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The Oberweiss Will
© Jerry Buchmeyer, 1981

The County Clerk of Anderson County (Palestine) has received countless requests — many from other countries — or copies of the Last Will and Testament of Herman Oberweiss Offered for Probate at the June 1934 Term of he County Court of Anderson County Texas. The will reads:

“I am writing of my will mineself that dam lawyir want he should have too much money, he ask too many answers about the family. First thing I want I don’t want mine brother Oscar get a G--D---- thing I got. He is a mumser. He done me out of forty dollars 14 years since.

"I want it that mine kid sister Hilda get the North Sixtie Akers of at where I am homing it now. I bet she don’t get that gonoph husband of her to brake 20 akers next plowing. She can’t have it if she lets Oscar live on it, I want I should have it back if she does.

"Tell Mamma that $600 she been looking for ten years is buried from the backhouse behind about 10 feet down. She better let little Frederich do the digging and count it when he comes up.

“Pastor Lucknitz can have $300 if he kisses the book he won’t preach no more dumhead talk about politiks. He should a roof put on the meeting house and the elder should the bills look at.

"Mamma should the rest get, but I want it so mine brother Adolph should tell her what not she should do so no more slick Irishers sell her vakom cleaners. They noise like hell and a broom don’t cost so much.

“I want it that mine brother Adolph be my execter and I Want it that the ludge please make Adolph Plenty bond put up and watch him like hell. Adolph is a good business man but only a dumkopf would trust him with a busted pfenning.

“I want dam sure that schliemiel Oscar don’t nothing get, tell Adolph he can have a hundred dollars if he proves judge, Oscar don’t nothing get. That dam sure fix Oscar.
SIGNED: Herman Oberweiss"


But these requests are refused by the County Clerk,(1) and for a very good reason: there is no real Oberweiss Will, nor is there any Oberweiss family in Anderson County. Herman’s “will” was actually written by Houston attorney Will Sears, for a Iaw school banquet in September of 1931. The Oberweiss Will — and a remarkable humorous “title opinion” also written by Will Sears — were published during the 1930’s in a West Publishing Company publication, The Docket. Copies of the “will” were widely circulated; it became a “real” document, instead of a joke; and now most Texas lawyers know about the “will,” but not its origin or its author. In December of 1971, Will Sears added this postscript:
"To all of you who have enjoyed Herman’s abrasive testamentary wishes through the many years since his ‘will’ first appeared:

"Regretfully I advise that Herman, Oscar, Hilda and her gonoph husband, Mamma, little Frederich and Pastor Lucknitz never had a real existence as persons. I Wrote this ‘will’ for a Iaw school banquet entertainment in September 1931 and distributed several copies at the time. Within a few years, the ‘will’ appeared in many magazines and other publications. It still appears now and then. On several occasions, a friend of mine has produced a dog-eared copy for me to read, assuring me that it was ‘real.’ However, most of its readers seem to have been uncritically delighted with Herman’s tender feelings toward Oscar, without any regard to the ‘will’s’ authenticity Yet internal evidence of the spuriousness has always been present. Consider this evidence:

“Herman Oberweiss belonged to a congregation led by a ‘pastor.’ While several denominations use this term, Herman was obviously German and therefore would have probably been Lutheran or, possibly, Roman Catholic. But would a member of either denomination (or of several others who use the term ‘pastor’) have referred to his church as a meeting house? Neither Lutherans nor Roman Catholics have ‘elders’ at the congregational level. Presbyterians do, and, on occasion, a Presbyterian minister is addressed as ‘pastor.’ But ‘meeting house?’ The term is commonly associated with the Society of Friends, who have no ‘pastors.’ Even more to the point, however — Herman had a ‘pastor’; and therefore could hardly have been Jewish. Yet no one has ever, to my knowledge, wondered why Herman, a well-to-do farmer of German descent, living in an East Texas rural county would use Yiddish words of execration in speaking of Oscar and of Hilda’s husband!

“But enough of that. Herman’s testament still seems to produce as much laughter as it evoked from my long-time friend, Dick Burks, who read it (paragraph by paragraph) as I wrote it more than 38 years ago. Thus, Herman, whose ‘death’ preceded his earthly appearance, has attained a fractional immortality, and if Melancholy’s other name is Oscar, may Herman’s will be around for years to come. That dam sure fix Oscar.”

 


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