THOMAS MATHEWS v. JOSHUA WADE, et ux,
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia,
2 W.Va. 464, January Term, 1868
Synopsis of case by Carol L. Haynes, J.D.
On April 9, 1867, Joshua and Polly Wade petitioned the court of Greenbrier County, West Virginia for the custody of their granddaughter, Anne Sidney. Polly Wade alleged that her deceased daughter, Sidney Jackson, had a daughter named Anna Sidney. The child was approximately 6 years old at the time of the filing of the petition. Sidney Jackson was not married. The Wades alleged that under the laws of the State of Virginia the disposition of the child was with the mother and that at the death of the mother the disposition should pass to the grandmother, Polly Wade.
Thomas Mathews, who formerly owned Sidney Jackson as a slave, claimed tht he had the right of custody and disposition of the child and he refused to give her to Polly Wade.
The circuit court held that the grandmother was entitled to custody of the child. Thomas Mathews brought the case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of West Virginia found that:
(1) Anne Sidney was between five and six years old;
(2) the mother, Sidney, died while a slave and at a time when Anne was two months old;
(3) Sidney was a slave of of Thomas Mathews;
(4) Polly Wade had also formerly been a slave of Thomas Mathews;
(5) Polly was the mother of Sidney and Sidney was the mother of Anne;
(6) Sidney, on her deathbed, asked Thomas Mathews and his wife to take care of her child Anne;
(7) After the war Polly left Greenbrier County and went to Kanawha County leaving her grandchild in the care of Thomas Mathews until she returned in 1866 when she married Joshua Wade;
(8) Thomas Mathews and his wife cared for the child with the utmost affection & attention & they treated her as their own child;
(9) Thomas Mathews and his wife had no other children living with them;
(10) Anne was a highly intelligent and good-looking child;
(11) The Mathews were warmly attached to the child and able to take care of her needs, both financial and otherwise;
(12) Polly Wade was "also of as good moral character as any colored person in Lewisburg, that she is an industrious, hard-working woman, a member of good standing in the Methodist Episcopal church at Lewisburg, and that her husband is also a man of good moral character, and owns a wagon and two horses and some other property";
(13) Wade and Polly were keeping house in Lewisburg and were also competent to the support and education of the child; (14) Several witnesses opined that the Wades were not as capable or providing for the child's physical wants or moral or intellectual education as the Matthews.
The Supreme Court awarded the child to the Matthews based on the laws of guardianship.
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