Monday Madness – Peter Arbuckle

Peter Arbuckle was born November 16,  1869 in  Wellington County, Ontario, Canada and died December 25, 1949 in the Minnesota State Hospital in Fergus Falls.  He was the 10th of 11 children born to Robert Arbuckle and Jane (Jean) McNiven.  Our family always thought of Peter as the Uncle you never talked about…wealthy, eccentric and living alone in Wadena, Minnesota. Turns out this legend may have been partially right, at least the “eccentric” part.

Among the probate documents for Peter Arbuckle is a commitment application dated January 11, 1938 indicating that Peter was deemed insane and the evidence was this: “Two salesmen calling at home were ordered from the place and were shot at before they had a chance to leave”.  “Has shot at cars parked near his place.”  The document goes on to say that the reason for commitment is “Afraid he will harm someone.”

You may have already noticed that Peter spent the last 11 years, 11 months and 14 days of his life confined in the Minnesota State Hospital.  According to his death certificate the causes of death were: Bronchial Pheumonia, Arteriosclerosis due to Senility, and an additional condition of Psychosis.  Age was 80 years, 1 month, 9 days.

Now for the news about the “wealthy” part of Peter’s legacy. Since Peter Arbuckle had no descendants, all of his siblings became the beneficiaries of his estate,  however most of them had preceeded him in death. Therefore their  children became his “heirs at law.”  Confusing, isn’t it?  In any case, without confusing the matter even more I’ll just say that my Mother (Peter’s great niece)  was entitled to 1/4 of 1/45th of the estate!  I don’t believe mom thought that it was worth filling out the papers to claim this “inheritance” and would sometimes joke about expecting to get her $10 inheritance “any day now”.

But although he never knew me, Peter Arbuckle left me the most valuable inheritance he could have:  A complete list of all the “heirs at law”  i.e. his siblings, their children and in some cases grandchildren.  I had all the names and in most locations for all these 45 members of the Arbuckle Family genealogy.  So thank you to Great-Uncle Peter for this astounding gift!

Source:  Minnesota, Wadena County Probate Record for Peter Arbuckle dated June 9th, 1950.  Original located in Wadena County Court Records, copy is the property of Susan J. Edminster, Granite Falls, Washington.

Written for: Monday Madness, March 22, 2009. Susan J. Edminster, All rights reserved.

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