Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mysterious Death of Michael Perry West

Michael Perry West and Priscilla Stanley
Michael Perry West moved to Texas with his widowed father, Michael West, in 1848. He, along with his father, applied for and received land grants in Grayson County, Texas through the Peters Colony. He is mentioned in the book on the Peters Colony of Texas:
  • "Michael P. West came to the colony as a single man before July 1, 1848. He reported to Ward in 1850 and received a certificate for 320 acres, which his heirs patented later in Grayson County (Fannin Third Class No. 1282). He is listed on the 1850 Census (Grayson County, family No. 12) as a 23-year-old farmer, born in Ohio."
  • Connor, Seymour V., Peters Colony of Texas, A History and Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers, Texas State Historical Association; Austin, Texas; 1959, page 426, Family History Library, 35 N. West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA,, 976.4 D3c FHL US/CAN Book.
Michael married Priscilla Stanley on 28 Feb 1850 in Grayson County, Texas. She was the daughter of Page and Elizabeth (Martin) Stanley. Page Stanley, a neighbor and friend to the senior Michael West, was a witness to Michael's land deed in 1850.

In the Grayson County, TX 1850 census, Michael P. and his wife, Priscilla Stanley West were living between their parents, the Page Stanley family and Michael West, Senior.

The Page Stanley family left Texas in Aug 1851 to meet with a wagon train on the Platte River bound for Oregon Territory, arriving in the Territory in 1852. Did Priscilla leave with her family or did she leave at a later time?
Sometime before Sep 1853, Michael Perry West died. He was only about 26 years old at the time of his death. Why would Michael die so young??

His probate started in the Grayson County Court in Sep 1853. According to his probate, Michael's wife & child had left for "California or Oregon" and could not be found. After probate, what was left of his estate (originally 320 acres) after debts were paid, was less than $50 dollars. And that remainder went to the State of Texas, because his wife, Priscilla and their daughter, Sarah Jane, could not be found.  Why did it not go to his father or siblings who still lived in the area?

Priscilla was alive in 1878, because she is included in her father's, Page Stanley's will. (Early Oregon Wills Vol 1, Multnomah Co., Probate Book 2, 7 Aug 1878) But no residence is mentioned and she could not be found in census records. No records have been found of her daughter.

In January 1858, the Michael West (Senior) Last Will & Testament, states: "It is my wish and desire that a child bearing the name Sarah Jane West, Daughter of my son Michael P. West's wife shall have no part of my Estate whatever because I am satisfied and have sufficient evidence to satisfy me that said child is not the offspring of my said son Michael and that the same is not my grandchild and that my son Michael is not its father."

Questions about Michael P West that need to be answered:
  • What caused Michael P. West's death?
  • When did Michael's wife, Priscilla, leave Texas?  Did she leave when her parents left in 1851? Or, did she  right after Micheal died?  Why did she not try to claim any inheritance for her daughter?  
  • If Sarah Jane West was not Michael's daughter, who's daughter was she?  Was Priscilla pregnant when she married Michael?
  • Why didn't Michael's family (father or siblings) claim his inheritance when his wife could not be found?
There are a lot of unanswered questions concerning the death of Michael P. West and the distribution of his estate.
Michael had a debt of $50.00 and was given only one day to come up with the money. He had to use 220 of 320 acres of his Texas Headright to cover the debt. Soon after this transaction, his probate started. At no time are his father, brothers or sisters mentioned. His wife and daughter could not be located and the State of Texas ended up with what was left of his estate. The ones involved in the debt ended up with the 220 acres, so Coleman Watson ended up with most of the Michael's estate. Coleman Watson was a Notary Public at the courthouse in Grayson County and most likely had an "in" with the judge and other county officials. Michael's land bordered the land that Watson owned.

Did Watson manipulate the probate, so he could end up with Michael's land??
Was Michael's debt to Watson a gambling debt?
Was this a case of land grabbing?
Was Michael Jr murdered??
Did the fact that his father did not believe Michael's daughter was "really" his biological daughter have something to do with Michael's death?

Abstracts of the Michael P. West Grayson County, Texas Probate Records,
Vol. A-B 1846-1854, pg 447; September Term 1853: Patrick T. Andrews was first administrator for the Estate of Michael P. West Decd.
February Term 1854, P. T. Andrews petitions to sell land in the estate.
Vol. D, 1854-1858, pg. 3; 100 acres is sold to Riley E. Butridge for $180.00.
Vol. D, pg 67; December Term 1854; Coleman Watson & Enoch Moss file debtor vouchers.
Vol. D, pg 201-204; February 1856; Final Settlement of Estate; After all the court fees and debts paid $49.42 are left to the heirs: widow and one child "who were living somewhere in California or Oregon."
Vol. D, pg 272; Court ordered the administrator of the estate to pay over to the Treasurer of the State $47.?7, since the heirs of the estate cannot be found.
Below are transcribed copies of Vol. D of Michael P. West's Probate in Grayson County. Transcribed by Mazie Coker in 1990.

WANTED -- Any information concerning Priscilla Stanley West. Did she marry again? What happened to their daughter, Sarah Jane West? Where did they live after leaving Texas?


Kathy said...

I have found your blogs very interesting. My ancestors was William Boyles and his wife. Would love to share my information with you.

Cole said...

Very interesting story. Notice that it has been a while since you have posted this article on your blog. Have you found any more information about the death of Michael? Guess I am wondering if there is an update to the post? I agree that Michael was probably too young to die of natural causes. If his wife was messing around with someone maybe he got in a gun fight with the guy. Or maybe a fight over a gambling debt?