Mining and lawsuits go together like a horse and carriage, you can’t have one without the other. And while lawsuits had a large impact on the lives of Will and Annie, the courtroom adventures of friends and family was also interesting.
First up, Myra Clark Gaines. She was married to Annie’s great-grand uncle, Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines, a hero of the War of 1812. Myra is famous for the longest running lawsuit in the history of the United States. The lawsuit ran 57 years, appeared in the Louisiana state courts and federal courts 70+ times and was before the Supreme Court 17 times! She was claiming to be the legal heir of her father who was a rich merchant in New Orleans. However, both her father and mother had problems with paperwork and starting relationships before previous relationships were over, so her status as a legitimate heir was in question. You can read all about it in Wikipedia at the link above.
Next is Evelyn Hazen who sued her lover for $100,000 for breach of promise in 1934. Evelyn was the daughter of Annie’s friend Evelyn Alice Mabry (see Annie and Her Friends). When she was 14, Evelyn started attending classes at the University of Tennessee. There she met Ralph Scharringhaus who was almost 18. They were friends for the next three years, but eventually fell in love in 1916. In 1917 he asked her to marry him and gave her his fraternity pin. They could not marry right away because he was joining the army and going off to fight in WWI. On leave, before being shipped off to Europe, Ralph talked Evelyn into “proving her love for him.” Over the next 15 years, Scharringhaus kept stringing Evelyn along. He always had a reason for why they could not marry, but he would talk her into “proving her love” over and over again. Finally, in 1932, Evelyn had had enough and told her cousin, who was a good friend of Ralph’s, about the whole affair. Ralph said he didn’t want to marry Evelyn and they broke up. Evelyn then filed her breach of promise suite. She was awarded $80,000, but Ralph never paid. Evelyn never married, but over the next 55 years, Evelyn proved to be a savvy financial investor and left a fortune in her will to establish a foundation to make her home into a museum.
Will was involved in several mining lawsuits which I will write about soon.