Emails to a distant cousin who lives near Wien resulted in the recommendation to visit the Chariton County Museum in Salisbury, Missouri. I hadn't visited any local museums previously and didn't know what to expect. What I found turned out to be more than I ever could have hoped for. Among other things, I was able to hold in my hand the handwritten last will and testament written by my great-great-grandfather, Benedict Bixenmann. The person working the archives allowed me to scan it into my computer. This is one of my favorite digital images.
I Benedict Bixenmann of the county Chariton state of MissouriBenedict eventually passed away on September 14, 1907. He was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Wien. I recognize Albert Schiltz and A.C. Steffes to be citizens of Wien and parishioners of St. Mary's Church.
Do make and publish this my last will and testament:
1. I give and bequeath unto my son Joseph the sum of four hundred fifty dollars
2. I give and bequeath unto my son Casper my daughters Rebecca a widow of Jacob Leber and Minnie, wife of Charles Miller each the sum of twenty-five.
3. I give unto the Catholic Church at Wien Mo. Thirty dollars also twenty five dollars to have masses read for the welfare of my soul.
4. Balance of my property after my death I give and bequeath unto my son John, whom I hereby appoint my sole executor of this my last will and testament. (He)reby revoking all former wills by me made.
In witness whereof I have here unto set my hand this 14th day of Dec 1905.
(signed) Benedict Bixenmann
Signed and declared by the above named Benedict Bixenmann to be his last will and testament, in the presence of us, who at his request and in his presence have subscribed our names as witness hereto.
(signed) Albert Schiltz
(signed) A.C. Steffes
One thing I've always found interesting is that in older wills, frequently a parent will give an exact sum of money to one or more children. I'm figuring that some, such as that given to Benedict's son Joseph, above, was for some specific reason such as a debt owed or special assistance the parent wishes to provide for a particular child. Others, such as the twenty-five dollars given to his son Casper and daughters Rebecca and Minnie, my great-grandmother, seemed to be a token amount. $25 in 1905 is worth approximately $750 today, depending on your exact calculation. While nothing to shake a stick at, seems a small sum compared to the $13,000 the $450 given to Joseph would be worth today. As a comparison, my parents both willed that their entire estates be split evenly between their children. Of course, any person can give any amount to anyone in their will. That is the purpose of the will. I'm just curious as to the reasons.