Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fielding Jollett - A Decree in the Court of Equity

This is the final installment of a series exploring the Chancery Cause of Good & Walton vs Jollett 1860.
Part 1 - Fielding Jollett in Chancery Court
Part 2 - The Road to Chancery Court
Part 3 - I O U

By 1860 James W. Good and Reuben M. Walton were no doubt tired of waiting for payment on loans made to Fielding Jollett three years prior.  With the aid of their attorney Peter Borst, Jr., the two merchants filed a complaint against my 3G grandfather. 

The attorney presented evidence that Fielding Jollett owned 300 acres of land, and that he was in debt to Good and Walton, plus two more farmers George W. Shuler and George Summers.  The complainants acknowledged that Fielding had no personal property that could be sold in order to satisfy the debt, so they asked the Court to sell or rent as much of the real estate as would meet his obligations.

Fielding was summoned to court to answer and plea to the charges, but evidently he did not show up.  Failure to attend court was deemed a confession of guilt.

That was 1860.  An Intermediary Decree was not handed down until 1872.  Really?

Decree Good and Walton vs Jollett 1860

Good & Walton
vs                                           Int’y Decree
Fielding Jollett

This cause came to be heard this 29th day of May 1872 on the bill taken for confessed as to the Defendants

on whom process has been duly served, they he still failing to appear and plead, answer and demur to said bill; on the exhibits filed by the plaintiffs

and was argued by counsel.  On consideration whereof the Court doth adjudge, order and decree that one of the Commissioners of this Court do take and state an account of all the liens upon the real estate mentioned in said bill, and the character and priority thereof; also an account showing the fee simple and annual value of said land, together with any matter deemed relevant by himself, or that either party may require, and report his action under this decree to this Court at a future term.

And so the Commissioner took an account as ordered.  In so doing, he uncovered two more judgments against Fielding’s property, one from Benjamin F. Grayson and one from the estate of Paschal Graves.  When the Commissioner reported back on November 1, 1872, he calculated that Fielding Jollett owed $367.63, which is roughly $7,000 today.

Commissioners Report 1872 in case of Good and Walton vs Jollett

To the County Court of Page County   Commissioners Office Luray 1 of 1872
Your Commissioner begs leave to report that in pursuance of a decree of said Court entered at May term 1872 in a cause pending therein between James W. Good and Reuben M. Walton Plffs and Fielding Jollett Deft he has proceeded to make up the foregoing list of Judgments against the Deft Showing an aggregate including interest and costs on the first day of November 1872 of $367.63.  Upon examination of the records, your Commissioner finds at the date of the Docketing of the said Judgments , the Deft owned no real estate, nor has owned any since, but prior to that time owned and conveyed a tract of land to James F. Jollett, which will be seen by reference to the records in the Clerk’s office of Page County Court.   All of which is respectfully submitted.  Given under my hand as Commissioner of said county at my said Office the day and year aforesaid.
                                                W. T. Young, Commr  

While this Chancery Cause “folder” available online at the Library of Virginia website is pretty full with copies of deeds, judgments, complaints, and other evidence, there is no Final decree.  Since Fielding had apparently already sold the land to his son, there was no land to sell to satisfy the debt.  So what the Plaintiffs did then, I don’t know.

But I do know justice was certainly not swift in this case.  

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Not the outcome I expected. Fielding seems to have been a little cute by passing the land to James. The delay may have had something to do with the Civil War which I think upset normality a bit.

    Now we want to know how James farmed the land, was he a better Farmer than Fielding?

    1. I'm embarrassed to admit I had not considered the impact of the Civil War, especially since we're talking about the Shenandoah Valley which saw so much action. I guess I thought matters of the court just went on as usual.

      Benjamin Grayson agreed with you, but he didn't use the word "cute" -- he used "fraud." And that's the second Chancery Cause, a story for another day.

  2. Wendy, what a mess! And I'm thinking, "All for $7,000?" I guess that sort of money was a bigger deal than it is nowadays, regardless of the math to convert amounts into today's numbers.

    I have a property default issue in my ancestry--in Virginia, too! Thanks for sharing the online resource. I'm going to put that site on my to-do list to see if I can figure out what happened to my "cute" ancestor, too. All I know is the other side of the story--afterwards, he split for Tennessee.

    1. Moving to a different state was probably the best solution. HA!

  3. Wow! An interesting turn of events! Ugh! It's too bad there was no final decree. It would have been nice to know how everything was resolved in the end. Or maybe it remained unresolved? Do you know where Fielding lived following the sale of his farm to his son James? I'm wondering if he ended up living with James.

    1. I believe Fielding stayed right there. James Franklin married just months after he "bought" the land in 1859. He moved to neighboring Greene County (1860 census). To my knowledge James Franklin never lived on or worked the family farm once he married.