20 November 2014

Paying for Two Coffins in 1862

It always pays to read the entire probate case file.

This is part of a claim allowed to Philip Smith in 1865 that is contained in the estate case file for William Smith of Mercer County, Illinois.

N. B. Partridge states that in August of 1862 Philip Smith paid him $10.00 for "making two coffins for Wm. Wmith & wife."

The fact that the claim didn't get paid until 1865 does not seem highly unusual. However, there are two aspects of this claim and payment that are interesting:
  • Philip Smith has paid the "coffin bill."
  • The "coffin bill" is for coffins for William Smith and his wife.
Philip Smith is mentioned in other documents in this case file, but his relationship to William Smith and his wife is never stated. It would seem reasonable to conclude that Philip Smith is related to William Smith and his wife based upon the fact that Philip paid for their coffins himself. It's not unusual for someone to request reimbursement from the estate for an expense of this type. It would be unusual for someone related to the Smiths to pay for their coffins on the hope that they would eventually be reimbursed.

The payment by Philip is suggestive of a relationship. The specific nature of that relationship cannot be surmised solely from what is in this document.

William Smith and his wife most likely died reasonably close to each other--time wise that is. Just how close cannot be surmised based upon this reference. The wife of William is not named in the estate case file and no "relinquishment of first right to administer the estate" for her is included either. This is suggestive of her dying before the start of the administration of the estate in January of 1862. However it is possible that a relinquishment was simply not filed. What is sure is that the wife of William Smith was deceased by August of 1862 when Philip paid for both coffins.

Like most records during this era, the clues here are suggestive and require further research.