Thursday Tidbit – Custode’s Lawsuit

There are some things I never get tired of writing about. One of them is the amazing moxie of Custode George. I found this summary of the lawsuit that she filed when Adriano deserted her. I’ve only included a portion of the case but it does a good job of summarizing what it was about and how the court ruled.

Lawsuitsummary.1913

First Page from Google Books Summarizing the Lawsuit

At some point, before or after he left Custode in May 1912, Adriano/Andy gave his brother Pasquale an IOU for $3,000. Pasquale went to court in Lawrence County where he lived and got a judge to issue an order that any property in his brother’s name in Fayette County, where Dunbar is located should be sold to satisfy the debt.

I’ve heard lots of stories from family members about how tough Grandmother George was. Life has a way of toughen you up. Perhaps being deserted by the father of her children and left to fend for herself had that effect on Custode, or maybe she was always that way. She clearly wasn’t going to be deprived of what she knew was rightfully hers so when the sheriff of Fayette County showed up to force the sale of her property, she knew enough to get a lawyer.

As you’ll see from the continuation of the case summary below, applying the law doesn’t always result in a fair outcome. There is a lot of legalese that follows the part of the summary I’ve copied below, but the gist of the decision is that the court in one county (in this case Fayette) doesn’t have the authority to question the decision made in another county (Lawrence) to consider Custode’s claim that the IOU was bogus and was made just to deprive her and her children of their home.

So round one goes to Adriano and Pasquale, but in the end, Custode prevailed and got to keep the two properties she owned before Adriano forced her to sign them over to him. Not a bad outcome for an immigrant woman at a time before women in this country even had the right to vote.

I also want to make sure that everyone in the family knows that, my husband, Rick George, was the one who found this case and it was the key that unlocked the door to so many discoveries about our family roots. He found his grandfather’s WWI draft card from 1917 which indicated his closest relative as his mother Custode George. When Rick Googled “Custode George” he found a reference to this lawsuit.

The part below picks up where the excerpt above ended.

Lawsuitsummary.1913.p2

The court ruled in Pasquale’s favor in this action but Custode didn’t give up. Two years later, she prevailed in an action to keep two of the three parcels.

Although I haven’t found her birth certificate, there’s good secondary evidence indicating that May 27, 2016 would be Custode’s 136th birthday. I think most of her descendants would agree that even though she did not seem particularly nurturing, she provided her children with what they needed to be successful in the world.

Gotta give her a lot of credit for that!

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