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Broken Promises, Shattered Dreams

When Sam Connor signed for the registered letter, he wondered who could be writing to him from Indiana. He had lived his entire life in Los Angeles, as had his parents and his grandparents. The return address on the envelope was for Harris, Daniels and Jones, Attorneys in Law. After he closed the door, Sam sat down and opened the letter. After quickly skimming through the letter, Sam realized that he had inherited quite a bit of land in a town called Baldwin, in Indiana. He reread the letter, but the second time more slowly.

The letter stated that a man named John Baldwin died in 1984, at the age of ninety-nine. He never married, so in his will, he left is entire estate to his youngest blood relative who was alive in the year 2015. Sam learned that John’s younger sister was Sam’s great-grandmother. She had only one son, who had only one son, which was Sam’s father.

Sam’s grandfather died ten years earlier, and Sam’s father had a heart attack and died in 2014. That meant that Sam was not only the youngest blood relative, but the only blood relative of John Baldwin.

Sam had been unemployed for six months when he received the letter. He was three months past due on his rent and he was about to be evicted. He decided that he had nothing to keep him in California that he might as well head to Indiana. He loaded up his few personal possessions in his car and headed for Baldwin.

Since he had very little money, hotels were out of the question, so Sam slept in his car in parking lots, when he got tired. Three days later, he arrived in Baldwin, Indiana.

Sam planned to look at the property that he had inherited and then sell it as soon as possible for whatever he could get for it. As he drove down the main street of Baldwin, it reinforced his plans to sell. He was used to living in Los Angeles, where life was fast paced and exciting. In Baldwin, there was very little traffic. I seemed like the town was just waking up, and it was almost nine o’clock I the morning.

Sam parked his car in front of a restaurant, and as he was getting out of his car, he saw a young woman exiting the diner. He approached her and asked for directions to the law offices of Harris, Daniels and Jones. The woman was a little abrupt as she quickly gave him the directions, while holding her hand in front of her mouth and nose. After he headed to his car, Sam realized why she was in such a hurry to get away from him. He caught his reflection in a store window. He looked like a homeless person. He had a week’s worth of facial hair, and he had been wearing the same clothes for four days. When the wind shifted, he realized that he smelled really bad. He decided to find a cheap hotel so that he could get cleaned up before meeting with the lawyer. He was down to his last one hundred dollars and he found a hotel room for under forty dollars.

After a shower, shave and a change of clothes, Sam headed to the law office. When he arrived, he was taken into the office of Bryan Harris. After Sam presented his driver’s license and other documentation, Mr. Harris was satisfied that Sam was indeed the last remaining heir of John Baldwin.

Mr. Harris informed Sam that his inheritance included two thousand acres of farmland, a two hundred year old farmhouse, several barns and storage buildings and a trust fund containing fifty thousand dollars. Mr. Harris informed Sam that in accordance with the will of his great-great-grandfather, the law office had been leasing out several acres of the farmland to pay the taxes on the property, as well as the upkeep on the farmhouse. According to the details of the will, once an heir had accepted the inheritance, the tenant farmers had one year to vacate the land, unless the new owner chose to renew the leases.

After Sam had signed all of the legal papers, he accompanied Mr. Harris to the courthouse where the papers were filed, and the deed to the house and the land was transferred to Sam’s name. Mr. Harris told Sam that his trust was in an account at the First National Bank of Baldwin, and he suggested that Sam have the trust transferred into a checking account until he decided what to do with his inheritance.

Mr. Harris told Sam that he would take him out to his farmhouse in the morning, and suggested that he relax for the rest of the day and enjoy the hospitality of the town. Before they parted company, Mr. Harris and Sam went to the bank, where Mr. Harris provided the appropriate paperwork to the bank manager, to have the trust fund transferred into a checking account in Sam’s name. Sam withdrew five hundred dollars to pay for his immediate expenses while he was in town. Sam also asked the bank manager and Mr. Harris to keep his identity confidential until he decided what to do with the house and land. Both men agreed to Sam’s request.

The first place that Sam went, once he left the bank, was to a local diner to get some lunch. Then, he went to the town library to research the farm that he had inherited as well as his great-great-uncle, John Baldwin. The first person that Sam encountered when he entered the library, was the librarian; Sarah Jeffries, whom he had met earlier that morning. This time, however, Sarah gave Sam a long look. “You clean up nicely,” she said with a big smile.

“Thank you,” said Sam. “I apologize for the way I looked and smelled this morning. I had been driving for three days without showering.”

“Is there anything I can help you find?” asked Sarah.

“Is there a computer that I could use to do some research?” asked Sam.

“Sorry,” said Sarah. “We only have one computer, and it is very slow. I’ve been begging the city council for more computers for over two years, but they claim that they don’t have the funding. Is there anything in particular that you are looking for? Maybe I can help.”

“I’m interested in the history of the city of Baldwin, as well as John Baldwin,” said Sam.

“We have several books on local history,” said Sarah.

Over the next few hours, Sam learned quite a bit about his heritage. The Baldwin family that he descended from came to America in the 1600’s from England. His ancestor, Colonel Samuel John Baldwin, the great-great-grandfather of John Baldwin founded the town of Baldwin in 1816. Over the next two years, he built a farmhouse, with improvements made over the next several years. The house and the land remained in the Baldwin family. In 1984, When John Baldwin died, the estate went into a trust, which ended once Sam became the new owner of the property.

Sam became so absorbed in his research that he didn’t notice Sarah standing next to him, waiting for him to leave so that she could close up the library for the day. When she finally got his attention, Sam apologized and began to close up the books.

“Why are you so interested in our town?” asked Sarah.

“I inherited some land here, and I came to check it out,” said Sam. “I’m sorry, I never introduced myself. I’m Sam Connor. MY great-great-uncle left his farm to me in his will, because I am his last surviving relative.”

“Was his name John Baldwin?” asked Sarah.

“Yes,” said Sam. “Did you know him?”

“How old do you think I am?” asked Sarah. “He died seven years before I was born.”

“That’s not what I meant to say,” said Sam, somewhat embarrassed. “I meant, do you know anything about him?”

“Yes,” said Sarah. “My parents, grandparents and my great-grandmother knew him and I’ve heard many stories over the years. The entire town has been wondering who had inherited his hand. It’s been thirty years since he died. I am very pleased to meet you, Sam. How does it feel to be in a town that your ancestor founded two centuries ago?”

“Pretty cool, actually,” said Sam. He smiled at Sarah. He was attracted to her and found it easy to talk to her. “Do you think that you could show me the town sometime?”

“I’d love to,” said Sarah.

“If you don’t have any plans for tonight, would you like to join me for dinner?” asked Sam, “Unless you have a husband or a boyfriend. I don’t want to make anybody jealous.”

“I am currently single, and do not have a boyfriend,” said Sarah, blushing. “I would love to have dinner with you. How about the diner, where we first met this morning?”

Sam followed Sarah in his car. After they ordered their meal, they had a long conversation. Sam learned that Sarah had lived in Baldwin her entire life with the exception of the four years that she left to attend college. Once she graduated, she returned to Baldwin and was hired as the town’s new librarian, since the previous one had recently retired.

Sam didn’t talk much about his family, because he wanted to keep that part of his life private for the time being. He old Sarah that he had been bouncing around from job to job for a while, and was almost broke before he inherited the land in Indiana and the money. He told Sarah that he had been thinking of selling the land and leaving town, but that he might just stick around for a while, if it meant that he could spend more time with her.

Sarah suggested that he keep quiet about inheriting the land, at least for a little while.

“Why?” asked Sam. “What’s the big deal?”

“Do you have any idea what that land is worth?” asked Sarah.

“Well, I was hoping to get a few hundred thousand dollars for it,” said Sam, “why?”

“Farmland is worth between five to ten thousand dollars per acre, maybe more,” said Sara, and that farmland is some of the best in the state. It’s worth at least ten million dollars.”

Sam and Sarah both agreed that it was in his best interest to keep his identity a secret.

The next morning, Sam met with Mr. Harris, and asked him to handle his estate finances and legal matters. Sam and Sarah had developed a plan on how to proceed with his inheritance. Sam knew that he couldn’t farm all two thousand acres by himself, at least not yet, since he had no experience in farming. He planned to apply for work with the farms who leased land from his estate. That would serve two purposes. First, he would gain knowledge and experience about farming, and second, he could personally learn if the farmers were honest and respectable farmers, and whether they deserved to have their leases renewed when the time came.

Sam also wanted to start remodeling the farmhouse without arousing suspicion. So, he discussed it with Mr. Harris, and they agreed on a cover story. The new owner wanted Mr. Harris to hire someone to do repairs on the house before he took possession of the house within the next year.

When Sam applied for work at the first farm on his list, he told the owners that he hoped to have his own farm one day, and he wanted to learn the ropes from the ground up, including all aspects of running a farm. He told them that he was a hard worker and would not let them down.

Sam had worked hard all his life, and it showed. At the age of thirty, he stood six foot four and weighed two hundred twenty-five pounds, most of which was muscle. Sam was hired to work on the farm, and he worked hard from sunup to sundown. He was surprised to see how much he really enjoyed the work. He did more than his fair share and he kept his ears open. He listened to all of the conversations around him. He learned a lot about the farmers and how they felt about leasing land from an unknown landlord.

In the evenings, and on Sunday, Sam worked in the farmhouse, remodeling it and bringing it up to code. The house had been in his family for almost two hundred years and that meant something to him. He planned to take good care of it. He didn’t do the work alone, as Sarah was usually by his side helping him and keeping him company. She would bring picnic dinners for the two of them to eat while they worked on the house and the other buildings on the property.

Besides the farmhouse, Sam had also inherited all of the furniture and contents of the buildings. In one room of the house, there were several shelves filled with books. There were well over one thousand books. Sam realized that his great-great-uncle had been well educated and had good taste in what he read. Sam recognized several of the classics among the vast collection, and a lot of them were leather-bound and in very good condition. Sam planned to start reading them when he had more time for pleasure.

Every few months, Sam would give his notice at one farm, and then move onto another of his tenant farms. As the weeks passed, Sam became very fond of farming the land. He enjoyed helping things grow, and working with his hands. He was also falling in love with the town of Baldwin, but more importantly, he was falling in love with Sarah.

One evening, when Sam was working on the farmhouse, Sarah called and told him that she would not be over that evening, because her mother was sick and she was taking care of her. Sam was disappointed, but decided to make the best of it. After eating a light dinner, he went into the den and took a book off of the shelves. As he did so, something fell out of it. Sam reached down and picked up a one hundred dollar bill from the floor. He placed the book on a table and began to leaf through the pages. He found more paper currency hidden between the pages of the book. Most of it was in mint condition and the dates on the bills went back to the early 1900’s. The denominations ranged from ones all the way up to hundreds.

Sam got very excited. He went back to the book shelves, and took a few of the older books from the shelves, dating back to the 1800’s. As he carefully opened them, he found more currency, but this time, it was older, dating to the 1800’s. Over the next several hours, he checked nearly all of the books and found money in each of them. Most of the money was in mint condition and ranged from the 1840’s through the early 1980’s. He guessed that the Baldwin family had very little faith in banks and kept their money in their extensive library. Sam used his laptop and began researching the value of the old currency. He learned that the collector value of the money was worth much more than the face value. The currency included silver and gold certificates and other rare currency. The currency was worth tens of millions of dollars. He thought about emptying all of the books of their hidden money, and putting it in a safety deposit box, but then decided that the money had been hidden for so long, that it must be a good hiding place.

Sam carefully placed all of the books back on the shelves, with the money in place. Since he was running low on funds for his remodeling expenses, he kept several of the older bolls, in assorted denominations and placed them in an envelope. Since he had the next day off, he decided to drive to Chicago to have the money appraised. He had guessed correctly, and sold those several bills for fifteen thousand dollars. As much as Sam wanted to tell Sarah about his discovery, he decided to wait for a while.

By late October, All of the farmers who leased land from Sam’s estate had finished harvesting their crops. Sam had spent time working with each of them, and knew which ones were honest and trustworthy and which ones had been cheating the Baldwin estate and had been badmouthing the Baldwin family. Sam directed Mr. Harris to send letters to all the tenants on his land. Some were informed that their leases would not be renewed, and others were offered a ten year lease if they wished to continue farming the land.

By November, Sam and Sarah were deeply in love, and Sarah invited Sam to have Thanksgiving dinner with her family. Sam was anxious to meet them and graciously accepted the offer. Two days before Thanksgiving, Sam proposed to Sarah and gave her an exquisite engagement ring. Sarah was speechless and began to cry. Through her tears, she accepted his proposal and told him that she had never been so happy, or so much in love.

On the way to meet Sarah’s parents and the rest of her family for Thanksgiving dinner, Sam and Sarah agreed not to tell her family that Sam was the one who had inherited the Baldwin estate. They wanted her family to accept him for who he was, and not for what he owned.

Throughout dinner, Sarah kept her engagement ring in her purse. Once dinner was over, with Sam by her side, Sarah told her family that she and Sam were engaged. The room suddenly became very quiet. Nobody said anything. After a moment, Sarah’s father told her that she was crazy and that there was no way that he would allow her to marry a common farmhand. The tension continued to grow and Sarah began crying when her father told her that she would be cut off from the family and she knew that they meant it. Sarah’s family was one of Baldwin’s most prominent families, and the family had a lot of money and influence in the town.

Sam had heard and seen enough. He told Sarah’s parents that they should be ashamed of themselves for treating their daughter like that and that they didn’t deserve a daughter as special as Sarah. Then, after they retrieved their coats, Sarah and Sam left.

On the way back to the farmhouse, Sarah began to cry and Sam tried to calm her down. When she finally stopped crying, Sarah apologized to Sam for the things that her family said about him. Sam told her that she had nothing to apologize for. “Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick the family that we are born into,” said Sam and some families really suck. I should know, because I would have traded my family in a heartbeat if I could have.”

Sarah had always been curious about Sam’s family, but he never wanted to talk about them. Now, she asked him to tell her about them. “My mother left my father and me when I was ten years old,” said Sam. “One day, she went to the store and never returned. Later, I found a note on her dresser, addressed to my father, saying that she couldn’t ‘do this anymore’, and that she had to get away.”

Sarah put her hand on Sam’s shoulder as he continued. “My dad couldn’t deal with the situation and he began drinking,” said Sam. “When he was sober, he was okay, but when he drank, he became a mean drunk. He beat me a lot and as soon as I finished high school, I joined the Army, to get away from him. I never saw him again. After six years in the Army, and three tours in Afghanistan, I got out and began drifting from city to city and job to job. Two years ago, I decided to try and patch things up with my old man before it was too late. I returned home to find out that he had died a month earlier. He had suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Sarah. “Did you ever hear from your mother again?”

“After my dad died,” said Sam, “I hired a private investigator to track her down. Two months later, I received a complete report which included her home and work addresses. I drove to her home in Beverly Hills, and saw her sitting on the front porch with a man and three teenage children. I didn’t want to embarrass her in front of her new family, so I just kept driving past the house. The day, I went to the art gallery where she worked. When I told her who I was, she took me into a private room and told me that she finally had the life she had always dreamed of, and that I had better not screw it up for her. When she looked at me, her eyes were full of hate and contempt for me. She took out a checkbook, and asked me how much it would cost so that she would never see or hear from me again.”

“Oh my God,” said Sarah. “What did you say?”

“I told her to go to Hell and I walked out of the room,” said Sam. “Deep down, I had always hoped that my mother had regretted her decision to leave us, and that she still loved me, but after that meeting, I had to face the cold hard truth, that she was a cold-hearted woman when it came to me, and I realized at that moment, that physically and emotionally, I no longer had any parents. A few months later, I received the letter from Mr. Harris and that letter has changed my life more than I ever thought possible. I love you Sarah. You are my family now, and I will wait as long as I have to until you are ready to marry me.”

By that time, they had arrived at the farm. Once Sam turned off the ignition, Sarah took him in her arms and they held each other for a long time, neither of them saying anything. When they finally went into the house, Sam told Sarah about the money hidden in the books. Sam suggested that maybe if they told her parents about the money, that they would accept him into the family, but Sarah told Sam that if her parents could not except him for who he was on the inside, then they were both better off without her family.

Sarah’s cell phone rang and she was relieved to see that the call was from her great-grandmother, the only member of her family who had seemed pleased that Sam and Sarah were in love. She asked Sarah if they could both meet her the next day for lunch at her home. She said that she needed to tell them something.

The next morning, Sam and Sarah went to see Margaret Jeffries, Sarah’s great-grandmother, or Nana, as Sarah called her. Sam was quite impressed that the woman lived by herself and how spry she was considering she was ninety-eight years old.

After Margaret poured coffee for everyone, she began to speak her mind. “There’s something that you both need to hear,” she told Sarah and Sam. “When my mother was on her death bed, we had a long heart to heart talk. I asked her if she had any regrets, in the one hundred years that she had lived. She became very quiet and then she told me her only regret.”

“What was it?” asked Sarah.

“When my mother was nineteen years old, she fell in love with a man ten years older than her. He was a sculptor, and a stone cutter as well as a farmer. The mayor and the city council knew how good his sculptures were and they asked him if he would carve a statue, to place in the town square for the Centennial celebration of Baldwin. They wanted him to carve a statue of Colonel Samuel Baldwin, the founder of the town. The man thought it over, and agreed to do it under one condition. He wanted the city council to build a public library and fill it with new books so that everyone would have access to them to help with their education. The council agreed to his conditions, and they all shook hands. There was no written contract, because in those days, a handshake and promise was enough.”

“Did he carve the statue?” asked Sarah.

“Yes, he did,” replied Margaret. “He worked on it every night inside his barn, insisting that no one see it until it was finished. One week before the Centennial celebration, John went to inspect the new library in town. It was the first time he had been in town for several weeks, because he had been busy carving the statue. He was very upset by what he saw. Instead of building a library, the city council put some shelves in an old dilapidated store. Instead of new books, there a few hundred old worn-out books that were falling apart. John became so angry, that he returned to his barn, took a sledge hammer and destroyed the marble statue that he had spent months working on. He loaded the rubble onto a wagon and drove it into town. He drove the wagon to the city hall and told the mayor that since the city council had broken their promise, that he had destroyed the statue. Since John had purchased the blocks of marble with his own money, there was nothing that the town could do to him. However, since the Mayor was my grandfather, he forbid his daughter; my mother from marrying that man. My mother honored her father’s wishes and broke off her relationship. One year later, she married my father, your great-great-grandfather.”

“Did John ever find true love again?” asked Sarah.

“No he didn’t,” said Margaret. “He was heartbroken and he remained single and lonely for the rest of his life. That was the one decision that my mother regretted; not following her heart. I’m telling you this, because I see how much the two of you love each other. Please don’t let your father’s words keep you apart. Don’t do anything that you will one day regret.”

“We won’t,” said Sarah. “We’re still going to get married and nobody is going to stop us. Nana, who was that man? Who was John?”

“His full name was John Samuel Baldwin,” said Margaret. He was a direct descendent of the town’s founder.”

“Nana,” said Sarah. “Sam is the great-great-nephew of John Baldwin, and also a direct descendent of Colonel Baldwin. He is the person who inherited the Baldwin estate.”

Margaret agreed to keep their secret, until after the wedding. Sam and Sarah wanted to get married as soon as possible, so Margaret contacted the pastor of her church and he agreed to perform the ceremony the following Saturday.

The wedding was a very small ceremony. The only people present besides Sam, Sarah, Margaret and the pastor were two members of the congregation who were present as witnesses. After the ceremony, Sam and Sarah Connor drove to their farm, where Sam carried Sarah over the threshold.

Through the winter months, Sam and Sarah worked side by side remodeling the farmhouse, when Sarah wasn’t working at the library. When Sarah’s parents found out that she had married Sam against their wishes, they refused to have anything more to do with either of them. It didn’t matter to Sarah or Sam, as their love for each other continued to grow deeper every day, and their love was all they needed.

In January of 2016, while remodeling the second floor of the farmhouse, Sam and Sarah discovered a hidden room that had been sealed off and plastered over. Sam broke through the wall and he and Sarah found boxes full of Baldwin family antiques, as well as Baldwin family documents, letters, photos. There were also hundreds of documents concerning the city of Baldwin. There were old photos of the city of Baldwin throughout the years, and photos of the Baldwin family from the early 1830’s through the 1970’s, which was when Sam figured the room had been sealed off.

Sam discovered a few boxes filled with journals written by the Baldwin family from the mid 1700’s through 1975. Sam began reading them, a little each night. He was fascinated by the history of his family. It was in early March, when he began reading some very interesting entries. By that time, the journal entries were being written by John Baldwin. It was 1915, and John wrote about being asked to carve the statue, and about the promises that were made. But, as John read further, he found something that surprised him. John wrote that he had two huge blocks of marble delivered to his barn. When he finished carving a statue from the first block, he wasn’t satisfied, so he broke it up with a sledge hammer into small pieces. His second attempt was much better and John was very proud of his work. The statue was twelve feet tall and it looked just like a photo of Colonel Samuel Baldwin, which had been taken back in the 1830’s.

After being double-crossed by the mayor and the city council, John buried the completed statue in his barn, and hauled a wagon full of rubble from the first statue into town. Originally, John planned to tell the mayor that there was another statue, once the mayor apologized for cheating the town. But when the Mayor forbid his daughter from marrying John, he vowed to never tell anyone about the other statue. Sam figured that was the reason for sealing up the room in 1975, so that the statue would remain buried forever.

As soon as the ground thawed, John began digging in the barn, looking for the statue. Once he hit something hard, he carefully began digging around the statue, so that he wouldn’t damage it. When it was completely uncovered, Sam was amazed at the detail in the statue. It was perfectly preserved and in one piece even after being buried for a century.

That night, when Sarah returned home from work at the library, Sam showed her the statue and they discussed what to do with it. Sam finally came up with a plan that would restore honor to the town as well as to his great-great-uncle.

Sam arranged to meet with the current mayor of Baldwin. The next day, Sam and Sarah sat across from Mayor Mike Taylor, in his office. Sam announced his discovery. He told the mayor that he would donate the statue to the town to be permanently displayed in the town square, if the mayor and the city council agreed to honor the original agreement made a century earlier, with his great-great-uncle. Since the library had enough books, he Sam suggested that the city donate twenty brand new computers to the library.

The Mayor agreed to the deal, and offered to put it in writing, but Sam told him; “In John Baldwin’s day, a handshake and a man’s word were good enough and he stuck out his hand towards the mayor. Mayor Taylor shook Sam’s and said, “You have my word.”

One month later, after the computers were installed in the library, the statue was unveiled in the town square, on Founder’s Day. Sam was asked to say a few words. After he dedicated the statue of his ancestor, he announced that with his new family fortune, he and his wife planned to build a brand new state of the art library in memory of John Samuel Baldwin. Sam and Sarah had sold the currency from the books to collectors and it brought in almost fifty million dollars.

One year later, the John Baldwin Library was dedicated. There was one room dedicated to the history of the city of Baldwin as well as the Baldwin family. On that same day, Sarah surprised Sam with the news that she was pregnant with their first child.

As their family grew, so did their charity towards others. Sarah remained head librarian in town, while Sam managed the farm. Besides raising vegetables and growing fruit in their orchard, they also raised chickens, pigs, cows and horses. Sam and Sarah donated all surplus crops to food pantries in the county to help feed the less fortunate.

Though Sarah did eventually reconcile with her parents, their relationship was never the same as it once was.

When Sam first arrived in Baldwin, he planned to make a quick sale of his inheritance, and leave town as soon as possible and never look back. But, as it turned out, he would end up living in Baldwin for the rest of his life as would his wife Sarah, and most of his six children and several grandchildren. Sam and Sarah finally had the loving family that they had always dreamed of.

The End

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