Patterson v. Gaines - 47 U.S. 550 (1848)

U.S. Supreme Court

Patterson v. Gaines, 47 U.S. 6 How. 550 550 (1848)

Patterson v. Gaines*

47 U.S. (6 How.) 550


The opinion of this Court in the case of Gaines v. Relf and Chew, 2 How. 619, reviewed.

A court of equity can decide the question whether or not a party is the heir of a deceased person. It is not necessary to send the issue of fact to be tried by a court of law.

Where a marriage took place in Pennsylvania, it must be proved by the laws of Pennsylvania. In that state it is a civil contract, to be completed by any words in the present tense, without regard to form, and every intendment is made in favor of legitimacy.

Where the complainant in a bill offers to receive an answer without oath, and the defendant accordingly filed the answer without oath, denying the allegations of the bill, the complainant is not put to the necessity, according to the general rule, of contradicting the answer by the evidence of two witnesses or of one witness with corroborating circumstances. The answer, being without oath, is not evidence, and the usual rule does not apply.

In this case, however, even if the answer had been under oath and had denied the allegations of the bill, yet there is sufficient matter in the evidence of one witness, sustained by corroborating circumstances, to support the bill.

A marriage may be proved by anyone who was present and can identify the parties. If the ceremony be performed by a person habited as a priest and per verba de praesenti, the person performing the ceremony must be presumed to have been a clergyman.

If the fact of marriage be proved, nothing can impugn the legitimacy of the issue short of the proof of facts showing it to be impossible that the husband could be the father.

By the laws of Louisiana and Pennsylvania, a marriage between a woman and a man who had then another wife living was void, and the woman could marry again without waiting for a judicial sentence to be pronounced declaring the marriage to be void.

If she does so marry again, and the validity of her second marriage be contested upon the ground that she was unable to contract it because the first marriage was legal, it is not necessary for her to produce the record of the conviction of

Page 47 U. S. 551

her first husband for bigamy. The burden of proof lies upon those who make these objections to the second marriage, and the declarations of the bigamist that he had a first wife living when he married the second are evidence.

When, in the progress of a suit in equity, a question of pedigree arises and there is proof enough, to the opinion of the court, to establish the marriage of the ancestor, the presumption of law is that a child born after the marriage is legitimate, and it will be incumbent on him who denies it to disprove it, although in so doing he may have to prove a negative.

Although the general rule is that a person cannot be affected, much less convicted, by any evidence, decree, or judgment to which he was not actually or in consideration of law privy, yet it has been so far departed from as that wherever reputation would be admissible evidence, there a verdict between strangers in a former action is evidence also.

Although by the Code of Louisiana a person holding property by sale from a donee of an excessive donation is liable to the forced heir only after an execution first had against the property of the donee, yet this rule does not apply to cases where the sale was made without any authority, judicial or otherwise.

Where sales are made without this authority, the purchaser is presumed to have notice of it. It is his duty to inquire whether or not the requisitions of law were complied with.

The statute of limitations which was in force when the suit was brought is that which determines the right of a party to sue.

By the Louisiana Code of 1808, a deceased person could not, in 1811, dispose of more than one-fifth of his property when he had a child. The child is the forced heir for the remaining four-fifths.

This was a branch of the case of Gaines v. Chew, which is reported in 43 U. S. 2 How. 619.

In the history of that case it is said, 43 U. S. 2 How. 627, that in 1836, Myra (then Myra Whitney, and now Myra Gaines)

"filed a joint bill with her husband in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana against Relf and Chew, the executors in the will of 1811, the heirs of Mary Clark, and all the purchasers and occupants of the estate of which Clark died in possession, claiming to be the heir and devisee of Clark and calling upon them all to account for the rents and profits of the several portions of the estate."

The joint bill thus filed against a number of persons was treated differently by the respondents. Some pursued one course and some another. Relf and Chew, the executors, demurred generally, and upon the argument of the demurrers some questions arose upon which the judges differed in opinion. These questions were consequently certified to the supreme court, and the answers to them constitute the case reported in 43 U. S. 2 How. 619. Patterson was one of the occupants and purchasers of a part of the property of which Clark died seized, and he chose to answer the bill. The proceedings of the court under this answer are now under consideration.

The history of Zuline Carriere, the mother of Mrs. Gaines, is briefly given in 43 U. S. 2 How. 620, and need not be repeated. The facts are there stated of her marriage with a man by the

Page 47 U. S. 552

name of De Grange; of her afterwards learning that De Grange had a former wife living; of her separation from him and journey to New York to obtain proofs of this first marriage of De Grange; of De Grange's first wife's arriving in New Orleans from France; of De Grange's being committed to prison on a charge of bigamy, and subsequent escape from the country; of Clark's marriage with Zuline in Philadelphia; of the birth of Myra, the complainant in the present suit; of Clark's placing her in the family of Mr. and Mrs. Davis; of the circumstances attending the making of the will of 1811; and some of the testimony relating to a subsequent will made in 1813, leaving all his property to his daughter Myra. The statement of these things in 2 How. is referred to as being a more particular narrative than the mere outline which is here given. We propose to take up the case where that report left it.

The record in the present case was in a very confused condition. Papers were misplaced, and the entire record of proceedings in the court of probates from 1834 to June 8, 1836, was introduced as evidence by the defendant Patterson in the circuit court, and also the proceedings of that court at a much earlier date. From them the following facts appear.

Clark died on 16 August, 1813. On 18 August, two days afterwards, the following petition was presented to the court of probates.

"To the Honorable the Judge of the court of Probates of the Parish of New Orleans."

"The petition of Francisco Dusuau de la Croix, of this parish, planter, respectfully shows: "

"That your petitioner has strong reasons to believe, and does verily believe, that the late Daniel Clark has made a testament or codicil posterior to that which has been opened before your Honorable Court, and in the dispositions whereof he thinks to be interested. And whereas it is to be presumed that the double of this last will, whose existence was known by several persons, might have been deposited with any notary public of this city."

"Your petitioner therefore prays that it may please your Honor to order, as it is the usual practice in such cases, that every notary public in this city appear before your Honorable Court within the delay of twenty-four hours in order to certify on oath if there does or does not exist in his office any testament or codicil or any sealed packet deposited by the said late Daniel Clark."

"And your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray &c."

"[Signed] D. SEGHERS, Of Counsel for the Petitioner"

Page 47 U. S. 553

"Francisco Dusuau de la Croix, the above petitioner, maketh oath that the material facts in the above petition set forth are true, to the best of his knowledge and belief."


"Sworn to before me August 18, 1813."

"THOS. BEAL, Reg. Wills."

The court ordered the notaries of the city to appear before it on the next day, when seven appeared and deposed that no testament nor codicil nor sealed packet had been deposited in their office by the late Daniel Clark, nor had any deposition mortis causa been made by him.

The will of 1811 was then admitted to probate. It was as follows:

"Daniel Clark. In the name of God, I, Daniel Clark, of New Orleans, do make this my last will and testament."

"Imprimis. I order that all my just debts be paid."

"Second. I leave and bequeath unto my mother, Mary Clark, now of Germantown, in the State of Pennsylvania, all the estate, whether real or personal, which I may die possessed of."

"Third. I hereby nominate my friends Richard Relf and Beverly Chew my executors, with power to settle everything relating to my estate."


"Ne varietur. New Orleans, 20 May, 1811."

"J. PITOT, Judge"

Letters testamentary were granted to Relf on 27 August, 1813, and to Chew on 21 January, 1814, the latter being absent from New Orleans at the time of Clark's death.

Davis had removed to the North with his family in 1812, carrying with him Myra, who passed for his daughter and bore his name.

Things remained in this condition until 1832, when Myra married William Wallace Whitney, and about the time of her marriage became acquainted with her true name and parentage.

In 1834, Whitney and wife commenced a series of proceedings in the court of probates which continued until 8 June, 1836, when the court dismissed their petition. It has been already stated that this entire record was introduced into the case now under consideration by the defendant, Patterson, on 13 August, 1840. Many depositions were taken, which constitute a part of the mass of evidence in the case, although some of the witnesses were reexamined under the authority of a commission issuing from the circuit court

Page 47 U. S. 554

of the United States after the filing of the bill. They who were thus reexamined were Harriet Smith, alias Harper, Madame Caillaret, the sister of Zuline, Belle Chasse, and De la Croix. They whose depositions were not taken over again were Bois Fontaine, Mr. and Mrs. Davis, Pitot, Derbigny, Madame Benguerel, and Preval. The evidence of Madame Despau, another sister of Zuline, was only taken once, and then under a commission issuing from the circuit court.

It is not necessary to give a particular narrative of the proceedings before the court of probates from 1834 to June, 1836. They were commenced in March, 1834, by a petition filed by Charles W. Shaumburg for letters of administration upon the estate of Clark on the ground that the succession was in an unclaimed and abandoned condition and that he had an interest in the settlement of the same. This petition was opposed by Relf and Chew. On 18 June, 1834, Whitney and wife became parties by filing a petition praying that the will of 1811 might be annulled and set aside, that Myra Clark Whitney might be declared to be the heir of Clark, and that Relf and Chew might be ordered to deliver over the estate to her, &c.

On 14 January, 1835, Relf and Chew filed an answer to this petition, denying that Myra had any claim, that Clark was ever legally married, or that he ever had any legitimate offspring, and denying all the other allegations generally.

In the course of this controversy, many depositions were taken.

On 8 June, 1836, the court of probates pronounced its judgment nonsuiting the plaintiffs.

On 28 July, 1836, Whitney and wife filed a bill on the equity side of the circuit court of the United States against Relf and Chew, the executors under the will of 1811, against the heirs of Mary Clark, and all the occupants and purchasers of the estate of which Clark died in possession. The bill charged that the will of 1813 was fraudulently suppressed, that its existence and suppression were notorious, and that all the purchasers did, in their consciences, believe that the will of 1811 had been fraudulently admitted to probate. It moreover stated the whole case, of which an outline has been given, alleging also that the sales made by Relf and Chew were illegally made.

Relf and Chew demurred generally and also pleaded to the jurisdiction of the court. The proceedings in that branch of the case are set forth in 43 U. S. 2 How. 619. Other defendants pursued other measures of defense, which it is not now necessary to mention.

Page 47 U. S. 555

On 12 December, 1837, Whitney's death was suggested, and the suit continued in the name of Myra alone.

On 24 May, 1839, Edmund P. Gaines and Myra, his wife, filed a supplemental bill stating their intermarriage and praying that the suit might be continued in their joint names as complainants.

On 18 April, 1840, the complainants filed an amended bill praying that Caroline de Grange and her husband, John Barnes, might be made defendants to the original bill.

On 21 April, 1840, Patterson filed his answer, which was not under oath, but signed by his counsel, in conformity with the waiver of the complainants. The answer denied all right and title of the complainants in and to the following described piece or lot of ground situated on Philippa Street, between Perdido and Poydras Streets, having front, on Philippa Street, one hundred and twenty-five feet French measure, by seventy feet in depth, the same being in a square of ground situated in Suburb St. Mary, of this city, now the second municipality of New Orleans, and bounded by Philippa, Circus, Perdido, and Poydras Streets.

It alleged that the property belonged to Clark in his lifetime, and was legally sold by Relf and Chew, his executors, and denied all the allegations of the bill.

On 25 April, 1840, Patterson filed the following supplemental answer:

"The supplemental answer of Charles Patterson, one of the defendants in the above-entitled suit, most respectfully represents:"

"That the property described in his original answer is ninety feet in depth, instead of seventy-five, French measure, as therein stated, and further represents that your respondents purchased a part of said property from Gabriel Correjollas, and the remainder from Etienne Meunier, and that the said Meunier purchased from the said Correjollas, and the said Correjollas purchased all the said property at an auction sale made in the year 1820 by the testamentary executors of the late Daniel Clark, all of which facts will more fully appear from the four several copies of the authentic deed of sale hereunto annexed as a part of this supplemental answer. And this respondent prays that this supplement be made a part of his original answer."

To this answer the deeds referred to were attached as exhibits.

Page 47 U. S. 556

As the claim of Mrs. Gaines in the present case was made not as devisee under the will of 1813, but as forced heir under the Civil Code of 1808, ch. 3, sec. 1, art. 19, which prohibits a testator from willing away more than one-fifth of his property if there is a legitimate child living at the time of his death, it is only necessary to insert in this statement such of the depositions as have a bearing upon the marriage of Clark and the consequent legitimacy of his daughter Myra.

Madame Despau and Madame Caillaret were sisters of Zuline, and examined under a commission issuing from the United States court.

Their evidence was as follows.

"Interrogatories to be propounded, on behalf of Complainants, to John Sibley, Madame Caillaret, Madame Despau, and Mrs. Eliza Clark."

"1st. Were you, or not, acquainted with the late Daniel Clark of New Orleans?"

"2d. Was the said Daniel Clark ever married? If so, when and to whom, and was there any issue of said marriage? State all you may know or have heard of said Clark upon this subject."

"3d. Were you acquainted with a man in New Orleans by the name of De Grange? If so, when and where have you known him? Was he or not married when he first came to New Orleans, and did he or not so continue until after he finally left it? State all you may know or have heard touching this subject."

"4th. If you know anything further material to the complainants in the controversy, state it."


"1. Will you and each of you answering any interrogatories of the complainants state your age, employment, and present residence, and if a married woman state your maiden name, and if married more than once state the names of your husbands, and by whom and when and where you resided during each year from 1810 to 1814?"

"2. If you answer the first interrogatory in chief affirmatively, state how that acquaintance originated. When and where did you first see Mr. Daniel Clark? Was your acquaintance with him intimate or not? Was it ever interrupted, and if so, for what reason? Did it continue uninterrupted until the death of Mr. Clark, and if so, how long a period did it embrace? Do you say that your intimacy with Mr. Clark was of such a nature as to enable you to become acquainted with

Page 47 U. S. 557

events in his life which were not disclosed to the entire circle of his acquaintance, and if so, have you a distinct recollection of any such event or events, and state the circumstances which strengthen your memory on this point."

"3. Will you state where Mr. Clark resided when in New Orleans? Do you recollect the street and the house? Did he board or keep house? If he boarded, did he also lodge at the same house, and if so, who was the keeper of this house and what was his or her general character? If he had a house, did he have a housekeeper, and if so, what was his or her general character? Did he reside in New Orleans during the summer months, and if not, where did he go? At whose house did he stop, or whom did he visit?, and state what you know of the people whom he visited and his own standing in society."

"4. If, in answering the second interrogatory, you say that Mr. Daniel Clark was ever married, state when, where, and to whom. By what priest, clergyman, or magistrate, and who were the witnesses present? Were you among the witnesses? What other witnesses were present with you? Did you ever see the lady whom you say Mr. Clark married, and if so, what was her personal appearance, her age, and name, and family? Where did she reside before the time you say she was married to Mr. Clark? How long did you know her before that time? Or were you acquainted with her until then? Did not Mr. Clark introduce her to you? State particularly everything you know in regard to the connection of Mr. Clark with the lady whom you call his wife, and state if she was ever married before or after the time you say she was married to Mr. Clark; if so, when, where, and to whom?"

"5. Did you ever know that there was any issue of said supposed marriage? If so, who told you? State your means of knowing anything about this circumstance. What was the name, age, sex, and the time of the birth of the child whose father you say was Mr. Clark? Do you know who nursed and reared this child, and if so, who was the nurse? State, if you please, if you saw the mother shortly after this child was born, and if so, where was she? Did she reside then at the house of Mr. Clark, and if not, why not, and where did she reside? Did Mr. Clark live with her at this time, and were they known generally to the neighbors as man and wife?"

"6. Was this supposed marriage of Mr. Clark's (if you say he ever was married) public or private? If public, did Mr. Clark introduce his wife to his friends and acquaintances in New Orleans? And if she was not introduced, state why she was not. Or was his marriage private? If so, why was it private. And what circumstances could or did probably

Page 47 U. S. 558

induce him to keep that marriage secret from his friends and the public."

"7. Do you know Myra C. Whitney, one of the complainants in this controversy? If so, how long have you been acquainted with her? Did either of the complainants inform you, by letter or otherwise, that your testimony would be important to them in this suit, and if so, on what points did they wish you to be prepared?"

"8. If, in answering the third interrogatory, you say that you were acquainted with a man in New Orleans by the name of De Grange, state, if you please, where and when you first became acquainted with him, in what year. Were you intimate with him, and if so, did this intimacy continue without interruption? Was he born in the City of New Orleans, and if not where was he born and how long did he remain in said city? What was his employment? Was he married in New Orleans, or where was he married? Were you present at his marriage, and if so, state when and by whom he was married. Have you ever seen his wife, and if so what was her personal appearance and age and what was her name prior to her marriage with De Grange? Did you ever see De Grange's wife and the lady whom you say Mr. Clark married in company together? If so, when and where, and how often? State particularly everything you know touching said De Grange, his wife, and their connection or relation with Mr. Clark."

"9. Did you ever or not hear Mr. Clark acknowledge that he had any natural children in New Orleans, and particularly, did you ever, or not, hear him acknowledge two female children -- the one named Caroline and the other named Myra? And is, or not, that Myra one of the complainants in this case? Did you ever hear him say that he intended to leave by will money or property enough to Myra to take the stain off her birth? If you heard him use such expressions or those of a similar character, state what you suppose he meant by taking off the stain from the birth of his own legitimate daughter."

"10. Will you state who was the mother of the complainant, Myra? And did the mother nurse Myra? If not, why not? Who did nurse her? Did her mother die and leave her an infant, or was she too sick and too feeble to nurse that child? Did the mother of Myra, the complainant, nurse and raise her or not? If not, who did? Mention particularly any and all the circumstances on which you found your opinion."

"11. If you know when the complainant Myra was born, state the precise date and place and state if you know by whom and where she was raised and whose name she bore, and why she bore that name. "

Page 47 U. S. 559

"12. State if you please what are your feelings and affections towards the complainants; whether you are related to or connected with either of them; and if you are, how and in what degree or way, and whether you have any interest in the event of this suit."

"13. Will each one of you, answering any of these direct or cross-interrogatories, state whether you have seen or examined, read or heard read, any one of them, or copies of them, at any time or place, before you were called upon by the commissioner to answer them? If ay, state when, where, and by whom they were thus so shown or read to or by you, and for what purpose. State also, each one of you, whether you have had any conversation or correspondence, within the last three or four years, with the complainants or with either of them respecting their supposed claims against the estate of Daniel Clark, and if you answer affirmatively, state why, when, and where such conversation or correspondence occurred and the nature and amount of them so far as your memory will serve you, and who was present at such conversations. If you have any letters from the complainants or from either of them on the matters referred to in these direct and cross-interrogatories, annex them to your answers if possible, and if not possible, stat why. If you have preserved and cannot annex them, give true extracts from them, and if that be not possible, state your recollections."

"14. What is your maternal language? If not English, do you understand that language perfectly? And if you do not understand English, how have you contrived to answer the foregoing chief and cross-interrogatories? Who has translated them to you?"

"Answers of Madame Despau"

"Answer to the first interrogatory"

I was well acquainted with the late Daniel Clark of New Orleans.

"Answer to the second interrogatory"

"Daniel Clark was married in Philadelphia in 1803 by a Catholic priest. I was present at this marriage. One child was born of that marriage, to-wit, Myra Clark, who married William Wallace Whitney, son of General T. Whitney of the State of New York. I was present at her birth, and knew that Mr. Clark claimed and acknowledged her to be his child. She was born in 1806. I neither knew nor had any reason to believe any other child besides Myra was born of that marriage. The circumstances of her marriage with Daniel Clark

Page 47 U. S. 560

were these. Several years after her marriage with Mr. De Grange, she heard that he had a living wife. Our family charged him with the crime of bigamy in marrying the said Zuline; he at first denied it, but afterwards admitted it and fled from the country; these circumstances became public, and Mr. Clark made proposals of marriage to my sister with the knowledge of all our family. It was considered essential, first, to obtain record proof of De Grange's having a living wife at the time he married my sister, to obtain which from the records of the Catholic church in New York (where Mr. De Grange's prior marriage was celebrated) we sailed for that city. On our arrival there, we found that the registry of marriages had been destroyed. Mr. Clark arrived after us. We heard that a Mr. Gardette, then living in Philadelphia, was one of the witnesses of Mr. De Grange's prior marriage. We proceeded to that city and found Mr. Gardette; he answered that he was present at said prior marriage of De Grange, and that he afterwards knew De Grange and his wife by this marriage -- that this wife had sailed for France. Mr. Clark then said,"

"You have no reason longer to refuse being married to me. It will, however, be necessary to keep our marriage secret till I have obtained judicial proof of the nullity of your and De Grange's marriage."

They, the said Clark and the said Zuline, were then married. Soon afterwards, our sister, Madame Caillaret, wrote to us from New Orleans that De Grange's wife whom he had married prior to marrying the said Zuline, had arrived at New Orleans. We hastened our return to New Orleans. He was prosecuted for bigamy -- Father Antoine of the Catholic church in New Orleans taking part in the proceedings against De Grange. Mr. De Grange was condemned for bigamy in marrying the said Zuline, and was cast into prison, from which he secretly escaped by connivance, and was taken down the Mississippi River by Mr. Le Briten d'Orgenois, where he got to a vessel, escaped from the country, and, according to the best of my knowledge and belief, never afterwards returned to Louisiana; this happened in 1803, not a great while before the close of the Spanish government in Louisiana. Mr. Clark told us that before he could promulgate his marriage with my sister, it would be necessary that there should be brought by her an action against the name of De Grange. The anticipated change of government created delay, but at length, in 1806, Messrs. James Brown and Eligeas Fromentin, as the counsel of my sister, brought suit against the name of Jerome de Grange in the City Court, I think, of New Orleans. The grounds of said suit were that said De Grange had imposed himself in marriage upon her at a time when he had living a lawful wife.

Page 47 U. S. 561

Judgment in said suit was rendered against said De Grange. Mr. Clark still continued to defer promulgating his marriage with my sister, which very much fretted and irritated her feelings. Mr. Clark became a member of the United States Congress in 1806. While he was in Congress, my sister heard that he was courting Miss _____** of Baltimore. She was distressed, though she could not believe the report, knowing herself to be his wife; still his strange conduct in deferring to promulgate his marriage with her had alarmed her; she and I sailed for Philadelphia to get the proof of his marriage with my sister. We could find no record, and were told that the priest who married her and Mr. Clark was gone to Ireland. My sister then sent for Mr. Daniel W. Coxe, and mentioned to him the rumor. He answered that he knew it to be true that he (Clark) was engaged to her. My sister replied it could not be so. He then told her that she would not be able to establish her marriage with Mr. Clark if he were disposed to contest it. He advised her to take counsel, and said he would send one; a Mr. Smythe came and told my sister that she could not legally establish her marriage with Mr. Clark, and pretended to read to her a letter in English (a language then unknown to my sister) from Mr. Clark to Mr. Coxe, stating that he was about to marry Miss _____. In consequence of this information, my sister Zuline came to the resolution of having no further communication or intercourse with Mr. Clark, and soon afterwards married Mr. Gardette of Philadelphia.

"Answer to the third interrogatory"

"I became acquainted with Mr. Jerome de Grange in 1793, when, as I understood, he first came to New Orleans. He was a nobleman by birth, and passed for a single or unmarried man, and courted and married Zuline, nee De Carriere, at the age of thirteen, the same who is the mother of Myra Clark Whitney. Zuline had two children by him, a boy and a girl; the boy died; the girl is still living, her name is Caroline; she is married to a physician by the name of Barnes. I was present at the birth of these children."

"Answer to the fourth interrogatory"

"I am not aware of knowing other important matter to the complainants in this cause."

"Answer to the first cross-interrogatory"

"My name is Sophie Veuve Despau, nee De Carriere. My deceased husband was a planter. I was born in Louisiana. My

Page 47 U. S. 562

age is sixty-two. I now reside in Beloxi; from 1800 to 1814, I resided in Louisiana, in Philadelphia, and in Cuba."

"Answer to the second cross-interrogatory"

"I first knew Daniel Clark in New Orleans; his being the husband of my sister, Zuline de Carriere, placed me on a footing of intimacy with him during the time of their intercourse; that intimacy was afterwards interrupted by their separation."

"Answer to the third cross-interrogatory"

"I had reason to know that Mr. Clark, at different times, lived in different houses in New Orleans. I have before said that he did not give publicity to his marriage with said Zuline. He kept a very handsome establishment for her in New Orleans, and was in the habit of visiting her."

"Answer to the fourth cross-interrogatory"

"I have already stated that Mr. Clark was married to my sister, Zuline de Carriere, that I was present at her marriage (a private one) in Philadelphia. Besides myself, Mr. Dorvier of New Orleans, and an Irish gentleman, a friend of Mr. Clark's, from New York, were present at his marriage. A Catholic priest performed the marriage ceremony. I have already before stated that Zuline was married to Mr. Jerome de Grange before her marriage with Mr. Clark, and that thereafter she was married to Mr. Gardette of Philadelphia."

"Answer to the fifth cross-interrogatory"

"I have already stated that I knew Myra Clark to be the issue, and the only issue, of the marriage of Zuline de Carriere and Daniel Clark. A few days after the birth of Myra Clark, she was placed by her father under the care of Mrs. Davis, the wife of Colonel S. B. Davis, with whom she lived until her marriage with Mr. Whitney. I have heard that Colonel Davis concealed from the said Myra her true history, and that she bore his name after her father's death. Zuline and Mr. Clark occupied different houses in New Orleans, but he always visited her, as heretofore mentioned, at her own house; their marriage was known only to a few friends; Mr. Clark told me that he had informed Colonel S. B. Davis, Mr. Daniel W. Coxe, and Mr. Richard Relf, of his marriage with my sister Zuline."

"Answer to the sixth cross-interrogatory"

"I always understood and believed, at least for the first years of his marriage, that Mr. Clark was prevented from making it public on account of her unfortunate marriage with Mr. De Grange. His pride was great, and his standing was of the

Page 47 U. S. 563

highest order in society, and that pride might have suggested his opposition to the promulgation of his marriage. He, however, always manifested by his conversations, which I frequently heard, the greatest affection for his daughter Myra."

"Answer to the seventh cross-interrogatory"

"I have already stated my knowledge of Myra Clark Whitney from her birth. As I never made any secret of my knowledge of her being the daughter of Daniel Clark, nothing was more likely than she and her late husband should hear of my acquaintance with her parentage, and many circumstances connected with it, as already related. And on this it was, I presume, that I have been called upon to give testimony in this affair. But neither of them nor anybody else ever dared to ask of me any declarations in the least inconsistent with truth and justice."

"Answer to the eighth cross-interrogatory"

"I have already in my former answers stated, particularly the third and fourth, my knowledge of Jerome de Grange and of his first and second marriages. Before the detection of his bigamy, said Zuline had a son who died, and a daughter called Caroline, which bore his name. Since the death of Mr. Daniel Clark, Mr. Daniel W. Coxe and Mr. Hulings of Philadelphia gave her the name of Caroline Clark, and took her to Mr. Clark's mother, and introduced her as the daughter of her son. She of course believed their story, which induced her in her will to leave a portion of her property to Caroline. Caroline was born in 1801. I was present at her birth, as well as that of her brother."

"Answer to the ninth cross-interrogatory"

"I never heard Mr. Clark acknowledge his having any natural children, but have only heard him acknowledge one child, and that a lawful one, to-wit, said Myra."

"Answer to the tenth cross-interrogatory"

"I have already given a full account of the mother of Myra, and of Myra herself, and her being with Mrs. Davis. I have stated all that I know of these matters, as called for by this interrogatory."

"Answer to the eleventh cross-interrogatory"

The information called for by this interrogatory has already been given.

Page 47 U. S. 564

"Answer to the twelfth cross-interrogatory"

"I have already before stated myself to be the sister of Myra's mother. My feelings towards Myra are those of friendship and all becoming regard. I wish, however, that justice only be done towards her, but in or by the issue of the suit I have nothing to gain or lose."

"Answer to the thirteenth cross-interrogatory"

"I have never seen or heard read the interrogatories or cross-interrogatories referred to before called upon to answer them. Any conversations that I have had about this affair I have already given an account of."

"Answer to the fourteenth cross-interrogatory"

"My natural language is French; but my nephew is well acquainted with the English language, and when in need of a translator, I apply to him."


"Which answers, being reduced to writing, have been signed and sworn to in my presence, this twenty-eighth day of June, A.D. 1839. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this the day and year above written."


"J. P. H. C. [L.S.]"

"One word erased on third page, also one word on fourth page; two words interlined on fourth page; twenty-five words erased on fifth page; one word interlined on sixth page, before signing."

"[Signed] H. P. WENTZELL"

"J. P. H. C. [L.S.]"




"In pursuance of the annexed commission, issued from the United States Circuit Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana, I, the undersigned, justice of the peace in Hancock County, State of Mississippi, have caused to come before me Madame Rose Vve. Caillaret, nee De Carriere, who being duly sworn to declare the truth on the questions put to her in this cause, in answer to the interrogatories annexed to said commission, says:"

"Answer to the first interrogatory"

"I was well acquainted with the late Daniel Clark, of New Orleans. "

Page 47 U. S. 565

"Answer to the second interrogatory"

"I was not present at the marriage of Zuline, nee De Carriere, who is my sister, with Daniel Clark, but I do know that said Clark made proposals of marriage for my sister, and subsequently said Zuline wrote to me that she and said Clark were married. Mr. Clark's proposals of marriage were made after it became known that her marriage with Mr. De Grange was void from the fact of his having then, and at the time of his marrying her, a living wife; these proposals were deferred being accepted till the record proof of De Grange's said previous marriage could be obtained, and said Zuline, with her sister, Madame Despau, sailed for the North of the United States to obtain the record proof."

"Answer to the third interrogatory"

"I was acquainted with Mr. De Grange in New Orleans. He was considered an unmarried man on coming to New Orleans, and as such imposed on my sister Zuline to marry him, but it was afterwards proved he had a lawful wife still living. After this imposition of said De Grange, his said lawful wife came to New Orleans and detected and exposed his bigamy in marrying the said Zuline when he had a living and lawful wife at and before the time of his marrying Zuline. He was prosecuted, condemned, and cast into prison, and escaped privately from prison. He escaped from Louisiana, as it was reported, by the Spanish governor's connivance. Le Breton d'Orgenois was said to aid De Grange in getting him off. This happened some time before the Americans took possession of New Orleans. Mr. Clark's marriage with my sister Zuline was after the detection of De Grange's bigamy. The birth of their daughter, Myra Clark, was some years after the marriage."

"Answer to the fourth interrogatory"

"I am not aware of knowing anything more of importance in this suit except the marriage of said Zuline with Mr. Gardette, of Philadelphia, before the death of Mr. Clark."

"Answer to the first cross-interrogatory"

"My name is Rose Veuve Caillaret, nee De Carriere. My age is sixty-eight years. I was born in Louisiana, and resided some time in France after this marriage of Zuline and Mr. Clark and after that resided in the State of Mississippi."

"Answer to the second cross-interrogatory"

"I became acquainted with Mr. Clark in New Orleans. In consequence of his attachment and marriage to my sister Zuline,

Page 47 U. S. 566

an intimacy subsisted between him and myself. Our friendly intercourse continued during my residence in New Orleans."

"Answer to the third cross-interrogatory"

"When I resided in New Orleans, Mr. Clark lived in his own houses, with his own slaves to wait upon him. He had the reputation of being a man of immense wealth. He stood at the head of society, was considered a man of very great talents and much beloved for his benevolence."

"Answer to the fourth cross-interrogatory"

"I have already stated all I knew about Mr. Clark's marriage with Zuline and of her marriage with De Grange. By this marriage she had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy is dead, the girl is still living; her name is Caroline, and she is married to Dr. Barnes. I have already stated that said Zuline also married Mr. Gardette."

"Answer to the fifth cross-interrogatory"

"It is to my knowledge that Myra Clark, who married Mr. Whitney, is the child, and only child, of Mr. Clark by Zuline de Carriere. It is to my knowledge that Mr. Clark put his daughter Myra under the charge of Mrs. Davis. Mr. Clark acknowledged to me that Myra was his lawful and only child. Mrs. William Harper nursed her for some time from kindness. Mr. Clark's gratitude towards this lady for nursing his child lasted with his life. Said Myra was brought up and educated in the family of Colonel Davis, and supposed herself their child until within a few months of her marriage with Mr. Whitney."

"Answer to the sixth cross-interrogatory"

"I always heard that Mr. Clark's marriage with Zuline was private and that he did not promulgate it unless he did so in his last will, made a little before his death and lost or purloined after his death. He never explained to me his reasons for not publishing his marriage in his lifetime."

"Answer to the seventh cross-interrogatory"

"I have known Myra Clark Whitney for some years, making no secret about my knowledge I possessed of the matters of which I have herein spoken, and it being known that I was an elder sister of Zuline de Carriere. Therefore it was, I suppose, that I have been called on to testify in this cause, but no one has ever taken the liberty to intimate a wish for me to declare anything but the truth. "

Page 47 U. S. 567

"Answer to the eighth cross-interrogatory."

"I have already said all I know about Mr. De Grange."

"Answer to the ninth cross-interrogatory."

"I never heard Mr. Clark make any acknowledgment of his having any natural children, and I never heard of his having another child than Myra Clark Whitney and which Mr. Clark informed me was his lawful child."

"Answer to the tenth cross-interrogatory"

"I have already stated all I know as to the parentage and nursing and education of Myra Clark."

"Answer to the eleventh cross-interrogatory"

"I have already stated all I know about the parentage and name of Myra Clark, except that I have heard that after her father's death she was called Myra Davis."

"Answer to the twelfth cross-interrogatory"

"My feelings are friendly and kind towards Myra Clark Whitney, and I wish her such success only in her suit as is compatible with justice. I have no interest in the issue of it."

"Answer to the thirteenth cross-interrogatory"

"I have never seen the interrogatories put to me until called upon to answer them. I have already stated all I have to say about my conversations. I am not aware of ever having any correspondence with either of them on this subject."

"Answer to the fourteenth cross-interrogatory"

"French is my mother tongue, but my son is well acquainted with the English language, and when in need of a translator, I apply to him."


As the opinion of the court refers also to the evidence of Bois Fontaine, it is deemed proper to insert it.

"Interrogatories and Answers of Pierre Baron Bois Fontaine"

"WM. WALLACE WHITNEY and MYRA C., his wife"

"vs. Court of Probates"

"P. O'BEARN and others"



nterrogatories to be propounded to Witnesses on Behalf of the plaintiffs"

"1st. Were you acquainted with the late Daniel Clark, deceased, of New Orleans? If so, were you at any time on terms of intimacy with him? "

Page 47 U. S. 568

"2d. Did the said Daniel Clark leave at his death any child acknowledged by him as his own? If so, state the name of such child, whether such child is still living, and if living, what name it now bears, as also state when and where, and in what times, said acknowledgment of said child was made."

"3d. Have you any knowledge of a will said to have been executed by said Clark shortly before his decease? Did you ever read or see the said will, or did Daniel Clark ever tell you that he was making said will, or had made said will? If so, at what time and place, and if more than once, state how often, and when and where."

"4th. If you answer the last question affirmatively, state whether the said Daniel Clark ever declared to you or to anyone in your presence the contents of said will. And if so, state the whole of said declarations and the time, place, and manner in which they were made, before whom, and all the circumstances which occurred when such declaration was made."

"5th. State how long before his death you saw the said Daniel Clark for the last time, how long before his death he spoke of his last will, and what he said in relation to his aforesaid child."

"6th. State whether you ever heard anyone say he had read the said will. If so, state whom, what was said, and whether the said person is now living, or not."

"[Signed] WM. M. WORTHINGTON, For Plaintiff"


"1st. Each witness examined, and answering any one of the foregoing interrogatories, is desired to state his name, age, residence, and employment; and whether he is in any manner connected with or related to any of the parties to the suit or has any interest in the event of the same."

"2d. How long did you know Daniel Clark, and under what circumstances? And if you presume to state that Daniel Clark left any child at his decease, state who was the mother of said child and who was the husband of that mother. State all the circumstances fully and in detail, and whether said Clark was ever married, and if so to whom, when, and where."

"3d. If said Clark ever acknowledged to you that he supposed himself to be the father of a child, state when and where he made such an acknowledgment and all the circumstances of the recognition of such a child or children, and whether the act was public or private."

"4th. Did said Clark consider you as an intimate friend to

Page 47 U. S. 569

whom he might confide communications so confidential as those relating to his will? If ay, state what you know of your own personal knowledge of the contents of said will, and be careful to distinguish between what you state of your own knowledge and what from hearsay."

"The defendants propound the foregoing interrogatories with a full reservation of all legal exceptions to the interrogatories in chief, the same not being pertinent to the issue and the last of said interrogatories being calculated merely to draw from the witness hearsay declarations."

"[Signed] L. C. DUNCAN, For Defendants"

"In pursuance of the annexed commission, directed to me, the undersigned justice of the peace, personally appeared Pierre Baron Bois Fontaine, who being duly sworn to declare the truth on the questions put to him in this cause, in answer to the foregoing interrogatories, says:"

"1st. In reply to the first interrogatory he answers -- I was acquainted with the late Daniel Clark of New Orleans, and was many years intimate with him."

"2d. In reply to the second interrogatory he answers -- Mr. Clark left at his death a daughter named Myra, whom he acknowledged as his own, before and after her birth and as long as he lived. In my presence he spoke of the necessary preparation for her birth, in my presence asked my brother's wife to be present at her birth, and in my presence he proposed to my sister and brother-in-law, Mr. S. B. Davis, that they should take the care of her after her birth. After her birth he acknowledged her to me as his own, constantly and at various places. He was very fond of her, and seemed to take pleasure in talking to me about her."

"When he communicated to me that he was making his last will, he told me he should acknowledge her in it as his legitimate daughter. The day before he died, he spoke of her with great affection and as being left his estate in his last will. The day he died, he spoke of her with the interest of a dying parent, as heir of his estate in his last will. She is still living, and is now the wife of William Wallace Whitney."

"3d. In reply to the third interrogatory, he answers --"

"About fifteen days before Mr. Clark's death, I was present at his house, when he handed to Chevalier de la Croix a sealed packet, and told him that his last will was finished, and was in that sealed packet. About ten days before this, he had told me that it was done. Previous to this, commencing about four months before his death, he had often told me that he was making his last

Page 47 U. S. 570

will. He said this in conversation with me on the plantation, and at his house, and I heard him mention this subject at Judge Pitot's. I frequently dined at Judge Pitot's with Mr. Clark on Sundays. The day before he died, he told me that his last will was below, in his office room, in his little black case. The day he died, he mentioned his last will to me."

"4th. In reply to the fourth interrogatory, he answers -- I was present at Mr. Clark's house about fifteen days before his death, when he took from a small black case a sealed packet, handed it to Chevalier de la Croix, and said,"

" My last will is finished; it is in this sealed packet, with valuable papers; as you consented, I have made you in it tutor to my daughter. If any misfortune happens to me, will you do for her all you promised me? Will you take her at once from Mr. Davis? I have given her all my estate in my will, an annuity to my mother, and some legacies to friends. You, Pitot and Belle Chasse, are the executors."

"About ten days before this, Mr. Clark, talking of Myra, said that his will was done."

"Previous to this he often told me, commencing about four months before his death, that he was making his last will. In these conversations he told me that in his will he should acknowledge his daughter Myra as his legitimate daughter and give her all his property. He told me that Chevalier de la Croix had consented to be her tutor in his will and had promised, if he died before doing it, to go at once to the North and take her from Mr. Davis. That she was to be educated in Europe. He told me that Chevalier de la Croix, Judge Pitot, and Colonel Belle Chasse were to be executors in his will. Two or three days before his death, I came to see Mr. Clark on plantation business; he told me he felt quite ill. I asked him if I should remain with him. He answered that he wished me to. I went to the plantation to set things in order, that I might stay with Mr. Clark, and returned the same day to Mr. Clark, and stayed with him constantly till he died. The day before he died, Mr. Clark, speaking of his daughter Myra, told me that his last will was in his office room below in the little black case; that he could die contented, as he had insured his estate to her in the will. He mentioned his pleasure that he had made his mother comfortable by an annuity in it, and remembered some friends by legacies."

"He told me how well satisfied he was that Chevalier de la Croix, Judge Pitot, and Belle Chasse were executors in it, and Chevalier de la Croix Myra's tutor. About two hours before his death, Mr. Clark showed strong feelings for said Myra, and told me that he wished his will to be taken to Chevalier de la Croix, as he was her tutor as well as one of the executors

Page 47 U. S. 571

in it, and just afterwards Mr. Clark told Lubin, his confidential servant, to be sure, as soon as he died, to carry his little black case to Chevalier de la Croix."

"After this, and a very short time before Mr. Clark died, I saw Mr. Relf take a bundle of keys from Mr. Clark's armoire, one of which, I believe, opened the little black case. I had seen Mr. Clark open it very often."

"After taking these keys from the armoire, Mr. Relf went below. When I went below, I did not see Mr. Relf, and the office room door was shut. Lubin told me that when Mr. Relf went down with the keys from the armoire, he followed, saw him there on getting down go into the office room, and that Mr. Relf on going into the office room locked the office room door. Almost Mr. Clark's last words were that his last will must be taken care of on said Myra's account."

"5th. In reply to the fifth interrogatory, he answers -- I was with Mr. Clark when he died; I was by him constantly for the last two days of his life. About two hours before he died, he spoke of his last will and his daughter Myra in connection, and almost his last words were about her, and that this will must be taken care of on her account."

"6th. In reply to the sixth interrogatory, he answers when, after Mr. Clark's death, the disappearance of his last will was the subject of conversation, I related what Mr. Clark told me about his last will in his last sickness. Judge Pitot and John Lynd told me that they read it not many days before Mr. Clark's last sickness; that its contents corresponded with what Mr. Clark had told me about it; that when they read it, it was finished, was dated and signed by Mr. Clark; was an olographic will; was in Mr. Clark's handwriting; that in it he acknowledged the said Myra as his legitimate daughter and bequeathed all his estate to her, gave an annuity to his mother and legacies to some friends. The Chevalier de la Croix was tutor of said Myra, his daughter; Chevalier de la Croix, Colonel Belle Chasse, Judge Pitot were executors; Judge Pitot and John Lynd are dead. The wife of William Harper told me she read it; Colonel Belle Chasse told me that Mr. Clark showed it to him not many days before his last sickness; that it was then finished. Colonel Belle Chasse and the lady, who was Madame Harper, are living."

"In reply to the first cross-interrogatory, he answers, my name is Pierre Baron Bois Fontaine, my age about fifty-eight. I have been some time in Madisonville; the place of my family abode is near New Orleans, opposite side of the river. I was eight years in the British army. I was several years agent for Mr. Clark's plantations; since his death, I have been engaged

Page 47 U. S. 572

in various objects. I now possess a house and lots and derive my revenue from my slaves, cows &c. I am in no manner connected with or related to any of the parties of this suit; I have no interest in this suit."

"In reply to the second cross-interrogatory he answers, I knew Daniel Clark between nine and ten years; I knew him as the father of Myra Clark; she was born in my house, and was put by Mr. Clark, when a few days old, with my sister and brother-in-law, Samuel B. Davis. I was Mr. Clark's agent for his various plantations -- first, the Sligo and the Desert, then the Houmas, the Havana Point, and when he died, of the one he purchased of Stephen Henderson. He respected our misfortunes, knowing that our family was rich and of the highest standing in St. Domingo before the Revolution. The mother of Myra Clark was a lady of the Carriere family. Not being present at any marriage, I can only declare it as my belief Mr. Clark was her husband. To answer this question in detail, as is demanded, it is necessary that I state what was communicated to me. It was represented to me that this lady married Mr. De Grange in good faith, but it was found out sometime afterwards that he already had a living wife, when the lady nee Carriere separated from him. Mr. Clark sometime after this married her at the North. When the time arrived for it to be made public, interested persons had produced a false state of things between them, and this lady being in Philadelphia and Mr. Clark not there, was persuaded by a lawyer employed that her marriage with Mr. Clark was invalid, which believing, she married Monsieur Gardette. Sometime afterwards, Mr. Clark lamented to me that this barrier to making his marriage public had been created. He spoke to me of his daughter Myra Clark from the first as legitimate, and when he made known to me he was making his last will, he said to me that he should declare her in it as his legitimate daughter. From the above I believe there was a marriage."

In reply to the third cross-interrogatory, he answers Mr. Clark made no question on this subject before and after her birth, and as long as he lived he exercised the authority of a parent over her destiny. He was a very fond parent; he sustained the house of Mr. Davis and Mr. Harper, because my sister had her in care, and Mrs. Harper suckled her. He sustained Harper as long as he lived, and conferred great benefits on my brother-in-law. He spoke of her mother with great respect, and frequently told me after her marriage with Mr. Gardette that he would have made his marriage with her public if that barrier had not been made, and frequently lamented

Page 47 U. S. 573

to me that this barrier had been made, but that she was blameless. He said he would never give Myra a stepmother. When in 1813 he communicated to me that he was making his last will for her, he showed great sensibility as to her being declared legitimate in it. While I was with him at his death-sickness, and even at the moment he expired, he was in perfect possession of his senses, and no parent could have manifested greater affection than he did for her in that period. Nearly his last words were about her and that his will must be taken care of on her account. She, the said Myra, is the only child Mr. Clark ever acknowledged to me to be his. She was born in July, 1805.

In reply to the fourth cross-interrogatory, he answers I was a friend of that confidential character from the time of said Myra's birth. Mr. Clark treated me as a confidential friend in matters relating to her and to his affairs generally. In reply to the fourth interrogatory, I have stated what I know concerning Mr. Clark's last will; my recollection of these facts is distinct. The circumstances connected with them were of such a character that my recollection of them could not be easily impaired.


And on 25 April, A.D. 1840, the following decree was entered of record in the words and figures following, to-wit:

"EDMUND P. GAINES and wife"

"v. No. 122"

"CHEW & RELF et als."

"This cause having come for final hearing by consent of the complainants and the defendant Patterson upon the bill, answer, replication, exhibits, depositions, and documents on file herein and on the admission of the parties that the estate in controversy in this case exceeds in value the sum of two thousand dollars, and the said complainants and the defendant Patterson expressly waiving and dispensing with the necessity of any other parties to the hearing or decision of this cause than themselves, and agreeing that the cause shall be determined alone upon its merits, and the court, being now sufficiently advised of and concerning the premises, does finally decree and order that the defendant Patterson do, on or before the first day of the next term of this Court, convey and surrender possession to the complainant, Myra Clark Gaines, of all those lots or parcels of land lying and being in the City of New Orleans, and particularly described in this answer and

Page 47 U. S. 574

exhibits, and to which he claims title under the said will of (1811) eighteen hundred and eleven; said conveyance shall contain stipulations of warranty against himself only, and those claiming under him. It is further decreed and ordered that the defendant pay the complainants so much of their costs expended herein as has been incurred by reason of his being made a defendant in this cause."

"From which decree the defendant prayed an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, which is granted."

"And by consent of the complainants, bond and security is dispensed with. By consent, the copy of records of the probate court, with a full and complete transcript of the proceedings had in relation to the estate of the late Daniel Clark on file in said court, hereafter to be filed, to constitute a part of the record herein."

"Decree rendered April 25, 1840."

"Decree signed April 25, 1840."

"[Signed] J. McKINLEY, Presiding Judge"

Page 47 U. S. 582

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