A funny will (really!)
Posted by The Mysterious H.C. on March 20, 1998 at 19:20:47:
An 1841 Will from Massachusetts
Siasconset, May 30th, 1841
I, OBED GARDNER, master mariner, now living at 'Sconset, write down this will.
Item. I have cruised with my wife, Huldy Jane, since 1811. We signed articles in town before the preacher on Independence Day. I want her and my oldest boy Jotham to be Captain and Mate in bringing to port whatever I leave and to see that every one of the crew gets the lay as writ down on this paper. I put mother in command. I know sheel be Captain anyway, for six months after we started on our life cruise I found out that I was mate and she was master. I don't mean that she ever mutinied, but I no that whenever we didn't agree she always manoovred to work to windward. May be it is all right for she could sail closer to wind than I could and could manage the crew of little ones, that she had as much to do with shipping as I did. She always wanted me to do the swearin' when there was any trouble. I no that when she and Jotham break bulk, the cargo will be got out as well as I could do it myself.
Item. In 1838 Captain Ichabod Worth got tired of the old Nancy Rotch and wanted to get rid of her so he got me to take a piece of her. When I saw her last she was lyin' at the wharf in Valparaiso more'n half full. I mean she was more'n half full of oil. Mother never liked her. I want Jotham to have that piece as extra pay for what he does in settlin' up my affairs for heel have to steer things while mother is takin' observations, watchin the weather and lookin over things below deck.
Item. I want mother to have the house on Union street until she goes aloft. Then I want it to go to the children in equal lays and if any child dies I want the lay of the parent to go to the parent's young ones. But I don't want my daughter Belindy to have anythin as long as her husband is livin. He is a lubber, but she has been cruisin with him for years. I haven't got anything agin him, but he doesn't no how to navigate the sea of life. I do believe if he wanted to stop a leak board ship it would be just like him to go into the hold with an auger and bore a hole threw the plankin to let the bilge water out into the sea. But Belindy likes him. Thas just like a woman. If I should give the lay out and out to her, I am afraid her husband would manoover to get hold of it. So I want mother and Jotham to put it out at interest, and give what comes out of it to her until her husband ships for a corpse below decks in the grave yard. Then she can take the lay and do what she wants with it.
Item. I dont want my son Ezry to have anything from what I leave. All the children except him was good ones. They looked out for their mother and me. He didn't take after either of us except the time he took after me with a fid and hit me over the starboard eye. He new what was to come and was smart enough to jump into Johnny Gibbs catboat, hawl in the sheet and steer for the continent. When he got to Bedford he shipped as a boat steerer on the old Falcon. I was glad he did. I don't no where he is now but I herd he was master of a steamboat runnin between Canton and Whampoa. I havent got any use for him and I guess he hasnt any use for me. The black eye he gave me is outlawed and I dont now lay anythin up agin him for that.
Item. I want mother and Jotham to settle up things as soon as they can break bulk, and make a fair divide between the children. But don't forget what I have writ down about mother and Belindy. I don't think Belindy's husband will make any fuss about the way I have taken care of her unless she runs head on the shoals of a lawyers office. Then look out for squalls. I hope sheel stand off if she sees a lawyer comin thort her bows.
Item. I want mother to have half of what comes from what is left of my property besides the house in Union street. She deserves it. Every time I was around the Horn she did her duty to the young ones and I want her to have enough to live on until she goes aloft. Then I want her lay to go to the children in equal pieces except that Belindy shall only have what comes from it until her husband dies. If mother wants to marry again thats her business. I never did like to cruise without a mate, and I guess she wouldn't like to either.
Captain Obed Gardner ast us into his porch and opened his locker. He then ast us to take a drink of rum that was fetched to him from Boston by Captain George Swain in his schooner. We done so. It was a masterly warmin to our insides. Then he pulled this paper out of his pea jacket and signed it and said it was his will and he ast us to sign it as witnesses. We done so, then he ast one of us to write down what took place and as they said I was more of a skoller than they, I did so.
JETHRO COFFIN 2ND,
Published in The Nantucket Scrap Basket, Being a Collection of Characteristic Stories and Sayings of the People of the Town and Island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, revised, expanded, and rearranged by William F. Macy.
William F. Macy's notes:"This manuscript will was found in an old sea-chest in a house in Siasconset some years ago. The will was never presented in court for probate, because the turn of events made it unnecessary. The Nancy Rotch returned and was sold for a good price. Belindy's husband was drowned by the upsetting of his dory on Miacomet Rip. Ezra returned from China, prosperous and anxious to make amends for past shortcomings, and no one was more delighted to see him than Cap'n Obed. When the latter died, it was at Ezra's suggestion that the whole estate was given to the widow during her lifetime. After her death, at the age of 92, it was divided among the children, but Ezry gave his "lay" to Belindy's oldest boy, who had been named after him."
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