Emma Does Her Duty

Week 34: #52 Ancestors – Timeline

By Eilene Lyon

The Putterer’s great-great-grandfather, Henry Bower, passed away March 24, 1916 in LaMoille, Bureau County, Illinois, at the ripe old age of 92. His wife, Hannah Mueller (Miller) predeceased him at age 78 in January 1908. They were the parents of seven children, of whom, six married.

Emma Bower (b. 1865), the youngest daughter, remained single, living with her parents and caring for them as they aged and eventually died.

The Bower family about 1907. Back row: Edward, Lorenzo (Louis), Martin, Elizabeth Chambers. Front row: Emma, Hannah, Henry and Margaret Reeder. (Shared by mobeez on Ancestry.com)

Henry, having lost his wife eight months earlier, but having real estate and seven heirs, sat down to write his will on October 1, 1908. He assigned Emma to be his executrix. Executors are assigned by will. Administrators are assigned by the court when there is no will.

Less than a month after her father’s death, Emma performed her first duty as executrix, filing the will for probate in the Bureau County court.

Probate cases can drag on for a decade or longer, but Henry’s probate is a very straightforward case that was resolved in just a little over four years. That includes a two-year gap between the second financial statement and the final settlement. It offers a clean illustration of the probate process and timeline. The documents produced can offer some clues about the decedent’s family and financial situation.

Henry’s will is very basic. He directs his funeral expenses and just debts be paid, and includes a $100 endowment to the cemetery to maintain his grave in perpetuity. He sets aside a sum of $3000 to reimburse Emma for her services to her parents. The balance of the estate is to be split equally between the seven heirs.

Sending notice of hearing to heirs: 12 Apr 1916

Hearing on petition: 3 May 1916

Witnesses on Will attest to their signatures: 4 May 1916

Emma files Petition as Executrix: 18 May 1916 (bond is waived in the will)

Emma signs Oath: 18 May 1916

Executor’s Notice to Creditors: 18 May 1916

Warrant to and Oath of Appraisers: 10 Jun 1916 (provides $800 living allowance to Emma)

Inventory of Household: 10 June 1916 (2 sets dishes $15; 2 feather beds $9, rest is very small amounts; Total $97.85)

Emma presents Appraisement: 14 Jun 1916 (Three real estate parcels, 160, 160,  and 40 acres, $72,000, no liens; notes due from Martin Bower and L.N. Goetz: $2400.) Here we learn that one of the larger parcels is in Adair County, Iowa, where two of Henry’s sons, Martin and Elias, live. Later we see that son Elias pays rent on the Adair farm to the estate.

Martin Bower family in Bridgewater, Adair County, Iowa. Back row: Daniel E Bower, Henrietta (Bower) Eddy, Ida (Bower) Raasch, Leslie M. Bower. Front row: Rufford Bower, Martin Bower, Katherine (Roos) Bower, Lillie M Bower. Katherine died in 1914, so taken sometime prior to that. (Shared by mobeez on Ancestry)

Hearing to Approve Appraisement: 3 Jul 1916

Proof of Notice, newspapers and displayed in banks & P.O., etc.: 7 Aug 1916

Proof of Notice having been advertised (May 5 – Jun 8): 8 Aug 1916

Court approval of Debt: 25 Aug 1916 (Mortuary bill)

Claim of Emma Bower against estate: 20 Feb 1917 (by her attorney R.L. Russell)

Summons to Appear 22 Feb 1917 to Henry, Elizabeth, and Anita Chambers, et al. in the matter of Emma vs. the Henry Bower estate: 21 Feb 1917 (nothing appears in the file about this hearing)

Emma’s election to take chattel ($97.85) as payment: 27 Mar 1918

Declaration of heirs, including an interview with Emma: 27 Mar 1918

Statement of monies received: 27 Mar 1918 (includes farm rent from two brothers, interest on notes, chattel, cash [bank CD], etc.)

Payments to Creditors: 27 Mar 1918 (mostly funeral stuff and estate business expenses [transportation], doctor for final illness $4, attorney $585) Interesting statement on professional fees at the time!

Order for Notice of Final Settlement: 9 Apr 1920 (notice to be given by 11 Apr for 26 Apr hearing)

Vacate judgment Emma vs. Estate: 26 Apr 1920 (Emma receiving $1000 damages. Not sure what all this is about.)

Report on Accounts of Estate, including final distribution: 14 May 1920

Emma Bower was already 51 years old when her father died. She continued to live in LaMoille and died two decades later in early January 1937.

Allen Jr. High, est. 1887 in LaMoille, Illinois. I visited LaMoille, the Putterer’s birthplace, in 2012.

Feature image: Bureau County Courthouse in Princeton, Illinois. (Wikimedia Commons)


FamilySearch: Illinois, Bureau County, probate records: probate case files, 1833-1931. https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/2548064 Film #102046690 images 564-627.

FamilySearch: Illinois, Bureau County, probate records  wills, 1837-1944. https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/2778808 Film #102629954 images 103-4.

37 thoughts on “Emma Does Her Duty

Add yours

  1. It’s interesting how women were called upon time after time to handle the business end of so many different situations. It was done with little fanfare, but as evidenced by the responsibility entrusted to Emma, it was done because the men oftentimes knew who to trust.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think this may have been near the tail end of the era in which the youngest daughter was expected to take care of aging parents. Women have been dealing with estate matters a long time. Frequently widows administered their husband’s estate. It seems the Bowers were a close-knit family with minimal squabbles. It’s notable that the land was apparently dealt with outside of the probate process, probably with those wanting the land buying out their siblings.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I bet it was unusual in those days to name a daughter as executor. It sounds like Emma lived her whole life for her parents. I hope she had some fun in the twenty years after her father died.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that was about the time women quit being expected to do that. It would be sad if she had to give up hopes of marriage for her parents sake, but perhaps this was her choice and made her happy.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You’re right. Perhaps she was like Emily Dickinson and just chose to be single (or so we’ve been led to believe). Today as well many people find happiness without being married.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. It seems to me that probate of 4 years is a very long time for a straightforward will? Would there have been any family disputes accounting for the 2 year gap? I have a copy of my paternal great-grandmother’s will from 1917 and yes, there was one single daughter who looked after the parents, and was left some money but she married shortly after her mother’s death and moved to Seattle. In the 1980’s her elderly son came to visit my parents and talk family history. I wish I had paid more attention but I wasn’t into genealogy then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did note that the land was not sold or otherwise mentioned after being listed as assets. I think the siblings must have spent some time hashing out some buying others out directly. I have to go look up the deeds to see what happened. Plus whatever that I described hearing was about may have something to do with it. Clearly I rushed this to “print” without getting all my facts!😏

      Liked by 1 person

      1. IMO, it would be unlikely for there not to be a dispute with that large a number of siblings. I lost a branch of my early Irish settlers (back in 1870 they moved to the US and were never heard from again) over a second mortgage, at least that’s what I was able to deduce from going back through the land records. As they lost the farm but just went across the border there must have been bad feelings, which is a shame as the 3 brothers had come from Ireland together. It’s amazing what you can piece together from the names on land records.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That is a shame how some families develop permanent rifts. Still happens, too. I expect you may be right about some contention amongst the siblings. The hearing and land records would enlighten further, for sure. I find a lot of amazing information in land records.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I really do have examples of probates that dragged on for a decade or more. Those are typically cases where someone has a lot of debts and few assets. Arranging for the disposition of assets ahead of time and avoiding probate is the way to go!


  4. Well Emma was certainly a devoted daughter to take care of her parents, then living out a lonely life because of that devotion. I always think the vintage family group photos look so formal, but then again, it is not like now with cameras readily available to lend some spontaneity to the family gathering shots.

    Liked by 1 person

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