Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What's a "Half Wagon?" (Dorothy's Will, Part 2)

Last week I shared about Dorothy/Dorothea Klein/Kline's "interesting will." I also shared about it at my local special interest group genealogy meeting on Friday. We all had some laughs, but a few things were pointed out to me.

What's a "half wagon?"

First of all, I shared how two of Dorothy's sons, Daniel and Nicholas, were each given a "half wagon." When I first read about this, I thought it must be a type of wagon. But, someone suggested to me that it was literally half a wagon. In other words, the two brothers were sharing a wagon. That made sense, so I shared on my blog and at my group about the two brothers sharing a wagon.

However, someone in our group spoke up and said a half wagon was actually a small wagon. Yikes! I needed to do more research. When I got home, I started the research and had a hard time finding anything. But, then I found an explanation on a genealogy.com webpage under "notes for General Marion Hooper." Regarding a half wagon, it explained:

General built several roads in Graham County and Tennessee with a shovel, axe, pick, and whatever tools he had. The roads were just wide enough for the wagon wheels to pass through trees and thickets. Once he had a horse and a half wagon made from pin oak. The half wagon was about half the size of a regular wagon and could go where regular wagons could not go. In 1897 several surveyors were surveying the mountain land and were stuck below the Hooper Bald with their supplies and equipment. General came upon them and used his yoke of oxen and his half wagon to haul their belongings to their camp site. He did the job in three trips.

So, it is likely the two brothers did not each inherit "half a wagon" that they had to share. Instead, they both inherited small half wagons.

P.S. Reader David Samuelsen posted a link which shows a photo of a half wagon—just scroll down to Nineteenth Century traps at this link. (Thanks, David!)

Five Pounds specie

I also discussed how three of the four granddaughters listed were receiving their five pounds "out of the money which their said father" was indebted to Dorothy, their deceased grandmother. However, I left off a word, because I didn't know what it meant. The will actually says each granddaughter will receive "Five Pounds specie." I kept thinking it meant "apiece" or each. But, someone in the meeting pointed out that the word is, in fact, specie, which is a type of money.

I just completed a little research about specie. Wikipedia explains that there were "three general types of money in the colonies of British America: specie (coins), paper money and commodity money." It also states that "cash in the colonies was denominated in pounds, shillings, and pence."

In light of this explanation, I believe the girls were each inheriting an amount of five pounds, and the five pounds was in coin, or specie, form. Do you agree? Am I still not understanding correctly?

No one had a good explanation about the money being out of the money "indebted to" Dorothy by her sons who were the girls' fathers. How were the girls expected to receive their five pounds? I still don't understand.

Dorothy to Her Namesakes

The last part of the will I discussed was about Dorothy primarily giving inheritance to her granddaughters who were named Dorothy or Dorothea. Three of the four girls listed were named Dorothy. I also have another will where a woman named Catharine only gave inheritance to her granddaughters who bore her name. I think this is a very odd practice, and I asked if anyone knew anything about it.

One person spoke up about German naming patterns, and yes, this family was German. But, although I understand she would have granddaughters named Dorothy, why would she primarily leave an inheritance to only them?

Another person suggested that Dorothea was likely the sponsor of these grandchildren named Dorothea/Dorothy, and would act as a godparent. It would make sense that, even in death, Dorothy would continue to take care of her godchildren. However, I have information on the baptism of Nicholaus' daughter, Dorothy, and her sponsors were did no include her grandmother. Instead, she was sponsored by William and Dorthea Gesell. So, it seems likely she was not named after her grandmother, but instead was named for Dorthea Gesell.

Have you had experience with a woman "only" (or mostly) leaving inheritance to her namesake? Do you know any background about this practice? Please leave a comment or email me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net.


Will of Dorothy Klein of Warwick Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, signed 27 June 1794, proved 14 September 1799, provided by Lititz, Pennsylvania Public Library, 3 pages. [All images on this post are from this will.]


  1. It is a two seat two wheel wagon, hence half-wagon.

    1. Thanks, David. Do you happen to know where I could see a photo of one? I've looked & looked, but couldn't find one.

    2. other name is Trap.


      scroll down to Nineteenth Century traps.

    3. Thanks, David. Seeing a photo makes me understand why they called it a half wagon!

  2. Dana - about the granddaughter's five pounds - Maybe it was a snub directed at their fathers. They owed their mother money and it still had not been repaid at the time she wrote her will. Just a thought.

    1. Interesting thought, Sheri! That does make sense! I hope the girls ended up getting their money, though I have no idea how much five pounds was worth in 1799. Anyone know of a good site which would tell me what it would be equivalent to today?

  3. Half wagon reminds me of a half dime. My grandmother (b1896) always said when a woman was married she should have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a half dime in the heel of her left (or maybe it was right?) shoe. She used her mother's half dime as did my mother, my sister and me, and now both of my daughters.

    1. Interesting, Debi. In my ignorance, is a "half dime" a nickel? Or do you actually have a coin called a half dime? I have heard something about a penny, but not a half dime. I looked it up, and I only came across a sixpence. But, I also saw that silver was traditional so some people use a penny older than 1965 wince those were made primarily of silver.

      P.S. I think your family tradition would make a great blog post! :)


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