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Martha Boneta’s ‘Liberty Farm’ Has a History of Legislative Intervention

Celia

Bones talk.

I visited Martha Boneta’s farm again a week ago and was fascinated by the cemetery on the property.

So I did some digging.

Turns out, the Boneta Bill wasn’t the first bill the Virginia Legislature passed to deal with issues on the property. the first bill dates back to 1861.

Here is the history the bones on the property tell:

Thomas M. Shearman was born on March 19, 1780, in Culpeper, Virginia. He married Celia Hicks on September 25, 1816, in Fauquier, Virginia. He died on May 10, 1854, in Paris, Virginia, at the age of 74, and was buried there in the Shearman-Hicks cemetery on the land now owned by Martha Boneta.

When Celia Hicks was born in 1782 in Fauquier, Virginia, her father, Kimble, was 36 and her mother, Matilda, was 35. She married Thomas Shearman on September 25, 1816, in Fauquier, Virginia. She died on July 17, 1851, in Paris, Virginia, at the age of 69, and was buried in the Shearman-Hicks cemetery on the land now owned by Martha Boneta.

Shortly after they were married Thomas and Celia Shearman purchased the tract of land near Paris, VA in Fauquier County, Va from John Timberlake. The original purchase was a larger parcel but contained the property now owned by the Boneta family.

Thomas and Celia never had children, so there were no legal issue (descendants) to which the land would pass down.

When the land conveyed from Timberlake, the deed had a provision that should Celia wish to pass the land to someone after Thomas’ death she was free to do so, provided there were two witnesses to any such will.

Shortly before her death, Celia decided to create a will and leave the land to her nephew, Kimble G Hicks, Jr. (Celia’s father was Kimble Sr.) and an additional provision was that for as long as she shall live, her niece and namesake Celia Edmonds, was to receive the sum of $150.00 per year from her nephew Kimble, Jr. Celia Edmonds was the daughter of Celia Hicks Shearman’s sister Naomi Hicks and John Edmonds. In the 1850 Census, a year prior to Celia Sherman’s death, Celia Edmonds is listed as living with her Aunt Celia and Uncle Thomas on the property.

Celia Shearman died on July 17, 1851 and was buried on the property in the cemetery.

In October of 1851 Celia Hicks Shearman’s Last Will and Testament was proved to the County Court of Fauquier. As Thomas Shearman was still alive, and having given his wife the right to convey the property by will only after his death, the directions in Celia’s will could not be executed until after Thomas’s death almost 3 years later on May 10, 1854.

So everyone sat and waited.

After Thomas died, they waited until October 9, 1857 to probate the will in the County Court of Fauquier. And as soon as the will went to probate, the heirs at law of Celia Shearman filed papers in the court of appeals contesting the validity of the will.

The County Court had ruled that the will was the true last will of Celia Shearman but the deed conveying the land from Timberlake required 2 witnesses – which did not happen.

So the Circuit Court held a jury trial and found that the will was, indeed, the last will and testament of Celia, but since she failed to provide the two required witnesses, the will was void. So the land was passed only to the nephew Kimble Hicks, Jr.

Several years passed and in 1866 Celia Edmonds, the beloved niece of Celia Shearman filed a lawsuit seeking to correct several problems in the court ruling.

Celia Edmonds was never notified of the proceedings, was not present in the original proceedings nor did she have an attorney to protect her interests.

In addition, the will presented to the court in the hearing to contest the will contained a misprint. The printer placed a period (.) in the sentence giving the land to her nephew and AND granting Celia Edmonds $150 per year from her nephew. So the two items were seen as separate in the trial and it was unclear who was to pay the yearly amount. And when the printed copies used in court were compared to the original, it was clear that the intent of Celia Shearman was to have her niece receive the money from her nephew.

But there was yet another problem!

No one was sure if the Circuit Court had jurisdiction to reopen the case! So it was suggested that Edmonds see if the Virginia General Assembly would enact a special law to grant the court jurisdiction. And that is exactly what the General Assembly did.

So the “Boneta Bill” was not the first bit of legislation attempting to fix issues on this bit of property.

So this dragged on and on.

And there were other issues. Hicks, Jr had passed away and his daughter Evelina “Evie” Hicks and her husband Dr. Albert Byrne were the heirs and their attorney questioned the Constitutionality of the legislation and the length of time that had passed and other items.

The Circuit Court reopened the case and ruled in favor of Edmonds. The Byrnes family appealed to the Appeals Court and lost that as well.

The appeals court was not interested in the Constitutionality of the Legislation because a court in equity exists to “fix” things – even their own errors. Which they did.

The length of time was also deemed irrelevant because of the strange circumstances, the Civil War and other factors.

And the fact that there were not two witnesses was considered moot because the land conveyed to BOTH Thomas AND Celia Shearman originally. So Thomas didn’t have the authority to require two witnesses on a will created by the equal owner after his death.

So on March 12, 1873 Celia Edmonds was granted the money her aunt wanted her to have with interest in the sum of $2,500.00.

Celia Edmonds dies on March 7, 1878 almost 5 years after the verdict. There are no accounts I could find to the contrary, so I conclude that the back money and the $150 was paid going forward until Edmonds died.

Other Data:

In 1830 there were 23 persons listed as living at the farm. There were 4 White persons and 19 Blacks (who are either slaves are freed slaves.) There were 11 freed slaves and 8 slaves which appears to be 2 families with a total of 4 children.

Who is buried in the Cemetery on Martha Boneta’s property called the Shearman – Hicks Cemetery?

There are 13 people buried on the property.

Maria A. Blackwell – June 17, 1799 to April 23, 1845.

Maria was Maria Edmonds, sister to Celia Edmonds. She was born in Fauquier and married JES Blackwell. They moved to Knoxville, TN. Maria died in Knoxville and was originally buried there. Her remains were moved at an unknown date to her final resting place on Liberty Farms.

Ann Virginia Edmonds – November 8, 1815 – November 8, 1831

Ann was another sister of Celia and Maria. She died in Knoxville, TN on her 16th birthday and was buried on Liberty Farms.

Ann Celia Hicks – September 1840 – August 8, 1842

Daughter of Kimble and Amanda Shackelford Hicks Jr. Ann was nearly 2 years old when she passed away. She was the sister of Evie Byrns who brought the lawsuit against Celia Edmonds.

Emma Rust Hicks – 1787 – 20 March 1851

Emma was Celia’s sister-in-law married to her brother Steven Hicks.

Isaiah Hicks – unknown – July 12, 1830

Isaiah was Celia’s brother.

Kimble Hicks, Sr. – 1746 – Feb 2, 1837

Kimble Sr. was Celia’s father.

Matilda Hicks – 1747 – Sept. 27,1821

Matilda was Celia’s mother.

Steven Hicks – 1787 – Oct 1833

Celia’s brother. Steven’s wife Emma is also buried here.

Thomas Shearman Hicks – 1836 – Aug 21, 1838

Celia’s nephew and brother of Evie Byrns who brought the lawsuit. He died about 2 years of age.

Celia Hicks Shearman – 1783 – July 17, 1851

Celia is the wife of Thomas Shearman and the subject of most of this story.

Thomas Shearman – March 19, 1780 – May 10, 1854

Husband of Celia.

 

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog.Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

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