Michoud v. Girod
THIS case was brought up by appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States, for the Eastern District of Louisiana, sitting as a court of equity.
The widow Pargoud and others, defendants in this court, were complainants in the court below, and obtained a decree in their favor, from which the other parties appealed. They alleged, that a series of fraudulent transactions occurred, commencing in 1813, by which they had been deprived of their fair share of the estate of Clause Franois Girod, whose heirs they were, and that the chief agent in this fraud was Nicholas Girod, a brother of the deceased Claude Franois Girod, and also a brother of some of the complainants, and relative of the rest.
Claude Fran ois Girod was a resident of the parish of Assumption, in the State of Louisiana, and died in the month of November, 1813, leaving a last will and testament, dated on the 30th of November, 1812, and a codicil, dated on the 4th of November, 1813, which will was admitted to probate, with the codicil, on the 8th of November, 1813. He never was married, and left eight brothers and sisters, and the children of a predeceased sister. These surviving brothers and sisters, with the exception of Jacques, otherwise called Jacques Antoine Girod (who was excluded by the terms of the will), were the legal heirs of the deceased Claude Fran ois Girod, each for the one eighth part of his estate and the succession; and the heirs and legal representatives of the said predeceased sister, the legal heirs by representation of their deceased mother, for the remaining eighth part of the estate.
The proceedings in the case were exceedingly complicated. There was a bill, and an amended bill, and a supplemental bill, and another amended bill, and then another amended bill. Instead of pursuing the case through all these details, the simplest course will be to state the charges in the bill, and the documents brought forward to sustain them.
The will of Claude Fran ois Girod was as follows:--
'I, Claude Fran ois Girod, the legitimate son of Fran ois Silvestre Girod, deceased, and of the late Fran ois, born Dubois, native of Th one, in Savoy, diocese of Geneva, province of France, and now a resident of the parish of Assumption, on Bayou Lafourche, in the State of Louisiana, being about sixty years of age, and desirous to die in the Roman Catholic and Apostolic religion, under which I have ever lived, with a firm belief in the mysteries of our holy religion, do ordain this my last will or testament, in case I should be overtaken by death, the hour of which I am uncertain of; and as it behooves all living beings to settle their temporal affairs, when they are in the full enjoyment of their health and reason, in order to avoid thereby the difficulties which arise when we are laboring under a dangerous disease, which takes from us the use of our reasonable faculties, and consequently deprives us of the understanding and memory necessary to the faithful and peaceable settlement of our family affairs, with a view to avert from our heirs the difficulties always prejudical to those that are absent. Now, therefore, under these circumstances, I invoke the grace and clemency of God, to whom I recommend my soul when separated from my body; and I wish and ordain, that the latter be buried among faithful Christians, with all the usual rites of our mother church, leaving with my testamentary executors, herein after named, the performance of all pious works, such as causing three masses to be said on my behalf to my holy patron, as also funeral services, masses, &c., &c.
'1. I declare that the property I am now possessed of are the earnings of my labor and savings, and consist of the following items, to wit:-Three houses and several lots situated in suburb St. Mary, above the city of New Orleans, and one in Chartres Street, now occupied by my brother, Nicolas Girod; one main plantation, whereon I reside, situated in said Bayou Lafourche, with all the buildings, improvements, and appurtenances thereof, and being thirty-one and a half arpents front, together with the utensils, implements of husbandry, animals of all kind, and one hundred and odd slaves of different ages belonging to me; also, a quantity of lands situated in the different parishes of the bayou, the titles to which I hold in my possession; also, a certain sum of money is due to me, which I cannot ascertain at present, but which will be made to appear by the books and obligations in my power; also, I am the owner of upwards of two hundred and seventy bales of ginned cotton, now in my stores; also, I declare that I am indebted unto divers persons by obligations, and little by accounts, in a sum of about thirty thousand dollars.
'3. I give and bequeath to my parish of Th one, in Savoy, to have a solemn mass annually said on my behalf, and to contribute to the repairs of said church, a sum of two thousand dollars, such being my will.
'4. I give to the poor of my said parish, to be distributed among them so as to meet their most pressing wants, a sum of one thousand dollars, such being my will.
'5. I give and bequeath to the cousins, Dodos Golli e, of said parish, a sum of five hundred dollars, such being my will.
'6. I give and bequeath to the brothers and sisters, Joseph Suard, senior, and Antoine Suard, junior, sons of Antonine Suard, deceased, since about thirty years, residing at Cluse, in Fonsigny (Savoy), the sum of two thousand dollars, such being my will.
'7. I give and bequeath to my distant relations of said parish a sum of five hundred dollars, to be distributed among them, such being my will.
'8. I give and bequeath to the Charity Hospital of Thone, in Savoy, a sum of one thousand dollars, such being my will.
'9. I give and bequeath to the children of my deceased sister, Fran oise, wife of Poidebard, without prejudicing their rights in and to my succession, the sum of two thousand dollars, to be divided between them by equal portions, such being my will.
'10. I give and bequeath to my sister Teresa, wife of Quetant, without prejudice to her rights in my succession, a sum of one thousand dollars, such being my will.
'11. I give and bequeath to my god-daughter and sister, Rosalie, married at Taloire, her husband's name being unknown to me, a sum of one thousand dollars, without prejudice to her rights in my succession, such being my will.
'12. I give for once to my brother James Girod, a sum of four thousand dollars, without any other rights or pretensions whatever in and to my succession, such being my last will.
'13. I give and bequeath to my brother Claude, married, the sum of two thousand dollars, without prejudice to his rights in my succession, such being my last will.
'14. I give and bequeath to the parish of Assumption, for the church wardens in Lafourche, where I now reside, a sum of five hundred dollars, for contributing to the construction of a church, such being my will.
'15. I give and bequeath to the mulatress Fran oise Vils, for the faithful services she has rendered to me at my house, during a long space of time, a sum of six thousand dollars, which shall be paid to her (after my death) one, two, and three years, such being my will.
'16. I give and bequeath to my god-daughter Fran oise, a free colored woman, the daughter of Rosette, a negro woman, a sum of fifteen hundred dollars, such being my last will.
'17. I give and bequeath to the mulatress Belanie, wife of Colas Meillen, a sum of two hundred dollars, such being my will.
'18. I give likewise to her younger sister Polline, a sum of two hundred dollars, such being my will.
'19. I give and bequeath to my mulatto slave Dominic, who is a blacksmith and rum-distiller, his freedom, which he shall be put in possession of six months after my death, for his good and faithful services to me.
'20. I nominate for my testamentary executors the following persons, my brother Nicolas, who is my senior, and Jean Fran ois, my junior, the former being a merchant in New Orleans, and the second is a planter, residing at Washita, and in their default, Mr. Phillipon, senior, merchant at New Orleans, to whom I give, by the present olographic testament, full power and authority as required by law to take possession of all my property present and to come, to inventory, sell, and cause them to be sold, as to him will seem best for the heirs of all my brothers and sisters, present and absent, without intervention of justice, hereby annulling and declaring void all other testaments, codicils, and donations, mortis causa, and other acts of last will which I may have made previous to and to the prejudice of the present, which is the only one I adopt as being my last will, in order that my heirs may inherit and enjoy my property with the benediction of God and mine, &c.
'Done and passed on my plantation, at Lafourche, the 30th of November, 1812.
(Signed,) C. F. GIROD.
J'H COURRIE, witness.
SAINT FELIX, witness.
'Ne varietur _____'
'STATE OF LOUISIANA, PARISH OF ASSUMPTION:
'Monday, the 8th of November, in the year 1813.
'At the request of Mr. Nicolas Girod, I, F. Corvaisier, judge of this parish, did repair to the plantation of the late C. F. Girod, where a bundle written over having been presented to me as the testament or last will of the said C. F. Girod, signed by him under date of the thirtieth of November, eighteen hundred and twelve, as also an open codicil signed by the deceased, in the presence of Messrs. Prevot, St. Felix, and Fran ois Bernard de Deva, I proceeded to the proof of said testament by swearing to that effect Messrs. St. Felix and J'h Courrie, witnesses to said testament, in the presence of Mr. Nicolas Girod, and then proceeded to open the same.
(Signed,) N. GIROD,
J. L. COURRIE,
SAINT FELIX BECHE, Justice of the Peace.
F. CORREJOLLES, witness.
F. CORVAISIER, Judge.
'And by the opening of said testament we saw that Messrs. N'as Girod and F'ois Girod, brothers of the deceased, were appointed testamentary executors.
(Signed,) F. CORVAISIER, Judge.'