Just Letting the Government Know about that “Pension:” Part V

As we delve further into his pension file, there are some other irregularities with Thomas Graves.

Thomas Graves responded to the 15 January 1898 circular from the Bureau of Pensions asking for information on his family. This circular is one of the best documents in a Union Civil War pension file–assuming the veteran was receiving a pension in January of 1898. Thomas gave the following information in his response dated 9 February:

  • He was married to “[full name] Sarah E. [maiden name] Sarah E. Newman
  • He and Sarah were married “Feb. 8th 1884. Marshall Saline Co. Mo. Rev. Wolf.”
  • There was a record of the marriage at Marshall, Saline County, Missouri he “presume[d].”
  • He was previously married to “Missouri Emaline. Died in 1879 in Shelby Co.”
  • His living children were “Charles born March 12-1886. Eugene E. born February 25-1892. “
  • He was not in the military other than his service in Company B, 44, Missouri Volunteer Infantry.

One starts with the assumption that Thomas is telling the truth and transcribing the information exactly as it is written (our summary above is an extraction, not a transcription). It is possible that there are lies of omission, lies involving incorrect facts, and details that Thomas simply got confused on. The two children listed for Thomas are under 16 as of the date of Thomas’ statement. Their age may be relevant in regards to the children he chose to list, but it is noted that the question does ask about “any children living.” The information given in his statement should be used as a clue to further research–particularly the information on his previous wives.

Sarah E. may have had a different last name other than Newman when she married Thomas since it asks for her maiden name—not her name at her marriage to Thomas. This record may be the earliest document that gives the dates of birth for Charles and Eugene Graves. Any reference to these dates (or any other information in Thomas’ statement) should reference it as the source. In a 1914 letter detailing to the Pension Department why Sarah E. Graves should not receive a pension based upon Thomas’ service, C. M. Stewart indicated that Thomas Graves was married in December of 1884 in Randolph County, Missouri. One would think that Thomas would know when he got married. But given that there were some apparent irregularities in his marriage to Sarah E. (based on the fact she never even applied for a pension in his name and Thomas’ relatives contacted the Pension Department in an attempt to prevent her from receiving a pension), it’s possible that Thomas gave incorrect or incomplete information in this 1898 statement. That’s not something that we may necessarily think about if we only analyze this document without knowing any other information. That’s why (where possible) it is to our advantage to analyze everything completely and in context. That’s also why it is good to never assume any document is completely correct.

Thomas’s statement makes no mention of a wife named Rosie Dix–also mentioned in the 1914 letter from C. M. Stewart. Missouri Emaline is difficult to see as being a misinterpretation of Rosie Dix. The names are different. Again at this point, it possible that there are sections of Thomas’ statement that are incomplete.

Thomas’ statement does not mention the two women appear to be his daughters and are mentioned in the December 1914 letter from C. M. Stewart to the Pension Department–Mary Caroline Pyle and Josie Belle Stewart. Whether their omission is because of their age or for other reasons is not known.

What we do not know is how reliable Thomas’ memory was at the time this document was created. We do not know if he provided the details from memory, a family bible, or other written records.

Stay tuned–this wasn’t the only circular Thomas received requesting information on his wives and children.


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