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This is the image of the full or partial text of an article entitled "Breaks the Will", printed in the Rockford Register of 1896-07-09. This article is in the public domain, because it was published in the United States before 1923.





The Verdict Will Break the Will Which Provided for a Western Seminary, While the Suicide's Mother and Sister Were Left Out — End of a Long Trial

Mt. Carroll Ill. July 9.—(Special.)— Late this afternoon the jury in the Shimer will case filed into the court room and filed their verdict. Their finding was that Dr. Shimer was insane at the time the document was made and that the will is therefore invalid.

The amount at stake in the trial was, scores of thousands of dollars and unless there is further litigation the bulk of the property will go to his mother and sister in the east. The will left his whole property to his widow, Mrs. Frances Shimer, who has for a generation carried on the Mt. Carroll seminary, the doctor's purpose being to have it devoted to educational uses.

The trial of the contest has attracted great attention and the court room at Mt. Carroll has been crowded from the opening day. The trial was begun June 22 before Judge Garver in the circuit court. The legal title of the case is a contest of the validity of the last will and testament of the late Dr. Shimer, made a short time before he came to his death by his own hand under peculiar circumstances. The parties bringing the contest are the eastern heirs, whose interests are affected by its provisions. They are the aged mother and a sister of Dr. Shimer, both residing in Pennsylvania. The issue in the case is as to the soundness of mind of Dr. Shimer at the time the will was made, which was only five days prior to his death.

The entire afternoon of the first day was occupied in examining jurors and only eight were secured. The remaining four were secured the next forenoon after a number of candidates had been examined. Thev wfcn served o: the Jury were: James P. Beattie. Win iam James. Daniel Hannes. <5eorg i-'utrath. Ward Bristol. Charles Banh G<orge A. Rcyer. James M. Johns* Joseph Arnold. David Senneff. A. C. ^Ptshei- and Homer•SUvtwcH. * -Vrbe-;he jury had been completed Attorney Hostetter made a statement of the case for the proponents, outlining the evidence of his side. He was followed by States Attorney R. E. Eaton, who represented the contestants. Mr. Eaton in his remarks gave the public its first intimation of what line was to be followed in the attempt to break the will and outlined the character of the evidence which had been secured by the contestants.

The defense opened its case by calling to the witness stand a long list of Carroll county people, many of whom were old residents and had known Dr. Shimer for years. Others who testified for the defense were persons wh :-,a mgaR.-d the professional servic-of ize doctor and alfo several who ha-been associated with him during th-last months of his ?ife. The attorney for the defense followed up this tesr: mony with that of persons who ha imi L>r. Shimer on the street or in : professional way shvrtiy before hi l€a;h. They called to the stand hi rt.iehbors. business a^^ciates and me: who had any financial dealings wit. him. going to prove that he was c sound mind. The two gentlemen whi witnessed the will. Messrs. Miles am Miles, were among the principal wi: nesses of the defense at this ’time Th-'Ir evidence Showed that while ttoej wvw at work in the First Nation* hank on July 22. 1S3J. Dr. Shlmer calic and reou'-sted them to witness a docu ir.-»n. which he *aiJ was his last wii and l<»tarr.cnt. This they did. anr they further testified that it was thei relief that at that lime the doctor wa* of M>und mind and body.


William Heinr.liaugh. whose family the doctor was -treating at the time o his death was another important witness. He testified Lhat the di»cior. during th*? lav; week of his life, mad five visits to his home to see his son who was F'.ck. Heimbauph testified that the d.Ccr made examinations o: the patient. proscribed for him and ap-{wared as usual durinc the visits, except that he complained of being un-w*.lL The witness then told of the final call of the doctor, the finding of the l»oriy in fhe barn and th<-fvc-nts surrounding the fatal Sunday morning. On one of his visits the doctor told Helmbaugh that he had better tret Dr. Greeley, he war afraid that he himself would be unable to go "Ut. Dr. Shlmer. however, cam* out to the home of the witness tho ru-xt | day and appeared to be belter. Sunday miming Heimt-auith went to the seminary to got th'- doctor to again visit -his s*-n. He hunted some time and finally found the dead body of the doctor in rhe ham. Heimoaueh testified that he believed the doctor to be of sound mind.


The two young ladies. Misses Waddell and Hasan, students a, the seminary. who also assisted In the household w.-rk. testified as to some of the personal peculiarities of the doctor and his relations with hi? wife. The doctor always ate his meals with the men employed about "the place and never at the same Sable with his wife. He occupied la separate ro.»m. tht- condition of which <hv* witnesses testified was very unwholesome. The clothes not in use were stuffed in grain sacks I alone tho wall, and the doctor's personal habits, according to the witnesses were also very sio\*enly. Peier Xel-! s>n. an employe at the seminary some months prior to tho doctor's demise.

| testified that he talked with the dead ( man on the Saturday before his death | and that he seamed entirely natural. 1 \ Harl Moore, when placed up-'n the ; j stand, said that tho deceased had h< ?n I his family doctor for 16 y*ars. and that '• he treat'd Moore's wife shortly before > his death. The Saturday preceding ! : th.' fatal event, rhe doctor had prepar- [ cd medicine for witness and that he-| noticed nothing unusual in his appear- | 'arcc. He though Dr. Shlmer of sound I ! mind or he w^uld not have Taken rhe I medicine. Miss Nellie Brown, another '

seminary up to the time of the doctor’s death. She had him prescribe •cedleine for her and he had promised to go with her to see Dr. Caldwell of Freeport, whom the doctor thought might benefit her. She thought him of sound mind. Miss Turney, a graduate of the seminary, saw the doctor in June and thought him of sound mind. She 'testified that his room was not specially slovenly end that she had seen him at the same table with his wife. They were always served the same food. Deputy County Clerk John Hay testified to several death certificates issued by the doctor in July. 18S5. and thought his mind sound. Numerous other neighbors, who had for years had Dr. Shlmer for their family physician. thought bis mind was in a normal condition up to his suicide.

As assistant principal of the seminary. Miss A. C. Joy had been acquainted with Dr. Shimer for 27 years. She said, when on the stand, that for ti years she had roomed with Mrs. Shimer. The doctor frequently came into his wife's sitting room and conversed 'rich her. the witness said. He did so two weeks before his death. Miss Joy had talked with Dr.Jshimer on the Thursday before iiis death and also on Saturday and thought his mind sound.


Among the witnesses * called to the stand was Dr. J. W. Cormany. He had heard the doctor say that he intended to leave money to endow a college ax Philadelphia. The witness admitted on cross examination that :n a conversation the doctor had said that he wished the will to stand so as to keep the money in Carroll county. Rev. J. P. Phillips testified that he *«<i been acquainted with Dr. Shimer for several yoars and had often talked with him about educa-LlocaJ -matters. The doctor had told him that- he intended to leave some money to some college and that he would like to leave some of ft In Ml CarrolL He said his relatives in the east did aot need it.

Dr. Shimer's Iowa represea ta«uve. C. 3 Knox of Lake Park, said on the -4Land that the doctor corresponded with aim and came otft frequently. It was at the suggestion of Knox that Shlmer nad purchased the Iowa property. The doctor had said he was going to leave his property to Knox's children on account of his faithful service. Dr. Shimer had also talked of educational -n/tisations and tad stared that toe would endow a college at Lake Park If the name of the town would be changed to Shimer. Prof. W. A. Pratt was another with whom the doctor :ad talked of endowment matters. To ?rof. Pratt he had expressed his willingness to give some of his money to the seminary If ir was placed on a .inn foundation.


Another important witness foe the defense. Miss Joanna. Clay, had been acquainted with the doctor as the physician of her family for a number of years, and thought he was of soend nind or they would not have employed :tm. She had beard him speak ©om-nendably of Mrs. Shimer and had seen .Uem together frequeciiy*. Cross-ex-: mi nation deveJoznd tje Tact that the ioctor had told her of his sweet heart, -iatle. He had loved her. and m ny ears after her death, so use doctor void .vitnes*. she had appeared to him in .n Iowa town and walked by his side. The spirit told him that the ground hey were walking on would be me sit* -s& a. xowa-and that be shoafc^tjww-lr ie subsequently did so. and the towr f Lake Park was located there. Th» p!ri; also appeared to him in thi !in1ng room of the seminary. Mls£ t-argaret Gordon, who had been a cacher in the seminary six years test!-ed lhat the doctor bad often sfcowr <r his researches with the microscope nd they had been associated in scien-•fie studies. A collection of bug? r.o;hs and other insects with the doc-c.r'9 compound microscope were placed .n evidence with Miss Gordon's testimony. Dr. Henry Metcalf testified hat he had been associated with Dr taimer in many cases and ia the Blakt ase. shortly before the fatal Sunday .’he treatment in that case was correct .nd witness was of the opinion thai he deceased enjoyed the full use o: :is mind. He saw -the doctor on Sat-irday and thought he was unwell. Editor Puterbaugh of the Ml Carroll •ilrror related business transactions .vith the doctor, and said he had seen rim asleep in his otfic-* and on the -reei when he seemed hair asieep. Dr. Coyes gave several professional experiences he had had with Dr. Shimer ind i'eiieved he was of sound mind.

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current00:41, December 27, 2011Thumbnail for version as of 00:41, December 27, 2011423 × 1,971 (736 KB)Shenderson (Talk | contribs)Article from the July 9, 1896 issue of the Rockford Register-Gazette, entitled "Breaks the Will", announcing the verdict and describing the defense testimony in the Shimer will case.

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