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Back from the Courthouse: File No. 1292

July 28, 2008

At about 9:30 this morning, Andy, the one who was to drive me there, arrived and we set off for the Sunbury courthouse. After a fine drive, we came to Sunbury at about 10. The mom and I proceeded to the courthouse while Andy went off to walk about the park on the median, across from the courthouse building.

As usual, I didn’t have much time there. Think Andy said something about an appt. He is very busy; it was so kind of him to drive me there while my car was being such an old biddy. 🙂 Thanks Andy! Every minute spent there counts.

So, I went up the steps of the fine old courthouse building and entered the main hall. It is long and wide, with a brown and white tiled floor, and one of those checkpoint-type gates just inside the doors. Two elderly guards were seated languidly about the gate, one near the outer side and one just beyond. After having the tote bag scanned and our pockets emptied, we proceeded through, past the second guard who was singing pleasantly in a mellow, deep voice. (How wonderfully un-courthouse-like!)

So, I went down the hall to what appeared to be the last door on the right, the oft-visited Recorder of Deeds and Register of Wills office. Once there, I went directly to the will books which are under the main counter in very convenient roll-out type shelves, as I already had the book and page number for MHK’s will/administration–Book 14, p. 95. I quickly realized that this was the same thing I’d read before, and yet the will was there: I missed it, because it said hardly anything at all.

Will of Monroe H. Kulp, deceased

I, Monroe H. Kulp, of Shamokin, in the County of Northumberland and State of Pennsylvania, do make this my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking and making void all former wills by me at any time made. First: I direct that all my just debts and funeral expenses be paid as soon after my decease as reasonably may be. — Second: I give, devise and bequeath all my real and personal estate, whatsoever and wheresoever situate, unto my beloved wife, Sarah W. Kulp, her heirs, Executors, Administrators and assigns, for her and their own use and benefit forever. — And I appoint my said wife, Sarah W. Kulp, Executrix of this my Last Will and Testament. — In Witness Whereof, I, the said Monroe H. Kulp, have hereunto set my hand and seal, this the third day of January, in the year of Our Lord One thousand nine hundred and three.

Yes, that is it. The witnesses were S.P. Wolverton and S.P. Wolverton, Jr. (Simon P. Wolverton was MHK’s lawyer and was a Congressman from the 17th district just before him.) There was also mention of a witness named M.H. Barr, who was also an associate of MHK’s. There was, of course, administration information as well, but I will skip that.

Before trekking down to the basement (that is where their nearest photocopier is, if you can believe it), I asked a clerk if there were any additional probate records, after waiting for some time at the counter while all four clerks were occupied. Finally, I was able to talk to one of them, and she explained (helpfully in the information she provided, but not exactly in demeanor), that there are additional probate records and they are down in the Inheritance Tax room of the basement.

So, I went to the will indexes as per the clerk’s instructions, to check and see if any of the people I’m researching actually had any additional documents associated with their estate. I learned that if there was an inventory of the estate, it would be listed in its own column at the right hand side of the page. There is also a column marked accounts, or something of that nature, which indicates additional records as well. As I suspected, there were further records regarding Darlington Kulp’s estate, also his daughter Ella’s and one of the other childrens’, I forget who. However–nothing to do with MHK’s estate. It appears his was settled up very neatly. But…I also checked the index entry for his wife, Sarah W. Kulp. And, the right hand columns were filled out–indicating an inventory and additional records.

However, I still intended to search for the records of the D.R. Kulp estate first, as I expected there to be much more in that file. So, I promptly headed to the basement–taking the incredibly heavy Will Book 14 with me for photocopying, by the way. Needless to say, I took the elevator, and there was a stop at some other floor before we got to the basement. I only saw it for a moment and didn’t see everything, but what a room! Amazing gallery overlooking this grand room, and Mom described a chandelier. Would have loved to look around it more, but no time.

In the basement, I went through the first room with the stray equipment lying about and the dust-covered white concrete walls, and walked down the corridor where the doors to all of the record rooms are. Each door, stooped under a low, arched brick ceiling, is painted green and most have signs. Someone had already checked into the usually locked deed book room, which is where the photocopier is, so I needed no key for that. However, I chose to venture into the Inheritance Tax room first.

I was a bit discouraged by the sign pasted on the door–1914-1984. But there was no other Inheritance Tax room, so I figured I may as well check it out. It was packed in there, shelves on the left, shelves on the right, and shelves in between. It’s a relatively small room too, very tight but nevertheless exciting. All those records! At the back of the room was a small, battered wooden desk and revolving chair.

Where to start? I saw records contradicting the sign already, some files from 1985/86, so I thought there might be a chance of finding the D.R. Kulp records. (Don’t trust labels and signs! I learned this in a microfilm label incident in Mount Carmel a long time ago.)

At this point, however, I didn’t think I was going to have time to look up any other probate records–would be lucky if I even found anything about D.R. I went to the back of the room looking for a door to perhaps another room with the correct dates, and as I stood in the left aisle, next to the desk, studying some file labels, Mom suddenly spoke up: “Will this do?”

She gestured toward a cardboard box on a top shelf. As I glanced up and saw the label, I suddenly realized what I was reading. There was that familiar name, penciled across the label under some notations about the rest of the records contained there: “Special File, 1292, Sarah W. Kulp.”

The box was one of the few in that room which actually included a name, there on the label. Records, records, records! I quickly retrieved the box, placed it carefully on the table, and unfastened the ties on either end.

Most of the records were assorted papers regarding various other estates, but the far right side included several documents about her estate, many, many sheets fastened together, and a few small packets. As I went through them, most appeared to be primarily legal, lengthy, and without much valuable information, although some were signed by the administrators/executors, and two by Bernhard Wilmsen III (her godson, to whom she bequeathed this and that). I had already been at the courthouse for quite a while, so I really didn’t have time to copy everything (or the money to! Fifty cents a page! Highway robbery! At that rate, with about as many pages in the file as I intend to put in the book I’m writing, it just wasn’t possible with pocket change.) So, I copied the most interesting document–the inventory.

Photocopying the pages was not simple, as usual. The machine put up its customary fight and refused to do things right. I had to call on the assistance of a very, very helpful fellow who was using the deed book room and seemed to know everything about that copier. He had to reason with it several times, but was able to settle the machine’s spat very quickly, and we were saved! 🙂

Following are the scanned images of each photocopied page. Sarah Kulp’s last residence, remember, was 126 N. Shamokin Street. You’ll notice pencil marks in some of the bottom left corners, that’s my mom’s notation, I asked her to write down the page numbers on the photocopies. They were mixed up, though, as I initially forgot to copy a page and had to re-do it, so ignore the pencilings.

First half of page 1

First half of page 1

Second half of page 1

First half of page 2

Second half of page 2

Page 3

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7

Well, let me just say, that was amazing! I also copied the will from Book 14 before I left, but right now I am thinking about several new projects. Sometime I hope to head back there and copy all documents in the file–regardless of how unimportant they may seem. At 50 cents a page, however, I’ll need to get a better camera and photograph them!

For reference, click here for a transcription of her will.

Also, the inventory says a lot about what she owned, but it says a lot about the house as well. While thinking about this, something occurred to me. If I’d like to get a rough idea of the span and layout of her previous residence (that would be Oaklawn, the grand home once located in Edgewood, now there is only a modern housing development in its place, as was the fate of many a Shamokin mansion), I might be able to check the estate records of A.H. Kershner. He was the local automobile dealer to whom Sarah Kulp sold the house in the 1920’s, and if there is any kind of an inventory regarding his estate (he died in the 1940’s), it might provide useful info about the layout of the house itself. But that’s a project for another time.

I arrived home at around 11:40 am. Sorry for not writing this post sooner, but I had to copy those pages, which took a while, and I also needed to make a brief trip to the Wal-Mart, and this narrative has been pretty lengthy, too! But what an eventful day!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Sally Plesic permalink
    April 8, 2009 3:12 pm

    I love your web site. I am a Shamokin native. I love the photos and stories. My Great-Aunt Elizabeth Hummel (Lizzie) married a Kershner. My Mom tells me one from the mansion. That is what we called it growing up “The Mansion”. It was empty by then and mysterious..I was wondering if you ever did any more research on the Kershner’s?

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