Heir of William Burton Payne fights for land

By Ruthann Carr

She just wants her family’s land.

Ruth Anderson Wilcox’s sister died in 2019. That sister did a lot of research into their Fluvanna ancestor William Burton Payne, a former slave of the Wills family.

Upon emancipation, Payne bought 100-plus acres of land north of Palmyra on Rt. 15.

That land became known as Paynetown, one of several free black communities that grew up in the late 1800s, said Tricia Johnson, director of the Fluvanna Historical Society

Over the years, Payne’s land was divided and subdivided among heirs.

Some still live on their parcel.

Wilcox said while she was changing the address on a piece of land owned by her recently deceased grandmother, Judy Anderson, to her own address, she found two other tracts: 19A-43 and 19A-45

“Something told me to click on some of the adjoining parcels,” Wilcox said. “One (19A-45) said it was owned by Burton Payne and heirs thereof. The other (19A-43) was owned by Callie Payne and Sylvia Martin.”

Wilcox said Callie (who died in 1968) is her great-grandmother and Sylvia (who died in 1996) is Callie’s granddaughter.

Wilcox said she contacted FluvannaTreasurer Linda Lenherr about the land. Lenherr referred Wilcox to Attorney Anthony Paone, who manages land sales for unpaid Fluvanna property taxes.

On Friday, (Aug. 6) Paone asked the court to add Wilcox as a named heir and party to the case.

Judge Richard Moore agreed to have Wilcox added.

Wilcox was not physically present but attended the hearing via phone.

Paone first filed the case regarding the parcel owned by Callie Payne for unpaid taxes on April 25, 2016, records show.

On June 24, 2019, the case was discontinued/purged by the courts due to lack of activity.

Wilcox said about one year later (June 2020) is when she reached out Lenherr and Paone to identify herself as an heir and asking about the land.

On June 24, 2020, Paone made a motion to reopen the case.

Wilcox said Paone sent information about the unpaid taxes to an address for Callie Payne and Sylvia Martin – 15154 James Madison Highway – that Wilcox said she told Paone no one lived.

Online court records show two pieces of returned mail on July 14, 2020.

Wilcox said she called Lenherr at least 20 times and produced several emails she sent Lenherr over the past year trying to find out more about the case and trying to resolve it.

During her research, Wilcox said she found a 2006 Code of Virginia § 58.1-3341 – Liens for taxes delinquent 20 years or more released; lands purchased by the Commonwealth; pending suits.

She said because of that statute, the taxes which are more than 20 years past due, should be forgiven.

After the hearing Friday, Paone, who wouldn’t talk about the Payne case directly, outlined the procedure for identifying action on land to sell for unpaid taxes.

He said Lenherr sends him a list of properties with over two years of unpaid taxes.

“There is only so much time to spend on these, so we look for ones that may be really overboard,” he said.

The 8-acre, 19A-43 parcel shows $12,938 due, Wilcox said.

Some land may be too hard to sell because of where it is or the topography or other factors, Paone said. Lawyers are required to do their “due diligence” in trying to collect taxes and find heirs, he said, which entails sending notices. Depending on where they are in the process, they may take out an ad in a local paper calling for heirs, he said.

It’s uncertain if ads were run for the Payne property.

During the hearing, when Wilcox brought up the statute about taxes 20 years overdue being forgiven,, Judge Moore told her after her name is added to the case, she and any other heirs to the property can decide if they want to hire a lawyer to argue the case.

“You’re not obliged to hire a lawyer,” Moore said.

The judge said now that Wilcox is part of the case, she will be served and will have to file a written response. Both sides can also ask for discovery – findings pertinent to the case.

The case will be set for further hearings.

Now that the case is in court, any attorney fees will be added to the back taxes.

The bottom line, Paone said, is “If Linda (Lenherr) doesn’t collect back taxes, she’s not doing her job.”

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138