeds. The proceeds of said sale I declare and direct shall be considered and disposed of as constituting a part of my personal estate. I authorize my said executor to sell my real estate at public or private sale as may be deemed to the best interests of my estate. — I give and bequeath the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Dollars unto the Guarantee Trust & Safe Deposit Company of Shamokin, Pa. in trust, to be invested & kept invested in some safe interest bearing security & to appropriate the interest thereof towards keeping in suitable repair the family Lot in the Shamokin Cemetery as required for that purpose from time to time. — My Son Chester G. Kulp, having been particularly helpful in the care & nursing of his Father, my late Husband Darlington R. Kulp, during his last illness & to such an extent as to impair his own health, I hereby order & direct that any note, bill or evidence of indebtedness to me for the purchase of the lot North of my residence & deeded to Elizabeth R Kulp, which may be found in or among my papers, be forthwith cancelled by my Executor & I do hereby discharge him from payment of same without any abatement or deduction whatever from the legacies hereinafter bequeathed. All other sum or sums of money by me at any time heretofore paid or advanced by me to or on account of my children respectively, shall be regarded and taken as gifts from me, and that nothing shall be taken from their respective share of my estate on account thereof. — I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Ella J. Kulp, my sewing machine and the Rocking chair she has since her illness regarded as the most comfortable among all my household furniture. And in addition thereto I direct that my said Daughter Ella J. Kulp be allowed to select and take for her own use from my personal property, personaly [sic] not to exceed in value the sum of One Hundred Dollars. — I direct that my Executor hereinafter named set apart and invest the sum of Five Thousand Dollars and pay the income arising therefrom at suitable times, at least four times in a year, to my said Daughter Ella J. Kulp, during her lifetime and so long as she shall remain unmarried. In the event of her marriage the amount so invested shall be converted into cash and the proceeds equally divided among all my children then surviving and the heirs of such as may be deceased, the children of any deceased child to take such share as the parent would have taken had he survived. In the event of her death while still unmarried the amount to be distributed in like manner. I give and bequeath unto my Son George Gilbert Kulp, the framed picture hung on the West side if [sic] the North wall of my parlor, representing a female bust gigure [sic] with hands & arms concealed as now framed. — I give and bequeath unto my Son Chester G. Kulp, the framed picture hung on the East side of the North wall of my parlor, representing a female bust figure with hand raising a flower to the lips. — I direct that all the residue of my estate be divided equally among all my children, to wit: Zippora E. Thomas, Joanna C. Shuman, Monroe H. Kulp, Clayton A. Kulp, Ella J. Kulp, Chester G. Kulp, Howard C. Kulp, and George Gilbert Kulp. — Provided always and I do hereby declare my Will to be that if any person or persons to whom my estate or interest is given or limited by this my will, shall in any Court of law or equity, or otherwise, controvert the same or dispute or call in question the validity hereof or of any of the estates’ limitations, powers, provisos or dispositions hereby limited or given, or made, or herein contained, then and in such case, the estate, limitations, tc. [sic] so herebiy limited to, to or in favor of such person or persons so controverting my last will, shall cease, [illegible] & become absolutely void to all intents & purposes whatsoever, as if such person or persons was or were naturally dead. And then and from thenceforth such estates, limitations, powers, provisos, & dispositions shall go, belong to & be vested in the person or persons who, by virtue of this my Will shall be met in remainder after the person or persons so disputing as aforesaid. — Provided he, she or they shall not controvert or dispute the validity of this my Will or any of the devises, limitations, powers, provisos, or dispositions herein contained or hereby made. I nominate and appoint the Guarantee Trust & Safe Deposit Company of Shamokin, Pa. as the Executor of this my Last Will & Testament.
Now, as if this weren’t an amazing breakthrough by itself, during this initially ordinary trip to the library, I made a second discovery. After copying the entirety of the will, I went back to the filing cabinet and had a look around. Some time ago I had checked the will book on microfilm with dates 1886-1913 (not the same reel on which I had found Elizabeth Kulp’s will), and, oddly enough, did not find much of anything except the administration of Darlington Kulp’s estate. But, I decided to go through the index again and double-check to make sure there wasn’t anything there. Just before I retrieved this reel, I glanced over the dates of some of the other will books on microfilm–one of them labeled “1892-1899.”
As I went through the 1886-1913 index, I first noticed D.R. Kulp’s name, and the page number 229. When I thought about it, I seemed to remember that this was the reel I’d checked before and found the administration on (dated 1898, five years after he died). Something occurred to me, and I suddenly scrolled on to the main part of the microfilm to see what was there–will administrations, as I had expected.
What does this mean, you are asking? That means…we don’t know what is on the reel marked 1892-1899.
Tripping over myself, I quickly ran the reel back, removed it and hopped off the reader back to the file cabinet. I took out the reel for 1892-1899, thinking that if the will administrations were on the first reel, then something had to be on this one and what else could it be except–the entire will!
That’s what it was. The entire will, and I had no idea it was there! Over and over, I thought to myself–what on earth must I have been thinking? Apparently, I had not noticed the second reel the first time, and later when I did, I assumed that was the one I’d checked. Mentally swatting self.
The bad news is, the handwriting was not as clear as on Elizabeth’s will, and the scanning and printing made things worse. Did not have time, unfortunately, to read through the original microfilm. I can make out most of it, but not quite enough for a perfect transcription at this time; will work on it later today, however. It was also completely impossible to print the administrator and executor information at the end, and I made so many poor copies of that section that I had the feeling I was getting to be a bit of a pest to the library staff and was probably using a lot of their paper, too. 🙂 So, I wrote down the important paragraphs by hand and made do with the copies I already had.
Well, that certainly was a productive trip!! Only makes you wonder…what else don’t I know about what’s in the library…?
A few notes regarding the first will:
There is reference to an Elizabeth R. Kulp. She, I believe, would have been the wife of Chester.
Also, toward the end, Elizabeth Kulp stated firmly and clearly that anyone who contested her will was to be left out of same. This possibly may have something to do with the family’s experiences during the settlement of Darlington Kulp’s estate; I hear that his son-in-law, Chester B. Thomas, did contest the will (exactly what about, I’m not sure), and it apparently took five years to settle the estate completely.
Another, very interesting point: She mentions that her daughter Ella was to be paid five thousand dollars, at least four times a year, during her lifetime so long as she remained unmarried. Ella J. Kulp, who died in 1931 at the age of 67, never married.