Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Henry Davis made the History Books, The case of Martha Mason vs. Joshua Hearne

In the following book: 

Cases at Law Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of North Carolina

 By North Carolina. Supreme Court

there is a case referred to that carries mention of my great-grandpa Davis's grandfather, Henry Davis. Henry Davis, 1806-1862 of Stanly County was the oldest son of Job Davis and the 5th child of his mother, Sarah Winfield Howell Davis. His life was a full spectrum of respect to circumspect. 

The case is that of Martha Mason vs Joshua Hearne. 

The Hearne's were the founding family of Albemarle, North Carolina. In January of 1841, the western half of Montgomery County became Stanly County. The hazards of crossing the Yadkin/PeeDee to get to court and conduct business had cost countless lives and property loss and the citizens of the western side had petitioned to separate the two. Prior to 1800, both counties had been a part of Anson county, to the south. 

To form a new county seat, which would be named 'Albemarle', the Hearne family, who held a great deal of property along Long Creek, near the center of the new county, and a handsome plantation, deeded 51 acres for the new town, upon a hill wading off from the Uwharrie Mountains terrain. A courthouse was built atop the ridge of this hill and First Street ran across the ridge. Main Street ran northeast to southwest, east to a small creek and then up another hill and west to Long Creek, from which another hill rose to the west from there.  
The new town was near the Salisbury - Fayetteville Market road and lay about halfway in between the older town of Salisbury, in Rowan county, and Wadesboro, the county seat of Olde Anson. 

The name Hearne stood prominent in the early records of the newborn county: Joshua Hearne was one of the first Justice's of the Peace, so was Henry Davis. David Hearne was Clerk of Court and Eben Hearne was the first Sheriff. Henry Davis's younger brother, Edward Winfield Davis was the second sheriff of the young county. 

So when, Miss Mason, a single lady of little property, faced off against Joshua Hearne, former Justice and member of the most influential family in Albemarle, it was a David vs. Goliath kind of day. 

The description of the case begins:
"Where A took an abosolute deed for a tract of land from B, then executed an agreement in writing with C., reciting that 'he had a deed for C's land' for which he had paid the purchase money, and therein bound himself to make C. a deed, on her paying back the said purchase money within two years; and it appearing thus, as well as from other facts, that A. was to hold the land merely as a security for his debt.  Held that C., upon her payment of the purchase money, was entitled in this Court, to a reconveyance of the land from A., and to an account of the rents and profits-the time of payment not being of the essence of the contract."

In the above description, we can take it that A referred to Henry Davis, B referred to Joshua Hearne and C referred to Martha Mason. 

Cause removed from the Court of Equity, Stanly County, Fall Term 1852. 

The plaintiff by her bill, filed 11th of February, 1851, alleges that several years since, her father, John Mason,now deceased, contracted with one Henry Davis for a small tract of land at the  price of 50 dollars. That her father, in his lifetime paid Davis a part of the purchase money, to wit $20; and finding himself unable to pay the balance, transferred his claim to the plaintiff, who states that she then made an arrangement with the defendant, by which it was agreed, that he should pay to Davis $30; and become her surety to him in a note for $5.55, the balance due for the land; which arrangement was carried into effect, and the defendant thereupon took a deed to himself for the land and executed the following agreement in writing with the plaintiff:

"No. Carolina, Stanly County, 13th Feb'y., 1843."
"Articles of agreement between myself and Martha Mason."
"I certify that I have a deed to her land for which I paid thirty"
"dollars for the land, on which no lives (sic), 50 acres, which I bind"
"myself to make her a deed for the same, if the said Martha"
"Mason pays me the thirty against the 13th day of February"
"1845.                J Hearne."

Martha Mason goes on to say that she worked for Joshua Hearne 'from time to time', and earned $19.05. She had a statement or invoice to present in court to prove this. She also said that she went to Henry Davis with the note and said she offered to pay Joshua Hearne the amount in the agreement and asked for a conveyance of the land and her told her that it was too late. Miss Mason remained living on the land with her mother, and afterwards, Hearne evicted them from the land and Hearne had "sued out a warrant against her for the rent of the premises".  Joshua Hearne recieved a judgement of $25 for that, and issued a credit to her of $17 for the work and services she had performed for him.  Miss Mason stated that she was not required to pay rent and that the money he owed her should have been applied toward the payment on the land. Then she said that she came to him with tender in the form of gold coins to pay the balance on the land and asked for a conveyance and he 'absolutely refused'. 

Name:Martha Mason
Birth Year:abt 1810
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1850:Almonds, StanlyNorth Carolina
Family Number:439
Household Members:
Milla Mason70
Martha Mason40
The 1850 census shows Martha Mason living in the Almond community with 70 year old Milla Mason, undoubtedly her mother. 

Martha Masons 'prayer' for the court was that Mr. Hearne be forced to set up and account and convey to her the land. 

On his part, Joshua Hearne said that he had purchased the land from Henry Davis, but had refused to become a surety for Martha Mason. He admitted to making the agreement with her, but that she failed to pay the $30 within two years. He said after the death of her father, that she had agreed to pay rent on the premises for $5 a year, and that after she defaulted, he did bring her to court and "ejectment against her and evict her from the property'". He sued her and brought a warrant against her for $25 rent and then credited the work she did for him against the judgement, saying he had a right to do so. 

As for refusing legal tender, he said that she did not offer to pay him until the agreement time of two years had expired, and he did refuse the gold, in order to hold onto the land. 

The attorneys were J. H. Bryon for the plaintiff and the defendant did not have an attorney. 

The Honorable J. Pearson decided that Martha Mason was entitled to the relief that she asked for. That the agreement she had made with Henry Davis was merely for a security. He ruled:
"Such being the intention of the parties, that time was not of the essence of the contract of this court.", the intention being merely to create a security. 

"In taking account, the plaintiff will be entitle to credit for the amount paid by her, and also for the profits of the land since the defendant has been in possession, including the amount collected by him under claim of rent."

The original agreement between Henry Davis and the Mason family for the 50 acres in not found in the records of Stanly County, and must have been undertaken prior to Stanly becoming a separate county in 1841. However, the agreement between Joshua Hearne and Henry Davis is recorded in Book 2 Page 83 in the Stanly county deeds. 

The 1870 census of Stanly County shows Martha Mason, age 65, Farmer, living on her little plot of 50 acres. 

ame:Martha Mason
Age in 1870:65
Birth Year:abt 1805
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1870:Almond, StanlyNorth Carolina
Post Office:Albemarle
Value of real estate:View Image
Household Members:
Martha Mason65

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