Excerpt from: The Community Press and Recorder (click for full article)
The Civil War was still nine years away when Hamilton County’s oldest continuing court case was filed in 1852 on behalf of a blind Cincinnati banker looking to commemorate his wife and his beliefs.
Now, 160 years later, the Probate Court case involving the estate of Ethan Stone is likely coming to a close.
And with the case’s end comes a surprising revelation: Some Cincinnati residents, it turns out, don’t own their own land.
“My guess is it’s the oldest case in the state of Ohio, possibly in the country, where paperwork has been continuously filed,” Hamilton County Probate Court Judge Jim Cissell said. The case “goes right back to the beginning of the Probate Court itself.”
The case is loaded with local history, including connections to two U.S. presidents, the creation of what became the University of Cincinnati and the establishment of 16 parcels of land where today’s residents, who think they own the land on which their homes sit, could be in for a surprise.
“The practical effect is ... current occupants of the properties who think they got ownership, didn’t,” said Steve Black, an attorney for Fifth Third Bank, a trustee of Stone’s estate.
Ohio Supreme Court officials said there was no way to determine if Stone’s case is the oldest active court case in Ohio.
In a clash of ancient and modern, Cissell has placed the case online where a trip through history is just a click away.
Marguerite “Maggie” Brunner doesn’t have to go online to see that history. She lived part of it.
Brunner, 79, bought her Lower Price Hill house in 1956 and paid monthly ground rent of $1.50 that went to Stone’s trust.
“They told us when we bought the house that somebody else owned the land,” Brunner said.
She and her husband, Louis, bought the two-family house at 2454 Galvin Ave. for $5,000. They refurbished it into a single-family home where they raised seven children and received visits from some of their 26 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren.
She sold the house in 2007 and moved next door. The house was torn down earlier this summer.
“We only paid them (ground rent) for a few years, and then we quit because they told us we didn’t have to any more,” Brunner said.
Attorneys representing Stone’s trust aren’t looking to collect unpaid rent. They’re seeking to have the trust dissolved – its assets are about $100 plus the 16 parcels of land that generate no income – and the court case ended.
The goal, Black said, is to give the homeowners the ground on which their homes sit. The 16 parcels are on River Road in Sedamsville, Galvin Avenue in Lower Price Hill and Elberon Avenue in East Price Hill.