Evaline Louise Miller Ferverda’s Will, Estate and Legacy – 52 Ancestors #243

Evaline Louise Miller was my great-grandmother who married Hiram Bauke Ferverda.

Eva Miller Ferverda

This charcoal drawing of Evaline was sent to me electronically some years ago by a generous cousin and was restored by a talented friend.

Eva, as she was called by the family, pronounced Ev-uh with the ev sounding like the ev in Chevy, was the 4th ancestor I wrote about in the 52 Ancestors series back in January of 2014. That seems like such a long time ago, and I’ve learned so much since then.

While researching Eva’s husband, Hiram Bauke Ferverda, I discovered a lot of previously unknown information about Eva herself.

Much of Eva’s story is told in Hiram’s articles after his immigration to the US:

I was able to flesh out the lives of both Hiram and Eva through many newspaper articles that provided a window into their lives day to day. I feel like I know Hiram and Eva better than most of my other ancestors for this very reason.

I thought I had reached the end of the line when I found Hiram’s will and estate information, even though Eva lived for another 14 years.

Due to the common practice of the husband leaving their wife a “life-estate” in the husband’s property, assuring that the property would eventually be divided among his children after the wife’s death, it had never occurred to me that Eva might actually have had a separate will.

Never assume.

This couple was anything but traditional or conservative, especially not for a Brethren couple. They seemed to be Brethren on their own terms, although they were clearly devout in their beliefs and church attendance and are buried in the Cemetery at Salem Church of the Brethren.

During a visit to Kosciusko County in May of 2019, I obtained Hiram’s will and estate papers and while I was there, I checked for Eva’s too, more as an afterthought than a pre-planned task.

Surprise

The first surprise was that Hiram left everything to Eva, but not as a life estate. He left everything in fee simple, conferring total ownership, simply expressing his “wish” that she leave the remainder, whatever that might be, to the children. He also stated that his wish should not be construed in any way as binding, specifically indicating that she should have “full, entire and complete right and title.”

It’s hard to be more explicit than that.

Of course, that left me scurrying off to see if Eva had a will, which she did.

Hurray!

Hiram wrote his will on the 10th of February 1925. Even though he was 70 years old, he probably didn’t believe his death was imminent until that time.

The newspapers held reports of him becoming increasingly ill, and he passed away in a heat wave on June 7, 1925, four months after he wrote the will.

Hiram’s will meant that Eva in essence could do anything she wanted with his estate, or any portion thereof, including the property.

Following Hiram’s will in the will book is an affidavit of death and then the “Widow’s Election.” By law, Eva was legally entitled to one third, but Hiram left her 100% of everything instead, so she had to sign to accept the provision in his will in lieu of her legal right to one third.

No decision to make there at all.

Hiram Ferverda widow's election

The Kosciusko County Historical Society was very nice and sent me both Hiram’s and Eva’s estate paperwork, beginning with the inventory which detailed what Eva inherited at Hiram’s death.

Hiram’s Estate Inventory

Hiram Ferverda estate inventory

In Hiram’s inventory, the farm they had purchased for $8000 in 1893 had almost doubled in value.

What’s missing is the land they jointly purchased in Leesburg in 1909 where they lived from that time on. Where is that property?

Hiram died as the vice-president of the bank, so it’s no surprise that he owned significant stock.

Hiram’s “old car” was only worth $50. Ironic that Eva never drove. Perhaps her children used the car to shuttle her from place to place.

The settlement of Hiram’s estate is shown thus:

Hiram Ferverda estate settlement

In this final settlement, the farm is missing too. What happened and why was it not accounted for? Generally, the administrator has to account for everything in the inventory, so this is very unusual.

However, that’s not the most interesting part, at least not to me.

Eva’s son, John Ferverda, my grandfather, is mentioned in a way that poses many unanswered questions. Rather astounding ones, actually.

John Ferverda

It appears that for some reason, in 1924, John Ferverda, Hiram’ and Eva’s son, had encountered financial difficulties. My mother would have been about 18 months old. John and his wife, Edith, also had a son, Lore, who would have been about 9.

On June 21, 1924, Hiram signed for a note for John payable to Indiana Loan and Trust in Warsaw for $1600 plus interest, due 60 days later. Why didn’t Hiram do business with his own bank? Was he protecting John from embarrassment?

I initially wondered if John borrowed money to purchase his house in Silver Lake, but I believe that they already lived in that home when my mother was born in 1922, so that wouldn’t explain the 1924 and 1925 loans. A mortgage would have been secured and for a much longer duration. These loans were short term, with the terms indicating that they expected to be repaid shortly – but weren’t.

One hint might be this notice, on April 11, 1924 in the Warsaw Daily Times and the Northern Indianian:

John Ferverda 1924 hardware store sale

I thought that John had already sold or otherwise exited the hardware business, because a 1922 newspaper article refers to him once again as the local railroad station agent, and that Eva had returned home because John had been quite ill and she had been caring for him.

Adding 2+2, it appears like John was working as the station agent to supplement his income in 1922 while his wife was pregnant and possibly not working. Add to that the family oral history that John “lost” the hardware business – even though the story timeline had morphed to be during the Great Depression. Perhaps later people simply assumed that the cause was the Depression that occurred just a handful of years later.

I suspect John was having his own depression by this time because he apparently not only “lost” the business but was left quite in debt in the process. His business partner seems to have gone with the business to the new location. It sounds like John was somehow on the wrong or at least the losing end of that deal.

On April 11, 1925, exactly a year after the newspaper article and 10 months after the first loan, Hiram signed for a second note for son John in the amount of $3900 plus interest to People’s Bank, his own bank, due in 6 months. The total of those two notes is $5500, without interest.

Apparently neither of these notes were paid by either man. Hiram was clearly gravely ill and died before the second note was due, and John was obviously unable to pay.

By the time Hiram’s estate settled, the total of John’s notes was $6096.84 – nearly one third of the total value of Hiram’s estate, including the farm.

Eva paid those notes in order that the land and other assets not have to be sold in order to pay the balance.

I wonder where she obtained the funds to pay that huge bill. That’s an awful lot of “egg money” for a Brethren woman.

Eva’s Will

Eva’s will and estate settlement takes up in early 1940 where Hiram’s left off 15 years earlier. Eva died on December 20, 1939, just before Christmas.

Eva Miller Ferverda will

Eva Miller Ferverda will 2

According to Eva’s will, she owned the 4 lots in Leesburg herself. At some point, that property had to be deeded from Hiram to Eva, because in 1909, it was deeded to both Hiram and Eva and it was absent from Hiram’s estate in 1925.

Eva wrote her will long before she died, about a year after Hiram’s estate was settled. Her will is dated October 5, 1927.

In her will, Eva left the city lots to her daughter, Edith Dye, with whom (I believe) she lived the rest of her life, but something must have changed between the time Eva made her will in 1927 and her death in December 1939. Eva apparently sold the land she owned in Leesburg during her lifetime. Did she sell it to Edith Dye and husband or someone else?

I found no deed during my visit, but then again, I wasn’t specifically looking either and the Kosciusko County Auditor’s office was anything but helpful. When I later called to ask them to simply look in the deed index, they refused, stating that was “research” and suggested I hire a title company.

Eva’s inventory, provided by the Kosciusko County genealogy society listed assets and debts, as normal.

This may be the first time I’ve seen a gravedigger’s services listed, and it was almost as much as the doctor. Eva was elderly, almost 83 years old, and there wasn’t much a doctor could have done.

Eva Miller Ferverda death certificate

Eva died of a heart attack and had apparently been ill for about 6 months.

I suspect that Eva’s son, Donald’s death in early 1937, almost 3 years earlier of kidney cancer which spread throughout his body would have been very difficult on Eva, then 79 years old. She probably cared for him during his illness, kidney removal and death.

Eva’s son Irv had died in 1933 at age 52 after suffering for 17 years with cardiorenal disease. That means he would have become ill in at age 37 in 1917, several years before Hiram died, and gotten progressively worse. This might explain why Irv wound up with the farm, perhaps being Eva’s way of taking care of her son’s family. She probably took care of Irv too as his illness progressed.

Eva Miller Ferverda estate

Eva Miller Ferverda estate 2

Eva Miller Ferverda estate 3

By the time Eva died, she had sold the city lots and the farm, leaving only personal items and debts owed to her.

Ira’s Plight

By 1940, at age 62, Eva’s son Ira was probably very ill with a disease he most likely contracted during his service in the Spanish American War when he served in the Philippines. His health issues were complicated by a car accident in 1938 where he and his wife were injured on their way home from the “Soldiers Home” where they visited or lived in Lafayette, Indiana, for many years.

Ira eventually died of gangrene in 1950, probably a miserable death, with co-morbid conditions including a type of advanced cerebrospinal syphilis, generally termed today as Neurosyphilis. He was certified as disabled in June of 1918 and received a military pension, according to the military pension index, but when he registered for the draft 3 months later, he did not declare a physical disability. He probably didn’t want to announce that type of sensitive health issue.

Of this three children born, two died as infants, one in 1920.

Clearly, the family knew Ira had challenges given that he had been disabled more than 20 years when Eva died. Ira’s obituary, found in the Ferverda Bible, stated such, although according to the census, he worked. The family may not, however, have understood the nature of his underlying illness. Amazingly, Ira live to age 72, some 47 years after he would have contracted the disease in the military. Unfortunately, Ira’s condition appeared to have been too far advanced by 1947 after Penicillin had been discovered and began to be used against early Syphilis. His was late stage.

In 1940, Ira’s debt to his mother for $570 was deemed uncollectible and a compromise amount of $200 was reached, which he paid.

Two of Eva’s children had died prior to her death, along with Ira’s protracted and incurable illness. And then there was John’s problem.

Poor Eva.

John’s Debt

The executors declared John’s note “of no value and uncollectible” and stated that John would not share in the distribution of Eva’s estate.

On the other land, Ira’s note said that his debt was of doubtful value and that the executors consulted with all of the heirs and adjusted the balance due on his note to $200, which amount was paid, and that in exchange for the discounted amount, Ira relinquished his share of Eva’s estate. In essence, between the $200 and the amount of his inheritance, Ira paid his debt in full. Perhaps Ira and his wife were living off of his disability pension from the military or had funds left from the sale of their farm in Wyoming, or both.

The balance of Eva’s estate was $3,139.71 and her children (or their heirs), except John and Ira, received $348.85 each.

What Happened?

What happened to the balance of roughly $15,000 in the value of the farm plus at least $2000 in value of the city lots and house between the end of 1927 when Eva wrote her will and Eva’s death in December of 1939? What about the bank stock? That’s at least $20,000 in assets that are unaccounted for in 1940, which would be equivalent to roughly $365,000 today simply from inflation alone, not if invested.

Did Eva deed the farm to Irv, who subsequently died? Did he purchase the farm? If so, where did that money go? Had Eva had already divided that money between her children? If John had received roughly $2000 as his share, he still would have owed his mother money.

When Hiram died, Eva paid his estate just over $6000 on John’s behalf, yet when she died, John owed her estate $5900 which included interest. Clearly, either he had paid something, or he had already received some funds, because he owned less in 1940 than in 1925 and interest would have been accruing that entire time.

There is clearly a chapter or two I’m missing, including why the family, meaning ALL of the children, were so willing to simply forgive their brother John Ferverda his debt – apparently without having to discuss it. The discussion and agreement was mentioned regarding Ira’s debt, discounted $330 which is roughly the amount he would have inherited, but nothing at all was said about John’s $5900 debt. Furthermore, Ira signed a release, but John did not.

There was no discussion. No negotiation. Nothing. Had Eva made her intentions clear to her children?

John’s debt was HUGE compared to Ira’s and the distribution received by his siblings. $5900 for John’s forgiven debt compared to $348 each for the rest of his siblings.

John wound up with more than the rest of the heirs combined, who shared a total of $3139.71. John’s $5900 was almost double that.

There seemed to be no animosity or hard feelings, then or later. I NEVER heard one peep about this, and neither did Roscoe’s children who are still living. No one mentioned it at the 2010 reunion either.

If my mother had known something, she would likely have mentioned it, although John was probably quite embarrassed about whatever the situation was. I know his wife, my grandmother, Edith, would have been mortified.

The potential reasons that John may have been forgiven his debts are as follows:

  • John had vision problems, necessitating surgery on his eyes when he was a young man. Given this, I’m not at all sure he ever was able to see properly, but he clearly was not blind.
  • John studied to be a teacher, but never taught, which could have been related to his sight issue. Instead, he mastered telegraphy and became a train station agent until he bought a hardware store.
  • John purchased the hardware business in 1916 along with partner R. M. Frye. The family story mentioned that he lost it during the Depression, but in reality, he was out of the hardware business before the Depression hit. In 1920, he was in the hardware business according to the census, but by November of 1922, he is once again mentioned as the Big 4 Agent at Silver Lake in a news article that said he was very ill and his mother had been caring for him.
  • In November of 1922, Edith, John’s wife, was very pregnant for my mother while working and already had Lore, age 7, so I’m sure she welcomed her mother-in-law’s help with open arms.
  • In 1924, John went to work as a salesman for the Ford Dealership. The newspaper article states that he had sold the hardware business and he clearly is no longer station agent either. He worked at the Ford Dealership the rest of his life. I remember him still working in the late 1950s when he would have been in his late 70s. In essence, he worked until he literally could no longer.
  • In the 1930 census, John is a salesman for the Ford Garage. The family also raised chickens. Mother was paid a nickel for every chicken she cleaned and she cleaned so many that she hated cleaning chickens for the rest of her life. John is shown below with his favorite chicken.

John Ferverda and chicken

  • The Depression beginning in 1929 was financially devastating to John’s family. No one was buying cars or tractors and without a farm, John had nothing to sell, except chickens. Mom said they traded chickens for food and other essentials.
  • My mother had contracted Rheumatic Fever and was critically ill for months spanning into years. Her heart was damaged and she was not expected to live, initially. She was cared for by her father, John, and her grandmother Eva for months in about 1932 because her mother Edith’s income was the only stable income for the family. Mother said that the doctor had recommended that she have her tonsils removed because they became infected so often, which eventually led to the Rheumatic Fever, but her parents could not afford the surgery. Her parents always felt terrible, like they nearly killed her. While mother did recover, that recovery was very slow because her heart was weak. She danced for years to strengthen her heart.
  • John, shook, terribly – so severely that he could not lift a cup to drink without badly spilling the liquid. Eating was difficult for him and he was shaved at the barber shop because he couldn’t shave himself. We thought it was familial tremor, because other family members, including my mother had it as well. Mother never mentioned when her father began shaking, but now I wonder if his neurological issue might have been more than we realized. Did he perhaps have either MS or early onset Parkinson’s? How long had he shaken? Did that have anything to do with why he stopped working for the railroad in 1924? Could he not reliably tap out Morse Code? This might not explain why he needed the loan in 1924 and 1925, at age 42, but might explain why his siblings were willing to cut him so much slack and be so incredibly generous in 1941 when John would have been 59 years old with no hope of repaying his loan.

Was John attempting to pay off debts in 1924 from the failed hardware business? It appears so.

Maybe another trip to Kosciusko County to look at the court records, and deeds, is in order.

John and his mother were close life-long. After Hiram’s death, Eva spent a lot of time with John and family. When my mother was so gravely ill as a child, Eva lived with the family for some time. Mother said that Eva never drove an automobile, so other family members would take her where she needed to go, and she rotated between her children.

Eva often stayed with family members, and always helped when someone was ill. Mother was ill when her grandmother died and was unable to attend her funeral. She also couldn’t visit Eva when she was so gravely ill before her death and never got to say goodbye, for fear of infecting Eva. Mom was heartbroken.

However, not all of Eva passed away with her body.

Eva’s Mitochondrial DNA

We don’t have Eva’s mitochondrial DNA which could tell us so much about the history of her direct matrilineal line, meaning that of her mother Margaret Lentz, and Margaret’s mother Johanna Frederica Ruhle, and on up the direct line through all mothers. We know they were German, but nothing beyond a few generations. Mitochondrial DNA holds the key to unlocking that history.

All of Eva’s children inherited her mitochondrial DNA, but only females pass it on, so to view her mitochondrial DNA today, we have to test someone who descends from either her mother (or other direct matrilineal female ancestors) through all females, or from Eva through all females.

Eva had two half-sisters through her mother whose female children would have passed on the same mitochondrial DNA to their children that Eva carried.

  • Lucinda Whitehead (1842-1935) married Joseph Haney and had 3 daughters
    • Cecil Marie Haney (1884-1977) married Bert Eugene Dausman and had 3 daughters
      • Dorothy Dausman (1903-1987) married Edward Pippenger
      • Helen Dausman (1906-1994) married Joseph Perkins
      • Trella Dausman (1909-1983) married Ladsie Straka

Any children of Dorothy, Helen or Trella carry their mothers’ mitochondrial DNA, and female children pass it on to the next generation.

  • Mary Jane Whitehead (1852-1931) married John D. Ulery and had 1 daughter
    • Margaret Elizabeth Ulery (1872-1959) married Albert Mutschler and had 1 daughter
      • Mary Laureme Mutschler (1898-1990) would have passed her mitochondrial DNA to her children and female children pass it on to the next generation.

Eva had 4 daughters:

  • Edith Ferverda (1879-1955) married Thomas Dye and had 1 daughter
    • Ruth Evaline Dye (1987-1992) who married Robert Kelly and had 2 sons, either of which would carry Eva’s mitochondrial DNA, but neither would pass it to their children. If they are both deceased, this line is dead for Eva’s mitochondrial DNA.
      • Roger Kelly
      • Allen Kelly
  • Elizabeth Gertrude “Gertie” Ferverda (1884-1966) married Louis Hartman and had two daughters, but only one had children
    • Louisa Hartman (1903-1970) married Ora Tenney and had 3 children, but only two who are living or are female and passed on the mitochondrial DNA.
      • Richard Tenney
      • Roberta Tenney who married Rulo Frush
  • Chloe Evaline Ferverda (1886-1984) married Rolland Robison and had one daughter
    • Charlotte Robison (1924-2003) married Bruce Howard and had 5 children.
      • Susan Howard married Richard Higg
      • Mary Carol Howard married David Bryan
      • James Howard
      • Thomas Howard
      • Sally Howard
  • Margaret Ferverda (1902-1984) married Chester Glant and had 4 children
    • George Glant
    • Chester Glant
    • Mary Glant married Varrill Wigner
    • Joyce Glant married Delferd Zimmerman

Any of Eva’s descendants listed above who are living carry her mitochondrial DNA. The females passed it on to their offspring.

I have a fully paid DNA testing scholarship for the first person to contact me that carries the mitochondrial DNA of Eva Miller Ferverda. Are you the lucky person? Is so, please leave a comment on this article or drop me a line at robertajestes@att.net.

Eva’s Legacy

About 15 years ago, I went to Elkhart County, Indiana and met with cousin Rex Miller.

Rex Miller

Rex passed away this week, on his 99th birthday, as I was writing this article.

Rex was the only person I ever met that knew Eva, except my mother of course. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask my mother enough questions while she was alive. Rex, on the other hand, as one of the trustees of the Baintertown Cemetery where our ancestors are buried was interested in family history and he volunteered so much information.

Eva died when Rex was 19 years old. He knew her. He told me that they had regular family reunions, and he remembered her well both at the house in town and on the Ferverda farm. He said that Eva was an extremely kind and wonderful Christian lady.

Everyone who ever spoke of Eva mentioned her kindness and caring. The fact that she had so little to give after her death spoke to the fact that she gave so much during her life.

The fact that she went from family to family caring for the ill, especially after Hiram’s death spoke volumes about the priorities of this woman.

The fact that in her 7-page hand-written letter or article (of which page 6 is missing), Eva says, “It is the little deeds we do which count for so much…” speaks volumes.

Indeed, the big things are made up of countless little things – and Eva will always be remembered for her kindness. To quote Rex, “She was a fine, fine lady.”

That, indeed, is Eva’s legacy.

Autosomal DNA – Rex’s Gift to Eva

Rex Miller was Eva’s great nephew.

Rex Miller and Mom pedigree

Rex was the same generation as my mother.

His DNA was invaluable to mother and Eva’s genealogy – because Rex’s autosomal DNA matches that of Eva’s descendants as well as descendants of John David Miller and Margaret Elizabeth Lentz, Eva’s parents. These matches make it easy to tell which segments of DNA come from the Lentz/Miller line.

The chromosome browser above shows some of the segments that mother matches in common with Rex, in blue. Those segments were inherited by both Mom and Rex from John David Miller and Margaret Lentz, their common ancestral couple.

After immediate family, Rex is Mom’s third closest autosomal DNA match, following her 2 first cousins who are the children of John Ferverda’s sibling. Looking at who Rex matches “in common with” mother, I see that 149 people match both Mom and Rex at Family Tree DNA and 318 at MyHeritage. That means that barring a very unexpected double relationship from two different countries, those matches can be assigned to mother’s Lentz or Miller side, assuming they are not identical by chance. If they also match a relative who descends from only the Lentz or Miller line – I can be even more specific in my family line assignment of that match.

Mother’s 3C1R, Charles Lentz fits that bill.

A common match between Mother, another person and Charles Lentz allows me to tell which side of the Lentz/Miller marriage the person matching Mom and Charles and their common segments are from, and assign the match a generation further up the tree beyond Margaret Lentz.

Lentz, Miller Mom pedigree

A common match on a segment between Rex, Mom and Charles would mean that segment originated on the Lentz side of the marriage between Margaret Lentz and John David Miller.

Rex’s DNA test is at Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch, as is mothers and two other individuals who are descended from Evaline and the same generation as my mother.

There is no documented case of second cousins or closer not matching autosomal DNA with each other. Mom and Rex are second cousins. 90% of third cousins match as well, so the fact that Rex, Mom and two more cousins of the same generation have tested is a huge boon to Miller and Lentz genealogists.

If you are descended from the Miller, Lentz or Ferverda line, search for DNA matches with Rex Miller, Barbara Ferverda or any other Ferverda/Fervida. The surname is rare and you can pretty much bet, in the US, if you match a Ferverda, there’s a good chance it’s from Hiram and Eva’s line.

The ability for Eva and Rex’s DNA, combined, to shine the light backwards in time, pinpointing ancestors is the genetic legacy of both of these fine people.

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