Monday, May 18, 2009

Family battles for Civil War Navy Secretary's Estate

Some heirs of Gideon Welles are asking to reopen a 59-year-old probate case. According to Wikipedia, Gideon Welles was a Democrat from Connecticut. Welles switched to the Republican Party, mostly because of his strong anti-slavery views. He strongly supported Lincoln's election and Lincoln named him Secretary of the Navy in 1861, a position he held until 1869.

Welles and Lincoln were frequent correspondents and the fight is over priceless personal correspondence between the two men, an unused ticket connected to the Gettysburg Address, historical documents, a Spencer rifle, and civil war era wine decanter, among others. An expert looked through a trunk in the attic of the old Ruth Trost Welles house in Covington, CT. He catalogued 713 letters and notes from Lincoln and wrote about it in the American Society of Appraisers. That article touched off this convoluted family fight. There have been allegations of theft, fraud, income tax evasion.

The federal government is also watching the case hoping to get important documents into the national archive.

Interesting story and video from the Courant.

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