It was around this time in 2011 that the waiting finally ended for the heirs of a tycoon who had set some very unusual conditions about what would happen to his fortune.

His name was Wellington R. Burt, aka “The Lone Pine of Michigan.”

The nickname is pretty telling.

The Lone Pine made a fortune in the lumber industry.

In the early 1900s, he was believed to be the eighth wealthiest man in the country.

But the nickname was Lone Pine for a reason.

He was, shall we say, not always well loved.

Even the Saginaw County Hall of Fame notes that while Burt was a leader in business and politics, he was also “an irascible, tough old curmudgeon.”

And he kept that reputation to the end of his life and beyond.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, Wellington Burt’s will included something that’s known as a “spite clause.”

He left small amounts of money to his direct descendants – some received about the same as Burt’s cook – but the bulk of the fortune stayed locked up.

Burt said it would be kept off-limits until 21 years after the passing of his last surviving grandchild.

That was tens of millions of dollars when he died in 1919, and over time the money grew even larger.

Burt’s descendants challenged the will.

While they were able to secure some of the money that had been tied to holdings in Minnesota, the bulk of the fortune was in Michigan.

That money stayed out of reach until May 2011, which was 21 years after the death of Burt’s last grandchild.

A local judge had been in charge of taking and vetting applications from people who believed they had a claim to a piece of the estate.

The judge determined that a dozen of those who applied would get the money.

And you might think that every one of those 12 people would be thrilled about the life-changing amount of money they were set to inherit.

But that wasn’t the case.

Some of the heirs said that whatever it was that prompted Wellington Burt to keep his family away from his money must’ve been painful for everyone involved.

So they weren’t too excited about their part in the story.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, not far from Wellington Burt’s hometown of Saginaw, it’s the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival.

Through June 11, the John Ball Zoo is hosting a series of elaborate Asian lantern displays that bring together wildlife and Asian culture.

Wellington’s millions: 92 years after his death, Saginaw lumber baron’s vindictive testament nears endgame (


Photo via Wikicommons