Source: Indianapolis Journal 31 July 1883
Yesterday’s issue of the Journal had a special dispatch from Montezuma, Parke county, this State, containing a short but romantic story in which the wife of George Meyers, a farmer, living in Sugar Creek township, Parke county, figures as heir presumptive to the estate of the late Peter Goelet, estimated at $23,000,000. Understanding that further and more definite information could be found at Rockville, the county -..east of Parke county, a Journal reporter visited this place yesterday. He learned that on last Thursday Wilson S. Wolf, a New York lawyer, had visited the court-house and examined the records to find if there was any entry of a marriage between Peter Goelet and Martha J. Buchanan. This marriage is thought to have taken place on the fourth day of July, 1846, and the issue of this marriage was a daughter, now Mrs. Meyers, born Sept. 6, 1847. An examination of the records failed to disclose the proof sought for, and yet Mr. Wolf is not disappointed at the result of his search. He claims that he has strong presumptive evidence that Peter * Goelet and Martha J. Buchanan were married, but cannot find any clew as to the county in which the ceremony was performed,' and as Goelet was a cattle dealer, and moving about from place to place, it might have taken place either in Parke, Fountain, Montgomery or some of the neighboring counties, or further east, perhaps in Ohio or New York. He proposes to continue his search until this missing link in the chain of evidence that Mrs. Meyers is the daughter of these two persons is complete. Goelet was n cattle buyer from 1844 to 1847, something over three years, and did business in western Indiana and eastern Illinois, a section of country that in that day was noted for cattle raising, a business in which it now has no pre-eminence. For a time Goelet and the woman who was recognized as his wife lived either in the northern part of Sugar Creek township, in Parke county, or across the line in Fountain, and it was while living there that Mrs. Goelet gave birth to a daughter. About the same time Mrs. McElwee gave birth to a son. The son died soon after birth, and Mrs. Goelet dying two or three months after the birth of her daughter, the child was left by the father with the McEiwees to be cared for while he went to New' York to attend to some business. It was some time after this that Mr. McElwee, who feared the little girl, to whom he and his wife had become much attached, would betaken away by the father, wrote to Goelet informing him that his child had died, and soon after this the McEiwees moved to Missouri. After living in Missouri for several years, the little girl having grown to womanhood, and the first Mrs. McElwee having died and the widower having remarried, the family moved back to their old neighborhood. Here the adopted daughter married George Meyers, a young fanner, and together they began housekeeping in a humble way. Meyers is yet in very ordinary circumstances, and he and his wife and their child, a boy thirteen years old, now live near Yeddo, a little village in Fountain county. Mr. Wolf, the lawyer, is an Indiana man, and went to New York city from Waveland, twenty-one years ago. He had known Peter Goelet, the millionaire who died about two years ago. and had frequent business dealings with him for fifteen years preceding his death. When he saw the mother (the daughter of # Goelet) he saw no resemblance to the millionaire, but when he was shown the boy. who has, unlike both his father and mother, light hair and blue eyes, he saw a remarkable resemblance to old Peter Goelet. In 1879 McElwee was taken sick. and being. as he thought, about to die, he made division of his property, giving each of his children, with the exception of the wife of George Meyers, who had always believed herself to be his daughter, an equal share of his property. He left her nothing. She naturally felt badly over being disinherited in this way, and wrote to McElwee in Missouri, asking why he had put such a slight upon her, and in what had she failed in her duty to him. This letter he answered, calling her his dear child, and that he had always loved her as a father, and then disclosed the story that she was the daughter of Peter Goelet, in New York city, who had believed her to have died when a little girl. Soon after this McElwee died and Mrs. Meyers wrote a letter to Peter Goelet. Getting no answer, she wrote by some one’s advice to the postmaster of New York, so the story goes, who informed her that Goelet had died a few months before, and that she would find out all about his affairs from the executor of the will. Two letters were written to which no answers came, and the matter was dropped for a considerable time. Finally some relatives of Mr. Wolf living near by. remembering the New York lawyer, advised her to write to him. She did so, and he has been quietly working up the case for some time. Wolf’s law partner has gone to Missouri to hunt evidence in the case. With twenty-three million at stake I and the prospect of an enormous fee, these legal gentlemen propose to leave nothing undone that, can be done to establish Mrs. Meyers’s claim. McElwee’s widow, his second wife is now, it is said, living in Attica. It is said that Mr. Wolf went to see her recently to find out if she had any family records that could be made of use in the case. She told him there had been an old family Bible, worth a couple of dollars, perhaps, but as a man came along some time ago and offered her $5O for it, she told him to take it along. It is further said that Mr. Wolf has found that this man has been going over much the same ground in this case as he himself, and that the man has even visited Mrs. Meyers and seen her boy. The story is that this mysterious individual who is buying old Bibles as the magician in the story of Aladdin, when in hard luck bought old lamps, is an agent of the surviving Goelet brothers, and that he is getting away with as much of the documentary evidence as falls into his hands. Another phase of the story is that McElwee’s conduct in giving out to Peter Goelet that his daughter was dead, and in continuing the deception was not inspired by selfish love of the little girl, but that it had a money Previous to the reported death of the child he had not appeared to be thrifty, but, shortly after that event he seemed to have much money, and went to Missouri and invested largely in land. The inference sought to be conveyed by this is that the Goelet brothers had corrupted McElwee by means of money to carry on the deceit. This part of the story is apparently very thin. Mr. Wolf is given as authority for saying that Eugene McElwee, who lives in Fountain county, and who is the oldest son of the McElwee who figures in this narrative, has a copy of the birth and death record of his father’s family Bible taken when he, Eugene, was married, and that in one place the birth of Mrs. Meyers, as McElwee is set down with the date September 6, 1847. Under it is written the same date but with the name Goelet instead of McElwee. In this same Bible is recorded the marriage of Peter Goelet and Martha J. Buchanan as having taken place July 4,1844. Mr. Wolf claims to have found in New York letters written in the years here mentioned, from Crawfordsvilie, Waveland. Jackville and other places in Indiana, to his clerks in New York, giving them directions about his business there. He says the only thing to prove now is the marriage of Peter Goelet and Martha J. Buchanan. The fact that they lived together and had a daughter and that daughter is Mrs. Meyers, now thirty-six years old, is pretty well substantiated. An old lady in Fountain county, near the Parke county line, remembers the alleged Mrs. Goelet. “Why, she wore a silk dress nearly all the time,” said the old lady, a rare occurrence in those days, “and diamonds, and was awful pretty.”’ Mrs. Meyers is a bright, good-looking woman. Although she has never had more than a country school education, and hardly that, she is intelligent beyond her opportunities and surroundings.