33. In search of an inheritance

At about this time Evelyn decided to re-open contact with her father, Seely Dunn, whom she had last seen at a brief but cordial meeting in Washington DC in 1925.  This desire may have been prompted by filial affection, but was very probably also motivated by her difficult financial position and by her hope that her prosperous father would be able to help.

When she tried to re-establish contact in 1946, she was shocked to discover that her father had died in 1943, and that she had not been told. This, naturally, upset her. She also believed that her father would have left her a sizeable sum of money, as her grandfather, Oliver Milo Dunn, had been very well off and she believed he would have passed a sum to Seely to be kept in trust for her.

Evelyn’s search began in 1946, when she learned of her father’s death. She embarked on a flurry of letter writing to try to establish both the facts of her father’s death and the existence of the will which she was confident would establish her claim to this inheritance. These letters, in a very different style to her more informal correspondence, demonstrate Evelyn’s desperate and obsessive search for information by writing to every individual and institution that might possibly help her. Many letters repeated the same information again and again and these passages have been deleted in the interests of brevity and readability.

A significant feature of this correspondence is Evelyn’s increasing reference to libel, as well as some references to the current politica situation as the cause of this libel.  This is a taste of the tone of many of the letters she later wrote.

[Most of the letters from Evelyn in this sequence are unsigned carbon copies.  In the early 1950s, Evelyn began annotating the letters she wrote and those she  received in her characteristic spiky hand.  It is not possible to reproduce this handwriting in this blog, so, as a poor proxy, Evelyn’s comments are designated by italics within square brackets.]

* * * * *

Obituary
Seely Dunn
from The News, Lynchburg VA, May 6th 1944

[Married Maud Thomas Feb 4 1892 divorced during 1914 war.  Evelyn Scott Metcalfe, born Elsie Dunn is Mr Dunn’s only child]

Seely Dunn, 74, of Lynchburg died at 5.15 am in a government hospital at Biloxi, Miss, following a long illness. [born Toledo Ohio]

Born October 13, 1869, he was the only child of Oliver Milo and Harriet Seely Dunn of New Orleans.  He was married Nov 18, 1917, [second wife was] to Melissa Whitehead of New Orleans, a relative of the Virginia Whitehead family.

Mr Dunn was a railroad executive until World War I, in which he was a captain and later a major.  Before the war he spent two years in Honduras as construction engineer in charge of surveying through the jungles for a railroad for the United Fruit Company.  For six years after the war he was with the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington from which position he resigned to become associated with the firm of J P Morgan in New York.  He retired in 1935 and came to Virginia to live.

Though confined to his home for most of the time he lived in and near Lynchburg, he became well known.

After coming to this section Maj Dunn purchased a home near Forest Road, later selling his place and coming to town.

* * * * *

The following is the letter with which Evelyn started her quest, and which was returned to her with unexpected and unpleasant news.  The letter, in an unopened envelope, was returned and on it was scrawled, in pencil, ” Resigned January 1928, died 1943″.

* * * * *

To Director, Bureau of Interstate Commerce

[This brought return of my letter with unsigned marginal scribble announcing my father’s death.]

Personal Attention, Please
26 Belsize Crescent
Hampstead, London NW3
December 22, 1946

To the Director of the
Bureau of Interstate Commerce
Washington, DC

Sir

It is with a degree of hesitation that I approach a stranger, in connection with so intimate a matter as information as to the present whereabouts of my father, Mr Seely Dunn; whose address I herewith request you to supply if you are able.

My father was, in 1925, when I spent a few days with him in Washington, the Assistant Director of your Bureau, and resided at 1746 K Street, where he had an apartment in a building in which, I believe, he had an interest; and I was told, a year or two later, that he had removed from Washington to Cranford, New Jersey, and was employed by the firm of J P Morgan and Company.  But since he was in Washington, he has neglected to correspond with me; and while I attribute this to the estrangement between him and my mother, from whom he was divorced, and who died in 1940 in Clarksville, Tennessee, and, therefore, bear him no grudge, I have frequently, and particularly during the war, been regretful of the unjust impression created by having to give his address, on my American passport application, and other documents, as “unknown”, and being obliged to say that I do not know whether or not he is, as I hope, still very much among the living. [reply was very sad news of my father’s death—date given in error as 1943.  It was 1944 I now know–1951]

I now hope, however, that you will be able to put me in touch with him, again, and there may be some resumed contact with him—at least to the extent of a letter.

Again, my apologies for troubling you; but I shall certainly be most grateful for any assistance you can give me, preferably by forwarding this letter to my father himself, or, if not that, by requesting Mr DeBardeleben, Junior, to do so, should you chance to know him.  And in any case, if you do neither, and can tell me where to write to my father, I shall appreciate the return to me of this letter, which I should prefer was not in a file to which others have access, where it might be misconstrued as reflecting on him, which is not at all my intention.

Very truly yours,

My father should know, I think, that while British by marriage, I am still an American citizen.

I enclose an envelope with, I hope, the appropriate stamps—the only American stamps I have!

 

* * * * *

From N C Brooke, Postmaster, Washington DC

United States Post Office
Washington 13, DC

April 10, 1947

Dear Madam:

Reference is made to your letter of December 22, 1946, (received under register No 3955) requesting assistance in obtaining information concerning your father Mr Seely Dunn, at one time the Assistant Director of the Bureau of Interstate Commerce and a resident of this city.

Considerable research has been made in an effort to help you in this matter insofar as postal regulations permit.  It has been ascertained that Mr Dunn left this city in the year 1941, moving to a farm in the state of Virginia, where he died on May 5, 1944 and the farm has subsequently been sold.

It is regretted that no information can be furnished concerning the address of the present Mrs Seely Dunn.

Very truly yours,
N C Brooke
Postmaster

* * * * *

So sure was she that her father would have made some provision for her in his will that she sent similar letters to all the possible jurisdictions in which a will may be been lodged:  The Lynchburg Virginia Circuit Court, the Lynchburg Probate Court, the Lynchburg County Court, the New Orleans Civil District Court  and the court for Gulfport Mississippi, as well as  New Orleans and Lynchburg Virgina Public Libraries.  The content was broadly similar, and the following example gives a flavour of these letters and of the irrelevancies Evelyn thought necessary to include.

* * * * *

To Judge of the Probate Court, Lynchburg, Virginia

Personal
June 12, 1947

Judge of the Probate Court  [sent in duplicate was not acknowledged]
For Lynchburg, Virginia

Sir,

I take the liberty of applying to you for any information you can give me concerning my father, the late Mr Seely Dunn of Lynchburg.  I appeal to you in some embarrassment on so personal a matter, but I am Mr Dunn’s daughter and, as far as I know, his only child, and when I have clarified my reasons for doing so I hope that you will consider me humanly justified.

My father’s first marriage was to my mother, Mrs Maud Thomas Dunn, a native of Clarksville, Tennessee, who died there in 1940; and as he had re-married his present widow, Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn, after his divorce from my mother, and as I was in constant contact with her, and had the full financial responsibility for her maintenance, that may explain why my father, since 1925, has not communicated with me or replied to my letters.

This, however, is conjecture, for my father, throughout my childhood, was a generous and scrupulous parent, and we never subsequently quarreled.  Nor could he and his second wife have supposed me reprehending regarding his divorce, for I am also divorced; and, for that matter, while still married to my first husband, Cyril Kay Scott (author, painter and lecturer, and an American citizen) I and he met my father and his wife and, I am sure, amply demonstrated our impartiality as regarded my father’s divorce and re-marriage, and my son by my first marriage, my son was then a child of five or six years of age, Mr Creighton Scott (also an American citizen) met my father and his wife as well.

In 1925, when he was with the Interstate Commerce Bureau, I visited him briefly in Washington, DC (when he was most affectionate and considerate), and it was to the ICB I first wrote last autumn; asking them to return my letter if they were unable to forward it to him.  It was returned, with a note on his death scribbled on  it, and that was the first I had heard of it; though on writing to J P Morgan and Company, on the suggestion of the late Mr Morgan’s sister-in-law, I was told, by a Mr Moseley of Morgan’s, of my father’s service with them, his independent business venture (they did not tell me what it was), and his final removal to Lynchburg.  And as soon as I had the Norfolk Avenue address I wrote to my stepmother, and she has not yet answered, and as I am in doubt as to what her attitude toward me is, I cannot even be certain of her replying at all.

In 1925, when my father was especially nice to me, and after I went to Washington, came to New York to see me, in turn, my grandparents, Mr and Mrs Oliver Milo Dunn of New Orleans, Louisiana, had not been long dead.  And my father showed me a news clipping which, though it did not, as I recall it, give the terms of my grandfather’s Will, gave the estimate of his estate as evaluated at something over three-hundred-and-thirty-five thousand dollars, and the jewelry of my grandmother (who collected diamonds, in a modest way) as worth thirty-five thousand dollars in the market as it was then.  And as my father was an only child, I assume this went to him, and that he, therefore, had some substance to dispose of.  But I do resent, at this juncture, having been kept in the dark as to the disposition of my father’s property and effects, and think I have every right to know precisely what was done with them; and this regardless of whether or not I was included in his Will.  He was a man of high standing in business, and prior to the hiatus in our correspondence, was meticulous in his family obligations, and I cannot reconcile with what I know of his character what seems the omission of so much as a memento for me in any of his final arrangements.

I should, also, say, to avoid any possible confusion, that I was originally christened “Elsie”, and any reference to his daughter “Elsie” which exists in a documentary way is to myself.  However, I have never used the name since I became an adult.  I have been signing book contracts as Evelyn all my adult life, my two marriages are the marriage of Evelyn, and my father himself subscribed to my signature as Evelyn on my first application for an American passport, and I was divorced as Evelyn, and Evelyn is now my legal name; though I am still my father’s daughter; and at the beginning of the war, when my husband, who is still domiciled in the USA as I myself am, took up his old commission in the Royal Air Force (in which, until recently, when he was released, he was a Squadron Leader) I requested Judge Matt Lyle, of Clarksville, Tennessee, to procure me my birth certificate and several affadavits, signed by persons who have know me all my life swearing that Elsie Dunn, as I was when christened, and Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe, as I am now, are one and the same.

I am assured that, in England, information regarding Wills can be had by applying to Somerset House, and is open to the public; and while, of course, it is possible my father left no Will, I think it likely he did, and am assuming you are at liberty to advise me in this regard.  But it is on the human side most of all that I would be grateful for any possible illumining as to my father’s incredible silence during these last years, and anything whatever that throws light on that will be welcome, as, also, information as to Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn’s present whereabouts, if you have it.

I respectfully await your reply,
Very Truly Yours
[Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe neé Elsie Dunn]

* * * * *

To the Head, Veterans’ Administration

July 9, 1947

In Reference to Major Seely Dunn deceased, and Claim No XC 910 629

Sir,

I am writing to request you, if possible, to amplify the very meager information I have received, in recent months, concerning my father, Major Seely Dunn, who served in nineteen-fourteen; and of whose death I learned by the merest chance, when I wrote to the Interstate Commerce Bureau last fall, requesting assistance in locating him.  My letter was returned by them, as I had asked, if it could not be forwarded to my father, with a pencil scribble informing me that he had died.

I had received no communication from my father for some years, in spite of several efforts to contact him; and while the explanation was yet to be forthcoming, I attributed this to the fact that he and my mother, Mrs Maud Thomas Dunn, of Clarksville, Tennessee, (who is also now deceased) were divorced and he had remarried.  But as when I last saw him he was kind and affectionate and we never quarreled this is merely conjecture; and while until learning of his death I always hoped he himself would elucidate his peculiar silence, I now feel it encumbent on myself to clear it up if this can be done.

I have been much distressed by the fact that I was not notified of my father’s serious illness or death, and I have written to a legal friend in New York to supplement this effort to get at the truth by forwarding an inquiry from me to the Probate Judge in Lynchburg, but as my own attempt to get facts began last September and beyond knowing my father has died I seem to have gotten nowhere, you will I think appreciate my persistence.  I was baptized “Elsie” and was called that by my grandparents, Mr and Mrs O M Dunn of New Orleans, La (my grandfather was the General Superintendent of the Southern Lines of the Illinois Central), but the name Elsie was dropped when I became adult, and I have been twice married and once divorced as Evelyn, and my father himself subscribed to the Evelyn I use on my passport and in book contracts, so I cannot believe the failure to notify me due to any confusion regarding the childhood “Elsie”.

I make myself very explicit so that no time will be lost because of any vagueness on my part, and I await your reply with much appreciation for your attention to my dilemma.

Very truly yours

I was born in Clarksville, Tenn.  I have a birth certificate and refer you for corroboration to Judge Matt Lyle of Clarksville.

 

* * * * *

To R J Hinton, Dependents and Beneficiaries Claim Service

Personal
August 17, 1947

Dear Mr Hinton

This is to thank you very much indeed for your kind and informative letter regarding the circumstances and place of death of my father, Mr Seely Dunn.

I am, however, still ignorant as to what was done with any other estate he may have had, and am as puzzled as ever as to why my step-mother did not notify me or have me notified when he was as ill as he must have been to have been “hospitalized” in Biloxi; and I am as distressed as ever on the human score of an apparent ignoring of us by him which is completely in conflict with my previous knowledge of his character, and with his attitude when I last saw him.

Please do not think that I wrote to the Veterans Administration with any idea of contesting my step-mother’s claim.  I am sufficiently familiar with service regulations in Britain to have realized before writing the Administration that I myself did not qualify as a “dependent”; nor would I have wished to “compete” in such an unpleasant way under any circumstances:  it is a most repugnant thought.

And with this plea regarding the address, and my thanks reiterated, I am

* * * * *

To the Head, Veterans’ Administration Facility, Biloxi, Mississippi

Personal
August 25, 1947

Sir,

I am writing to inquire for information regarding the illness and death of my father, Mr Seely Dunn, formerly of Lynchburg, Virginia; who I learn, was hospitalized in your institution, during his final illness, and there died, on May 5th, 1944.

My father and my mother, Mrs Maud Thomas Dunn, formerly of New Orleans, were divorced (my mother has since died in Clarksville, Tennessee, her native place), but while my father did not contribute to her support, and I was financially responsible for her during her last years, I was always on good terms with my father, who re-married, and whose second wife I also met at a time when she appeared amiable; and I have, in consequence, been much distressed by my father’s silence. And it was to relieve this distress, that I repeated, almost a year ago, my previous attempts to get in contact with him,  and it was then that I learned, on the return of his letter, with a scribble at the bottom[of the envelope] that he had died.

The Clerk of the Court there also replied very courteously, to the effect that my father had no Will recorded in Lynchburg, and that Mrs Melissa W Dunn had removed to Washington.  But did not know her address, nor did he know where my father had died.

New Orleans was the home of my grandparents, and, at one time, of my father and mother and myself.  But my continued mystification is due to the fact that I have written to relatives in New Orleans and to friends who are in close contact with New Orleans and not a one of them have, as yet, been able to tell me anything specific about my father.

So I am somewhat where I was as to specific and personal information and personal contacts with those who knew my father himself.  Can you tell me to whom to write as probably helpful in this connection?  Can you inform me of what illness my father is supposed to have died?

I will be grateful for any assistance,

Will you be good enough to tell me whether obituaries of my father were published in New Orleans newspapers, and whether these mentioned among his survivors myself my son by my previous marriage, Mr Creighton Scott, and his three children, Denise, Fredrick and Mathew Scott my father’s great grand-children

Very truly yours,

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Veterans Administration
Washington 25, DC

September 18, 1947

[I do not think it is with Veteran prerogatives to keep me out of contact with any of my family family-connections or friends]

Dear Mrs Metcalfe:

This will acknowledge receipt of your letter dated August 17, 1947, in which you request information concerning the present address of the veteran’s widow.

In reply you are informed that under the provision of existing laws and regulations this information may not be released to you, however, if you will forward to the Veterans Administration a letter addressed to Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn in an unsealed envelope bearing sufficient postage without return address, this Administration will undertake to forward the letter to the latest address of record for Mrs Dunn.

Very truly yours,
R J Hinton
Director
Dependents and Beneficiaries Claims Service

[I complied neither Melissa nor Mr Hinton ever acknowledged my letter  I sealed the letter—not I think, I asked Mr Hinton to read it and mail it as a personal favour]

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Veterans Administration Center
Biloxi. Mississippi

September 22, 1947

My dear Mrs Metcalfe:

I have your registered letter of August 25, 1947, making certain inquiries concerning the last illness and death of your father, Mr Seely Dunn.

I recall very well the hospitalization of your father and recall that his wife, Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn, was with him during his last period of illness and death at this institution.

We only have on file the clinical records.  Our records indicate, however, that your father was admitted here for treatment on December 24, 1943, and died on May 5, 1944, the cause of his death being Carcinoma of the Tongue.  On the authorization of his wife, the body of your father was prepared for shipment and sent to J William Lee’s Sons Company, Washington, DC, for cremation.

We have no records as to any other relatives that might have been listed by Mr Dunn at the time of his hospitalization here.  As stated above, the entire records outside of the actual clinical files were forwarded to the Veterans Administration in Washington, DC, for filing in connection with other records in his case.

I am sure that a letter of explanation similar to your letter of August 25, 1947, addressed to this station, if forwarded to the Veterans Administration in Washington, DC, could serve as a basis for the development of further information which you might desired.

Very truly yours
E A Hillier
Manager

[1952—I blame the war for most of medicine’s mistakes—misdiagnosis was said to be frequent.  This happened three or four years after end of All Friends Are Strangers was in first draught—death recounted in it similar]

* * * * *

To E A Hillier, Veterans’ Administration Center, Biloxi, Mississippi

Personal
[September 30, 1947]

Carbon for the record of Creighton Scott

Dear Mr Hillier,

This is to acknowledge your reply of September 22nd, 1947, to my inquiry regarding the illness and death, the place of interment of my father, the late Mr Seely Dunn.

I thank you for the courtesy extended to far, but I still think legally I should have been notified of my father’s illness and death, and that some apology is due me that this was not done.

Therefore, I will continue to appreciate further aid in locating my father’s executors and personal friends if you yourself or anybody else connected with the Hospital has any helpful information.

Repeating my thanks for the assistance already given,
Very truly yours,

* * * * *

To R J Hinton, Dependents and Beneficiaries Claims Service

October 5, 1947

Dear Mr Hinton,

I am sending with this, as you were good enough to suggest, an unsealed letter to my father, Mr Seely Dunn’s, second wife and widow, Mrs Melissa W Dunn, and not merely is it agreeable to me that you have it unsealed, I request that you peruse it yourself before forwarding it.

You yourself have been more human than “official” merely, and for that I thank you, again, as I had written to the Biloxi Hospital, and their reply referred me to you, and though Biloxi is less than a hundred miles from New Orleans, they did not so much as tell me whereabout in New Orleans my father was interred.

Again my appreciation for any assistance
Very truly yours,

If for any reason it seems to you that my objection to ambiguities regarding the enclosed letter implies too great a favour, I will appreciate the return to myself, though, again, I can merely enclose British stamps, which I do with apologies.  I should, however, for the same reason (my detestation of the ambiguous, as a frequent source of mutual injustice), appreciate your reading it first in any case

[self-addressed return envelope sent Mr Hinton with this]

* * * * *

One of the problems Evelyn encountered in her search was confusng or inconsistent information about where her father had been buried.  She had assumed that, since he had been living in Virginia he would have been buried there or in Washington DC:  she eventually discovered that he was buried in New Orleans near her grandparents.

* * * * *

To Metairie Ridge Cemetery Association

October 30, 1947

Head of Metairie Ridge Cemetary Association
New Orleans, La, USA

Sirs,

Having learned, during an effort to contact the living, my father, the late Mr Seely Dunn, formerly of Lynchburg, Va, and at one time a resident of New Orleans, that he died, at the Veterans’ Administration Facility, in Biloxi, Mississippi, on May 5th, 1944; I have been for many months trying to find someone who could tell me who his executors are, and why I was not notified when he became seriously ill.  And Mr R S McBride of the Civil District Court of the Parish of Orleans (the court in which the Will of my grandfather, Mr O M Dunn, once of New Orleans, is filed) has been good enough to put himself to some trouble to extend the meager information I have so far garnered; and tells me that my father, according to the advice given him, is interred at Metairie (in, I presume, the same lot as my grandparents).

Mr McBride says of my father was buried there on May 20th, 1944; and as the Biloxi Hospital wrote he died on May 5th and was “cremated in Washington”, I would like to have this confirmed, if it is correct; in which case the reference to arrangements for his burial, are to his ashes.

I am Mr Dunn’s daughter by his first marriage to Mrs Maud Thomas Dunn, formerly of Clarksville, Tennessee, from whom he was divorced, and who died in Clarksville, April 1940; and I think that, beside my human right to know the circumstances of his death, I should legally speaking also have been communicated with at the time.  And I therefore write to ask you if you will kindly extend the above information.

I am particularly puzzled by the fact that I was not advised what occurred, because as Evelyn Scott the author of eighteen published books, I could easily have been reached through my publishers

The location of my father’s executors is probably of the first importance, but I should also be obliged for any suggestion as to personal friends to whom I might write, if you know the whereabouts of any.

Very truly yours

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Veterans Administration
Washington 25, DC

November 21, 1947

Dear Mrs Metcalfe:

This is in further reference to your letter of August 25, 1947, and your subsequent letter addressed to the Manager, Veterans Administration Facility, Biloxi, Mississippi, requesting information relative to the last illness and place of burial of your father, the above-named veteran.

Supplementing the information previously given you in August 4,1947, it may be stated that it is indicated from information of record that the veteran entered the Veteran’s Administration Hospital at Biloxi, Mississippi on December 24, 1943, and that his death occurred at 4:00 am on May 5, 1944.  It further appears that the remains were shipped to Washington DE, and were cremated by J William Lee’s Sons Company and were then shipped to New Orleans, Louisiana, where interment occurred.  The name of the cemetery is not of record. [1952—Metairie Ridge was supplied later as possible and this confirmed.] As stated in letter from this office dated August 4, 1947, it is not incumbent upon the Veterans Administration to notify relatives of a veteran of his death unless such relatives have potential title to death pension or compensation.  This will explain why you were not notified of your father’s death by the Veterans Administration.

There is no information or evidence on file in this case showing the disposition made of any property of the veteran, either real or personal, since his last will and testament, if he died testate, was not submitted in connection with any claim filed by his dependents.  Since the disposition of any real and personal property of a veteran is not under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Administration, information regarding such matters is not of record.

The Veterans Administration has no knowledge of any obituaries of your father’s death which might have appeared in the New Orleans papers, and the addresses of any of his personal friends are not of record in the case file.  You are further informed that all available information has been furnished you relative to your father’s death.

Very truly yours
R J Hinton
Director
Dependents and Beneficiaries Claims Service

* * * * *

To the Probate Court for Washington DC

October 3, 1951

Sirs:

As I have not yet been assured that there is a Probate Court under Federal jurisdiction, I hope I address you correctly.  I wish to know whether or not you have on file any Will of the late Mr Seely Dunn whose residence was Lynchburg until he fell ill and went to the “Veterans’ Facility” in Biloxi, Mississippi, where in May 1944, he died.

He and my Mother, the late Mrs Maud Thomas Dunn of Clarksville, Tennessee, were divorced and he had remarried a Miss Melissa Whitehead of New Orleans, and she I think disliked me because of my Father’s differences with my Mother, though for a time she appeared friendly.

My Father had never to my knowledge attempted to conceal our relationship until, a few years before his death, he bought a house in Lynchburg and retired there with his second wife.  But I have discovered, in my efforts to ascertain something about his death and his possible Will, that in Lynchburg neither he nor Mrs Dunn second commonly referred to me, and their intimate friends had any idea that he had a daughter and that she was myself.

All these things are matters of public record, so I have found it difficult to grasp that I was not notified when my Father fell ill and no notice of his death was ever sent me:  this admitted by the Biloxi Hospital and by the Department of Claims and Benefits of the Veterans’ Administration.

The hospital blames my stepmother.  I think her dislike led to one of those “social fibs” which are frequent and that she may have involved herself in some technical irregularity by having persisted more or less innocently in a fib in its origin without original intention.  And this seems to me the more likely because my Father’s death occurred in the course of the war, when panics were easily incited.

I have written endless letters about these things to various people whom it might have been reasonably supposed could be informative, but many letters are still unacknowledged and the comparatively small number who have replied either could not or would not elucidate.  However but I have been fairly reliably assured that my Father did not file any Will in Lynchburg; that he did not file any Will in New Orleans where I grew up and my parents lived for a time and that he could not have filed any Will in New York.

Can you advise me on any step that will end a silence so inane, which, however, is dangerous as an incitement to libel.

Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn may have been intimidated in some way, as a result of real ignorance of Law.

May I have at the very least the acknowledgment of the receipt of this letter by whoever does receive it—the Probate Court I hope, if there is such a Court in the Federal District.

I consider silence in itself almost a crime with the world in such continual upheaval as it has been since 1939.  And that I will be deeply appreciative of any sort of human response to an appeal which has been iterated to exhaustion ever since 1947, will, I hope be comprehended.

Respectfully Yours,
[(Mrs John Metcalfe) Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe
neé Elsie Dunn
legal authors signature Evelyn Scott]

1 Jigg had just gone to Germany with his family to a position with Radio Free Europe in Munich; but as he was doing his utmost to not tell his mother his whereabouts, she did not find this out until much later.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Office of Register of Wills and Clerk of the Probate Court
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Washington, DC

October 16, 1951

Dear Madam:

Referring to your letter of October 3, 1951, you are advised that an examination of the records of this office fails to disclose that a Will of Seely Dunn, deceased, who you state died in May 1944, has been filed herein or that Letters of Administration have ever been applied for upon his estate.

For your further information, you are advised that only the estates of deceased persons who died either a resident of the District of Columbia or who left property in the District of Columbia are of record in this office.  Inasmuch as each state has its own separate probate authority, it is suggested, therefore, that in order to obtain the information desired by you, it will be necessary for you to ascertain the name of the city, county and state in which the decedent was a resident at the time of his death and then correspond with the Register of Wills or Surrogate of such city, county and state.

Very respectfully
[Illeg signature]
DEPUTY Register of Wills
Clerk of the Probate Court

* * * * *

 

To Probate Court, Biloxi, Mississippi

November 19, 1951

Clerk of the Probate Court and Register of Wills of the District Serving
Biloxi, Mississippi

Sir:

I was born Elsie Dunn, in Clarksville, Tennessee, January 17th, 1893, and am the only child of my late parents, Maud Thomas Dunn and Seely Dunn, then of that city.

However, when my Father fell ill and died, his death occurring on May 5th, 1944, at the Veterans’ Facility, Biloxi, I was not notified. I did not learn of my Father’s death until almost three years afterward.   And ever since that time—now four years—I have been doing everything possible to obtain some exact information; at first respecting the circumstances of his death, and subsequently regarding his estate and his possible Will.

I have applied to the Probate Courts of Lynchburg, New Orleans and Washington, and all three have reported that no Will of my Father’s was ever filed with them.

Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn had evinced animosity to me, and this had resulted in a gradual drifting apart of my Father and myself so that I know nothing whatever of his life in recent years.  But he an I had not quarrelled, and I cannot see that this estrangement can possibly justify an apparently persistent withholding of information I as his only child, and the only grandchild of my grandparents whose affection for me was great, have a right to.  I have wondered whether or not Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn, disliking me as she did, could have begun a concealment of my relationship to him casually, and in the manner of what might be called a “social fib”, and if this was a fib she so neglected to contradict that she abruptly found herself in some illegal position which unscrupulous lawyers have battened on by advising her to “say nothing”.

This is conjecture, but I will be indeed obliged for any help or advice on how to get at the truth, and of course this letter is, first and foremost, an inquiry as to whether my Father filed any Will or whether any letters of Administration on his estate were ever applied for by the Probate Court in which the Wills of residents of Biloxi are filed?

Again, we have no means with which to pay lawyers.  Can this injustice be overcome at this distance in any way?

* *  * * *

To Theodore Cogswell, Probate Court of the District of Columbia

Personal
November 21, 1951

Your letter of October 16th, signed by the Deputy Register of Wills and replying to my inquiry respecting the possible filing in Washington of a Will of my late Father Seely Dunn, has been received and I herewith thank you.

My Father’s death is no mere “rumour”.  I think I have a right to be informed as to what has become of an estate that, when he inherited as to what has become of an estate that, when he inherited it some years ago from my late Grandfather, Mr O M Dunn, who was for many years the General Superintendent of the Illinois Central Railway and was stationed in New Orleans, and who was a Director of the White Star Line and had other investments as well and owned nine houses in New Orleans at one time—was of comfortable size.

I, therefore, incline to the opinion that my stepmother may have become a victim of unscrupulous legal quibblers who, in taking advantage of me because I am stranded in London and have been since 1944, are, also, taking advantage of her and are probably guilty of libel.  I think they have libelled myself and my husband and probably my first husband from whom I am divorced, and, in libelling the old generation have libelled my American son Mr Creighton Scott my Father’s grandson, who has no part in my correspondence about my Father.

I will, therefore, be greatly obliged, also, for any step taken to counteract libels.

With very genuine gratitude for any assistance

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Office of Register of Wills and Clerk of the Probate Court
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Washington, DC

December 7, 1951

Dear Madam:

In response to your letter of November 21, 1951, in further reference to the estate of Seely Dunn, deceased, you are advised that this office can add nothing to our previous letter (dated October 16th, 1951).  An examination of the records of this office still fails to disclose that a Will of the said Seely Dunn, deceased, has been filed herein or that Letters of Administration have ever been applied for upon his estate.

Very respectfully
Theodore Cogswell
Register of Wills, Clerk of the Probate Court

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Office of Register of Wills and Clerk of the Probate Court
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Washington, DC
December 7, 1951

Dear Madam:

In response to your letter of November 21, 1951, in further reference to the estate of Seely Dunn, deceased,  you are advised that this office can add nothing to our previous letter (dated October 16th, 1951).  An examination of the records of this office still fails to disclose that a Will of the said Seely Dunn, deceased, has been filed herein or that Letters of Administration have ever been applied for upon his estate.

Very respectfully
Theodore Cogswell
Register of Wills, Clerk of the Probate Court

* * * * *

The final tone of this letter puts a seal on Evelyn’s search for her father’s will and her inheritance. Next week, Evelyn tries to discover from Melissa herself where her father’s will is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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