“Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer?”
by David Walker, ILTA Past President
The year was 1886. Samuel Doe, wealthy purveyor of dry goods in the small town of Pottersville, NY had just died. After returning from his stint as a sergeant in the Union Army, Samuel settled down in Pottersville because he had family in the area and it seemed like a perfect little town to begin a family. Besides, his sweetheart from his schooling years lived in nearby Skaneateles and had waited patiently for his return from the war to marry him. It was their promise to each other before he went off to help President Lincoln repair the country. “A House divided against itself cannot stand”! Mr. Lincoln’s words stuck with Samuel. He loved this relatively new country and he was determined to see it survive. In fact, his years in the Union army took him all the way to Sherman’s March to the Sea.
Samuel and Nellie were married pretty much right after his return from Savannah. Unfortunately, after years of trying, it looked pretty clear they were going to remain childless. They decided to accept their fate and took solace in their predicament by becoming the best uncle and aunt possible to Samuel’s brother’s children, Charles and Emma.
Time marched on. Unfortunately, Nellie had died a couple of years ago and Sam’s wounds suffered while in Savannah finally took their toll on him. The house in which they tried to make a home became part of the estate left by Samuel. With Nellie gone, and no will, the house went to Sam’s niece and nephew, the apparent heirs. Charlie and Emma quickly sold it and moved on with their lives. The new owners, the Periwinkles, moved in and began to write another chapter in their own love story.
Sometime about 1887, a young woman by the name of Bessie Doe, showed up in Pottersville, inquiring about a man named Samuel Doe. It seems she was claiming that she was the product of a relationship Mr. Doe had had while marching through to the sea. After many months of scrutiny, it appeared that Bessie’s story seemed very plausible. She filed a claim and threatened to file a lawsuit and, as the case played out, it appeared the Periwinkles were going to have to find a new castle within which to write their story. There were ramifications as well with the money that Charlie and Emma enjoyed from the sale but that is too detailed to deal with here. Suffice it to say, none of the parties, except Bessie, were all that happy with the ending.
Guess what? If there had been title insurance at the time, and the Periwinkles had purchased a title insurance owner’s policy, the ending would have been quite different. At the very least, they would have been compensated for their loss by the title company or, quite possibly, would have been able to stay in their new home. The title company would have compensated Bessie. Either way, the Periwinkles and Bessie would have been made whole and probably far happier than how it actually turned out.