Most succession records (probate records if you’re not from Louisiana) feature widows, widowers, daughters or sons. The most interesting thing – other than finding an actual death date – is when the widow is in a rush to wrap things up because she wants to remarry.
So I was surprised to come across a succession filed by a steamboat captain in Assumption Parish probate records. But I guess you have to go to the courthouse and fill out paperwork when your passenger jumps overboard and drowns.
Here’s the story of Robert Woodside:
George Washington Ebert was the captain of a steamboat named the Argyle. In 1860, he landed in front of T & E Burbank’s plantation in Assumption Parish. Woodside was onboard but decided to jump from the boat about 10 o’clock on the morning of March 14. He drowned.
Normally, the sheriff would be called and then the undertaker. But Woodside had property with him: a trunk and several slaves. The slaves were Charity, 40; Rosetta, 20, and her young children; Patsy, 20; Cloe, 25, and her young children; and George, 30, and his young daughter. The slaves were carrying bedding, two black trunks, pillows, chairs, a yellow trunk and a churn.
It’s not clear where they were going. Woodside’s plantation was in Mississippi.
Because the accident happened in front of Edward Burbank’s plantation, the slaves were placed under his guardianship. Meanwhile, the court started sorting out Woodside’s estate. This would drag on for years – so many years, in fact, that the Civil War was fought and settled while Robert Woodside’s succession case raged on.
The case is a fascinating read. Woodside was a bachelor it was eventually determined. This took some time to sort out because how much do you know about a man from out of town who drowns in your bayou?
What Woodside did have in abundance (not including slaves) were siblings. The brothers were James, Thomas, William, John, Alexander and Samuel. The sisters were Nancy, Jane and Sarah. Most of them were dead but some of them left children. It all had to be sorted out, which meant calling in witnesses to figure out the family tree. Woodside had relatives scattered across Louisiana and the southern U.S.
Meanwhile, Burbank was demanding compensation for the slaves freed by Mr. Lincoln and Captain Ebert wanted compensation for his services. It was a tangled web.