In the world of genealogy, just about every discovery comes as a surprise. Therefore, nothing should be a BIG surprise. After you get used to the presence of Black Sheep ancestors who stole a horse or beat their wife or killed someone, a simple lawsuit between neighbors seems to be just a mild hiccup in someone’s day. However, I confess to being a bit surprised by the events of 1867 that led John W. Jollett to enter into a lawsuit against his neighbor Monteller Utz.
|John Wesley Jollett and his wife Sarah Elizabeth|
photo courtesy of Jan Hensley
John Wesley Jollett was my 2X great-grandfather’s older brother. He was a farmer, a father of five, a veteran of the Civil War, storekeeper, postmaster and most memorably a respected Methodist minister in the Naked Creek community of Page County, Virginia. The church known today as Jollett United Methodist Church stands on land he donated for the purpose of building a church.
Utz vs JollettDespite all the good he might have done, there is a bit of a black-mark against his character. If you were to ask Monteller Utz, John W. Jollett flat-out duped him into buying a worthless horse.
|Clip from image #4|
Page Co, VA Chancery Cause Utz v Jollett 139-1869-024
Details of the suit and counter-suit reveal that Utz needed a work horse and Jollett had one to sell for $150. That equates to almost $2700 today. Utz did not have cash but trusting Jollett’s word that the horse could pull anything put behind it, he willingly signed a note promising to pay the agreed amount within two and a half months.
That after said horse was in his possession he ascertained by fair and repeated trials that he did not suit him and did not measure up to the positive representations of said Jollett, but on the contrary refused to work at all and in fact proved worthless to your Compt [Complainant]. Your Compt further states that he offered to return the horse to said Jollett who refused to receive him and indeed declined to accept any proposition of compromises, several being made by your Compt, with a desire to adjust the matter amicably and without material injury to himself.
Utz took the horse home and put it to work, at least he tried to. Apparently Utz tried several times to work with the horse but it just refused to work at all. Utz wanted out of the contract. Jollett refused. Not only did Jollett refuse to take back the horse, but also he would not even compromise with his dissatisfied neighbor.
Was the man of the cloth a man of his word?
Why Jollett would not take back the horse is anyone’s guess. Maybe he reasoned “a deal is a deal.” Maybe he thought Utz was wrong about the horse. Or - gasp! - maybe he didn’t want to be saddled with a worthless horse either. (NOTE: pun intended)
Utz had a witness, one who agreed with him. Frank Eppard said he knew of the horse even before Utz purchased it and that it was indeed worthless as a work horse. Nevertheless, the Court sided with John W. Jollett and compelled Utz to pay the $150, plus 6% per year dated from January 1867 until paid up. The case was finally dismissed in 1879.
If Monteller Utz was telling the truth, then Jollett’s behavior seems surprisingly un-Christianlike, especially for the one preaching “Do unto others” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.”
© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.