The life of Sam Houston is the stuff of legend. He left home at a young age to live with the Cherokee, led the Texian Army to victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, and is the only man elected to serve as the governor of two different states — Texas and Tennessee. You might assume that someone who lived such an extraordinary life, or who died so long ago, would have radically different estate planning needs than those of us who live normal lives in the modern world. However, a look at Houston’s will reveals he had many of the same concerns and goals as we do today.
Sam Houston’s will
As you can read below, thanks to the Travis County Clerk, Houston’s will includes many of the same things that modern wills do. It disposes of important personal property, pays off his debts, names people who will execute the will, and names someone as guardian in case he and his wife die while their children are still minors.
In the name of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I, Sam Houston of the County of Walker and State of Texas, being fully aware of the uncertainty of life and certainty of death, do ordain and declare this my Last Will and Testament.
First: I will that all my just debts be paid out of my personal effects, as I think them sufficient, without disposing of any of the family servants.
Second: I bequeath by entire remaining estate to my beloved wife Margaret, and our children, and I desire that they may remain with her, so long as she may remain in widowhood; and should she at anytime remarry, I desire that my daughters, should be subject to her control so long as their minority lasts;
Third: My will is that my sons should receive solid and useful education, and that no portion of their time may be devoted to the study of abstract sciences. I greatly desire that they may possess a thorough knowledge of the English language with a good knowledge of the Latin language. I also request that they be instructed in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures; and next to these that they be rendered thorough in a knowledge of Geography and History. I wish my sons early taught an utter contempt for novels and light reading. In all that pertains to my sons I wish particular regard paid to their morals as well as character and morals of those whom they may be associated or instructed.
Fourth: I leave to my wife as Executrix and to the following gentlemen as my executors, Thomas Gibbs, Thomas Carothers, J. Carroll Smith and Anthony M. Branch, my much beloved friends, in whom I place my entire confidence, to make such disposition of my personal and real Estate as may seem to them best for the necessities and interests and welfare of my family.
Fifth: To my dearly beloved wife, Margaret, I confide the rearing, education and moral training of our sons and daughters.
Sixth. To my eldest son, Sam Houston, Jr., I bequeath my sword worn in the battle of San Jacinto, never to be drawn only in defense of the Constitution, the laws and Liberties of his Country. It any attempt should ever be made to assail one of these, I wish it to be used in its vindication.
Seventh: It is my will that my Library should be left at the disposition of my dear wife.
Eighth: To my dearly beloved wife, I bequeath my watch and all my jewelry, subject to her disposition.
Ninth: I hereby appoint my dearly beloved wife, Margaret, Testamentary guardian of my children, their Persons and Estates during minority; But should a wise Providence, through its inscrutable decrees see fit to deprive our offspring of both parents and make them orphans indeed, it is hereby delegated to my executors who are hereby confirmed. J. Carroll Smith, Thomas Carothers, Thomas Gibbs and Anthony M. Branch to make such disposition in regard to their welfare, as they may think best calculated to carry out the designs as expressed in this my Last Will and Testament.
Tenth: And I direct and enjoin my Executrix and Executors, that after the Probate and Registry of this my last will, and return of an Inventory of my Estate, the County, or other Court of Probate, have no further control over my Executors, or Testamentory Guardian, or of my Estate.
Done at Huntsville, the Second day of April 1863
It is remarkable how little estate planning has changed over the last 150 years. And it is wonderful that we have historical records like this to look back on.