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The Will of Mary C. W. Covalt

The following article appeared in the Clermont Sun on 28 Dec 1887, page 4, column 2.

A Handsome Fortune Falls to George W. Covalt by Virtue of the Verdict of the Jury

The Celebrated Will Case Finally Comes to a Happy Termination to the Plaintiff – A Handsome Christmas Present

One of the most important cases ever in the Common Pleas Court of this county was that of George W. Covalt vs. John Combites, trustee of the last will and testament of Mrs. Mary C. W, Covalt, who has been deceased for a little over a year.

The attorneys in the case were Nichols, Buntin and Cramer for the plaintiff, and Hulick and Keam for the defendant.

Every inch of the ground was carefully gone over and hotly contested by the attorneys on both sides.

As the will is a peculiar and interesting one and has been generally discussed both pro and con, and in order that our readers may it placed before them correctly, we publish it in full:

The Will

1st. I revoke all other wills by me made.

2nd. I direct all my debts to be paid.

3rd. I give and devise all my property, both real and personal, wherever situate, in trust to John Combites, so long as the present wife of my son, George W. Covalt, shall live, and so long any child or children born unto my son and his present wife shall live, if the child or children born onto them shall be a member of the Catholic Church or profess the Catholic faith, for in no event is a Catholic or the Catholic Church to have any of my property or to have any control of it or any part of it. If the present wife of my said son should die first, leaving no children, then upon her death with out children, my son, George W. Covalt is to have all my property and its increase. In case my son, George, should die leaving his present wife alive on his death, I give and devise all my property, real and personal, with the accumulations to the children of my trustee, John Combites. In no event is any of my property to come to my said son during the life of his present wife.

My said trustee, or any one appointed in his place, is hereby directed to pay all my debts, collect all claims due me, pay all taxes, keep the property in repair, take charge of and rent my real estate, to sell such of my chattel property as is perishable and hold the proceeds in trust for the times and purposes herein stated, to put any moneys that may come into his hands under his trust at interest, in short, to manage my estate thus in trust placed under his charge to the best advantage.

In the event that my son, George W. Covalt, shall die leaving children and his children, are or become Catholics, or embrace the Catholic faith, they shall have no part of my estate; in that case and in the event that the said John Combites shall die leaving no children alive, I give and devise all my estate, both real and personal, wherever situate, with all accumulations, to my blood-kin the nearest to me in blood relation.

In witness whereof I have, this 20th day of November, 1886, set my hand and seal, &c.

The estate of Mrs. Covalt is variously esti mated at from $75,000 to $100,000, and consists of valuable Cincinnati property and three farms in Clermont county. Mrs. Covalt had a very strong prejudice against Catholics and the Catholic Church, and disinherited, her only child and legal heir because he had married a young lady of that religious persuasion.

Influenced by this prejudice, Mrs. Covalt left this vast estate in charge of John Combites as trustee, who was to manage it to the best advantage. In no event was it to come into the possession of any one who was a member of the Catholic Church. The provision of the will virtually locked up the estate for an indefinite number of years. The will was made only two days previous to her demise, at which time she was suffering from the effects of a very painful cancer of the stomach. The attorneys for the plaintiff asked that the will be set aside on the grounds that Mrs. Covalt was a monomaniac on the subject of Catholicism, also that she was under the influence of drugs and disease to such an extent as to make her incapable of making a will at the time that this one was written. In all there were about fifty witnesses, among whom were several noted medical experts on the subject of insanity. The arguments of the attorneys occupied just one day and a half. Attorney Keam made the first speech in favor of sustaining the will. He reviewed the testimony of several of the most important witnesses on both sides.

He was followed by Judge Nichols for the plaintiff, who made an effective and telling speech.

The next argument was made by Harvey J. Buntin, of Cincinnati; His address to the court and jury was able, logical and eloquent; showing that he had his case well in hand. Mr. Buntin was formerly a resident of this county, and made for himself an enviable reputation as a teacher. Since commencing the practice of law he has been located in Cincinnati where he been deservedly and eminently successful. He is a hard student, a logical reasoner, and a methodical thinker. We expect to hear great things from him in the future.

Judge Hulick closed the argument for the defense, and delivered the best speech we have over heard him make in the courthouse.

Judge Cowen’s charge to the jury, while not lengthy, was exceedingly clear and fair, neither side taking any exception thereto.

The jury retired about half past four Thursday evening and came in with their verdict at ten o'clock the next morning. Popular sympathy was strongly In favor of George Covalt and when the foreman, James Curry announced that they had found a verdict for the plaintiff, it was with the greatest difficulty that the Sheriff prevented the large and interested audience from applauding the jury in open court.

The attorneys for the defendant have given notice of a motion for a new trial.

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