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The Affair of John Jabez Creer's Will

John Jabez Creer died of smallpox in Peel, early in August 1865. He was unmarried and aged 45. By many reports he was not a pleasant nor a well-liked man. This account contains some observations on his life and the events associated with his will around his death.

On 23rd January 1844, the day after Patrick Creer of St Johns was buried in Kirk Patrick graveyard, Catherine, the mother of John Jabez Creer, visited Patrick's widow Ann Creer at her small house on the fairfield in St Johns (more recently the site of the church school) and ordered her and her two children living there, Joseph and Leonora, out of the house. Patrick Creer had, many years before, promised his house and land to his favourite, eldest son John. However John had already died in 1830 and hence the deed had been assigned to his eldest son (Patrick's grandson) John Jabez Creer, then working as a carpenter in Liverpool, who was now seeking to take possession. Patrick's will was only a short document bequeathing a pound to each of the four children and whilst it appointed his wife Ann executrix, she was not mentioned as a beneficiary.

Patrick Creer had built up quite a large holding of land over his life. In 1832 he owned all the property around St John's, the public house (The Tynwald Inn), the shop and houses on the opposite corner, and the fields running down to the now railway line. In the 1841 census he was recorded as being a farmer with 200 acres.

Ann Creer resisted the eviction and after a few days of visiting the courts in Peel, Castletown and Douglas, was granted tenancy of the house and two large fields at the back of it for the duration of her life. On her death this property would revert to John Jabez Creer. Presumably the remainder of the land in St Johns was passed to John Jabez immediately.

Not satisfied with this situation, John Jabez returned shortly afterwards and offered to Ann that he should take over title to the fields and pay her 12 a year income. Having no other source of income left to her by her husband, Ann had no choice but to accept this offer. John Jabez immediately mortgaged the land and used the proceeds to support his work building terraces of houses in Liverpool.

Some years later, in 1855, Patrick and Ann's son Joseph Creer worked for John Jabez in Liverpool in his house building activities and found him still to be as mean in his dealings as ever. The fact that John Jabez had established his business using the legacy of Joseph's father Patrick Creer, whilst Joseph had received nothing from his father, was a source of some friction. Especially as Joseph reckoned that John Jabez's building empire in Liverpool was worth thousands of pounds and he, Joseph, was penniless. Joseph shortly afterwards emigrated to Australia to make his fortune there.

Ten years later, John Jabez Creer was to be found on his deathbed in a public house in Peel suffering from smallpox. He was attended by the landlady Mrs Andrews and her relatives and by one of his sisters, Katherine Kerruish. Shortly before he died in early August, he wrote and signed a short and simple will without the aid of a lawyer. This will read as follows:-

"July 23th 1865 I John Jabez Creer do Hear by leave to my three Sisters Katherine / Kerruish Jane and Leonora McGee the whole of my Property to be Each ????? Divided also to Mrs Andrews 20 an Besides to William Mylrea a Suit of Black Satin and a nite Case for Granny

Catherine Kerruish John Jabez Creer Jane Mylrea Susanna Mylrea"

However it is clear to anyone reading this small and rather dishevelled piece of paper that it was not all written at the same time! The word "July" had been altered from "June" and the 3 of the 23 was written over the number 5. Also the sentences from 'Each' onwards overwrote the end of the word 'Each' and appear to have been squashed in at the bottom of the document between the first text and the signatures as well as being written in a slightly darker ink! The inescapable conclusion is that the will had been first written and signed on June 5th and then a further sentence had been added at the foot of the will and the date changed!

The will was duly presented to the Ecclesiastical Court in Peel and in the absence of close friends or relatives, Philip Clucas, the sumner for German, was appointed temporary administrator of the estate on 20th October 1865. Under his direction, a jury of four men then visited the last two addresses where John Jabez was known to have resided and removed all his remaining personal effects, clothing valued at 16s-6d, into the safekeeping of the sumner.

However, Jane Creer, another of John Jabez's sisters, obviously believed that the will had been altered and initiated legal proceedings against her sister Katherine in the Consistorial Court at Douglas on 15th December 1865. The two Mylrea sisters, Jane and Susanna, who had witnessed the original will testified in court that John Jabez Creer was sober at the time of signing the will and they signed as witnesses to the final version of the will, as presented in court. They could not explain the apparent changes to the document. Katherine Kerruish, a beneficiary of the will, had not signed as a witness, but just to confirm her agreement to the will after it had been completed.

The court subsequently, on 22nd February 1866, surprisingly approved the will as presented and Philip Clucas was sworn as administrator. The list of claims against the estate at this time totalled 571-0-0d. For whatever reasons, the administration and settlement of John Jabez's estate dragged on without result until Philip Clucas brought the matter before an Ecclesiastical court in Peel some six years later on 21st June 1872, in order to gain approval for distribution of the estate. Clearly there had been some negotiation with the claimants to reduce their demands, but by this time the total legal fees and administrative costs had increased to 48-15-8d. The value of the estate was estimated at 51-4-10d, the bulk of which had been 50-0-0 cash provided from Liverpool.

So after all this time and litigation, the remainder of John Jabez's estate which remained for distribution amongst 14 approved claimants, after all legal expenses had been paid, amounted to 2-9-2d. However, because of the nature and size of the other claims against the estate, none of the persons mentioned in the will actually received anything from it despite their connivances.

The beneficiaries of the will were probably correct in hoping to be able to profit from his death. Today there still remain a couple of questions unanswered about the value of John Jabez Creer's estate. What happened to all the property he owned in Liverpool (reputed to be worth thousands of pounds!) and what happened to the house on the fairfield in St Johns? This house occupied by his grandmother Ann Creer was to revert to him on her death. However she outlived him and did not die until 1869, but the house did not appear in the final accounts of the estate. Was rough justice done in the end?



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