Friday, February 13, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 13

As assignee of the estate of Murdoch and Dickson, John Priest was required by Missouri law to appoint a day, within six months after the date of his assignment (October 14, 1873), and a place where he would proceed to adjust and allow the demands against the estate. He was then required to give notice of the time and place through an announcement published in a newspaper in the county where the business and its inventory was located. The notice had to be published for three months prior to the date that Priest would be meeting with creditors. Below is the April 25, 1874 listing that was placed in the St. Louis Republican by John Priest. (He didn't quite make the six month deadline, but apparently no one challenged him on it.)

Assignee's Notice for Murdoch & Dickson
In essence, the notice was advising the creditors of the firm that they had three days to present evidence of money owed to them - April 28, April 29, and April 30, 1874 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Any claims made after that date would be "precluded from the benefit of said estate." It is important to note that the notice is accepting demands against the "estate of John J. Murdoch" as well as the "partnership estate of Murdoch & Dickson." 

Dickson's personal estate was not at risk here, which raises an interesting question. Partners are personally liable for the business obligations of the partnership. If the partnership cannot pay its debts, then the creditors can go after the partners' personal assets to satisfy them. So why was Murdoch's personal property at stake and not Dickson's? In fact, James Eads and Barton Bates filed a claim against the estate of Murdoch & Dickson on behalf of Charles Dickson's estate because the firm owed Dickson money at the time of his death. That claim was later disallowed by Priest "on the ground that a member of an insolvent firm cannot himself be a creditor of the Estate of the partnership in conflict with the interests of the general creditors." Normally a debt does not go away simply because the person who incurred the debt has died. Did Dickson structure his personal estate in such a way as to avoid any liability of the partnership?

As 1874 progressed there were more signs that John Murdoch was not recovering from the financial situation the insolvency of Murdoch & Dickson had placed him in. Here is part of an ad from the October 12, 1874 St. Louis Republican. The same ad was repeated in November 3, 1874.

Notice of sale of Murdoch Farm
The Murdoch Farm was to be auctioned off to the highest bidder on the courthouse stairs on November 3, 1874 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The ad goes on to describe the 226 acres of land, stating the the sale includes the house where the Murdochs currently reside and the outbuildings on the property. 

St. Louis Courthouse circa 1870

How must that have felt? To know that you were about to lose the one thing people hold most dear - their home? And to have it done in the most public way possible?

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