Richland Co., Ohio


Probate Records

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Margaret Welch Inherits $4,000

source:  Richland Shield & Banner:  25 June 1892, Vol. LXXV, No. 5

There is considerable romance in real life and some of it exists in this county.  It is seldom, indeed, when a poor person learns that a wealthy relative has died in a far off land and left the poor a snug fortune and it is still more infrequent for a beneficiary to receive such tidings, especially when the fortunate person is a charge upon the county and an inmate at the county infirmary.  But such is the case in this instance, strange as it may seem. 

The older inhabitants of the city and county will remember "Jack" Welch, who lived in the neighborhood of Spring Mills in the early '40's.  Mr. Welch had been married three times, his third wife being the widowed mother of ex-Commissioner Iler.  Henry Welch, who was then a young man, was the issue of a former marriage.  The only child of Mr. Welch's last marriage was a daughter, Margaret Jane, who in her early life was afflicted with some sickness that rendered her an imbecile.  Consequently, when her mother died and her father lost all his property defending himself on a charge which it would be uncharitable to now make public, the imbecile girl, having no one to care for her, was taken to the county infirmary, where she now is.

Henry Welch, the young man, caught the gold fever in '49 and, with a party from this section, went overland to California.  He engaged in various pursuits, making a specialty of operating a ranch, near Clarksburg and dealing in San Francisco real estate.  Mr. Welch was known to have accumulated considerable wealth and ten years ago said, himself, that he was worth $65,000.  In 1884, while living on his ranch near Clarksburg, Mr. Welch did that which gave his rightful heirs a great deal of trouble in compelling them to bring to light the half of his wealth -- he married an Irish woman, Honora Purcell.

Mrs. Welch had two brothers, John and Michael Purcell, who, by the evidence produced in a subsequent trial, were energetic only in getting Welch's property and keeping the legal heirs out of possession of their share.  During the latter years of Welch's life his two brothers-in-law and his wife managed his business for him, so that when he died in 1889 they knew more about his affairs than the deceased had.

No will was found, if there had been one made, and John Purcell immediately had himself appointed administrator and it seems proceeded to get possession of as much of the property as possible.  Although there were a number of legal heirs in the northern part of this county they received no notification until the summer of 1890, when the superintendent of the Richland County infirmary received a letter from Mr. Welch's neighbor, also a native of this county, asking if "Margaret Welch" was still living and stated the circumstances. 

H.E. Bell being at that time prosecuting attorney, the letter was handed to him and his firm opened a correspondence with San Francisco attorneys.  After proving heirship, proceedings were at once instituted to remove the administrator for irregularities, as the indications were that there would be none of the estate left for the attorneys to say nothing of the legal heirs.

In the fall of 1890 Mr. Bell went to San Francisco to assist in trying the case in the county court.  A sensation was created in court during the trial, as it was proved that Welch had at least $20,000 in gold, whereas the administrator only charged himself with having received cash "$179".  Other irregularities were discovered and after a long deliberation Judge Coffee suspended the administrator and ordered him to pay into the Bank of California $30,000 of the deficiency in the estate, pending further litigation.

The suspended administrator appealed the matter to the Supreme Court of the state, but justice was wide-awake there too, for the order was sustained, and the decision was published in the San Francisco Daily Law Journal, seven columns being devoted to it.  

The administrator was, however, by consent of all parties concerned, reinstated, the understanding being that he file a settlement account immediately, which he has so far failed to do.

Another proceeding was then begun against Purcell to have him removed.  He was charged with embezzling.  The proof showed that he had disposed of the deceased's hay and grain business and had rendered no account and had also sold a threshing machine without accounting for it.  The court found that the estate should have been $70,000, while only $35,000 was accounted for.  This decision was rendered about six weeks ago and the court ordered the removal of the administrator.

Under the laws of California the widow gets one-half of the property.  As there has been so much irregularity in the settlement of Welch's estate it is hard to estimate what Margaret's share will be, but her attorneys think it will reach about %4,000, providing Purcell is compelled to "shell out" the remainder of the half going to the other heirs of the deceased. 

Proceedings have now been instituted to enforce the order of the court removing the administrator and compelling him or his bondsmen to pay the sum of $30,000.  In the meantime the estate will be taken charge of by the "Public Administrator" a county officer.  The prospects are therefore that Margaret will soon receive her money.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010