The Man Who Went Bankrupt Without Filing Bankruptcy

April 1, 2008 7:08 am Published by

I came across a fascinating item the other day about a tourist attraction I’d never heard of. Even though I’ve been a bankruptcy lawyer in Indiana for almost twenty-five years, working with thousands of different situations, and I sometimes think I’ve heard it all and seen it all, this story bowled me over.

In Hiawatha, Kansas, inside the Mount Hope Cemetery, is a special memorial pavilion for a John and Sarah Davis.  John Davis, I learned, had this built over a period of twenty years in the 1930’s, starting when his wife Sarah died.  This is such an unusual memorial that each year tens of thousands of people come to Hiawatha to see what is called “The Weirdest Grave In The West”.  Now that I know about it, I’m determined to pay a visit there myself.

  The story is that Sarah Davis died in 1930, and her husband planned to build the most elaborate memorial anyone had ever seen.  He began contracting with sculptors and monument deals to erect statues of himself and Sarah at various stages in their life.  Today, there are eleven sets of statues inside a granite-roofed structure.

Here’s the part that’s so interesting to me.  John was told by his doctors that he had only six months to live.  He then proceeded to spend all his money on more statues, and even sold off his house, with the condition that he be allowed to live in it as long as he could.  The memorial pavilion ended up costing $200,000, which is the equivalent of a million dollars today!  The only problem was, John didn’t die after six months.  In fact, he lived for ten more years, dying penniless, literally living in what they used to call a poorhouse.  The elaborate monument to John’s married life, however, lives on.

Yes, I’ve heard and seen it all, but this has to be the most unusual “I could’ve filed bankruptcy” story I ever heard!

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This post was written by Mark Zuckerberg

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