Thursday, September 11, 2008

Miss Lora expresses her will

This Village Township map, taken from the larger Van Buren County map on page 85 of A.T. Andreas' "Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa," shows the lay of the land within five years of Miss Lora's birth in 1869. Although Iowaville was on the decline, it still was on the map. The little town downstream that would become Selma still was known as Independent and, father downstream, today's Leando was still Portland. The dot just southeast of Independent beside "A. Hinkle" was where the barn and log house mentioned in Lora's will were located. Her "Doll House," a later Hinkle home, had not been built yet. It was located on Independent/Selma's south edge within a small subdivision Lora's father carved from his farm. Of other sites mentioned in the will, Both "the Ranch" and Bud Hinkle's farm probably consisted of land just west of Iowaville in Davis County that had been a part of James H. Jordan's estate; Mae Hinkle's farm and Harry's farm, both at Iowaville, represented a division of a tract of land owned by their father that had encompassed the Iowaville site and extended north from it.

Miss Lora was the last Hinkle standing when she sat down to write her will on the day before Thanksgiving 1932 in Room 208 of Ottumwa’s Ballingall Hotel --- like herself a rather grand Victorian relic. She had turned 63 earlier that year, on 15 January.

Although her official home was a big frame house on Selma’s south edge --- known as the Doll House and filled with several lifetime accumulations --- Miss Lora had taken to spending more and more time in Ottumwa at the Ballingall since the death two years earlier, on 3 July 1930, of her troublesome but beloved younger brother, Houston Arthur “Bud” Hinkle.

Bud had lived with Lora in Selma and they had shared breakfast that July morning, perhaps discussing how they might spend Independence Day. Then he had gone out for a walk, had a coughing fit and just dropped dead at age 59.

Miss Lora’s surviving brother, the euphoniously named Harry Harper Hinkle, had come back to Selma in October of that year from Mexico, his home for 40 years, to help Miss Lora make belated funeral and burial arrangements for Bud --- who had been cooling his heels in the Ottumwa Cemetery’s receiving vault since July 4th --- but then had turned around and headed southwest again.

The Ballingall offered Miss Lora several amenities not found in Selma. She had no need either to cook for herself or keep house. A member of Trinity Episcopal Church, she could attend services regularly. And she had found a calling rather late in life as a volunteer aide at St. Joseph Hospital and had become attached to the sisters who operated it. She was, in effect, creating in Ottumwa a new family to replace her biological family at Selma, now for the most part dead.

This loneliness had seemed unlikely when Lora was a child. Once upon a time there had been eight of them: Capt. Abraham (or Abram) Hinkle and his wife, Sally (Jordan) Hinkle, only daughter of the Iowaville valley’s first family, that of James H. and Frances (Williams) Jordan; and six Hinkle children.

But death had been hard on the family. Sally Hinkle died of tuberculosis on 10 Februrary 1888 and two months later her youngest child, James Erwin, age 5, also had died. Daughter Nellie passed away on 10 April 1890, age 16; Capt. Abraham, on 7 February 1901; and daughter Melvina Mae, 10 years later on 14 April 1911. That left Lora and her two brothers.

Even three Hinkles might have been enough to ensure that some genetic trace of themselves survived, but neither Bud nor Harry had been inclined to marry and Miss Lora’s brief foray into matrimony had ended in divorce.

She had officially become the last of the Hinkles less than a month earlier, on 31 October 1932, when Harry died unexpectedly of pneumonia at age 60 in a Mexico City Hospital. For Lora, that had meant a trip to Mexico City to claim his body, close his house and begin the process of settling his estate.

Lora and her brother’s remains returned to Iowa two weeks later and funeral services were held at the Campbell Funeral Home in Eldon and at the Ottumwa Cemetery on Saturday the 19th, just four days before the Wednesday upon which she sat down to set down on paper her wishes concerning disposition of her worldly goods, acutely aware, I’d expect, of her own mortality.

It is a unique document, I think, but badly flawed from a legal standpoint. She should have hired a lawyer; should have thought more about the red tape needed to ensure that her wishes were carried out, should have been more careful.

Still, it still stands as a portrait of Miss Lora in her own words --- strong-willed and cantankerous, deeply interested in history, a bit of a snob, possessor of a warm heart and a benevolent spirt.

The day before Thanksgiving
Ottumwa, Iowa, November 23, 1932

In Room 208 in the Ballingall Hotel, I, Lora J. Hinkle am writing this my last will. Without a lawyer and without a lot of red tape. I haven’t much but what I have shall go as follows.

The Home Farm --- once known as Clover Hill when my father owned show stock and lived on that farm at Selma, Iowa, Van Buren County, my share shall go to the State of Iowa. The old Log Cabin that was built by Thomas Benjamin Saylor one hundred years ago shall stand to the end of time. All furniture that I leave in there shall be left as it is and the cabin shall be a show place, where a charge of 15 cents to 25 cents, no less, shall be charged, all children to 12 years of age shall admit free. Logs are old and in time cement or such shall be put on outside to keep logs.

The log building now used as corn crib may be used as kitchen and dining room or for dances as I want NO cooking in the cabin. I built a chimney for a hot air furnace but as time goes on, it may be that the new heat, without coal or oil or wood that Dr. Cook is talking about, or has his advance agent talking about here at the Hotel, anyway it interests me. In that case such a thing could be used in the cabin.

The dear old barn, built by Eli LeFever, must also stand to the end of time. The State can use that for a place to feed people or floor the ground floor, the basement, and have dancing and eating. It shall be kept as first class place always, run by first class people, no trash. The State can make a fish pond and have fine water, deep well there, sell fish and make money. Have chickens, and sell them, make money out of that. Grow corn and grain. Have boats on river, cottages along river to rent if they wish, grow walnut trees for sale, sell nuts also grow lots of grapes for sale.

I am just saying all that so you will see how I think you, the State, will make money and have a beautiful State Park.

The Ranch, I want traded for the farm my Bro. Harry owns at Iowaville, an old Indian village.

And where now stands the old Rathborn Inn, the only land mark left in the village, I want the state of Iowa to take that farm and keep all the lots about the house to go with the house, and I want that kept forever, as a show place, and money maker, for all time to come. The State may sell the land back of the old house from there to the railroad.

The farm known as my Bro. Arthur (Bud) farm, I want to go to the two children of J.W. Calhoun, Jeannette C. Hayford and Ives Calhoun. Am doing this because ever since our father died Mr. Calhoun has been a help to us, to me, in helping to advise and manage my dear Bro. Bud, so Harry and I thot it a nice thing to do, to give a little something to John’s two children.

The farm known as Mae Hinkle’s farm I want to be left in trust, the rent to go to the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Hospital forever. It could be used as a school or boarding school and it shall be called “Melmae” or Melvina” as that was her real name. Also my grandmother’s. Now should the trust and the nuns think it best to sell the sand lot and invest the cash from that, alright. Invest the cash from that lot in buildings for the farm. All must go back on the farm. The sand lot is long strip of land east of the Iowaville land, or road going out to the railroad. Also they may sell the small piece of land that is north of the railroad. It is used as pasture.

The sisters are known as the sisters of Mary. Anyway you know who I mean. St. Joseph’s Hospital is to keep up two rooms known as Henkel rooms. The home shall be known as Henkel (German way of spelling) cabin and farm.

All my dresses, shoes, clothing, shall be given to Edith Johnson and Clara Hinkle, both of Bloomfield, and they are to be divided between the two as the two may want, they do the dividing. All that they do not want or use for themselves shall be given by them to the sisters of St. Joseph Hospital, because I don’t want anyone except these two wearing anything of mine. The sisters will make over what the girls don’t use and the sisters will give them to poor students.

All my jewelry shall be sold at auction.

All income from my farm at Iowaville shall go to the sisters, say how it shall be farmed and the cash from my fine old jewelry shall be given as presents to the children I will name.

Sell the jewelry in Chicago, or Kansas City or Los Angeles where there are people who love such things. My mother’s watch, also that of my father, both have chains. My grandmother’s watch and also locket with pendant and long, very long chain. My diamond ring, my mother’s bracelets three, one was stolen, also pins and etc.

All blankets and sheets to go the hospital --- also towels. All table linen and antique quilts to be sold at auction. And the money to be given to children I will name --- The children of Chas. Starr, chief clerk of Ballingall. Edgar (Boo) Johnson’s baby girl; the two children of Eula Swain Christy living in Washington, D.C. --- Dudley Nicklen of Selma can give you the address of Christy. My lovely Mex blankets &tc., shall be sold at auction with the jewelry. Furniture to be sold at auction and that also shall be divided amontg the above named children.

As Harry has left his share to First Bank and Turst Company, I also leave the sisters share to be looked after by the same company.

Now about the Doll House where I live, or have lived, that should be used as an orphans home as it is so near a school, and is a good place for a garden and grapes &tc. So why not the State use it for such, or rent it to some Church to use as an Orphan’s Home. I really do not know what to say about that. You could take it for a farm home for the farm, but it is so big.

Better build a farm house east of the barn or back in the woods near the other road; no I prefer east of the barn, but don’t ever let the hired man who lives in the farm house own the place and have all his friends and relations camping there. And if you don’t watch that he will do that very thing. Build him a barn also and only a four room house so he can’t move in his in-laws to live with him.

With my love to everybody and with good wishes and good luck to all, I am.

Lora Jordan Hinkle

The foregoing instrument was signed in our presence by the testator who declared it to be her last will and testament --- Lora Jordan Hinkle. We signed as witnesses to her presence and in the presence of each other.

W. B. Bonifield
Margaret Bonifield

Having thus expressed her will, Miss Lora put the document way --- and never wrote another. She had four and a half more years to live.

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