Court Case Letters

Some 350 letters written by Josephine Newcomb were included in legal proceedings, “In the matter of an application for the revocation of Ancillary Letters Testamentary granted in the matter of the estate of Josephine Louise Newcomb, deceased,” otherwise called here and elsewhere “the court case” or court cases (192 N.Y. 238; 84 N.E. 950 [NY 1908]).

The petitioners in the case were the children and grandchildren of Eleanor and William Henderson (both deceased by 1901): William H. Henderson, Howard L. Henderson, Victorine S. McCarthy, and her daughter, also Victorine McCarthy, William V. Henderson, Silas M. Henderson, and Elizabeth B. Henderson, as ancillary guardian of Marguerite Henderson, a young child. In the long course of the legal proceedings, two petitioners died, Victorine McCarthy, the mother, and her brother, Howard Henderson. The minor Marguerite came of age. Brandt V.B. Dixon, president of the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, was the respondent.

Briefly, the Surrogate’s Court, County of New York, dismissed the application of revocation of ancillary letters (not letters as we commonly think of them but documents announcing that an executor has been appointed, that, in a sense, the intentions of the will can be realized in the state of Louisiana, even though JLN died in NY and the property in stocks and bonds was there). The Hendersons appealed, first to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, and then to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York. The issues and arguments presented in the cases of appeal differed little from those set forth in the Surrogate’s Court and the decision of the Surrogate’s Court was upheld. The proceedings of the Court of Appeals are contained in four volumes printed by the Court: Volume I contains the proceedings and findings, report, and opinion of the referee appointed by the Surrogate’s Court of New York. Volumes II, III, and IV contain the evidence and testimony presented as evidence in the proceedings of the Court of Appeals. JLN’s letters were used as evidence and are located in volumes II-IV. The bound volumes holding the letters and court proceedings are available at Tulane University Law Library (within McConnell’s books) and the State Library of New York (as part of the court record). No one has ever compared the bound volumes held by different institutions, but we know now that they differ at least in small part. Some have the printed photographs used as evidence, for example, and some don’t. Scholars have cited a few key letters from the Tulane volumes, but there are many more letters that could be studied. To our knowledge, the original copies of these letters are lost.

See here for the printed listing of the letters used in the court case.

For electronic copies of the court cases see here for Google scanned volumes from the New York City Bar Association Library.

See here for a few scanned images of letters from the Tulane volumes.

See here for the structure of the New York courts.

See here for a timeline concerned with the navigation of the case through the court system and other legal steps taken before JLN’s death.

See here for a discussion of legal and archival recordkeeping.

Return here to the Overview of the Letters.