Friday, April 26, 2013

House Heirs Association: Part II: Follow the Money

If you missed the first installment of this new series you can find it here. I promise, this is interesting to more people than just Mom and me!

Here's a recap of what the House Heirs Association is all about. In a nutshell, the descendants of one Andrew V. House (1700 - 1797) believed that he and his son, John Valentine House (1739 - 1843), had supposedly been swindled out of payment from the US Government for a 99 year land lease on an immense tract of land they owned, reported to be as large as 64,000 acres. At the end of the lease the government and people living on that land in about 1884 or 85, located roughly in Frederick County, Maryland, all forgot that the House family were the rightful owners.

In this installment we'll follow the money and watch the numbers in an attempt to uncover some of the tangled plot. So here it is, by the numbers.

1. The value of the land, if one can believe its size, is estimated at 64,000 acres, was claimed to be $6 billion in 1899 by the National Secretary of the House Heirs Association (HHA).

2. The US Government offered the House heirs a deal of $30 million sometime before the first large general meeting of the HHA in 1899. If accepted, this deal would have resulted in approximately $2 million for each of the House heirs, and ... a $2.5 million dollar pay day for the attorney. (Too bad they didn't take it!)

3. The attorneys. By the meeting of the HHA in1900 in Chicago, funds had been collected from the 300 members (or continued to be collected) for paying an attorney. It seems that Messrs. Marchant & Clay (perhaps the guys who had negotiated the deal mentioned in #2 above) were no longer involved. A Mr. Hutson, who was put forth as the man to do the job, stated through his representative at the meeting, that he "gained a great deal of valuable information through his recent investigating" and that he was "confident" that a "settlement could be reached in 18 months time".

4. Where is Mr. Huton? At the meeting of 1901 in Kokoma, Indiana, Mr. Huton was a no-show. He said that he "found it impossible to be present", but felt that a meeting with himself and the House heirs was still necessary. He also reported by letter that a settlement was possible "but it would take time and a considerable amount of patience." (He was no longer talking about that 18 month time table!)

5. Dissatisfaction with the representation? The HHA notes from the 1901 meeting indicate members discussed that Mr. Huton should be "investigated." A committee was formed to take a closer look at the contract with Mr. Huton.

6. Mo' money needed. A collection was taken at that 1901 meeting for "current expenses".

7. Circular letter, date unknown. Throughout this whole HHA saga, letters were circulated informing members of what was going on. The problem expressed in one letter is that Mr. Huton is slow in gathering supporting documentation. By the time of this particular letter it is reported that the attorney has found "no important records."

8. Time and trouble. In a letter dated 26 Sept, 1906 from the HHA Secretary, it's stated that there are now over 450 House heirs. The letter goes on to say that, "We have never been able to raise sufficient money to carry it through," referring to documentation that was already in hand and important documents that needed to be found. It's at the point, I think from reading this, that the attorney (not mentioned by name and likely not Mr. Huton) consulting with the HHA Secretary believes that an deal could still be reached.

Yikes! Looks like no one got anything out of this House Heirs Association, except the lawyers! I'd guess that Messrs. Marchant & Clay worked on contingency. When they saw the House heirs not jumping at the $30 million settlement, they bailed. Looks to me like Mr. Huton milked them for what he could doing as little work as possible himself and letting members bring him documentation. I surmise this because it was about that time that the House heirs started submitting whatever they had about the matter of the land as well as their ancestral history tracing back to John V. House. Just my guess.

I feel especially bad for the writer of that 1906 letter who had worked tirelessly on this for four years investigating what she could. By that time people might have gotten weary of contributing to a case that went no where. By 1923 the HHA is disbanded when someone absconds with whatever funds are left... but I'm getting ahead of myself!

Next time, more about how the property came to Andrew V. House. That's really interesting!


Marriage record for Samuel Albert House (1832 - 1917) and Mary Elizabeth Farrell (1835 - 1919), dated 20 Aug 1855.
 
 

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