Chicago Tribune

An Estate from Which the Rents Alone Are Worth More than $75,000 a Year Bequeathed by the Capitalist to the Woman Who for Many Years Cared for His Home — This Will to Be Contested — Talks with Interested Persons.

When Charles J. Hull, an eccentric West-Sider, died last week in Houston, Tex., he left behind between $1,000,00 and $2,000,000 worth of personal property and real estate. His will, which he made in 1881, was opened Tuesday morning at the Hull residence, No 31 Ashland avenue. His four nephews, his niece, his cousin Miss Helen Culver and his lawyer were in the room. Miss Culver knew what was in the envelope which the lawyer held. The others did not, but they thought they did. They supposed that the old manís great wealth was to be shared equally among them. Miss Culver smiled and said nothing.

The lawyer pulled a sheet of foolscap out of the envelope and read that the testator being of sound mind, and so forth, did give and bequeath to Miss Helen Culver, "who had been his faithful friend and advisor for thirty years, the whole of his estate, real and personal, to have and to keep, and so forth and so forth. Charles J. Hull."

Miss Culver smiled. The nephews turned pale. The niece wept. It was the end of the great expectations.

"There must be some mistake," cried one of the nephews.

"No mistake at all," said the lawyer cheerily — probate lawyers are always cheery. "Mr. Hull has simply turned over his property in the shortest will he could make and satisfy the legal requirements. Itís a good will — a good will. Miss Culver, let me congradulate you."

Yesterday when the will was entered in the Probate Court the first attempt was made to break it. An appeal was taken by Chauncey A Naramore and Mrs. Emily Augusta Chapman, children of Mr. Hullís sister, Eunice Naramore. They act in behalf of most of the other heirs, who are Elvington A., Lafayette, Benjamin, and Charles W. Hull, sones of Burdett Hull, Mrs. Augusta Chapman, Miss Ida M. French, Charles A. Naramore, Ashley Naramore, and a host of children of deceased relatives. Bond was fixed at $300,000.


Miss Culver is a woman of about 50 years, with gray hair and a placid face. But her mouth is firm and business-like and she has a pair of bright, shrewd eyes. She sat in the parlor of No. 31 Ashland avenue last evening and talked calmly about the millions in the will.

The house doesnít look like a millionaireís home. It is the corner of a modest two-story brick row and the interior is as plain as the street front. There are a few pictures on the walls and a photograph of the late Mr. Hull on the mantel. Near it is a big bronze, heroic-sized bust of the dead millionaire, showing a deep stretch of muscular chest and a great head of curly hair.

Miss Culver came into the room with a slender, black-haired woman who wore the subdued air of a ladyís companion.

"This is Miss French, who lives with me," said Mis Culver, and Miss French said: "In justice to Miss Culver you must know that she is own cousin to Mr. Hull. She knew him from childhood and when Mrs. Hull died it was her last wish that Miss Culver should take care of the growing children. She preferred Miss Culver to he own relations. Miss Culverís mother and Mr. Hullís father were brother and sister. She took the children, and I, who was the schoolmate and life long companion of the daughter Frederika, can testify to the love, and I may say admiration, which she held for Miss Culver. The son lived to be 18 and the daughter to be 24. During her last illness Fredrika expressed to me as her dying wish the request that I cling to Miss Culver."

Miss French spoke like a chapter out of one of Jane Austinís romances.

"She had lived with Mr. Hull thirty years up to the time of his death," she went on.

"No," interrupted Mis Culver; "only twenty-nine years."

Miss French blushed at the correction.


"Did you expect any such move as has been made by the nephews?" Miss Culver was asked.

"No, I did not."

"Did Mr. Hull ever promise his nephews a share of the estate ?"

"I can only say of that he was a truthful man. No one ever heard him tell a lie or knew him to attempt to deceive a man. We have talked the will over a great many times and he never mentioned doing otherwise with his property than he has done. I sometimes suggested small bequests, but he used to say that there was no use making the will involved. ĎNobody can break a will that is written on one side of a foolscap sheed,í he told me."

"Did you ever notice any signs of a decaying mind in him?"

"No, indeed," Miss Culver said, warmly. "Ask any of the neighbors or any of the people who had business with him and they will deny that charge. He was always in vigorous mental health. He used to say sometimes, in speaking about the will: ĎWell, Iíve put up a row of houses since that was made. I guess thatíll be evidence that I was of sound mind in 1881."

"I think I deserve this if any one does," she went on. "I entered Mr. Hullís service after his wifeís death. We were then living in the old brown house at Polk and Halsted streets that has since been occupied by the Little Sisters of the Poor. At that time Mr. Hull was deeply in debt. His lawyers told him that his property wouldnít come within $500,000 of paying what he owed. The panic of 1857 had left him in a bad way. But we both went hard to work. Besides keeping house for him I took charge of this office, keeping books and making out leases and advising him about improvements till the estate was rescued from debt. It is now worth a couple of million, I should say, and the income from the rents alone is $75,000 a year. That is what I helped him to build. As for his nephews, I would sooner not say anything about them. I have always been friendly to them, and Mr. Hull, who believed in giving a boy a good start and letting him shift for himself, helped them to as much education as they chose to accept."

"We who live with her," said Miss French, "know who faithful and earnest she was in managing his estate. He would not leave the property in any hands other than hers."


Elvington, Charles, Lafayette, and Benjamin Hull all work for the estate. Charles Hull has the management of the property in Baltimore, Md., which is quite large. None of the brothers would talk freely about the case.

"We donít want to say much," said Lafayette Hull. "I must say we were disappointed. We expected something. Mr. Hull always gave us to understand that we would have our share, and I have worked for the estate for five years. I expected to be remembered. But Miss Culver is at the head now and I canít afford to talk."

Lawyer A. O. Story has been retained by the prosecution. He said: "We donít intend to let this money go without a fight. We will push the case to the end and show to the public by what influence the old man was induced to will away from his poor dependents and into the hands of a woman, and when the case comes to trial there will be disclosures that will be interesting."

Mr. Hull was something of an oddity in life. He would pick up a child from the street and kiss its hands and face and feed it candy. He made great friends with newsboys on the corner. He was somewhat inclined to spiritualism, and he loved to write for print. In 1881 he published a 300-page book entitled "Reflection of a Busy Life," in which he put all sorts of opinions on every subject that the mind of man ever got rumpled over. His views are in the shape of letters, mostly to Miss Culver, whom he addresses this way: "The greatest success of the undertaking is largely due to your energy, your steady and persistent labor, and your never-failing faith. You have stood hard at the helm when I was almost tempted to go in out of the storm. Your keen womanly instinct and long-range spiritual vision caught the glimmer of the lighthouse in the mist beyond my sight at the end of the pier. Without your faith the work must have failed. I bless you, God will, and the poor ought to." In another place he says: "An you now are the only earthly anchor. Your noble womanhood keeps me in line and if I live so as to retain you love I shall be saved here and everywhere."


Here are some remarks from Mr. Hullís book: "I am always opposed to schools of theology that hurry people to Heaven"; "A desire for public place is a devil that rends the people"; "It is not the custom of invalids to seek a favorable climate until they are too sick to be benefited by the change"; "Few of us court the storm that independence is likely to bring"; "The overflow from countries of great cathedrals now stock our poorhouses and prisons"; "The heart dies surrounded with wealth unmixed with sentiment"; "Profane swearing is a vicious habit"í "Fashion is a network for week minds and the ally of vice"; "I dream like a girl"; "Ignorance is the father of fear"; "The Bible is quite a book — as good as the could get up in the early days"í "Whisky is the biggest devil known to man"; "Small men are always in fashion."

Mr. Hull treated big men and little men familiarly in his letters. He calls Gen. Grant "either a knave or a fool — probably both." His book closes with the verse:

A level head, a lightning brain —
O who can tell their worth!


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