Chapter 6: James
That winter, in Ampney St Peter, James lay ill. Now an old man of 75, he had made his will three years ago in November 1806. He had plenty to leave. He had no children of his own, and his wife was already dead, and so all his money and property was to be distributed to his many nephews and nieces, John Habgood, Robert, Martha, Elizabeth, Mary, Thomas, his brothers Edward and Robert, nephew William, James Habgood Butler, to relatives Sarah Highwell, William Golding, Elizabeth Carlick, Mary Cook, and many others. In an amazing gesture of forgiveness and understanding, he even left money to Martha and Thomas, the children of William, in whose name he had been taken to court countless times, and accused virtually of embezzlement, at best incompetence. He named his three executors: Robert, his brother, with whom he had shared so much worry in recent years; his brother Edward, and his nephew Thomas of Cerney Wick. He asked them to see to it that he was buried in Latton, where all the rest of his family lay in peace.
However, there was one rather important thing which he had forgotten to point out to his executors; which was that quite a lot of the money in his possession still formed part of William’s estate, and much more formed part of Mary Ann’s estate.
James died, and was buried on 21 January 1810 in Latton.
For James the misery of the court case was finished, but for the others, it went on.
When George Muskett found out that James was dead, and that the executors of James’s will were about to distribute the bequests of money among all the beneficiaries, he must have been horrified. It was the money from Mary Ann’s settlement that James had in the bank – it was his money, and the executors were on the point of dividing it between dozens of members of the Habgood family that he had never even heard of! In July 1810 he asked he court to make the three executors give an account of James’s effects. The settlement money must be paid back from James’s estate to George Muskett.
The Habgoods in Latton who had expected to inherit from James must have been feeling rather angry and disappointed at this point; all their money, they must have thought, was in danger of being handed over to George Muskett, who probably murdered that poor little Mary Ann.
So on 31 July 1810 the executors of James’s will had to go to Cirencester to see Joseph Pitt, the solicitor, and make a statement; a new experience for Edward and Thomas Habgood, but one that Robert was well used to by now. Edward and Thomas were probably dismayed to find themselves involved in a case that the family had gossiped about so much for the last seven years.
On 26 November 1810, the court sent demands to the executors Robert, Edward and Thomas Habgood, as well as to the Milburns, to George Muskett and William Varnham, to appear in court on the 28th and pay the money from Mary Ann’s settlement into the bank.
George Muskett must have breathed a vast sigh of relief.