Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cross-examination and counterclaims

Continuing with the deposition of Pleasant Flatt in February 1873, after the questions from Flatt's attorney, Masters' lawyer countered. "You state in answer to one of the questions on direct examination that the defendant refused to permit you to get water from the barrel at his home. Now is it not a fact that his refusal was occasioned on account of the obscene language used by your children when he came for water and their indecent conduct while there?"

Flatt answered "I do not know anything about the language used by the children."

In 1872, Masters would have been about 34. From this undated photo via Ancestry, he was likely an intimidating figure as owner of the land where the Flatt family worked. There is not more information on what might have caused Masters to claim the girls were using "obscene language" but I can guess some of it may have been instigated by comments from Masters toward the young girls.
Porter F. Masters, undated photo via

Next question: "Is it not a fact that you went to the field when the corn was raised with a sack on several occasions and gathered corn and apples to your own use without the knowledge and consent of Masters?"

Flatt responded "Masters' cow destroyed three rows of corn near my house and I gathered them and no more."

Question: "Is it not a fact that the reason you did not cultivate the tobacco you speak of was that the plants failed and on that account you and the defendant agreed to cultivate the ground in corn that you had intended to put in tobacco?

Answer: "That was not the reason that we did not sow tobacco we could have got plants to set the crop and it was may wish to do so."

Question: "Was the ground you intended to cultivate in tobacco planted in corn and cultivated by you and Masters?"

Answer: "It was."

Question: "Did you assist in the cultivation of the corn during the crop season?"

Answer: "I did from the time we commenced until we got through."

Question: "What are your feelings toward Masters. Are they kind?"

Answer: "I cannot feel towards Masters as I would like to, but I have forgiven him and hope the Lord has."

This brought the deposition to a close.

The next paper in the file shows that Porter Masters intended to take depositions on 26 March 1873 as evidence on his behalf. He served notice on Flatt. Sometime after March 1873 and before December 1873, Pleasant Flatt died. He would have been about 52 or 53 years old. The case file includes a note from the court for an "order of revivor" filed in February 1874 for the case to continue to be prosecuted by the public administrator of Metcalfe County.
KY State Archives. Flatt v Masters.
Masters filed a counterclaim, saying Flatt's assertions were untrue and Flatt was indebted to Masters for $33.80 in pork, 10 cords of wood worth $15. It looks like Masters pursued Flatt's children to depose them (and others associated with them) for evidence in the case. It does not appear that Masters went after Flatt's widow, Nancy D. Hubbard Flatt.

From Friday's post, Nancy Jane, Margaret Ellen, Martha Flatt and associates John Flatt, Dock Simmons, Marion Stephens, Joseph Russell and Sampson Washington Flatt were sought by the sheriff of Mercalfe County in November 1874. Service was executed on then 14 year old Martha Flatt on 5 December 1874. The others were not found.

The next documents in the file show the arrest warrants for 15-year old Martha Flatt and Dock Simmons, dated 4 June 1875 for contempt of court. Dock Simmons signed the acknowledgment of service on 5 June 1875 (he would have been about 26-27 years old based on census records). The sheriff was not able to find Martha Flatt on 7 June 1875.

It looks like Masters even tried to summons Nancy Jane's half-brother William Flatt, who was living in neighboring Adair County at the time.

The papers in the case may have been out of order. The next set in the file covers the answer of Porter Masters. He agreed that he had entered into a contract with Flatt to cultivate a crop together. Masters argued Flatt refused to assist in gathering the corn and in cultivating the crops. "At the busiest season Plaintiff wholly abandoned the crop and this Defendant did all the work which was necessary in its cultivation and harvest."

Masters asserted Flatt did not perform "a single hours work" with the wheat and also denied the claims that the land cleared by Flatt would have produced tobacco worth $200. He denied the other claims made by Flatt about their contract. Masters said he furnished water during the crop season. He also said "the conduct of Plaintiff's children was very obscene when they came to get water."

Masters asked for a judgment against Flatt in the sum of $48.80 and other proper relief.

It is not clear from the case file how the action was resolved.

There are three other cases in the State Archives involving Flatt's widow Nancy D. Flatt, including one against George Price, the lawyer in the case against Porter Masters. I need to order these copies to see if there are other references to Nancy Jane and her siblings.

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