1892: Pensions approved for Civil War widow Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull and children

Sepia Saturday 432: Seventh and last in this series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

After two long years, in 1892 my great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, 53, finally received her U.S. Civil War widow’s pension — which must have come as a great relief as she took a leap into an unknown future with her two youngest children.

Mary’s $12-a-month pension was retroactive to the 30 Jan. 1890 death of her husband — my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, Union veteran of the 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery who suffered Civil War-related illness and injury.

http://ageofuncertainty.blogspot.com/2010/11/last-month-i-posted-some-highlights.html
Woman in dark dress (circa 1870s). My widowed gg grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was likely relieved to finally receive survivor pension payments for herself and her dependent children. Image: ageofuncertainty

Her minor children, a daughter Alice and a son Waples, also received a dependent pension — but not before additional proofs assured the pension board that they indeed were Arthur and Mary’s children.

In the last post, I detailed an affidavit from their older sister Carrie A. (Bull) Graff testifying to their birth details. Two additional proofs were submitted: a statement from Mary and a copy of the Bull family bible, which was examined by a Justice of the Peace.

A mother’s statement

On 9 May 1892, Mary appeared before a Justice of the Peace in Salamanca Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. and swore that Alice and Waples were her and Arthur’s children:

I am the above named claimant and the widow of Arthur T. Bull. There was living at the time of the death of said Arthur T. Bull the following named children, the offspring of said marriage of said Arthur T. Bull and this claimant. The years, names and dates of birth of such children are as follows: Alice I. Bull, Residence Salamanca, Born Sept. 29, 1876. Waples H. Bull, [Residence Salamanca], [Born] April 12, 1789. Both of the above were under the age of 16 years at the time of the death of said soldier Arthur T. Bull which took place on the 30th day of Jany 1890. A certified copy of the Family Record is attached. [Signature of Affiants.] Mary E. Bull

The Bull family bible

The “certified copy of the Family Record” referred to in Mary’s General Affidavit above appears to be the Bull family Bible, in which family details were recorded.

An antique Bible. Records in a similar Bull family Bible were used to verify the birth dates of Arthur and Mary E. Bull’s minor children so they could receive pension payments.

For the final record in Mary’s file is a typewritten affidavit from Justice of the Peace T. H. Dowd indicating he had seen and verified the Bible record. (Handwritten portions are underlined below.)

This is to certify that I the undersigned a justice of the peace in the county of Cattaraugus County have this day examined the family record kept by Arthur T. Bull in his family Bible and I find the said Bible to have been published in the year 1873 and to contain the following entries: Alice I. Bull born September 29th 1876 and Waples H. Bull born April 12th 1879.

And I further certify that the said entries appear to have been made years ago and that form all appearances the writing appears to have been done at about the times and dates of the birth of said children mentioned above. I further certify that I am not interested in this claim and have no interest in its prosecution in any manner whatsoever. Dated May 10th 1892. T.H. Dowd Justice of the Peace Certificate on file at the Pension Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Widow’s and children’s pensions approved

With all evidence submitted and verified, on 13 Aug. 1892 — 126 years ago this week — Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was approved for her $12 monthly Civil War widow’s pension. Not an extravagant sum, but something to keep the household going.

The Buffalo Pension Board also approved the “Additional sum of $2 a month for the following children, until arriving at 16 years of age, commencing Jan. 20, 1890: Alice I. – 16 yrs. – Sept. 28, 1892 [and] Waples H. – 16 yrs. – April 11, 1895.” So that meant support for the children, too.

Thus ends the trail of documents in the Civil War pension file of Arthur T.  and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull — with a measure of recompense for the war’s impact on their family.

But this is not the end of their story. For Mary also had to deal with probate issues stemming from Arthur’s passing.

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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8 thoughts on “1892: Pensions approved for Civil War widow Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull and children”

  1. That’s a relief, but all the time spent waiting sure must have been difficult for the family. Losing their father/husband, and then not getting the pension for so long.

    1. Widows and orphans did indeed face challenging times in the 1800s. And what if the husband/father was not in the military? Makes you appreciate the struggle for U.S. Social Security coverage in the 1930s so that some form of retirement income was universal

  2. Mary must have struggled to support her family while she waited for the pension. Perhaps she took out a loan on her property? Pensions, probates, inheritances, dowries, etc. were such a common plot device in 19th century books that I suspect people of that era genuinely empathized with the difficulties of widows and orphans.

    1. Fiction is often a greater mirror of an era’s social norms than non-fiction, so these plot twists undoubtedly had their basis in lived experience. Interesting that you raise probate as settling Arthur Bull’s estate will be the focus of my next blog series.

  3. Well thank heaven she finally got it, but the poor dear sure had to jump through a lot of hoops to get there. Whew!!!

  4. I wondered why my great uncle’s widow received more for her pension as a widow than he did as a veteran and then I realized that it was because he only received half because they kept saying he was not totally disabled.

    1. That’s interesting. My ancestor started out with a partial disability pension…but it got expanded to full as he aged and became unable to work. Thankfully, as you point out, widows received their due either way.

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