|"The Reading of the Will," David Wilkie, 1820|
As I have probably mentioned before on this blog, I have a great fondness for Weird Wills. When people take the trouble to exit this world with style and originality, they earn my eternal esteem and appreciation. If they throw in a bit of posthumous revenge, my happiness blossoms like a rose.
Although I have come across a number of bizarre wills in my time, I have yet to find any quite like the one written by Dr. Everett Wagner, and I have serious doubts that anything will ever top it.
This description of the good doctor's highly unusual bequests comes from the "Louisville Courier-Journal," May 4, 1888:
A well-known attorney of this city has received from the executor the will of Dr. Everett Wagner, a resident of Metcalfe county, Ky., lately deceased. It is a curiosity, and as it will shortly be put on record, the instrument is given in full. It runs as follows:
By the Grace of God, Amen, I, Everett Wagner, being of sound mind and disposing memory, and realizing the uncertainties of life, do make this my last will and testament hereby revoking any former or other will I may have made. I have lived a secluded life, and for that reason, I suppose I have not accumulated as muoh of this world's goods as might have been, but my beloved relatives, knowing that I am about to die and believing me, as they have heretofore called me, a miser, suppose my wealth very large.
Although, up to this time they have shunned me almost entirely, they can not now do too much for me, and nearly every one of them has visited me in these, my last hours, and given me a gentle hint that they would like to have a small trinket of some kind by which to remember their beloved relative.
On account of their former treatment and their gentle hints, I now take this method of satisfying their desires and by this, my last will and testament, I will and bequeath to them as follows:
First, I give to my beloved brother, Napoleon Bonaparte Wagner, my left hand and arm.
Second, I give to my beloved brother, George W. Wagner, my right hand and arm.
Third, I give to my beloved brother, Patrick Henry Wagner, my right leg and foot.
Fourth, I give to my beloved brother, Charles Gardner Wagner, my left leg and foot.
Fifth, I give to my nephew, C H. Hatfield, my nose.
Sixth, I give to my niece, Hettie Hatfield, my left ear, and to my niece, Clara Hatfield, my left ear.
Seventh, I give to my cousin, Henry Edmonton, my teeth.
Eighth, I give to my cousin, John Edmonton, my gums.
Ninth, I hope I have not forgotten any of those dear relatives, who have wished for trinkets, but, if I have, I will provide for them in this way: When I am dissected for the gifts I have mentioned, there will be enough left of me to give a trinket to any of those relatives wishing one, and they can secure the same from the person dissecting me, he being here instructed to give tbe choice parts to those who ask, first come first served.
Tenth, It grieves me to have to part with myself in this manner, but then, what is a gift without a sacrifice? I am dying with consumption and the end will soon be here. I will at once remove myself to Nashville, where I will die in the hospital. I desire that P. A. M. Strater, of Metcalfe County, Ky, upon my death, qualify as my executor, with bond, and that he faithfully carry out the trust here imposed upon him: that he proceed with haste to Nashville and there employ a skillful surgeon, who will do the work well; that the surgeon proceed to dissect me and sever the parts bequeathed carefully: that he preserve the parts nicely with chemicals and place them in glass jars which shall be provided by the executor, and that the executor then ship the jars with the parts so preserved to the various devisees, all of whom are personally known to him.
For this service, I allow the sum of one thousand dollars, to be equally divided by the surgeon and executor, after payment for chemicals, jars and shipment. After dissection, I desire that any part of me which may remain be buried in the potter's field at Nashville.
Eleventh, the executor will then pay my burial expenses and the whole of the residue of my estate I direct shall be applied to public charities as directed by the Metcalfe Circuit Judge.
Dated at my residence on the Burkesville road, Metcalfe county, Kentucky, March 1, 1888. EVERETT WAGNER.
March 3, 1888: Codicil--I give to my beloved sister-in-law, Mrs. C. G. Wagner, my liver. EVERETT WAGNER.
In a letter from the executor, he states that Wagner died shortly after the execution of the will and before he could get to Nashville. Before the will was found, his remains were buried and the executor is in great distress about what to do. He asks the attorney for advice on the question as to whether or not, at this late day, it would be proper for him to exhume the remains, carry them to Nashville. and there dissect, preserve and ship them as directed by the will. The letter says that the eccentric physician's heirs are talking of breaking the will but, as he was perfectly sane up to the time of his death. it appears that they will hardly be able to do so. The estate to be given to various charities amounts to about $12,000.
It is unknown how the problem was resolved. My guess is that the relatives graciously waived their bequests, and sleeping physicians were allowed to lie.
Small matter. I'm betting that no one named in Wagner's will ever forgot him.