Notes from the past…

What does a Civil War Union Pension File contain?

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In response to a comment from Val of One Point In Time, “…I’m quite surprised to find that a pension file would contain so much information…”, this is what Isaac Turner’s file contained:

  1. Sworn statements attesting to the character of Sarah S Turner, W R Robinson, Edward Carroll and Mrs Mary A Carroll, followed by handwritten statements from the above people in support of Sarah S Turner’s petition for her late husband’s military pension.
  2. Numerous documents from the United States Department of the Interior- Bureau of Pensions dealing with this petition
  3. 2 property value assessments from the Office of Assessor of Taxes- Hill County, Texas from 1892
  4. Handwritten request from son-in-law James A Matthews to expedite the process
  5. Widow’s Pension Claim Form showing her 3 minor children’s full names and dates of birth
  6. A contract between Sarah S Turner and a law office in Washington, DC to represent her before the Bureau of Pensions
  7. Declaration of Widow’s Pension form, filled out by Sarah S Turner, showing Isaac Turner’s military info, including when, where and what unit he enlisted in, when he was discharged, the date and location of his marriage and statements that neither he nor Sarah had been married before, and the 3 minor childrens’ full names and dates of birth
  8. Rites of Matrimony letter from the clerk of the County Court of Cannon County, TN

All of the documents from the United States Department of the Interior- Bureau of Pensions are on printed forms with the “blanks” filled in by hand. All other documents in this file are entirely hand-written by those involved. Most of the hand-written documents contain descriptions of Sarah’s financial condition, comments about all of her surviving children (and 2 grandchildren) being reared in her home, the death of Isaac Turner, including his financial condition at the time of his death, and an inventory of real and personal property (farm animals, too!) both before and after his death.

This is an amazing “through the looking glass” view of life in rural Texas at the beginning of the 20th century. I don’t know of any one source that could possibly contain this much detailed information about a man who died 120 years ago!

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