Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joseph Aeperson Lett of Mecklenburg County (September 1855 - December 10, 1896), obituary and some estate records

As of 2003, Brenda Kelley of Titusville, Florida had a photograph of Joseph Lett. According to her, "...the background is very dark except over his left shoulder, the face has been 'cleaned.' My aunt Iva gave this picture to me about 30 years ago and amazingly it has traveled up and down the southeast coast from Ft. Meade, Maryland to Florida several times and still did not damage the glass or frame!" I used a pencil on this copy to try and redefine some of the lost features.

Richmond Dispatch, Saturday, December 12, 1896:
"FATAL BOILER EXPLOSION IN MECKLENBURG. - BOYDTON, VA., December 11. - (Special.) - A terrible boiler explosion occurred at the saw-mill of Mitchell & Jones, near Baskerville, this county, yesterday afternoon. Mr. Joseph H. (sic.) Lett and Jim Blackford, a colored fireman, were instantly killed. Mr. Lett had just reached the mill on business when the sad fatality occurred."

According to Charles Richard Dunn, III, Joseph went to the mill on business and his wife waited for him along the road side. As he approached the mill, steam was building in the sawmill's boiler. Its pressure release valve failed to open and the boiler exploded. A piece of flying metal struck Joseph's head, taking off the top of his skull. Mollie rushed to her husband's side but it was too late. The only thing she could do was to put his brains back into his scull and tied it together with her scarf.

Joseph was supposedly buried across the street from the main Lett cemetery on highway 669. Charles Dunn told me that he would take me to the site but died before he got the chance. I was taken to the area in the late 1990s by John D. Hightower. He said that a foot marker still existed in the field but we could not find it, despite burning off a large portion of the growth. He told me that it used to be a full cemetery there until Charles Dunn plowed it over. No wonder her knew where the cemetery remnants were located, he was the one who destroyed it! Charles is now deceased so I have no way to ask him about it.

According to a 1905 deed Mollie Lett reserved 1/8 acre, of a tract she sold to James T. Cole, as a family cemetery. The property was located in Buckhorn magisterial district, adjoining W. A. Lett, L. H. Hayes and others. The land formerly belonged to Dr. Peter E. Lett. It would seem logical that Joseph was likely buried in this cemetery. However, despite several efforts, it has not been located to my knowledge and would most likely not be the same cemetery as the one mentioned by Charles Dunn.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book 27, p. 102:
On December 21, 1896, Joseph's mother-in-law, E. M. C. Puryear, was securely named as executrix of his estate.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book 27, pp. 134-135:
An appraisement of the estate of Jos. A. Lett, deceased was returned to court in February 1897. He did not possess a lot of items but those he had were respectable. He owned several wagons and carts, including a surry (covered) coach. It appears he also owned one-third interest in some type of business, perhaps a saw mill, since his estate included one-third interest in a log cart, shop, ox and two certificate of deposits. There were also two bonds due, one versus J. E. Powell for $16.00 and one versus Andrew Sizemore for $350. Joseph's estate appraised for a total of $1,191.51. Not included in this total was a tract of land, worth $600, with no encumbrances.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book 27, pp. 291-292:
An accounts current for the estate of J. A. Lett, deceased was created on January 23, 1898 and was returned to court on August 15, 1898. At the time of his death, Joseph did not have many debts of which to speak. Instead, there were a few bonds owed to him which the estate was able to collect. In the end, Mollie received $358.94, Mattie and Lillie each received $179.47 and Kissie and Lucie each received $179.48.

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