This is another post in the 52 Ancestors Challenge offered by Amy Johnson Crow at the No Story Too Small blog. I'm having a great time bringing our ancestors’ details into this series and reading the interesting family history of the other bloggers.
Amelia Weber, a 40-year-old mother of four living children, became the widow of a Civil War veteran in 1873. Yes, her husband survived the war but was struck down by a train eight years later on his way home from work in Indianapolis. The intriguing details of his death is a story, or two, for a future post. For today, I’m relating the family history created as this widow went through the pension application process.
In July of 1890 Amelia (Micol) Weber applied for a Civil War widow's pension based on her husband, Adam's, service in 1865. Prior to 1890 the laws did not afford her benefits since Adam had no disability resulting from the war. But as the pension laws went through a series of amendments, she became eligible. The law that affected Amelia was the Dependent and Disability Pension Act that was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison on June 27, 1890. There had been a tremendous growth in the sentiment supporting veterans benefits since the end of the Civil War. Other changes had been enacted previously; but this particular version signed by President Harrison allowed benefits to widows such as Amelia who were in dire need of support. This new pension law resulted in an enormous spike in federal expenditures. By 1894, 37% of the federal budget was allotted to pensions.
That brings us to Amelia’s quest. Along with her application, she was required to submit affidavits and documentation proving that she was married to Adam Weber as well as proof of his military service. She had to also provide witnesses who would say that she did not remarry
and that she was in need of support. In her pension application in 1890 she seems to have met all of those requirements.
But, poor Amelia was not successful with her first application because there was an error in reporting Adam's company within the 143rd Indiana Volunteers. (You can see on the record to the left that the application was filed under Co. A, 143rd Ind. Vols.) After she received word that no records could be found, she submitted other affidavits with the correct company, including more testimony from witnesses to his service. Adam’s service records were located in Company E, 143rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Amelia was approved for her widow’s pension on October 10, 1892.
Fortunately, over 130 years after Adam Weber’s service, I was able to request a copy of the service records and Amelia’s pension application from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). When the files arrived, I discovered a tremendous amount of family history. Little did Amelia know that her determination in pursuing her pension would help her curious great great granddaughter learn so much about our family history. I’m guessing she would be happy we know her now. So, in her memory, I’m offering to share any of these documents with other descendants. Here are a few examples of the interesting information I found:
Adam’s military service records: These records provide information on his enlistment at the age of 44, his promotion to Sergeant shortly after he was sworn in, his assigned duties, etc. There are many stories to develop on Adam’s military experience, but today is Amelia’s pension story. However, I am posting one page of the service record to illustrate the documents that were included in the NARA file. (You should be able to click to enlarge.)
Let’s keep exploring this historical find through a few of the documents that relate directly to Amelia’s application for the pension. Below is the affidavit presenting Amelia’s request. I am including the transcription first and then the actual document:
Stamped by the U. S. Pension Office, Oct 28, 1890
State of Indiana, County of Marion
Personally appeared Amelia Weber, No. 126 Greer St., Indianapolis, County of Marion, State of Indiana, who being duly sworn upon her oath declares as follows:
That she is the widow of Adam Weber, late a member of Co. A, 143rd Regt., Indiana Vols. And is claimant for a widow's pension(Act June 27, 1890)
That the evidence presented herewith as to her marriage to the soldier is the way best she can obtain or produce as she was married in Germany and cannot obtain a copy of the marriage certificate. Nor can she find any witnesses to the marriage.
She files the evidence of ? persons as to the time and place and manner of death of her late husband and asks that the same may be sufficient and as the best she can get, as her late husband was killed by the cars and there was no physician called.
She prays the evidence filed may be enough.
Signed: Amalie Weber
13 Oct 1890
Fitzgerald & Vagen, U. S. Claim Attorneys, Indianapolis, Indiana
Amelia secured affidavits from friends as a part of both the 1890 and 1892 applications. In this testimony the witnesses relate that they have known her for varying amounts of time, from 18 to 33 years, and that she has never at any time remarried. In the first application in 1890, three of her friends state that “Mrs. Weber is dependent upon her own labor for support, has no property and no income, save her own labor.” Below is an affidavit from 1892, by Henry Guetig, who states he has known Amelia Weber for some 30 years. In this document he says: “I know Mrs. Weber to be poor, has no property and has no income from any source outside of her own labor.” Identical to the wording in the other affidavits, Henry states that he knows Amelia’s situation through “long and intimate acquaintance and association.” Thankfully, she had good friends to help her out.
This brings me to one of the big bonuses that I found in the pension package. As a part of her application, Amelia produced a transcription of her marriage record to Adam on May 12, 1856, from the Catholic Church in Vilbel, Germany. The record was provided by the pastor of the church in indecipherable-to-me German script. What is even more fabulous is that this document was also translated for this file! This is another rich piece of history. In addition to the date and location it contains the names of the parents of the bride and groom and witnesses. Below is that record provided on March 23, 1892:
Amelia received approval and was issued her Pension Certificate #358088 on December 28, 1892. The record indicates that she was allotted $8.00 per month commencing July 9, 1890. So, she must have received retroactive payments for those two years while she was going through the application process. She was an enrollee for 21 years. Around 1896, probably after the death of her son, Theodore, Amelia went to live with her only surviving child, Henry Adam Weber, and his large family. I want to believe that life became a little easier with this pension and that she had good years living in the Weber home on South Alabama in Indianapolis. When she died in 1913 her son wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Pensions in Washington, D.C., informing them of her death and asking that there be any final payments sent. On the right is the last document in this segment of the family history. We can see a recounting of this piece of history on this one page, ending with the stamp: “Dropped, Oct 6, 1913”:
Believe it or not, this story could be much longer. There’s no doubt many more details I’ll be dissecting from these pages of Amelia and Adam’s records. Have any questions on your mind after reading about Amelia’s quest? Let me know and I’ll be glad to try to dig up the answers. Meanwhile, thanks for reading Indiana Ties.
You may also want to read this post: Adam and Amelia in 1870 Censuses
More information on the history of pension laws is at Wikipedia.
Essential Civil War Curriculum by Kathleen L. Gorman, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Note: The first hint of any Civil War service by Adam Weber came when browsing late one night on Ancestry.com. I found an index card in: U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934.
Copyright 2014 © Nancy Niehaus Hurley