Oh Dear, Found Another Scoundrel Hiding In The Branches

While looking up an estate file for Richard Dicken, father-in-law of Thomas Bembry, I found this court case involving Kenneth Bembry, the wealthiest of the four sons of Miles Bembry. Now I know how he got so rich.

Kenneth became guardian (presumably after the death of Elias Bryan) to the three youngest sons of Richard Dicken and Polly Harris. As such, he was entrusted with the large estate bequeathed to them by their grandfather, Nathan Harris as outlined in the estate records I found earlier this week.

According to the lawsuit, he promptly embezzled the estate, then skedaddled to Florida!

Where he became, of course, a politician.

State of North Carolina

Edgecombe County
August Session 1829

To the worshipful the Justices of the County aforesaid,

The petition of James Biggs and James Downing Humbly shew to your Worships that (blank) Term of the County Court aforesaid in the year (blank) they became bound in these several Bonds as security to Kenneth Bembry who was appointed Guardian to Matthew, Ephraim and William Dicken children of Richard Dicken, that the Estate confided to his care was large and valuable, that at the time of securing said Bonds they had confidence that the said Kenneth would act with fidelity in the management of said Estate and that he was himself in good circumstances and was precedent in the management of his own affairs, but to their utter astonishment they have recently discovered that the said Bembry is not only embarrassed (?) and they believe insolvent but they have no doubt that he has left the State and taken with him (under pretense of selling his property and returning) the greater part of his proerty and has no intention of returning to the State.

They further charge that he has greatly mismanaged the Estate of his Wards and has converted the greater part of the _____ Estate to his own private use which amounts to large sums.

They further charge that they are in great Danger of sustaining a heavy loss by his Securityship without the immediate aid and interference of your Worship.

They therefore pray your to cause a summons or notice to ____ the said Kenneth commanding him to appear at the next and answer the previous & that your Worship decree that the said Kenneth give other(?) and further counter and sufficient Security or that he be compelled to Surrender the said property to your Petitioners and that your Worship would grant such other and further relief in the precincts ___ ___ Leon meet ___ and Equitable and they are in duty bound and will ever pray.

A true Copy
Darcy for the Petitioners

2 thoughts on “Oh Dear, Found Another Scoundrel Hiding In The Branches

  1. Oh dear indeed! I also found a scoundrel this year. Turns out when he married my gggg-grandmother in Liberty, MS, he already had a wife in St. Louis, MO. He’d stolen her inheritance and tried to make her believe he’d died of cholera in New Orleans. Unluckily for him, his first wife’s family tracked him down, so he left Liberty in a hurry (don’t know where he headed next, but years later he drowned in Sacramento, CA, during the gold rush). Wife #2 remarried and moved to Texas, leaving poor baby ggg-granddaddy to be raised by his grandmother. This case was cracked thanks to a collection of letters at the St. Louis Univerisity Libraries–I’m in far-off Massachusetts, but those letters have been scanned and made available online (how cool is that?). Wife #1’s cousin was a lawyer who sent letters to the Liberty, MS postmaster, members of the second wife’s family, etc. Once I found the right man, I was able to connect him to his family (Riddle) in Pennsylvania and Ohio–a Riddle family history said he drowned in California–plus census and death records place him in Sacramento. Lucky for me, Abraham Riddle is an uncommon name. Good thing they aren’t all named John and Thomas!


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