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Brotherton & Weekping Indian Communities of NJ

The Court Battle over Moolis's Will

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The Burlington Orphan Court heard testimony from witnesses regarding the circumstances surrounding the will of Charles Moolis.  It interviewed all of those present at the will signing, and of some neighbors familiar with the parties.  Not all of the depositions have been copied as there is much repetition, however, those of the major players are copied below.  

The finding of the Burlington Court on September 11, 1798 was that the will was invalid and that Foster had no claim to the land.  He immediately appealed to the Ordinary Court in Trenton, where the case was reviewed and reversed in 1802.

This reversal did not help Josiah Foster.  The Indians who remained in New Jersey, and those who maintained a presence in both New Jersey and New York (ie. Bartholomew Calvin), continued to act as possessors of the land.  At the same time, the local Indians petitioned the State legislature for a law to appoint commissioners to manage their land, which was enacted in 180_   Copies of the annual reports of these commissioners are on file with the Burlington County courts from 18__ to 18__. 

Finally, a court case in 18__ filed in federal court by Foster led to a final decision in his favor.  Upon his success, the State apparently withdrew its involvement and there is no record of a formal revocation of the state law that maintained Weekping as Native land under the auspices of the State of New Jersey.

 

 

Burlington Orph Court

Chs Moolis Will or Caveat} Certificate of Proceedings

Filed 1s November 1798 J. Beatty Reg.

March 3rd 1802

Ordinary Court to be held at Trenton on Tuesday 12: Ap: 1802

At an Orphans Court holden at Mount-Holly on Tuesday the fourteenth day of August Anno Domini 1798 in and for the County of Burlington

Present

George Anderson } Esquire Judges

Isaac Cowgill

William Rossel

Daniel Newbold

Thomas Adams

Charles Moolis Will } The Surrogates having reported to this Court the Instrument exhibited in his office by Josiah Foster for probate_ as the Testament and last will of Charles Moolis late of the County of Burlington deceased _ where in the said Josiah Foster is named Executor _ and having also reported a paper filed in his office purporting to be a Caveat against the probate of the said Instrument: It is ordered that the said Instrument called the will of the said Charles Moolis and the Caveat there to be filed: -

Richard Stockton Proctor - for Josiah Foster Esqr etc -

Joseph McIlvaine - Counsel for the Executor etc

Aaron D. Woodruff & Lucuis H. Stockton of Counsel on the side of the Caveat: -

On the Motion of Mr. Richard Stockton - It is ordered that the hearing of the above case of Probate do come on: Whereupon the following Witnesses were called and duly affirmed in open Court - and their Testimony taken in open Court and Subscribed:

1st Phineas Kirkbridge - affidavit on the part of the Probate

2d Daniel Joyce - on the part of the Probate

ordered to be filed:

The Court adjourned to meet again at the Court house in Mount-holly on Tuesday, the 11th of September 1798.-

At a Court holden at the Court house in Mount-holly pursuant to adjournment on tuesday the 11th day of September Anno Domini 1798.-

The Court opened

Present

John Lacey } Esqr. Judges

Isaac Cowgill

Daniel Newbold

William Rosell

Edward French

Thomas Adams

The case proceeded - and the following persons were called and duly qualified and their Testimony reduced to writing and subscribed in open Court viz: No. 3. Wm Joyce No. 4. Hezekiah Jones - No. 5 - Do - No. 6. Do. No. 7 Hannah Woolston No. 8 Bethuel Moore. No 9. Daniel Joyce No 10 John Burr No 11 John Hewston No 12 Wm Wood No 13 Thomas Burr No 14 John Bishop No 15 Job Jones No 16 Thomas Sheldon No 17 Phineas Kirkbride No 18 Daniel Joyce - ordered to be filed

The Court having heard and duly considered the Testimony and arguments of Counsel in the above Cause are of opinion and do decree that the said Instrument of writing exhibited by Josiah Foster as the Testament and last will of Charles Mooles deceased for probate - is not proved to be his last will and Testament and that Letters testamentary thereon ought not to be granted:

Whereupon the Counsel on behalf of the said Josiah Foster Executor etc did instantly appeal from the said decree to the Governor as ordinary etc and it is allowed to etc : -

The Testimony that the foregoing is a true Copy of the minutes in the orphans Court for the County of Burlington of the proceedings decree and appeal in the foregoing cause: I have here to set my hand and the Seal of the said Court this 11th day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety eight

Wm Griffith

Clk -

Depositions of Witnesses
 

Phineas Kirkbridge Affirmation (1st)

Burlington Oph Court:

On the Will of Ch: Molis} Affirmn of Phineas Kirkbride

1798 No. (1)

filed Augt Term 1798 Wm Griffith Reg:

Exhibit (A).

Phineas Kirkbride Affirmed:-

The name Phineas Krikbride subscribed in his handwriting: was present when Charles Molis signed & sealed the said Exhibit as his last will and Testament & published it as such in the presence of the Witness and of the other two subscribing witnesses Daniel and William Joice: - the words "Chalres Molis his mark" is the handwriting of this witness - doth not know whether Molis requested him to write these words - it was necessary for some one to do it: the mark was made by Molis / but one of the witnesses supported or held his hand - but he did it voluntarily: - he was low & weak - sat up in the bed - Witness thinks he assisted him: - he was not more weak & feeble - than witness had seen people on such occasions - after he had signed the will he was asked if he signed sealed & published the instrument as his last will & testament he answered"yes" that he "did:" -

When the paper was executed it was delivered to the Witness at the request of Molis - who was to take care of it ‘till called for: - the way the paper was handed to the witness was this - he understood that Molis wished him to take care of the paper - and asked him if he requested it; Witness to care of it he answered yes: Witness took it and kept the will untill after the death of Molis: Molis never called on Witness for the will afterward- nor spoke a sentence to him about it. - after Molis deceas - Witness put it into the hands of Thomas Burr Esq. - this was the day after Molis burial - dont know whether it was first handed to Squire Burr or M.r Foster - but it was handed to Sqr Burr to read - in the presence of the people: Burr opened and read it and then delivered it to Judge Foster: -

- was called in the morning by Josiah Foster - he told him that Charles Molis had been after him to write a will for him - he said he thought it would be necessary for some neighbors to be present and requested witness to go with him - that if witness would come along in half an hour it would be in time: Witness accordingly went: when Witness came to Mullis house - found there Joice & his son William & Josiah Foster: went in and saw Josiah Foster - all were in the room: Molis appeared to be asleep when witness went in: sat there a quarter of an hour or more - and then Molis waked up - and spoke to witness - calling him by name and asking witness how he did: witness then went to the bed of Molis - and asked him how he did: he answered that he was poorly or very poorly but better than he had been: witness had not seen him before in that sickness: - after some little Conversation - which witness dont particularly recollect - it was mentioned that it would be well for the Witnesses and an indian there to retire while the will was read - they agreed to go verily - Witness did as it was customary on such occasions: Josiah Foster requested them to withdraw - they accordingly went out: they were out a Considerable time long enough - or plenty of time to read and explain the will as witness supposes: - they were then asked to walk in by Josiah Foster - they went in - and then pretty soon the will was executed: dont remember any thing particular passed after they were called in before the execution: at the time of Molis executing the will - Witness was of opinion that he was in his senses - and as the witness thinks of sound and disposing mind & memory: - he thinks this for several reasons: had been acquainted with Molis - for about 17 years lived a mile and a quarter from him or thereabouts and had dealt with him: after the execution of the deed a will - for after a few minutes - Molis said "Siah" meaning Foster you must settle all my business and pay my debts Molis then undertook to tell him where he owed monies: he mentioned Witness as one - Witness had made him a one horse Cart - which was unpaid for - he also mentioned the blacksmith who had ironed the Cart who was not paid: Witness thought from the time Molis awoke & knew him so soon he was in his proper senses - he likewise mentioned that he owed Daniel Joyce for pasturing a Colt for him: no question was asked Molis about his debts he spoke of them voluntarily - there was some Conversation between Joice & Molis about the Colt at that time which Witness does not recollect: he mentioned Japhet Garwood to Josiah Foster as a person to whom he owed some things: thinks also he mentioned George West: Witness says George West had some little while before made a harness for the Cart for him: -

Charles Molis recovered of that illness - this transaction was 9th of Sept 1797 - Molis died 10 feby 1798 - Saw Molis 3 or 4 times after to see how he was - he was hewing out the handle of a broomstick asked him how he did - he answered quite bravely - and spoke Chearful - calling witness by name. in Octr or fall of 1797 - There was a quantity of Buckwheat raised on Mullis farm by the white people: Witness applied to Mullis for a few bushes - was twice there about it - got the buckwheat - The day before the will was executed Josiah Foster came to Witness and requested him to go up to Mullis - in order to see what was to be done about Mullis will - or to execute it as Witness supposes: - Witness went but did not get quite to the house - when he met Josiah Foster coming from the house: Judge Foster told Witness that he had been to the house - that Molis was so poorly it would be best to adjourn it till morning - he understood from the family was best in the morning - Foster said he was going to Vincent Town & would call on Mollis again in the evening when he returned - Judge Foster told Witness that Mollis was generally worse in the afternoons he did not know whether he was quite Capable in the afternoon: The witness on being asked whether Judge Foster told him he was incapable of executing the will that afternoon answered: That he is not sure that Judge Foster told him he thought Charles incapable of executing a will that afternoon - he dont know that the word Capable was used - his meaning was not to say that he understood Judge Foster as saying he thought him incapable - he says he the witness might have thought so - but Judge Foster did not say he was incapable - he did not understand from anything Judge Foster said that Mullis was incapable that afternoon with regard to his mind from exexuting the will - he said he was a good deal poorly and it would be better to have it till morning: - Witness did not see Molis that afternoon - nor at any previous time of his illness:

Cross: Ex.d: -

Charles Molis could not write as Witness believes - does not know whether he could read: dont know if he could read print - believes he could not write: believes he [Foster] was writing the will or making some alterations upon the paper now in Court - he thinks it was on the same paper: does not know if the paper was given to Molis to read before he was executed it - dont think he could read - never heard the will read to Molis: did not hear any person ask Charl: Molis if he was acquainted with the Contents of the paper: - does not remember who requested witness to write Charles Molis name - nor does he remember who it was guided Moolis hand but is certain some person assisted him: he was asked if he allowed that or published it as his last will & Testament - he answered "Yes" - thins Jusge Foster put the question to him - dont recollect he said "yes Siah" - Molis was in bed - at the time Judge Foster asked him if it was his last will - it was in view of Molis & all of them - dont know the exact position of the paper when that question was put: it was there on the table they were all about - is not sure it was then in Judge Fosters hand - or on the table - when he signed it he raised himself on the front side of the bed - and made his mark - he was setting up as witness thinks when he was asked if that was his will; it was immediately after he signed. There was no other paper there as witness saw: Believes Josiah Foster asked Molis if witness should take the will - Molis said yes: Witness then asked him if it was his wish he should take care of that writing he answered yes: - the witness asked him if he should keep the writing till called for - he said - yes: witness thinks he took the will out of Josiah Fosters hand: was at the house he thinks a couple of hours - the others were there longer:

By M.r R. Stockton} Before the will was delivered to him was it sealed up in the paper now shewn to him - and kept by witness so sealed untill after the death of Testator - without access by any person - or knowing himself the Contents:

Phineas Kirkbride

Burlington Oph Court:

Ch: Moolis will v Caveat} 2nd Aff of Pineas Kirkbride

1798 No. (17)

filed Septr 11th 1798 Wm Griffith Reg:

Exparte Will

Phineas Kirkbride again affd -

- Dont know that Job Jones on the day Charles was buried expressly told the witness Charles was not in his senses when he executed the will - Job said to witness that he hardly thought Charles was in his senses when the will was executed - and after they met at the house at the burying Job Jones asked him if he could with a clear conscience or on his qualification or something like that say Charles was in his senses when the will was Executed - Witness answered that if he ever had to say any thing about it he should always say so for it was his opinion - Josiah Foster was at the burying was present the next day when the appraisment took place and was an appraiser - there was something said that day about his being in his senses - It was after the appraisment was over Siah Foster asked them if they had any objection to proving the will & inventory and whether Charles was in his senses when he executed the will - the reason for his asking the question he said was in Consequence of what Job Jones had said - to witness the day before - which witness had told. Heard a question put to Daniel Joyce that day by Josiah Foster about Charles being in his senses - witness answered that he was - Joyce answered also that he was - witness says that Joyce then said Charles was in his senses at executing the will: Has heard Joyce talk about the matter several differet times - Joyce always allowed Charles was in his senses when the will was executed - he has expressed his doubts whether Charles was in his senses when he got there in the morning - but has allowed that he was so after he was roused up - and always allowed to witness that he was so at when he executed the will - thinks he has heard tell Squire Burr that Charles was in his senses when Charles executed the will - thinks it was at Burrs house of office is not Clear it was [stated] to Squire Burr - but thinks it was to him - but is clear that he has heard him say so several times - is clear that Joyce used the words "at executing the will" Joyce said he thought him incapable of making a will when he first came - but when he was roused and heard what he said - he was confirmed he was in his senses: - now he recollects he heard Joyce say so at his shop - dont recollect who were present except some of the family - but remembers Joyce said he was in his senses -

Phineas Kirkbride

Ch Moolis Will v Caveat } Deposition

Bethuel Moore No (8)

Filed Sept 11 1798 Wm Griffith Reg

 

Bethuel Moore - In 10 month last between 16 & 17th was in Company with Several others assisting to devide Cedar Swamp - that was in partnership between Josiah Foster & his brothers children: sometime in that time the subject of the discourse was in regard to the Indian property - called Chas. Moolis’s: remembers in discourse to mention was made a valuable property of some people had had the managing of it: Josiah Foster said it were: like wise querying who it would go to if one should die being then the only one living: Witness said - he said he thought it would go to the other Indians: Foster remarked and said no the fee is in him solely in hem he has a right to do with it as he pleased - Witness told him he did not expect so: Foster answered the fee was in him - or that was his opinion or to that effect: there was a good deal said but - some part Foster told Witness - that as he Foster had been a good friend to the Indians Charles had better give it to him - or that he had told Charles he had better give it to him - or that he had persuaded him - to give it to him - witness cannot remember which of these expressions he used: he might misunderstand him - a good deal was said he does not recollect: Had fine conversation with Josiah Foster at that time about marrying his daughter: - Witness did not know Moolis: -

Bethuel Moore

Statement by Foster to the Public about the Controversy & his appeal of the Orphans Court Decision

The Publick having been, I think, Impressed upon for some months Past by some persons actuated Either by Invy or Disappointment or from an overstreched zeal, which they Gloce with the [collor] or Name of Seeing Justice Done to the Indians in the assure [issue] of Charles Mollis['s] Estate, But I believe an Impartial Judge before he Decides whold wish to hear both sides of this controverce to Inable him to Do Justice to the Cause he is about to Determin, and I allso believe all men Equally Intitled to Justice, a man may Err in his oppinions, but that is not to Debar or Prevent him from having Justice; to obtain Justice for One Party at the Expense of another is only Parshel Justice and Never Shold be Done Unless it cannot be obtained on better terms, and that cannot be ascertained Until Every fare and Reasonable mithod to obtain it is first tried and Rejected -

Now Whether this has been the conduct of my opponents in the above cause or not I shall Lieve the canded and Impartial Publick to Judge from the following facts -

By Illnatured Repoarts I am compelled thus Publickly to Diclare that I Never made use of any Persuations or threats to Induce Charles Moolis to give me his Estate, But it was upon his Vollintary offer five months Previous to the writing of his Will, as well as at the time it was wrote it was no Hasty Resolution of his that I shold have the Estate after his House keeper as he cauld her Basheba Pombless and his Brother in law John Haise have the Profits of it as Long as they lived for Reasons he assigned John haises part [was] not to be in the will But soon after the Death of Charles Moolis I found that there was Likely to be an [unpleasantness] about the Estate the Deed and papers where Secretly taken away a Caviett Entered by the Indians against the proving [will] I wished to see some of those Persons who where the most Likely to take an active part in getting Justice Done to the Indians as they termed it, but no one appeared, Three or four weeks was spent by them in throughing out Invectives against me, finally I obtained by the Interferance of some of my friends a confirence with some friends met at Burlington, at that confirence I informed them that I had not seen the title Deed that John Wills made to the Moolis family for those Lands for some years, but that I whold agree to Lieve the Examinations and Determinations of it to the Judges of the Supreme Court and whold abide by there Desition But that offer was Rejected and treated with contempt, and Nothing whold Do But I must give it up I informed them that I shold not do that, until I knew to whome it belonged, and to whom I was to give it, for I had Reasons to believe that it whold not be to the Indians Besides it whold be [confering] to the World that what they siad of me was true but finding nothing which I utterly Denyed I was therefore Determined to have a hearing cold be Done, I withdrew, and admitting with a friend I informed him of my offer, he answered it was a Reasonable one and he whold trye if he cold not Prevale upon them to take with it, after some time he Returned and informed me they whold not hear to it, and after some weeks had passed Joshua Evans came to my House and Informed me his business was to Persuade me to give up the Estate Late Charles Moolis to the Indians, and allso informed me he had been with aaron and Mosis Wills and Hezekiah Jones and from theire Information he thought I had better give it up; my answer was, that, there had been an unwarrantable attack on my Reputation in that Business and such as one as I knew I Did not Deserve, and unless I could have a Hearing to clear myself from these charges, I shold not Relinquish my clame, Besides I knew not to whome I where to give it, finding he could not Prevale on me to comply with this Request he then Proposed having it left to men, to which I agreed, Provided it could be left to Impartial men, men not allready biast or Prejudist against me men that where Knowing in Law and titles and acquainted with business, he wished me to mention the men I whold be willing to Lieve it to I mentioned Joseph Smith James & Joseph Stone Isaac Cawgall and John Lacey, he agreed and aded he thought them good men and that the thought no one whold object to them, sometime after with the assistance of some others and the Indians appointed five others without my knowledge, a List of which was sent to me, and Nothwithstanding, I knew most of them had allready Determined the Cause against me, I agreed they should all be notifyed, and meet, at time and place was set, and the most of them met and after waiting sometime and sending to theire attorneys Jos. Read for them, at Length my opponents appeared, and to my supprise & astonishment we were told that they had no hand in the appointment of the men, nither shold they agree to submit the controvercey to men, for that Joshua Lippincott was the Heire at Law and he had not been consulted on the subject and that he was from home and not Expected at home for some time, and so the Business (with some tantalising Exprestions to me) Ended at that time, and in the same manner Lay until the Return of Joshua Lippincott, and as soon as I heard of his being at Home, I wated on him and Informed him of the Business and allso told him that Moses Wills had siad that he was the Heire at Law, and if that was the case I wished us to think of some method of getting the Dispute spedially settled, and proposed, submitting of it to men that there might be a fare and Impartial Ex[amination] into the title as well as into my conduct in the Business, he Declined having anything to do with it, and Desired his name might not be mentioned in the Business: finding I was not Likely to get a Hearing in this way I informed him and his friend, then with him, that I thought myself Hardly treated, my conduct censured, my Reputation Stigmatised and I cold not git a Hearing, But if I was Refused on in this ammicable way which I Perseued, I whold have one by the Laws of my country the answer was I had a Rite to Do as I pleased, Now I whold ask if any one can suppose that there was or has been any Intention of fraud in me when it will and must appear that I have Been uniformly from the beging (of this novel and tragical Business,) Disireous of having the merrits of the Dispute as well as my conduct Examined and Schrutinised yet Notwithstanding all those offers and solisatations of mine to Procure a fare and Impartial Hearing to no affect; I am Slandered by them in theire Pretended Indian Memorial and Subscription Papers as well as virtully with Having a Desire to Rond and Defraude the Indians, Cruel usage, Stigmatise a man and Refuse him a Hearing, if this is Justice I confess I have Never been acquainted with it, why some will say He has had a Hearing, yes it is true there has been a shamefull one, allmost three Days taken up in Listning to Hearsay Indian take [talk] to Blacken my caracter, But is this a fare and Impartial Examination to the merrits of the controversey No it has been Intnd. more to Injure me than to obtain Justice / and alltho there is an appeal from the Decistion of a magority of the Court on that Hearing, yet my opponents, whilst that appeal is Pending before the Prerogitive Court agreable to the Laws of the Land; have in an arbitrary manner (if I am Informed Right) on the 15th of this Instant met to agreed as a Devition [division] and on the 22d agreable to an adjurnment completed a Devition of the contended Premises, amongst the Heirs of Moolis, in Violation of Justice and Laws, Because contended Property is to Rest as it where until a final Decistion takes place which I hope one Day to obtain alltho I see it is to be by the Hardest and no condisention of my vollinteer opponents

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