Archive:The Descendants of John Whitney, page 568

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The Descendants of John Whitney, Who Came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635, by Frederick Clifton Pierce (Chicago: 1895)

Transcribed by the Whitney Research Group, 1999.


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568 WHITNEY GENEALOGY.

CAPEN, clergyman in the M. E. church. She d. s. p., May 28, 1857, at Richfield Springs, N. Y. 5815. WILLIAM WALLACE WHITNEY (Joshua, Joshua, Thomas, William, William, Joshua, John), b. Binghamton, N. Y., Sept. 28, 1810; m. 1832, Myra CLARK; b. N. O., La., 1805; she m. 2d, 1839, Maj.-Gen. Edmund Pendleton GAINES; b. 1817; d. 1849. Myra CLARK, heiress, born in New Orleans, La., in 1805; died there Jan. 9, 1895; is known from the extraordinary lawsuit with which her name is associated. Her father, Daniel CLARK, born in Sligo, Ireland, about 1776, immigrated to New Orleans, where he inherited his uncles's property in 1799. He was U. S. consul there before the acquisition of Louisiana, and represented the territory in congress in 1806-8. He died in New Orleans Aug. 16, 1813, and his estate was disposed of under the provisions of a will dated May 20, 1811, which gave the property to his mother, Mary CLARK, who had followed him to the United States, and was living at German- town, Pa. His business partners, RELT and CHEW, were the executors. CLARK was reputed a bachelor, but was known to have had a liaison with a young French woman of remarkable beauty, Quline Des GRANGES, during the absence of her re- puted husband in Europe. Two daughters were born of this connection, one at Philadelphia in April, 1802; the other (Myra) in New Orleans in 1805. The latter was taken to the home of Col. DAVIS, a friend of CLARK's; nursed by a Mrs. HARPER, and in 1812 went with DAVIS' family to reside in Philadelphia, where she passed by the name of Myra DAVIS. In 1803, DAVIS then being in the legislature, sent home for certain papers, and Myra, in searching for them discovered letters that partially revealed the circumstances of her birth. In 1832 she married W. W. WHITNEY, of New York, who, in following up the discovery, received from DAVIS an old letter that contained an account of a will made by CLARK in 1813, just before his death, giving all his large estate to Myra, and acknowledging her as his legitimate daughter. WHITNEY and his wife went to Matanzas, Cuba, saw the writer of the letter and, after collecting other evidence, instituted suits to recover the estate, which included some of the most valuable in New Orleans. On the trial of one of these cases Mrs. HARPER testified that four weeks before his death CLARK showed her the will he had just made in favor of Myra, permitting her to read it from beginning to end, and acknowledged the child's legitimacy. Baron BOISFONTAINE testified that CLARK told him the contents of the will and acknowledged the child. On this and other similar evidence the lost or destroyed will was received by the Supreme court of Louisiana (Feb. 18, 1856,) as the last will of Daniel CLARK, though of the document itself no vestige had ever appeared. But by the law of Louisiana a testator can not make devises to his illegitimate child. It was proved by the testimony of two sisters of Myra's mother, one of whom swore she was present at the ceremony, that CLARK privately married her in Philadelphia in 1803, a Catholic priest officiating; she hav- ing previously learned that Des GRANGES, her supposed husband, had a prior wife living, and was therefore, not legally her husband. CLARK'S contemplated acknowl- edgement of the marriage was said to have been frustrated by suspicions of her fidelity, and deserted by him she contracted a third marriage. In another suit the U. S. supreme court decided that the fact of the marriage and legitimacy was established. Mrs. WHITNEY survived her husband, married Gen. GAINES in 1839, and survived him also. In 1856 he filed in the Supreme court of the United States a bill in equity to recover valuable real estate there in the possession of the city of New Orleans, and a decision in her favor was rendered at the December term of 1867. The value of the property claimed was estimated in 1861 at $35,000,000, of which Mrs. GAINES had up to 1874 obtained possession of $6,000,000, and numerous actions for ejectment were still in progress. Only a small part of this came into the possession of the claimant, the rest having been swallowed up in the interminable legal proceedings that preceeded the final victory. In April, 1877, Judge BILLINGS, of the U. S. Circuit court at New Orleans, rendered a decision in which he recognized the probate of the will of Daniel CLARK of 1813. The decree commanded the city of New Orleans and other defendants to account to a master in chancery for all the income from the property during their possession, and deprived them of their titles and of all ac- cumulation therefrom. The master made a report from which an appeal was taken and in May, 1883, judgment was again given in favor of Mrs. GAINES for $1,925,667, with $566,707 as interest. From this decision a fresh appeal was taken to the U. S. supreme court in the month of June following, and thus the matter stood at her death. Under a previous decision Mrs. GAINES could have turned out of their homes over 400 families occupying land and holding titles from the city, but although

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