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Scully Family | Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Name: Scully Family


Historical Note: The Scully (O’Scoulades in Gaelic) family was one of the oldest Roman Catholic families ofsocial position in Tipperary. They owned estates at Balleconey and Shronehill and rented to largenumbers of Irish tenants. In 1850 William Scully came to America. Since then the Scully Estateshave been operating for four different generations in America. During William Scully’s time,1850-1906, it was simply known as the Scully Lands, then with the death of William (estate wassettled March 12, 1908), his son Thomas took over and operated under the name Scully Estates.Michael and Peter, Thomas’s sons, also operated under Scully Estates until the 1980s when thename became The Scully Estates Management Company.William Scully came to the United States in 1850 because the government invited foreigners to comeand assist them in the development of the country and because he was determined to do somethingworthwhile in his lifetime. He landed in Philadelphia and had a blacksmith make a spade for himwhich he used riding horseback throughout the Midwest inspecting the soil. He chose land with greatdeliberation, not only for the richest soil, but land on a straight line from Chicago to St. Louis.William Scully purchased approximately 220,000 acres of prime agricultural land in Illinois, Kansas,Nebraska and Missouri, much of which was purchased from the government at a cost of $1.25 or lessan acre He also used Mexican War military warrants, especially for the greatest part of his land inLogan County. His wife joined him in America, but in 1854 she went back to Ireland because of herhealth and in 1855 Scully followed. In 1857, his older brother, Thomas was shot and killed, andWilliam inherited the majority of the family estates. His involvement in the Irish land wars made theScully name synonymous in Ireland with all that was evil in landlord-tenant relations. He had majorproblems in Ireland when he decided that he was not going to renew many of his tenants’ leasesbecause he chose to plant grass instead of crops to renew the land. The church took the tenants’ side.He supposedly used an “eviction machine” to tear down the roofs and walls of tenant houses. Threeincidents in particular are cited about the unrest: Scully was supposedly tried at the Clonmel assizesfor the shooting of two young men named Bergin, sons of a tenant he was evicting at Ballinaclough(he was acquitted); he was tried at the Kilkenny assizes for “assaulting and wounding “ the wife of oneof his tenants (he was found guilty and sentenced to one year of hard labor at the Kilkenny county jailalthough there is no evidence of him having served the sentence); third, he wanted his tenants to sign alease refusal which was to be the signal for their eviction. Not one tenant signed and he startedproceedings which led to bloodshed. He ended up selling the estate to Charles Moore, a member ofparliament from Tipperary. The situation in Ireland caused Scully to try once again his Americanlands so he returned to U.S. in the beginning of 1870s. During the 1870s to 1900, Scully acquired therest of his land in Illinois and other states.During the years 1855-1857, because he thought that he would be in Ireland, he sold 52 landcontracts (8,459.66 acres). John Williams, leading financier and merchant in Springfield, Illinois,had custody of Scully’s tax book and certain assets and acted as his banker. His first agent wasWilliam McGalliard, who served until 1873, and then John Scully, William’s son, came toAmerica to manage the estate. As his holdings expanded, a full-time land agent, Fred Koehnle,was employed to work in the office. Later as additional help was needed, Frederick Trapp, anattorney, became Koehnle’s partner. In 1933 when Trapp retired (Koehnle had already died), hisson, William E. Trapp with Frank W. Ryan became the agents. In 1952, James Stewart becamehead agent to succeed Trapp and Ryan upon their retirement. In Dwight, Illinois, agent Henry Foxwas placed in charge. In other states, F.W. Fox was located in the estate office in Marion County,Kansas. Scully rented this huge acreage to twelve hundred tenants under a modification of the Irish landsystem, which required that the tenants make all improvements, pay both the taxes and cash rent. Heusually leased the land by the year and he had a set of rules that his tenants must follow: tenantsmust be temperate; they must pay their debt; they must not quarrel with their neighbors; their stockmust be well fed; their machinery must show good care; and they must deport themselves in arespectable manner so as not to bring disgrace on themselves or the Scully Estate. Because of Scullyand other landowners like Scully, on July 1, 1887, a new law went into effect which denied aliensthe right to acquire land without residency. The law also prevented owners from including thepayment of taxes in the rent of farm land (this law was later held to be unconstitutional by the U.S.Supreme Court). Scully later commented that he had made the tenants’ rents low enough that theycould afford to pay taxes. He added, “When the state compelled me to pay them myself, I simplyincreased the rentals that much.” In 1897 a modified version became law. It stated that any alienabove the age of 21 could hold lands for six years and no longer and if at the end of this period, thelands were not sold to “bona fide” purchasers or if the landlord had not become a citizen of the U.S.,the States Attorney was to begin proceedings to sell the lands. Scully had previously filed adeclaration of intention in June, 1853 to become a citizen, but did not carry through. He became acitizen of the U.S. in October 1901 and lived in Washington, D.C. as owner of the John A. Loganresidence.About 1890, he deeded the land to E. Angela, his wife, to avoid federal estate taxes, and she didthe same in 1918 to her sons by deeding all Illinois and Missouri lands to Thomas and all Kansasand Nebraska lands to Frederick. Thomas and Frederick purchased the office building in Lincoln,Illinois on May 18, 1920. William is said to be the first man to establish any extensive drainagesystem and the first man to bring to this county the “mole” which was used before tile drains weredeveloped. The system of the tile ditches drainage system is said to have taken 40 years toconstruct, largely by hand labor, covering 15 miles of open ditches fed by 1200 miles of tile. Mostof Scully’s early drainage systems were done by Jeff Sims. His son, Thomas, established thefamous “Scully rotations” to conserve the soil. He also established the soil conservation practicessometime in the late 1930s. Thomas was groomed to take over the management by beingeducated at Harrow School and at the Royal Agriculture College in England. He was also trainedas a surveyor in the coal mines of England, and studied law in Washington, D.C.When William Scully died it took approximately two years to settle his estate. When ThomasScully died, there was a court case Scully vs. Scully to determine what percentage his childrenfrom a previous marriage would get according to French law. Thomas had divorced their motherin 1922 and in lieu of alimony and child maintenance she settled for 27,500 pounds. Althoughthere was some correspondence between him and his children from his first marriage, he felt thatthe children were merely trying to get money out of him. His children contended that he wasmentally incompetent. Thomas specifically did not leave anything to his children because of aprevious endowment left to them by his mother. Thomas died in 1961 and the settlementagreement became effective in 1968. Under that agreement, the principle of the residuary trustpaid $400,000 in cash to the claimants. The claimants in turn undertook to execute and deliver toViolet Scully, Thomas’ 2nd wife, a conveyance of all of the claimants’ interest in and to any realestate in the Republic of France owned by T.A. Scully at the time of his death. Violet thentransferred to Michael and Peter Scully, sons, a total of undivided sixth-sevenths of the property inFrance.





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