The meaning of words can get us in trouble if we are not careful. That’s the case with some of the language in this affidavit.
Nancy Rampley’s statement is actually recorded in the mortgage records of Hancock County, Illinois, and was recorded at the same time the Rampley heirs were involved in a partition suit over Riley Rampley’s real property. There were deeds of ownership wherein Riley obtained title, but his estate was not probated upon his death in 1893 and it was not until 1907 that the heirs filed a partition suit to settle his real property.
Riley held an “open, adverse, notorious, and uninterrupted possession” in his real estate and his widow and children held such a joint “open, adverse, notorious, and uninterrupted possession” from his death until the filing of Nancy’s affidavit.
It makes them sound like a bunch of hellraisers with shotguns fending off neighbors. Not exactly.
“Open,” “adverse,” “notorious,” and “uninterrupted” as underlined in the document image, are being used in their legal context. Their usage does not mean the Riley was a mean, onry old cuss who went around shooting anyone who got near his property.
Generally speaking, these words are implying that the Rampleys made it known publicly (“open”) that they were owners of the land (by living on it, farming it, and using all of it as a normal owner would) in such a way that another “true owner” would clearly know they were there. In other words, they were not hiding on the back forty hiding in a tent the whole time. Their possession of the land was uninterrupted–in other words they had acted towards the property in this way since Riley’s death. The likely reason for this affidavit is that some time had elapsed between Riley’s death and the family’s partition suit and this affidavit discussed the family’s ownership during that time period.
A complete reading of that partition suit does not indicate any petition or reference to someone else claiming to have an ownership interest in the farm. It does not appear there was some one else making a claim towards the property.
As often is the case with legal documents, words are used in their legal sense. Make certain you are interpreting them legally and not in layman’s terms. You don’t have to be a lawyer or even completely understand all the legalities of the terms involved in order to have a good handle on what was going on. It’s important to remember that there may be nuances to the words of which you are not aware even if you have a good grasp of what they mean.
Additional reading (on which this blog post was partially based):
- Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “Adverse Possession.”
- Jessica J. Sherstha, “Hey! That’s my land! Understanding Adverse Possession,” Wisconsin Lawyer, Wisconsin State Bar,