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Stephen Duncan Last Will & Testament: 1866

Dr. Stephen Duncan was one of the largest cotton planters in the United States during antebellum times. His vast holdings included plantations in Adams and Issaquena counties in Mississippi and St. Mary and Tensas  parishes in Louisiana, with the bulk of his planting properties in Issaquena County. It was in Issaquena County that his son and daughter-in-law (Henry P. and Mary Sargent Duncan) lived. For a biography of the Duncan family, see the Duncan family biography on this site. Below is an abstract of Dr. Stephen Duncan's will, as found in the Issaquena County courthouse:

Last Will and Testament of Stephen Duncan of the city, county and state of New York

I Stephen Duncan, late of Natchez in the State of Mississippi now are inhabitant of and resident in the city, county and state of New York. Physically being in good bodily health and of sound mind and memory and being mindful of the uncertainty of human life do hereby publish, ordain and declare this my last will and testament in manner following, that is to say – I direct my executor hereinafter named to pay and discharged all  just debts if any which I shall have  at the time of my decease and all every funeral and testamentary charges and expenses as soon after my decease as the same can conveniently and properly be done.

I hereby give, devise, ratify and confirm to my beloved wife Catharine A. Duncan a lot of land known as Number Twelve (12) Washington Square in the aforesaid city of New York as the said premises were heretofore conveyed to my said wife together with the late paintings and furniture of every kind both useful and ornamental now in and contained therein at the time of my death, to have and to hold the same to her and to her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns according to the future and quality of the estate forever. I also give and bequeath to my said wife a certain decree in the Chancery Court in the State of Mississippi and all monies due and become or be due or payable thereupon for sundry notes given by one A.L. Bingamon to the administrator of the estate of the late Charlotte Bingamon amounting to, as I presume to upwards of twenty thousand dollars.

The provisions above made for my said wife exceed the amount of her separately estate and that all she ever received from her father or mother or any other source and whereas I did herein ___ by my certain trust deed or instrument in writing bearing date the 7th day  of June in the year  1864 transfer and set to Charles P. Leverich and Henry S. Leverich as trustees &co certain property and effects in trust to pay over four thousand dollars of the annual income thereof yearly and every year during my life to my said wife Catharine A. Duncan and the residue whereof after deducting their charges and commissions to and for my use and benefits during my said life and after my decease in case my said wife survives me to pay … from said trust estate during the life of my said wife to be divided among deed between my  five children, Henry P. Duncan, Samuel Duncan, Stephen Duncan, Jr., Charlotte B. Davis and Maria L. Pringle and the survivors of them and the issue such of them as shall die leaving lawful issue surviving, equally share and share alike per Stirpes and not per capita the issue of any deceased child to be taken among them if more than one, the share or portion, their parent would have taken if alive.

And upon this further trust after the death of my said wife, to distribute and divide the said trusts, property and estate and all income thereof remaining in the hands of my said trustees to and among my said children in manner aforesaid the directions and provisions of which said trust deed were modified by an instrument in writing amendatory thereof dated October the 5th in the year 1865 and annexed to and now forming a portion of said trust instrument whereby the provisions of said trust deed in form of my said wife were increased by giving to her the residue of her life.

After my death a clear annuity of fifteen thousand dollars in place of the annuity of twelve thousand dollars above provided for and which said trust deed was further modified by an instrument in writing bearing date September 20th  1866 attached to and forming part of said deed of trust whereby in consideration of my having given and transferred to my said wife two hundred and fifty (250) shares of the stock of the New York Central Railroad valued at thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) and two hundred and fifty shares (250) of preferred stock of the Erie Railroad Company valued at twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000) for her own use and behoof forever the provisions in said trust deed contain for the payment of my said wife of an annuity of four thousand dollars ($4,000) during my life is abrogated and annulled and the entire net income of said trust fund is to be paid over to me during the term of my natural life. Now therfore I do hereby ratify and confirm the provision in said trust deed contained as the same or modified by the two instruments of writing amendatory thereof above mentioned and referred to and I hereby authorize and direct the said trustees Charles P. Leverich and Henry L. Leverich and the survivors of them after my death to retain and hold the property and effects to set apart, transferred and set over to them during the life of my said wife according to the trusts therein declared and contained and cut off the dividends and income of the said property and effects to pay over to my said wife during her natural life a clear annuity over and above all legacy, taxes and commissions of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) and yearly and every year to distribute and divide the residue of such dividends and income (after deducting their charges and commissions) to and among my said children above…….

I direct my executors hereinafter named to set apart and invest a sufficient sum out of my estate drawing interest… raise the clear annual sum of three hundred dollars ($300) and to pay over one hundred and fifty dollars of such income in two semi-annual payments of seventy five dollars each to my old and faithful servant Frank Smith and the balance of such income of one hundred and fifty dollars to my devoted and faithful servant Susan Collins in the semi-annual payments of seventy five dollars each and it is my wish and desire that the said Susan Collins share out of the said income or annuity of one hundred and fifty dollars, pay to her aged grandmother Kerby Collins the sum of fifty dollars per year during her life such annuity to be paid to the said Frank Smith and Susan Collins during their respective lives

I hereby give, release and discharge to the widow of John Posthlewait, deceased, whatever sum or amount she may owe or be indebted to me at the time of my decease. I hereby give, release and discharge to the children of William Posthlewait all and every sum and amount in which their father, the said William Posthlewait may be indebted to me by bond note or judgement at the time of my decease.

Whereas I have heretofore made and executed various deeds of gift and conveyances of lands and real estate lying in the Southern States or some of them to my children above named respectively some of which deeds I have in my possession. Now therefore it is my will and desire in case my such deeds heretofore executed by me be found in my possession or custody at the time of my decease that they be delivered by my executors to the grantees therein named respectively.

All the rest, residue, and remainder of my property, estate, real personal and mixed of every nature and kind whatsoever and wheresoever situated which I shall have be entitled to at the time of my decease, I give…..and bequeath to my five children above named……

I hereby ratify and confirm the provisions of a certain trust deed given by me to said Charles P. Leverich and Henry S. Leverich whereby I transferred and set over to them certain property and effects for the benefit of my two grand daughters Margaret and Sarah children of my deceased daughter Sarah Irvine and I hereby devise, give and bequeath the said property and effects therein described and transferred to the said Charles P. and Henry S. Leverich ….and whereas owing to great changes in the values of property in different portions of the United States, the property and effects so set apart and transferred to said Charles P. and Henry S. Leverich in trust for my said grand daughters will probably exceed in value and amount the share which either of my children will receive from me, I have therefore made no further provisions therein in favor of my grand children…..

I hereby appoint sons Henry P. Duncan, Samuel P. Duncan and Stephen Duncan Jr. and my sons in law Samuel L. Davis and Julius J. Pringle executors of this my last will and testament……I hereby give to my said executors free power and authority to contract, bargain for, and sell any lands and tenemants owned by me at the time of my decease at public or private sale at such times and upon such times and conditions as to my said executors shall deem proper…..

In witness hereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 28th day of September in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty Six.

Stephen Duncan     LC

The foregoing instrument consisting of 6 half sheets of paper having just been read in our presence was now here at the date thereof, signed, sealed, published and declared by said Stephen Duncan as and for his last will and testament in presence of us….

J.H. Stentenburgh, Hyde Park, NY
Thomas Kincaid, 33 East 12th St, NY
Charles M. Mill, Mt Vernon, Westchester County, NY
Lucius Bell,  39 W. Washington Square, NY
Mercer Merrell, 141 McDougal St. NY City
L.F. Butler,  New Jersey Ave. East, NY
George M. Miller, 248 Madison Ave. NY

State of Mississippi
Adams County

I, John F. Jenkins, clerk of the Chancery Court in and for said county and state and being by virtue of said office, custodian of the records of wills thereof, do hereby certify that the within and foregoing several pages, contain a whole, true and correct copy of the last will and testament of Stephen Duncan, deceased…….

Photocopied from the original records by James Newman, abstracted by Bob Franks

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