Estate File of William Ridge
In Equity, RIDGE'S Orphans vs. Wm Terrel Lewis and others )
The Answer of William Cook to a Bill In Equity
Filed 2 Day of October 1792.
To the Honourable the Judges of the Superior Court of Law & Equity for the District of Salisbury. May it please your Honour, as I have been served with a copy of a Bill in Equity by the Direction of Jonathan HAINES, Esq'r, in behalf of RIDGE'S Orphans, wherein I stand charged with devious things, which I was summoned & required to give answer to, the first charge is that I confederated myself with Nathan ALLEN, Wm. T. LEWIS, Zenos BALDWIN and others in order to wrong the orphans, which is altogether a wrong charge, for I had nothing to do with them nor RIDGE'S Estate neither, till after ALLEN was run away and Mr. HAINES & myself became guardians for those orphans. I am charged also of wasting the orphan's estate which I also deny for I am ready to settle and account with the county court of Surry when called on, for all the estate that ever came into my hands as guardian, likewise I am charged with having no power or authority as a joint guardian with Mr HAINES to transact any business without his consent or approbation. But I think otherwise, for this reason. True it is we were joint guardians at first, but previous to the writ being served on LEWIS, Mr. HAINS came to me & told me that the Sheriff was up to serve the writ on LEWIS, but if I did persist, to have the writ served I must take the whole burden upon myself for he could act no longer as a guardian, for if he did the LEWIS'S would ruin him, from that time I carried on the law suit and business myself without his assistance, and never conceived myself under any tye to him as a joint guardian. As to the other and principal charge that of agreeing to take the verdict of the jury which I obtain'd against LEWIS in the County Court of Surry of 270 £ I acknowledge I did and gave him time on his paying part of the money down and lawfull interest, for the rest when paid, and my reasons for so doing is as follow, First we failed to appeal therefore could not force the suit up to the Superior Court, LEWIS prayed an appeal but I found that he did not wish to prosecute it, so that I conceived the lawsuit, to stand in precarious manner so that I rather expected after waiting on LEWIS to prosecute his appeal we might be dissappointed in a further trial in LEWIS and so have to bring the suit up by a Bill in Equity & as I thought it would be much safer & surer for the Orphans to come at their rights, then by common law and what I wished for, and I did not conceive that my taking the Judgment which we had obtained, which was only given in consequence of the negro wench CATE & her children, the other two wenches, SAL & NAN and their increase not being named in the verdict at all could be any barr or hindrence in the Orphans coming at their right in obtaining SAL and NAN & their children, by commencing a new suit in Equity for SAL & NAN & their increase, which I recomended Mr. HAINES to do for if I had thought otherwise I would not have agreed to take the judg't at all. A second reason is this when Mr HAINES & myself became guardians for those orphans the widow & orphans were in very poor & suffering circumstances having neither horse, cow, hog, or sheep or any house or home or anything to live on, I took them into a house of my own till I provided a Plantation and house & home for them & so they have lived in a suffering condition till I rec'd the judg't of LEWIS & let the three eldest girls have about forty pounds a piece which have enabled them to live and tend their own Plantation and make corn for themselves, that they are now able to live like their neighbours, and they had made application to me after the judg't was obtrain'd to try to settle the matter with LEWIS upon some terms, for they thought very hard after waiting so many years and still to have to wait longer before they could get anything, and as I ever did that which I thought was best for them, as the old saying is a nimble six pence is better than a slow shilling, I thought it was better to have something in hand and try for the rest than to lye out of all on one knows how long. And this I have further to say that from the time I undertook as guardian for those orphans I have been laying out money for them, and keeping them from suffering what I could, not knowing whether I was ever to get any thing, for had we been cost in the suit, as many expected there would not perhaps been estate enough to have paid the costs and since the trial tho' we had the good fortune to gain the suit in part, the Court of Surry thought fit to very unjustly in my opinion to saddle me with the costs of all the witnesses but two, saying we had proved but one fact, & that was for CATE & her children, so that in the whole I have laid out 50 or 60 £ for the Orphans, which my circumstances did not admit me to lie out of any longer, so that upon the whole I have a clear conscience that I have ever done that which I conceived to be right and for the good of the Orphans and if I have done anything wrong it was for want of more knowledge and not wilfull, so I submit, the matter to your Honors.
Wm. Cook, Guar.
Sept 25th 1792
The defendant William Cook maketh oath that the several facts stated in his answer that are of his own knowledge are true and all others not of his own knowledge he belives to be true.
Sworn to before me this 2'd day of October 1792
Max. Chambers, CMC
NC State Library and Archives, CR085.508.136, Estate Records, Rowan Co., NC, Folder: William Ridge (1785)
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