Alice Brown Chittenden

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Contesting Her Father's Will

Articles about Alice B. Chittenden's daughter's, Miriam Overton Sprague, suit to contest her father, Charles P. Overton, will from the San Francisco Chronicle in 1917.


San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 1917, p.10,c.4

Suit to Break Overton’s Will Now Under Way

Claimant Prefers Proving Her Parentage Rather Than Have It Admitted

Jurors Are Selected

Mrs. Alice B. Chittenden Is Heard In Support of Her Daughter


Trial of the suit of Mrs. Miriam Overton Sprague to break the will of her father, the late Charles P. Overton, former vice president of the Union Fish Company, was begun before a jury in Superior Judge Daniel C. Deasy’s court yesterday. Most of the day’s session was consumed in selecting a jury, but the actual trial opened late in the day with the taking of testimony from Mrs. Alice B. Chittenden. Mrs. Chittenden, now a well-known figure in local art circles, was the first wife of Overton and the mother of Mrs. Sprague.

Overton died in November of 1914. His will, dated June 2, 1914, left nearly all his estate of $164,000 to his second wife, Mrs. Daisy Bell Overton, and an adopted daughter, Daisybel Overton.

The will specifically disinherited any children of the first wife, saying, “Especially one born about 1887, presumably my own, whom I have never seen.” The child referred to is Mrs. Sprague, born in September of 1887.

In his opening statement yesterday, Attorney Stanley Moore, representing the contestant, attacked this clause in the will as “shameful and monstrous,” and promised to prove that Overton was at all times fully aware that he was the father of the child. In reply, Attorney Charles S. Wheeler, representing the widow, assured Moore that his clients never at any time questioned Mrs. Sprague’s parentage, and would concede that Overton knew he was the father. He urged that this feature of the case be eliminated from the trial, but Moore insisted he preferred to prove his client’s status, rather than have it admitted.

In her contesting petition Mrs. Sprague says her father’s mind was poisoned against her by his second wife.

The trial will be resumed this morning.


San Francisco Chronicle, February 2, 1917, p.9,c.6

Daughter is Defeated in Will Contest

Court Grants Nonsuit in the Action for Share in Estate of Late C. P. Overton

Adopted Child Inherits

Mrs. Sprague Fails to Show Father Unduly Influenced by Second Wife


After listening to four hours of argument yesterday, Superior Judge Daniel C. Deasy granted a nonsuit in the Charles P. Overton will contest, and thus sent glimmering the hopes of Mrs. Miriam Overton Sprague to share in the $164,000 estate of her father, former vice-president of the Union Fish Company.

Barring the possibility of relief through appeal to the Supreme Court, Mrs. Sprague’s only consolation lies in the statement of the Judge as he granted the motion of Overton’s second wife and widow, to quash the proceedings started to break the will.

Sees No Undue Influence

“There is no question in my mind but that this is a cruel will, and, possibly, an unjust will,” said the Court, “but under the law it is my duty to grant the motion for a nonsuit. It seems harsh that a man should disinherit his own flesh and blood, but the evidence introduced here has failed to substantiate the charges that he was of unsound mind, or that fraud or undue influence was exerted over him by his second wife.”

Mrs. Sprague’s attack was on the will in which her father, who separated from her mother before she was born, and whom she had never seen, left all of his estate to his second wife and an adopted child, and specifically disinherited her and her mother, Alice B. Chittenden.

Favored Adopted Child

The petition alleged that the second wife, Mrs. Daisy Bell Overton, poisoned Overton’s mind against his daughter and induced him to adopt a child who would fall heir to his estate to the exclusion of the natural daughter.

The case began Monday before a jury in Judge Deasy’s court. The contestants finished their case early yesterday morning, and the motion for a nonsuit was made by the widow. Judge Deasy then dismissed the jury until Monday and the remainder of the day was devoted to argument on the motion.

Judge Deasy’s decision takes the case out of the hands of the jury and ends further proceedings in the Superior Court.


Source: San Francisco Main Library