I went walking and met money. I said, “You are just a piece of paper.” Money smiled and said, “yes, I’m just paper but nobody throws me in the trash yet people like to fight over me!”
My great great grandmother Elizabeth Smith (Let’s Go Homesteading in Gilpin, Alberta blog) had a brother 2 years younger than her, George Smith. The family came from Irish and Loyalist backgrounds. George grew up in the large Smith family moving from St. Mary’s, Ontario to Port Hope, Gore, Huron, Michigan. He lived through the bad fires of 1881 and 1891. George married Sarah E. Sampson in 1876. They had four children: Bertha 1878, James William Smith 1880-1926, Maude 1886, Frances 1889. Sarah became a young widow with the death of George the fall of October 1889. He was 35. She had four very young children to support.
Sarah Smith, head of the family on the census, became a dressmaker to support herself and ran a boarding house with 13 boarders. Under her matriarchal roof lived James William her son, a plumber and his wife Hattie Bella, Maude at 24 a stenographer, and a married daughter, Frances Kipp, 21, about to become divorced. James William Smith became a surfman. He must have been a dare devil; liking the roar of the boat’s engine over the ocean waves, bucking the incoming waves, and the peppery feel of sea spray on his face for he was a Life Saving Keeper on the Point aux Barques lighthouse near Port Huron, Michigan for six years (before they took the name Coast Guard Marines). It was here he would come back and build his mansion.
From a July 9, 1926 newspaper called the Lakeshore Guardian, I gleaned the successful businessman James William Smith became. “Jim” as he was known had 300 employees invited to his summer home; from Detroit, they caravanned 60 cars, owned by the Smith Truck Company, enroute to Pointe aux Barques. He was born in Gore, and spent his boyhood across the road from the school house. When he first started the trucking business, he had many obstacles to overcome and success seemed impossible. Persistent and determined he built up and obtained a contract trucking daily between Detroit and Pontiac and Flint, Michigan, hauling Fisher bodies for the Buick Motor Co. In celebration he had invited all his employees up to his summer house for a vacation: fireworks, dancing, racing, a ball game, bathing and boating.
October 22, 1926: Pneumonia took Life of James W. Smith Sunday Afternoon was the headline on Sunday October 17.
Only ill a week, the dreaded disease took a life which had been such a great success both in business and social way. He was born in Port Hope, December 19, 1880. His first job was fireman at the waterworks plant in Bay City. Then he was coast guard at Pointe aux Barques. After leaving this government service in 1909 he drove taxi just as automobiles were new. From this small beginning he worked hard amid many disappointments building one of the largest trucking companies in the US. At the present time James W. Smith Trucking Co. operates 91 large trucks, with the exclusive contract conveying Buick auto bodies. His friends will remember him prospering in a financial way; he is reported to have been worth over a million dollars. But their memories are of a man who was never happy unless he was bringing sunshine into the lives of others. His Fourth of July party left no man losing any wages while away from work, all the expense was met by the deceased. His latest act of philanthropy was a new steel dock to his old home town of Port Hope, 500 feet long costing $8000. A member of the Masonic Lodge, he was survived by his wife Hattie, one son, James F. Smith, his mother, Mrs. Sarah E Smith, and two sisters, Mrs. A. F. Burstrom (Maude) and Mrs. W.C. Hooper (Frances). Burial in Detroit.
The mansion at Pointe aux Barques was finished by his widow, Hattie, July 27, 1927, when the roof was finished, detailing yellow brick, beams of steel, two stories, a bar and casino in the basement and a 18 hold golf course. A well with 8000 feet of pipe watered the 100 acre farm which was to be his retirement home. There were also four cottages on the property, one was being remodeled for his mother, Sarah, but she hadn’t been given the deed upon his death.
Mrs. Hattie Smith, his wife, at aged 45 became President of Smith Trucking, she had remained active as executive head and associate of her husband and assumed the presidency on his death. James and Hattie and drawn up joint wills in which each bequeathed property , 1/3 to go to his mother, his sisters and other relatives to be an equitable division among relations. Hattie rewrote her will, revoking the former one, leaving the fortune to their adopted son, James Frederick Smith (Teddy) born in 1918. She made no provision therein for the mother of her deceased husband, but left each of his sisters, named in his will and hers, the sum of $10,000. She named her niece Mrs. Helen Fader, daughter of her sister, Mrs. Minnie Rosencrans, administrator and guardian. James was 9 when his father died. Hattie died of a cerebral embolism January 8, 1928 the next year. The papers wrote the headline: Hattie Smith Will Is Filed, Fortune Left to Adopted Boy, Estimated 1 – 3 Million. It’s dated October 2, 1929.
And the fight was on! Several attempts were made to alter the terms of her will. The estate was tied up in a suit for years, sending it to the supreme court! There was a motion to remove with a charge of mismanagement when the yacht worth $100,000 was sold for $39,000. (This was during the depression years). and a motion to remove Helen as guardian was pled by the boy’s real mother, Mrs. Rose Ruoff Bryce, seeking to regain custody of him. Helen (the executor of the will and James guardian ) Fader’s husband was superintendent for the trucking company and stated he didn’t know where his wife, Helen, was. The court dismissed the mother’s case, when it was found Helen had taken the boy to a school. The family objected to the way Mrs. Fader was operating the Smith Trucking Company and charged misuse of company funds. This case was also dropped. The funeral bill for Hattie was $4365.64 and was not considered a preferred claim over others in the estate. Mrs. Fader filed a report for Jan 1928-Sept 1929 showing income of $1,409774 and disbursements of $1,031,107.
The attorney admitted that Cousin Helen, Mrs. Fader, had fled the jurisdiction and was hiding the then 13 year old James Frederick Smith, the heir of the trucking estate. The next headline says they were in court four times and suit delayed again. In 1929 a title read, “Loses Fight to Regain Rich Son.” My further research says the mother was a drug addict when she gave up her son for adoption, and had remarried. Mrs. Bryce, the mother was charged with perjury, when she didn’t disclose a previous violation of probation and disorderly person arrest. A September 20, 1934 Newspaper at Detroit, Michigan was titled, “Mother May see Boy Heir” and tells he had received only $60,000 while the other 7 heirs had received $150,000 each. In March 1935 Mother is barred from adopted son, The boy had been adopted at age one. The judge held it was not good policy to allow the natural parents to interfere with children after adoption. James was a student cadet at Howe Military Academy. The court approved $15,841 spent on his schooling.
The paper wrote a flattering op ed of the grandmother saying the 71 year old looks 20 years younger and has a keen understanding of the 91 trucks and trailers managed by outsiders, excluding her family. I don’t understand how the will was handled? The relatives succeeded in upsetting the will and the courts ordered the distribution of the estate on the lines of the joint will. The title, front page of the newspapers exclaimed, Grandmother Wins in $3 Million Will Suit.
The trial court filed an opinion which stated: “his opinion of abundant proof to sustain plaintiffs’ contention that James W. Smith and Hattie Smith, his wife, agreed with each other to make wills which would leave a third of the estate of the survivor in equal portions to seven relatives, four of whom were the mother and three sisters of the husband ad the other three, a niece and two sister of the wife.” A reading of the testimony also satisfies us that such an agreement was made. Mr. Smith was an only son. His mother, left a widow when he was a small boy, had endured much hardship in rearing him and his sisters, and found on page 305, when he first engaged in the trucking business she advanced the money with which he purchased his first truck. He appreciated her kindness and assistance. It was but natural that he should want to provide for her old age when making his will. The provision made for her in both wills would be inoperative unless the wife had bound herself by agreement with him that hers should not be changed in the event that she survived him. It was conceded that none of the plaintiffs were present at the time the contract was made.
So what happened to the little millionaire boy? Accounting of May 1931, showed real estate valued at $1,052,409 in addition to $625,469 in cash and bonds. However the court was probing the boy’s fortune Aug 9, 1934 when he was age 19, as there were shortages. He was to inherit at age 20, 2/3 of the estate. 4 of Mr. Smith’s heirs had received money as well as 4 of Mrs. Smith’s heirs, and the long fought suit was settled privately. Mrs. Fader besides being administratrix, and Jame’s legal guardian was one of seven other heirs named in the will.
He grew up! after being raised in the home of Walter and Helen Fader. He was a Lieutenant stationed at Camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia and married Dorothy Jane Parkhill in 1941.
She was an artist, world traveler and avid golfer and had studied fashion design. Dotty was one of the Eclectrics, a women’s artist group. They had children: James Parkhill Smith and wife Lynne Mills who gave the couple a grandchild, John Mills (J.M.) Smith. Twin girls died in infancy. In 1953 her father, James Parkhill, retired industrialist willed his wife, the daughter Dorothy (Dottie) and a grandson James Parkhill Smith $1 million in property and $500,000 in General Motors stock, whose company had taken over his. James William Smith my adopted 2nd cousin 2x removed, died in 1993, Dottie was a widow until 2007.