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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
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Will of Cyrus W. Field - 1892

Introduction: Some histories of Cyrus W. Field state or imply that he died in poverty, but this is not entirely correct. While he suffered some serious financial reversals in later life, he retained reasonably substantial assets, bailed out his son and son-in-law from failed businesses, and maintained his country house in Westchester County, New York, where he died on July 12th, 1892.

This report of Field's will, from the New York Times of August 3rd 1892, gives details of his estate. Some of the correspondence and papers which Field left to his children were sold at a 1906 auction in New York City.

--Bill Burns




The will of the late Cyrus W Field was filed for probate in the Westchester County Surrogate's Court at White Plains yesterday. It was dated Jan 22, 1892, which was after the failure of his son Edward M. Field, and it probably was made then to revoke all the wills or testaments that were made before that time. This the testator no doubt considered necessary owing to the condition of his son Edward M. Field, and the money that was intended for this son was left in trust to his heirs.

The will first directs that the sum of $50,000 shall be given to his son-in-law, Daniel A. Lindley, and his friend, John Lindley, to be invested and held in trust for his daughter, Alice D. Field, so that she may have the income during her life. The money shall be invested in such manner as his daughter, Isabella F. Judson, directs, and in case she gives no directions it is left to the discretion of the trustees. Upon the death of his daughter Alice the money is bequeathed to those persons who would be his next of kin in case he had survived his daughter. The inheritance or succession taxes are to be paid out of the estate. In case the sum mentioned is not sufficient to properly support his daughter, she is earnestly commended to the rest of his children.

To the rest of his children, excepting his daughter Alice and son Edward M. Field, is left a number of articles of personal property. The list is varied, and in many cases the articles are gifts from well-known men and serve to show the esteem and honor in which Mr. Field was held by people of this country as well as those of other nations.

This list is to be divided by mutual agreement, and includes the gold medal presented to Mr. Field by the unanimous vote of the Congress of the United States; the duplicate of the same, the original having been lost or mislaid in the Treasury Department at Washington, but afterward found; the gold snuffbox presented by the City of New-York, with the freedom of the city; the grand prize medal presented by the Exposition Universelle of 1867 at Paris; the gold medal presented by the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New-York; the gold medal presented by the merchants of New-York; the gold medal presented by the American Chamber of Commerce of Liverpool; the gold medal presented by the State of Wisconsin, the Decoration presented by Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy; the silver service presented by George Peabody of London, the silver epergne presented by Peter Cooper, Moses Taylor, Marshall O. Roberts, and Wilson G. Hunt, who were for many years co-Directors with Mr. Field in the New-York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company; the silver pitcher presented by clerks in his employment, the tankard made from the wood of the Charter Oak at Hartford and presented by the workmen at Central Park.

Other articles thus disposed of by Mr. Field are his gold watch, emerald pin, diamond pin, the oil portrait of Prof. S.F.B. Morse, photographs of John Bright, Richard Cobden, and M. de Lesseps, each of which had been presented by the person photographed with his autograph; the dining table on which the contract was signed March 10, 1854, for connecting Europe and America by submarine telegraph cable, and also the chairs and other articles of furniture belonging to the same set with the table; the sideboard which formerly belonged to Thomas Jefferson and was used by him while he was President of the United States; the American and English flags wrought into one which floated at the masthead of the steamship Niagara in the cable expeditions of 1857 and 1858 and of the English steamship Great Eastern while the cables of 1865 and 1966 were laid; the collection of fossils and mineral specimens, together with the cabinets and cases in which they are usually kept; the carved chairs and carved table now in Mr. Field's library; the patronship which he had in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Fellowship in the American Museum of Natural History; all other furniture, books, works of art, paintings, engravings, photographs, bronzes, porcelain, curios from foreign countries, bric-a-brac, china, and silverware.

In case of any doubt as to the identity of any of the articles the executors are to rely upon any statements made by Isabella F. Judson.

The six oil paintings and forty-seven watercolor paintings illustrating the laying of the Atlantic cable have been given by the will to the New-York Historical Society.

All the rest of the property is divided into five equal shares, and one share each is left to his daughters, Grace F. Lindley, Isabella F. Judson, and Frances F. Andrews, in fee simple and absolute ownership, free from the control and without liability for the debts of any husband they may have.

Another share is left to Daniel A. Lindley and John Lindley in trust in separate though not necessarily divided portions for the children of his son Edward M. Field, each such portion to constitute a separate trust fund. This money is to be invested and the net income, or so much as is needed, shall be used for the support of each child. When each child becomes of age the money and the accumulations are to be given to him or her. The will further provides that, in case of the death of any of Edward M. Field's children, the money shall be divided among the next of kin as though it had belonged absolutely to the child dying.

The remaining share is left in trust to his friend George Waddington for his son Cyrus William Field, the net income to be applied to his son Cyrus William Field. At the death of his son Cyrus the trustee is to continue to hold the property in separate portions for the children that Cyrus may leave. The same provisions are made for the support of the children of Cyrus William Field as were made for those of Edward M., and the money is to be divided in the same way when they become of age. The same provisions are also made in case of the death of any of them. If no child of Cyrus William should survive him, then, in the language of the will, "I give, devise, and bequeath the principal of the share heretofore held in trust for him in equal portions to my then surviving children and the issue of any who may then have died leaving issue, such issue to take collectively the portion which their parent would have taken if living."

The fifth paragraph of the will relates to the money that was owed Mr. Field by his sons and son-in-law. During the latter years of his life Mr. Field loaned large sums of money to his son Edward M. Field when he was in business, and this was all lost in the general smash that followed the discovery of his son's peculiar business methods and his insanity. The paragraph of the will relating to this subject says:

"I direct that no advances which I shall have made during my life to any of my children shall be counted as part of my estate or charged against the children who may have received the same. I also release and discharge each of my children and my said son-in-law, Daniel A. Lindley, from all debts which they may owe me, unless such debts shall be evidenced by some written obligation clearly expressing that they are intended to be charged against the child owing the same in the settlement of my estate.

"Although by this provision I virtually cancel large indebtednesses now owing to me by my two sons, Edward M. Field and Cyrus William Field, yet after careful consideration I have concluded not to let those circumstances prevent my recognizing them and their families in the distribution of my estate herein directed to be made, as I wish to promote harmony and avoid bitter feeling between my children."

The executors are authorized to sell or mortgage all or any portion of the real estate for the purpose of paying off or securing any debts or of carrying out the provisions of the will. If the executors think that such a mortgage or conveyance is necessary, this will prevent all persons interested under the will from questioning the due exercise of their power. The manner of making the conveyances or executing the mortgages is left to the discretion of the executors.

The eighth paragraph of the will relates to the trustees of the trust funds it creates. It authorizes them to adjust, settle, and compromise all accounts, claims, and controversies in which the trust estates shall be interested. The trustees may accept and hold as proper investments any of the real or personal properties of which the estate shall consist. All other trust moneys shall be invested either in bonds of individuals or corporations, secured in whole or in part by real estate, (including railroad bonds,) or in such other municipal or corporate bonds or stocks as the trustees shall think proper. Any real estate which may at any time be included in the trust funds may be sold by the trustees at public or private sale at such prices and upon such terms of credit as they shall think proper, and they may lease the same, until sold, for such terms and upon such rents and conditions as they shall think proper, the lease to be binding upon, and to inure to the benefit of, all persons entitled to the fund in remainder

The will further provides that all powers given to the executors or trustees may be exercised by those of them that qualify, and also that they shall not be held responsible except for their own individual acts or omissions, and in no case shall they be held responsible for mistakes or errors of judgment, but only for fraud or willful misconduct.

The will revokes all wills and testaments, and appoints George De Forest Lord and Franklin B. Lord executors.

A codicil to the will, dated May 31, after the death of George De Forest Lord, appoints Daniel Lord, Jr., co-executor with Franklin B, Lord.

Nothing was left for charity or charitable purposes.

Daniel Lord said yesterday that he did not have any idea what the amount of the estate was, but it is well known that it has been considerably diminished.

The petition filed with the Surrogate sets forth that the only heirs to the estate of the deceased are:

Daniel Lord of New-York and Franklin B. Lord, executors; Daniel A. Lindley of Montclair, N.J.; John Lindley of New-York and George Waddington of NewYork, trustees of the estate. The direct heirs are Alice D. Field of Pleasantville, N. Y., daughter of the testator; Isabella F. Judson, also a daughter, and Mrs. Fannie Field Andrews, a daughter, the latter living in Menton, France; Edward Morse Field, a son, in the State Asylum at Buffalo; Cyrus William Field, a son; Mary Grace Lindley, Alice Lindley, Allan Lindley, Arthur Field Lindley, and Theodore John Lindley, grandchildren of the deceased, living at Montclair, N. J.; Cyrus West Field, Jr., Edward Morse Field, Jr., David Dudley Field, Jr, Woolsey Hopkins Field, Thorwald Farrar Field, Clare Stephanie Field, grandchildren, living at Irvington with their mother, wife of Edward M. Field; Mary Stone Field, a granddaughter; Cyrus Field Judson, William F. Judson, Francis Field Andrews, and C. Cyril Bruyn Andrews, grandchildren of the deceased, and the New-York Historical Society.

Last revised: 10 December, 2019

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