Monday, April 16, 2012

Paranoid, Or Was Someone Really Stealing from Them?

Am working on the Eckhart bunch right now... the Eckharts, descendants of George Adam Eckhart of Eckhart and Eckhart Mines, Maryland. Down through the decades, they have been telling a tale of intrigues and rumors that "someone stole our land." (See posts below.) Here I am over 200 years later sitting at the computer trying to piece together what really might have happened back then. To be completely candid about this matter, have to say, I get two pictures: one of double dealing and one of paranoia. Here's what I'm finding so far.

George Adam Eckhart came to this country about 1750. He acquired through purchase and whatever, in total almost 650 acres of land. Some of this land was used for farming and his family and children settled on some other parcels. He died in 1806. His will left a third of the estate to his wife Anna Marie and two-thirds to his son John who was named executor of the estate.

I'm getting a feeling that John was quite the business man, and it was written that he "became quite wealthy". In 1830 he ran a roadhouse where one of the four stagecoach lines that serviced the National Road (that was built in 1812 or so) stopped. That was pretty big business then. He also owned 8 slaves.

Coal was found on the Eckhart property along about the same time as the National Road was built. Some sources report that John had already found coal on his land and was already offering it to local residents to heat and cook with. It's also written that he dug the first deep mine on his land about this time.

John married a woman named Mary Ann, whose surname is not yet known. John died in 1835. Ten days later, more or less, she sold the land to Matthew St Claire Clarke. (See post below, "Cousin Rich, The Sleuth".) Clarke was an agent for a mining company and had already had the land surveyed and the minerals assayed. He also wrote a report for the mining company.

Mary Ann accepted the tidy sum of $20,000 for the land. What is that in today's money, I thought? Go to: 

Here's what it said when I plugged in $20,000 in 1835:

If you want to compare the value of a $20,000.00 Income or Wealth, in 1835 there are three choices. In 2011 the relative:
historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is $527,000.00
economic status value of that income or wealth is $10,900,000.00
economic power value of that income or wealth is $227,000,000.00

As for John's slave's value, it was listed in probate as $3600 in 1835. Back to the Measuring Worth Calculator again to find this, values of commodities, which sadly, slaves were at that time:

If you want to compare the value of a $3,600.00 Commodity in 1835 there are three choices. In 2011 the relative:
real price of that commodity is $94,800.00
labor value of that commodity is $810,000.00(using the unskilled wage) or $1,790,000.00(using production worker compensation)
income value of that commodity is $1,960,000.00

That's a fortune!!

After her husband's death, it's said that Mary Ann wanted to free her slaves, but the sons stepped in. In 1836, a year after Mary Ann came into a considerable fortune, her sons filed a Writ of Lunacy against Mary Ann. A trustee was appointed. She appealed from her home now in another state, West Virginia, living with her son Adam.

I'm wondering how long the negotiations with Clarke went on. Were they going on as John Eckhart lay dying? Or was he kept in the dark? There's no way of knowing.

Additionally, Mary Ann's oldest son, Jacob, died either within five days of his father or within the next year. Suspicious?
Was $20,000 a fair sum? Did Mary Ann know about the mineral wealth sitting right under her and her family? Did Mary Ann's sons have a legitimate concern for her mental health after the death of her husband (and one other son, close on) and the pressures Mr. Clarke possibly might have been making on her?

As the years passed, might not her sons and grandsons who stayed in Eckhart Mines not have felt some bitterness as they saw the Big Vein of coal on their ancestral land being mined by large coal conglomerates only interested in profits, leaving them in the coal dust? It would make me mad, I must say!

With this picture in mind it's easy to see how down through the years family oral tradition came to tell of land being "stolen" from us. The real-life Jenkins didn't come into the picture until the 1940s as far as I can tell, yet I heard my grandparents tell of "Jenkins" paying off the court clerk in Cumberland to get rid of the original Eckhart deed. Not likely.

Other branches of this family also tell stories, similar yet different, of wrong doing when it comes to clear title of the Eckhart land.

On a side note, the Jenkins firm did tear down the old home place and as I hear it, bull dozed most of the old family cemetery. That right there is enough to make a person super angry!

NOTE to Cousins: If I got any of this wrong, please tell me! It's complicated:)

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