Joseph Wilkerson (James HC Rodgers' Grandfather)
..+Elizabeth Blazebrook Fowler
......... Elizabeth Wilkerson (James HC's mother)
.............+Robert Wooding Rodgers
....................James HC Rodgers
.......................+Mary Ann Moore (James HC's first wife)
...............................William Henry Rodgers (He married his Aunt Sally Ann Ray's daughter; his first cousin.)
...................................+Miranda Ellen Ray
...............................................+Beulah Anna Barr
......................................................Harley Harold Rodgers
..........................................................+ Emily Marguerite Jesse
.................................................................Raymond Harold Rodgers
.....................................................................+ Roberta Joyce Steiner
............................................................................Vicki Rae Rodgers
............................................................................Paula Jean Rodgers
............................................................................Terri Lynn Rodgers
............................................................................Bruce Allen Rodgers
...............................Nancy Jane Rodgers
...............................Robert W. Rodgers
...............................Sally Ann Rodgers (James HC's daughter; named after his sister)
........................+Harriet Jane Camlin Ridge Harlan (James HC's second wife)
...............................Demira W. Rodgers
...............................John Ray Rodgers
...............................Louisa Elizabeth Rodgers (Lizzie)
....................Sallie Ann Rodgers (Older Sister of James HC Rodgers)
........................+John Kestler Ray
...............................Miranda Ellen Ray (Grammie married her Uncle James HC Rodgers' son; her first cousin.)
...................................+ William Henry Rodgers
...............................................+ Beulah Anna Barr
......................................................Harley Harold Rodgers
..........................................................+Emily Marguerite Jesse
.................................................................Raymond Harold Rodgers
.....................................................................+Roberta Joyce Steiner
............................................................................Vicki Rae Rodgers
............................................................................Paula Jean Rodgers
............................................................................Terri Lynn Rodgers
....................Wilkerson H Rodgers (Older Brother of James HC Rodgers)
James HC was born on November the 9th, 1828 near the town of Scipio (pronounced 'sip e oh') in Jennings County, Indiana. James HC's parents, Robert Wooding Rodgers and Elizabeth Wilkerson Rodgers were married on April 8th, 1818 in Clark County, Kentucky, after Robert Wooding Rodgers paid Elizabeth's father fifty pounds, (yes, pounds not dollars!) for her hand in matrimony. Nothing much is known about Robert Wooding Rodgers other than his name and marriage and some and land purchases. Elizabeth Wilkerson's parents are known and can be described, however.
Elizabeth Wilkerson was born on January 3rd, 1795 in Clark County, Kentucky. Her parents were Joseph Wilkerson and Elizabeth Blazebrook Fowler. Joseph was a six year veteran of the American Revolution and was even held prisoner by the British for over fourteen months. After the war, on April 29th, 1785 Joseph married Elizabeth in Bedford County, Virginia and they moved to Clark County, Kentucky where they would begin their family. Joseph would acquire quite a bit of land on August 18th, 1801, and even paid for this land in pounds and shillings which was still being used in Kentucky in some places. Twenty years later on September 14th, 1821, Joseph sold his land and his entire family, daughters and spouses included, would move 150 miles north to Jennings County, Indiana very near the town of Scipio. Joseph later filed for a renewed pension and would purchase even more land in the area totaling 120 acres. Joseph Wilkerson would live near Scipio the rest of his life, dying in 1841. He is buried with a son and his wife on his farm. As he neared the end of his life he began to sell part of his land to his sons and son in laws. His son Thomas would eventually own all of it, but Robert Wooding Rodgers, James HC's father purchased forty acres of land in Jennings County, Indiana on September 9th, 1835 and another sixty three acres of land on August 10th, 1837 from Joseph and patented the acreages. James HC Rodgers' grandfather Joseph Wilkerson, not only a veteran of the American Revolution, was one of the most successful farmers of his time in Jennings County. I have yet to get much research done in Clark County, Kentucky, but since Joseph lived there for twenty years, I am sure to find a great deal when I eventually get there.
James HC had at least two siblings, Sallie Ann Rodgers Ray, and Wilkerson H. Rodgers. Sallie Ann was born January 23rd, 1823 in Jennings County, Indiana, and died July 26th, 1884 in Scotland County, Missouri. Wilkerson H's exact birth and death are unknown but he was "older than [James HC]." Census records put Wilkerson's birth around 1819 or 1820 while his parents Robert Wooding and Elizabeth Rodgers still lived in Clark County, Kentucky. Wilkerson apparently lived his entire life in Scipio and was both a justice of the peace and a constable in that community. Wilkerson married Francis (maiden name unknown) and had at least one child, Louisa Rodgers, born around 1856. As of this writing I am only getting started pursuing this branch of our family. Wilkerson's life wasn't always the best, however, as he is listed twice in the "poor farm" records in Jennings County. I did find a marriage license for Louisa Rodgers, Wilkerson's daughter dated July 4th, 1883. She married Frank Houser in Jennings County, Indiana.
James HC Rodgers grew to manhood near the town of Scipio in Jennings County, Indiana. There is no record of him ever living any where else prior to his first marriage but he was awarded a "pension" (land grant) on May 23rd, 1849. This land grant was part of Congressional legislation of 1847 and 1848 that awarded up to 160 acres of land or $100.00 to men who served in the Mexican War of 1847 and 1848. James HC was mustered in Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana (just south of Jennings, County) on October 14th, 1847. James HC fought for Captain Hull's Company A, 5th Regiment, Indiana Infantry located in and around Mexico City and apparently served the entire war. His compiled service record found at the National Archives in Washington, DC details very little about his service other than clothing and transportation allowances. James HC was mustered out on July 28th, 1848 at Madison, Indiana and James HC would return to Scipio as he and his wife Mary Ann are listed at residence 108 in Geneva Township on the Jennings County census of 1850. Incidentally, this residence is right next door to the Robert Wooding Rodgers residence previously listed, whom I believe is James HC's father.
James HC Rodgers married Mary Ann Moore on July 4th, 1849. Mary Ann Moore was also born in Jennings County, Indiana on either January 6th, 1830 or January 4th, 1824 and died in Scotland County as Mary Ann Love on November 26th, 1893. Most of the census records list her as two years younger than James HC, so I am inclined to believe that James HC's handwritten document is accurate. Why there is such a discrepancy on her tombstone is a mystery. Apparently, Mary Ann's mother's maiden name was "Roscoe," and she had a brother named "Bob". Nothing else of her life prior to her marriage to James HC is yet known.
James HC and Mary Ann had some interesting years together. After being married in July of 1849, they lived together on James HC's land near Scipio, Jennings County. Their oldest child, Nancy Jane Rodgers was born a little more than a year later in Jennings County on August 17th, 1850. Nancy would later marry Lewis F. Garrison in Scotland County, Missouri on November 11, 1869. Nancy apparently had four children of her own. Two of these children died while the Garrisons were living in Scotland County and are buried in the Bible Grove cemetery. Their names were Parley and John. Two other children; Robert Riley and James Wilburn both survived to adulthood. What became of Robert is unknown, but I am investigating that he may have settled near Watertown, South Dakota. This is not proven at this time. James W. Garrison (Jim) apparently followed his parents ultimately to Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, lived a long and successful life, and died there. His tombstone is very near Lewis' and Nancys. James Garrison's wife's name was Mattie Womack and they had several children. I am happy to report as of late reconnecting with this branch of our family and have made contact with Cousins Stanley Garrison and Janice Shepard who I am presently exchanging information with. Stanley and Janice's great grandmother was Nancy Jane Rodgers Garrison daughter of James HC making them my second cousins twice removed. There is also some evidence to suggest that Nancy and Lewis may have adopted or at least taken in orphaned children.
James HC and Mary Ann's second child Robert W. Rodgers was born on March 15, 1852 also in Jennings County. A special note of gratitude is necessary to Robert. His pension deposition, which has already been frequently cited in this document, was tremendously valuable in confirming so many of the items believed to be true about the life and times of James HC Rodgers and our family. Several stories have been passed down through the generations about this "Uncle Bob" as well.
Two members of our family, Volana Gleason (second cousin twice removed to me, descended from James HC's sister Sallie Ann Rodgers Ray) and Bobby Lee Rodgers (my grandfather's brother) both have spoken of Robert W. Rodgers through narrative and personal correspondence. Robert apparently was a river boat gambler who lived up and down the Mississippi in his earlier days. He had several lady friends in different ports and was frequently gone for long periods of times and would show up in different places unannounced. Robert states in his pension deposition that he communicated with his half brother John Ray Rodgers-no one else seemed to do-and even ran into his half sister Demira on a river boat at Cairo, Illinois. Robert also seems to be the last member our family to communicate with James HC's and second wife Harriet's children and family, at least until I made contact with Harriet's descendents in 2006. He would later move to Pratt County, Kansas, marry a Katie Lewis, and would ultimately settle in Augusta, Woods County, Oklahoma where he would become the postmaster of the community. Eventually, his life would end in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, close to his sister, Nancy Jane, his half brother Charles Love (son of Mary Ann Moore Rodgers Love and Abe Love), several nieces and nephews, and his wife. Apparently the couple never had any children. I am willing to bet there is more information to be found in Alfalfa County, but as of this writing, I have only had the time to visit the cemeteries where Robert and Nancy Jane and their spouses and children are buried. SCOTLAND COUNTY, MISSOURI
Shortly after Robert was born in 1852, James HC, Mary Ann, Nancy Jane, and Robert would move from Jennings County, Indiana to Scotland County, Missouri, just northwest of the city of Memphis, Missouri. I have driven this path and studied the old maps of the times, trying to imagine traveling this distance in the mid-1800's. They would have traveled almost a straight line west down what is today US Highway 136, crossing the Mississippi in winter when it had frozen. Traveling no more than probably twenty miles a day by horse and buggy it would have taken them approximately 24 days to travel the nearly 500 mile distance!
It appears that a good reason for moving to Scotland County was because James HC's sister Sallie Ann Rodgers Ray who married John Kestler Ray on January 4th, 1845, (son of Barton Ray and Polly Kessler Ray) had settled there just a couple a years previously. John and Sallie Ann had traveled from Jennings County and did settle for a short time in Lee County, Iowa. It should be noted that an aged Elizabeth Rodgers is listed on that census document whom I believe is Sallie Ann and James HC's mother. James HC claims in his murder trial deposition that his mother lived close to him, too, but I have been unable to confirm this through official documentation. I do have reason to believe, however, that James HC's mother, Elizabeth Rodgers, would remarry a Jefferson Bucklin in 1858. I am working on this information.
Once James HC arrived in Scotland County he acquired adjacent property from John Ray as John and Sallie Ann had arrived by May of 1852 and would begin to farm once again. The Rays and the Rodgers were very close in all their dealings, buying and selling land, livestock, materials, etc. together on several occasions, and having some of their children court and even marry. This will be covered later.
On January 6th, 1854 James HC and Mary Ann's third child would be born as William Henry Rodgers, my great-great grandfather, ultimately known as Pa Bill to his kids, grandkids, and succeeding generations, and Uncle Bill to his wife Miranda's family.
The decade or so James HC spent in Scotland County were a mix of bizarre incidents and unbelievable stories that have been handed down over time. I didn't give much of these stories credence as I had heard them, but as I did more and more research in the Scotland County courthouse, the more believable it would all become. The most amazing portion of the story, though, and one that would continue many years after James HC died, was taking shape in Kentucky. This is the story of James HC's second wife Harriet.
Harriet Jane Camlin Ridge Harlan Rodgers Colvin was born in 1836, presumably in Boyle County, Kentucky. Harriet's mother was Lucinda Camlin and Lucinda was only fourteen years old when she gave birth out of wedlock to Harriet. There is evidence both circumstantial as well as opinions expressed by others of their time that Lucinda was a prostitute who became pregnant as a result of one of her business clients. It would seem that Camlin was Lucinda’s maiden name and Lucinda would marry a man named Ridge and both Lucinda and Harriet would adopt his name. It is probable that this Ridge was the client of Lucinda that fathered Harriet. Lucinda would go on to have more children with this Ridge and move to Scotland County, Missouri in 1853. Harriet did not move with her mother and family, but stayed with her Aunts in Boyle County, Kentucky.
The reason Harriet stayed in Boyle County, Kentucky, just outside the town of Danville, seems to be because she, too, by this point in time had become a very well known prostitute in the area and had become pregnant. The story goes (see all Boyle depositions) that Harriet was a sought after prostitute and saw many, many men of the county. She had been seeing two brothers a Tom and John Pittman and a John Harlan at the same time. Harlan and Tom Pittman got into a massive fight over Harriet and Harlan was knifed several times. It is unclear exactly when, but Harriet became pregnant with Harlan's child and according to Harriet, he promised to marry her and did so at his brother's house with a Justice of the Peace named Hollans, a couple of other men, and a slave named Tilda as witnesses. The records of Boyle County have been searched from top to bottom and it has been the conclusion that this was never an actual marriage. It would seem to me that Harlan staged the wedding to keep Harriet away from other men and to himself, as well as give some legitimacy to Harriet's pregnancy. After this "wedding" Harlan found out that Tom Pittman was again seeing Harriet and in a rage killed Pittman. (See all Boyle depositions).
John Harlan was arrested and just as the trial was about to start, Harriet left Boyle County with her Aunts to live in Scotland County, MO with her mother. The child she had with Harlan had apparently been born, but died as the result of a drowning in either a spring or a well (all Boyle depositions). It was the opinion of one of the special examiners (and I concur) that Harriet was sent away by Harlan so that there were no witnesses to the murder that could testify at his trial. Harriet would forever claim to be the wife of Harlan. One definitely gets the feeling from her depositions that she firmly believes that she was married to Harlan even though all those involved were convinced she never was, and she tried to cover up the fact she had a baby out of wedlock, for obvious reasons. In retrospect, she could have saved herself and her children a lot of difficulty if she had never claimed to be married prior to her marriage to James HC Rodgers. This was one of the reasons the government was challenging her and her son John Ray Rodgers' Civil War pension claim. She was claiming she was married before she was married to James HC and under her circumstances, if she was never divorced from John Harlan by the time she married James HC, she could never claim to be James HC's wife or claim any of his pension money or estate. Alas, she was never married to Harlan by law and after an extensive investigation, this was shown. Ultimately though, she would show up at her mother's home in Scotland County along about 1855.
Harriet arrived in Scotland County, Missouri probably in the early spring of 1855. She had just fled Boyle County, Kentucky, a life as a prostitute, and a perceived husband's murder trial. According the Martha Martin deposition, she traveled by train and then by boat up the Ohio River to the Mississippi River most likely landing at Keokuk, Illinois and then traveling down what is now US 136 to Memphis. Her mother was living near Memphis at the time. Ironically, this was just about the time that James HC and Mary Ann Moore Rodgers had started to have difficulties in their lives. James HC is on record in the Circuit Court at about this time of being charged with several counts of illegal gambling and public intoxication. He seemed to be frequenting bars and taverns and "frolicking" in and around Memphis. James HC was even illegally selling alcohol and was arrested for this with quite a list of customers and a record of what was purchased. I am also of the opinion that at this time he had already met Lucinda Ridge and then her daughter Harriet Harlan. Both were prostitutes in their past, and it seems clear that one, or both of them was having an affair with James HC Rodgers. Very shortly, James HC Rodgers life would take a further turn for the worse as his first marriage would end and he would be charged with first degree murder.
By end of 1855, James HC Rodgers and Mary Ann Moore Rodgers had three children: Nancy Jane Rodgers was five, Robert W. was three, and William Henry was almost one. Mary Ann was also very pregnant with her fourth child who would be born January 16th, 1856; her name would be Sally Ann Rodgers named after James HC's sister.
1856 seems to be the year everything would change. During this year, James HC and Mary Ann would separate at some point in time and by spring of 1857, James HC had filed for divorce claiming that since late 1856, Mary Ann had threatened to poison him and his children and cause serious harm to him. The truly bizarre part of this whole thing, was the fact that Mary Ann is accusing him of having "criminal intercourse" with a Mrs. Lucinda Ridge (Harriet's mother), and "with various other woman."
Never-the-less, this is where Lucinda and Harriet enter the picture. Mary Ann has accused James HC of having an affair with Harriet's mother and shortly James HC would marry Harriet. Speculation on my part, but is it not possible that James HC was having an affair with Harriet at her mother’s "place?" It is too much of a coincidence, in my opinion, that James HC is accused of having an affair with his second wife’s mother, and very lurid, indeed. It seems far more likely to me that Mary Ann was simply mistaken in her charge against James HC and named Harriet's mother who was undoubtedly running a brothel in and around Memphis just as she had in Boyle. Indeed, if James HC was having an affair with Lucinda, and then married her daughter Harriet, there was a very lewd and lascivious relationship going on!
By February, 1857 James HC and Mary Ann had separated and were officially divorced in May of 1857. Robert W. Rodgers, James HC's oldest son claimed that he lived with his Uncle Dave Pruitt, (Dave married Polly Wilkerson, James HC mother's sister) from the time of his parents separation and their divorce and that after the divorce he, Nancy Jane, and William Henry lived with their father James HC and that Sally Ann went to live with their mother Mary Ann because "she was a baby." Robert went on to talk about the day that his father brought home his new wife, Harriet Jane Harlan. James HC was still being arrested for gambling and drinking and was gearing up for the big New Years celebration coming up.
On December 31st, 1857, James HC Rodgers killed a man by the name of John Luke outside the William H. Wells farm house in Miller Township just northwest of the city of Memphis, Missouri. James HC stomped Luke to death and cursed him over and over and stated that he didn’t care if he "lived another hour." The first degree murder indictment does not go on to state any motive, but fortunately, there are several court documents and preliminary trial dispositions discussing this. Three stories were also passed down through different branches of our family, that confirmed the killing, but for several incorrect reasons. Very interesting how the story got altered as is was passed down through the generations over 150 years!
I do not know where these stories originated or even who passed them down, but the conversation always revolved around an ancestor killing a man outside a bar. Until I found James HC's indictment, I did not believe much of it. The first was that killing occurred as a result of a man cheating at cards, the second as the result of the theft of a horse, and the third—a killing over a woman. None of these were correct, except for the fact that James HC had killed a man.
In actuality, James HC went to a "shooting match" at Jerry Talbot's farm northwest of Memphis in Miller Township on the afternoon of December 31st, 1857. This shooting match seemed to revolve around who could shoot and kill turkeys at a certain distance in the least number of shots. There was a lot of alcohol being consumed and money being bet on the outcomes of certain shooters (see all James HC murder depositions). James HC participated in both.
James HC had shot and killed a turkey in only one shot and, apparently, this prize for that was getting to keep the turkey. He had already won some money on others and took his turkey and put it in a "bucket" He then proceeded to consume more alcohol and had a fight with another man, Peter Cline, who hadn’t paid him some money from a bet.
James HC then decided he was going to leave for the night and went to collect the turkey he had killed earlier. The turkey was missing and James HC went into a rage and wanted to know who had taken it. He got a couple of people to tell him John Luke had just left with a turkey in William Wells' wagon and James HC got on his horse with his sister's brother in law, William Ray and went in pursuit. He over took Sterling Wells and John Snodgrass who were riding in another wagon. They said that a man named John Luke had passed them in a wagon and was headed to Wells' place. When James HC got to the Wells' place he saw his turkey lying on the ground in a bucket and knocked on the door to get Luke to come out. William Wells saw that James HC was very angry and very drunk and told him he didn't want any "fuss" at his place after James HC told William Wells that he was going to "stamp (Luke's) damned liver out." John Luke would then come to the door and James HC proceeded to grab him by the collar. James HC pulled Luke outside the house, pushed him to the ground, and proceeded to stomp his head several times with his boot. The men at the Wells farm left John Luke on the ground outside the house and even went inside for a while to have dinner, not thinking Luke was that badly hurt, just drunk (See all murder depositions.)
After the men ate, James HC, William Ray, and William Wells went outside and put John Luke into William Wells' wagon. It was at this time that William Wells pronounced he thought that Luke was pretty badly hurt.1 They apparently took Luke to his home and both James HC and William Ray thought he was going to be fine, as James HC stated in his deposition that William said, "I would insure his life for a peck of bran."
In a remarkable statement James HC then said he and William took the turkey to James HC's mother's place.2 Apparently this means that James HC's mother, Elizabeth Wilkerson Rodgers who would have been about 63 years old was living somewhere close to him. Unfortunately, as of this writing I have been unable to conclusively track her down. After getting something to drink at his mother's house, James HC and William Ray went to "frolic at Mr. Baxter's place," and that there "was no trouble," according to James HC's testimony at his trial. He continued on to say that after the "frolic" at Mr. Baxter's he returned to his mother's and helped her eat the Turkey on New Year's Day, 1858.2 After returning to "his business" for a day he then again went back to his mother's. At this time John Kestler Ray (James HC's sister Sallie Ann's husband) and John's brother William rode up into the yard at about 11:00 o'clock and told James HC that John Luke had died. James HC then stated that "(he) didn't suppose there was a man (who) would have had his feelings for a thousand dollars." James HC told his brother-in-law John Ray that he thought maybe he should give himself up, but then thought maybe he should run away. He asked John Ray to go get some clothes for him and that he would meet him later after James HC got some money he was owed. If one can read the tone of his deposition, he was clearly very sorry for what had happened and was becoming very emotional in his relating of the story.
James HC goes on to say in his deposition that while his was riding he started to think about his children and his life and decided that he would not run, that it was better for them if he stayed. James HC met up with John Ray at the grocery where they spoke about the situation and John Ray also advised James HC not to run. James HC told John Ray that he was very fearful of going to jail. John Ray said, "as long as I have a dime you shant (sic) go (to jail), Jim." James HC said they all were crying and they went back inside the grocery. James HC then admitted he got very drunk as the Constable and Sheriff were coming for him. He stated he had very little memory of anything after that until he was in town. James HC was in jail for three days and then on bail of three thousand dollars from John Kestler Ray and William Ray, he was released pending trial the following spring. According to the doctors who examined Luke's body after his death, blunt force trauma and the large quantity of alcohol in Luke's system was the cause of death.
The fact that James HC's brother in law John Kestler Ray and John's brother William would bail James HC out of jail on a three-thousand dollar bond was one of the very first things I ever discovered in writing about James HC Rodgers, incidentally. This portion of the story was reproduced in a book called "History of Lewis, Clark, Knox and Scotland Counties, Missouri" which was in the possession of my Great Aunt Dorothy McCarty, and I first saw it in the early 1990s.
James HC Rodgers' attorney during this period of time was a lawyer by the name of Richardson. Mr. Richardson asked for a continuance in the spring of 1858 for reasons that are not entirely clear, but then asked the court to move the trial to Putnam County because he was appointed the new Judge of Scotland County and he now had a conflict of interest. The move to Putnam County, which is to the west of Scotland County, was granted with a trial being scheduled for June of 1858. However, the district attorney of Putnam County, W. F. Griffin, after reviewing the case stated that the grand jury was not empowered to indict James HC and seemed to state that this was a justifiable homicide. The charges were dropped in 1859 and James HC Rodgers was a free man. What a very difficult time it must have been for James HC! He was recently divorced, was charged with murder, and was about to get married again.
James HC Rodgers married Harriet Jane Camlin Harlan on January the 14th, 1858, in Scotland County, Missouri. Again, the oldest three children were living with the newlyweds: Nancy Jane, Robert, and William. Sally Ann stayed with her mother Mary Ann who would shortly remarry a man named Abraham Love in Scotland County. James HC and Harriet would soon have a daughter of their own and on October 2nd, 1858, Demira W. Rodgers was born. James HC and Harriet would remain in Memphis until late 1860, as James HC, Harriet, and the children, even Sally Ann who was by this time five years old are listed on the 1860 census in the same household. James HC's occupation is listed as a "manager," what this meant is unknown. Based upon the testimony in the murder indictment, I speculate that James HC was in charge of some kind of grocery and/or livery stable.
Shortly after the 1860 census was taken, James HC and his family decided to leave Scotland County and return to near Scipio, Jennings County, Indiana. What precipitated this move remains to be seen. Was it the murder indictment? A fresh start away from the ex-wife, perhaps? Regardless, James HC, Harriet, Nancy Jane, Robert, William, Sally Ann and Demira left Scotland Countyand arrived at the Thomas Wilkerson (James HC's mother’s brother) farm about November of 1860. During their travels, or just shortly after arriving in Jennings, County, Harriet became pregnant again. James HC, however, would not be present for the birth of his third son and sixth child.
It seems that James HC was indeed a military man. As previously recorded he fought for the United States in the Mexican War when he was a very young man, not yet even twenty years old, and saw battle in both Old and New Mexico. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in November of 1860, South Carolina began the debate as to whether or not they should remain a part of the United States and on December 20th, 1860 made official notice that they were withdrawing from the Union. By February 1861, most of the other southern states had followed suit and formed the Confederate States of America. The outgoing President Buchanan was powerless to prevent this. Before 1933, the President-Elect did not take office until March, which further tied the hands of the government to do anything productive to save the Union. Finally, On April 12th, 1861, only one month after President Lincoln took office, South Carolina militia fired upon Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter and took the fort into Confederate hands.
The Civil War had started.
On April 15th, 1861 President Lincoln declared insurrection in the South. He called for 75,000 volunteers for three months service to stop the Southern insurrection. James HC Rodgers was one of these volunteers. With his wife pregnant, and five other children at home, James HC enlisted in Company F, 10th Regiment Indiana Infantry on April 25th, 1861 and left for duty. James HC's third son was born while he was fighting for the Union in and around what is today West Virginia. James HC's youngest son, John Ray Rodgers was born July 7th, 1861.
According the officials adjutant files, the 10th Indiana Infantry were mustered in and ordered to duty near Evansville, Indiana, until June 7, presumable for training purposes. They were then ordered to Virginia on June 7 and attached to Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans' Brigade which was a part of Major General George B. McClellan's Army of Virginia and fought for and occupied Buckhannon, Virginia by June 30, 1861. The so-called "West Virginia Campaign" came next from July 6-17, 1861. But, most importantly James HC participated in the Battle of Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861. The Battle of Rich Mountain secured a vital railroad line for the Union, but because of its strategic location, the winning of the battle allowed for the creation of the state of West Virginia a few months later as Confederate troops no longer had any access to the western part of Virginia. James HC would stay in the region and serve at Beverly, Virginia until July 24, 1861. James HC apparently did his three months service and then returned home to Jennings County, Indiana being mustered out on August 6th, 1861.
James HC would spend very little time after his first round of service for the Union in Jennings County. I would also argue that he had changed some of his ways by this point in time. There are no circuit court records on James HC Rodgers from 1862- 1864 charging him with any crime whatsoever. Considering how many times he was charged in Missouri, I found this to be somewhat remarkable. Rachel Wilkens did say that James HC and his family were down on their luck in Jennings County, but just by the lack of legal paperwork filed it would seem that James HC might have been a different man. What precipitated the families' next move remains to be seen, but by late 1863 James HC Rodgers and his family had left Jennings County and arrived 253 miles away in Moultrie County, Illinois.
Eventually, James HC, Harriet, Nancy, Robert, William, Sally Ann, Demira, and John Rodgers left Jennings County and would purchase forty acres of land for $850.00 from Henry and Sarah Souther near Dora, Moultrie County, Illinois. James HC's land was relatively small compared to the acreage around him, but this would seem to be a fresh start for the family in a new place. While in Moultrie County James HC's sixth and youngest child, Louisa Elizabeth Rodgers (Lizzie) would be born on November 16, 1863.3 She apparently would die very young of small pox on February 13th, 1873 according to Mary Harris, a family friend.
Finally, it would seem that James HC felt his country needed him again and once again volunteered for service in Company H 18th Illinois Infantry (Re-organized.) He was mustered in at Danville, Illinois on March 1st 1865 and was assigned to Camp Butler, Illinois on March 18th, 1865 for one year. James HC was promoted to corporal immediately upon his register. These later muster-in rolls also had a physical description of the soldiers on them and James HC was described as having blue eyes, auburn hair, fair complexion, and being six feet one inch tall. He left with his company for the Deep South as the Civil War was winding down by this point in time. General Sherman was well into his march to the sea and the only major Confederate strongholds left were in Arkansas and Mississippi. James HC arrived in Little Rock around April 1st, 1865 and participated in the securing of Little Rock for the next month.4
It is unclear if James HC was wounded in this battle or if he simply became ill as a result of the terribly unsanitary conditions that were common in the infantry camps at the end of the war, but James HC's life would end in "regimental hospital" on May 6th, 1865. The listed cause of death was "diarrhea." I have to admit that I was rather surprised and somewhat confused how someone could die of diarrhea!
Since the latrines and the drinking water in these camps were typically close to each other, there is now agreement that this was the cause of much disease and death, especially in the larger camps at the end of the war. Many, many men died as a result of intestinal disease as a result of food and water supplies being contaminated by human and animal waste. This situation was compounded by the fact that there were no intravenous solutions of potassium or the like that could be administered to soldiers who simply became so dehydrated they died. Some of the diseases were even compounded and men were given more and more contaminated fluids even though their kidneys had shut down. Men actually drown in their own tissues. Very sad indeed. This kind of situation is common is less developed countries, even today.
James HC's effects of a "great coat," a "pair of cotton drawers," and a "flannel shirt" were forwarded back to Harriet in Moultrie County and Harriet then proceeded to begin the probate process having an estate sale on June 17th, 1865 and selling much of the farm implements. Harriet did not sell the land that James HC had purchased, and it would remain in the family for several years after the family first left Moultrie County after James HC died. According to Robert, James HC oldest son, Harriet and the kids then returned to Scotland County Missouri where the family would begin to break apart. Although I am saddened by the trials and tribulations of James HC's life, I feel a tremendous amount of pride in this man. He volunteered to fight for his county in two separate wars and did at least two tours of duty in the Civil War. He took care of his family even after a divorce and made sure that his family was provided for both before and after his death. He had some issues in his personal life, that is for sure, but which of us doesn't? My great-great-great grandfather was truly an inspirational character!
By the fall of 1865, Harriet, Nancy Jane, Robert, William, Sally Ann, Demira, John, and Louisa had returned to Scotland County, Missouri after the death of James HC. James HC's sister Sallie Ann Ray and her husband John Kestler Ray still lived near Memphis and had by now quite a large family themselves ultimately with a total of ten children. It is not entirely clear where the family lived in the short term, but by 1866 Harriet was once again living with another man whose name was Hiram Colvin.
Just how Hiram Colvin entered the picture is a bit of a mystery, but knowing Harriet's shady past, one can only imagine. Several of the depositions from James HC's pension file allude to the fact that Harriet started seeing Hiram almost immediately upon her return to Scotland County. Hiram had divorced his wife Sarah in Scotland County by August 26th, 1865 and he apparently lived in the county for quite some time. Harriet and Hiram would apparently leave Missouri to go back to the forty acres of land in Illinois James HC had purchased by the mid 1860's. They had been living together and according to several of the depositions were "compelled" to marry by the local Moultrie County, Illinois authorities because in those days it was against the law to live with someone of the opposite sex you weren't married to. According to Robert W. Rodgers (deposition), only Harriet's children Demira, John, and Louisa and my great-great grandfather William Henry would return with Harriet and Hiram Colvin to Illinois to the forty acre farm left by James HC. Nancy Jane, Robert, and Sally Ann would remain in Scotland County, Missouri. William would not stay with his step mother and her "husband" for long, though.
It appears as if Nancy Jane, Robert, and Sally Ann would move in with their Aunt Sallie Ann Ray (James HC's sister) when Harriet left Missouri. Harriet Rodgers and Hiram Colvin were officially married on May 9th, 1868 after living together as man and wife for three years. William Henry (Pa Bill), by 1870, being only sixteen years old is listed at the residence of Samuel Anderson just north of Moultrie County. It would seem that he would have no further contact with his step mother and her children for the rest of his life. He would apparently take over the 40 acres of land his father purchased after his step mother, half siblings, and step siblings would leave Illinois. The Colvins had settled in Texas County, Missouri by 1880 and Pa Bill was on his fathers land in the same census.
The legacy of James HC Rodgers would continue for nearly forty years after his death and would lay the foundation for the material success of at least one of his sons, William Henry Rodgers, affectionately known as Pa Bill to his family. To adequately understand this part of the story a brief discussion needs to be initiated on the pension system of the United States government enacted during the Civil War. Quite frankly, it was because of the pensions acts of the United States Congress during the later half of the 1800's that all of the information you are reading was discovered.
At the close of the Revolutionary War, the United States government began administering a limited pension system to soldiers wounded during active military service or veterans and their widows pleading dire poverty. It was not until the 1830's and the advent of universal voting rights for white males, however, that military pensions became available to all veterans or their widows. Despite these initial expansions, the early U.S. military pension system was minuscule compared to what it became as a result of the Civil War. Also, prior to the Civil War, "pensions" were not necessarily monetary as we understand the word today. As previous cited James HC Rodgers was awarded a "pension" as a result of Congressional legislation enacted during the Mexican War that consisted of one hundred acres of land. Pensions could also be in materials, animals, or farm implements, and of course, cash. Pensions though, were not a foregone conclusion for veterans in those early days. They were actually invented as an inducement to serving in the military so that a man could feel comfortable that if he was severally injured or killed his family would be provided for. Early on, unless a man was disabled or killed a pension might not be awarded at all. There are even some conflicting stories that higher ranking officers would "negotiate" a pension before signing up to serve, much as a professional athlete might today.
Beginning in 1861, the U.S. government generously attended to the needs of its soldiers and sailors or their dependents. Because the federal government did not implement conscription (the draft) until 1863, the first Civil War benefits from 1861 to 1863 in many ways were an attempt to induce men to volunteer or to re-volunteer. Although altered somewhat over the years, the 1862 statute remained the foundation of the federal pension system until the 1890s. It stipulated that only those soldiers whose disability was "incurred as a direct consequence of . . . military duty" or developed after combat "from causes which can be directly traced to injuries received or diseases contacted while in military service" could collect pension benefits. The amount of each pension depended upon the veteran's military rank and level of disability. Pensions given to widows, orphans, and other dependents of deceased soldiers were always figured at the rate of total disability according to the military rank of their deceased husband or father. By 1873 widows could also receive extra benefits for each dependent child in their care.
In 1890 the most notable revision in the federal pension law occurred: the Dependent Pension Act. A result of the intense lobbying effort of the veterans' organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, this statute removed the link between pensions and service-related injuries, allowing any veteran (or heir) who had served honorably to qualify for a pension if at some time he became disabled for manual labor. By 1906 old age alone became sufficient justification to receive a pension.
Interestingly, this pension act was one of the most crucial issues of the presidential election of 1888 that allowed Benjamin Harrison to defeat Grover Cleveland because Harrison supported the pension act and Cleveland did not.
The pension program for Union veterans of the Civil War was so different, from its origins to its expansion into a massive old age support system, that some social scientists argue it had important implications for social insurance in the twentieth century. What originally began as a limited regime of protections for soldiers, widows, and orphans, eventually morphed into a system of old age pensions for almost one third of the elderly population. The various pension acts for veterans of the Civil War also affected a range of social, economic, and political institutions, including the institution of marriage, the ascendancy of the Republican Party as the dominant political party for half a century, the size of the peacetime federal government, and in some ways the beginnings of a modern regulatory state. The pension system also reflected national issues of race and class.
The 1890 Congress enacted a new law that paid pensions to any Union veteran of the Civil War who served for at least ninety days, was honorably discharged, and suffered from a disability, even if not war-related. In 1904 Theodore Roosevelt ruled that old age itself was a disability, basically transforming the system into a government pension system for all Civil War veterans. Three years later, in 1907, Congress legislatively endorsed this position in the Service and Age Act. Congress, in subsequent legislation during the first quarter of the twentieth century, increased pensions and tied the amount of the pension to the period of military service.
For example, the last Civil War pensioner, Albert Woolson, who joined the Union Army as a seventeen-year-old in 1864, was collecting a monthly pension of $135.45 at the time of his death in 1956. And perhaps more remarkably, there were still nineteen dependents of Civil War veterans receiving benefits in the last years of the twentieth century. At its peak, the Civil War pension system consumed approximately 45 percent of all federal revenue and was the largest department of the federal government (other than the armed services). In addition, state pension systems were developed in the former Confederate states to provide pension and disability benefits to Confederate veterans. Another interesting current parallel to the social security and Medicare systems of today as our current baby boomers begin to retire, the level of federal expenditures will approach these levels. (See bibliography for further sources.)
So then, what does all this have to do with James HC Rodgers? After James HC died on May the 6th, 1865, the original pension program was still in place. This allowed for his widow Harriet to make application for a pension and she did so on May 19th, 1865. The original application allows for her to collect some funds for both herself and her children. Of course she would list all seven of her children and step children on the form, even though Nancy Jane, Robert, William, and Sally were not actually her children as each would give to her more money. However, the examiner who received the application made a note that four of the children were born before Harriet was married to James HC. A no-no in those days and the children could not be counted toward the pension if they were conceived out of wed lock, which was the original thought of the examiners, or the very least that they had another mother (which was true.) The pension was not allowed. This was when the family moved back to Scotland County, Missouri.
Three years later in 1868, Harriet would then send a personal hand written note to the pension office saying after receiving some sort of denial from the agency. It is unclear if this denial was from the first request or a second one, but she states that she could prove the things she was saying and hired an attorney to help her get the pension. Mr. Teirney then filed the necessary paperwork with the government and an investigation would ensue as to the validity of the claim. Harriet sent a copy of what apparently had been in the family bible in James HC’s handwriting that showed the dates of birth of all the children. Again, the discrepancy that four of the children were born before Harriet and James HC were married was a major red flag to the examiners and again they put a hold on the file. According to both Nancy Jane Rodgers Garrison and Robert W. Rodgers, Hiram and Harriet would leave Scotland County in spring of 1866 and by May of 1868 had legally married in Moultrie County, Illinois after being apparently "compelled" to do so. Nancy Jane was eighteen years old and Robert was sixteen during this year, and they did not return to Illinois with their step mother and a nineteen year old Nancy Jane Rodgers married Lewis Fidel Garrison in Scotland County on November 29th, 1869. Robert W. Rodgers apparently stayed as well and is listed on the 1870 census as living next door to his Aunt Sallie Ann and Uncle John Kestler Ray in the J. Bundage household, along with two cousins, Miranda and Loretta Ray. The whereabouts of their sister Sally Ann Rodgers are unknown in 1870, and what is known of the rest of her life will be explained later, but it would seem to be logical that she also remained in Missouri.
As stated earlier, Harriet, Hiram, William Henry, Demira, John, and Louisa would leave Scotland County and would return to Moultrie County, Illinois by 1868. Harriet’s handwritten note of September 1868, already cited here in, would launch an investigation into the family that would last for over thirty years and would span the entire country! Investigator after investigator would research the life of Harriet Camlin Ridge Harlan Rodgers Colvin and would conclude in results with far reaching consequences. Of course, in those days time would pass very slowly and the investigators painstakingly traced the children of James HC Rodgers, and since Harriet wasn’t exactly being honest (perhaps not on purpose), all avenues would need to be explored. Through a search of all available legal records and personal narratives, the story would become known.
The first few actions that would occur were not a part of the federal investigation, but would have legal and monetary consequences later. First, Nancy Jane Rodgers Garrison would, on August 23rd, 1871, transfer all her rights to James HC's estate to her brother William Henry (Pa Bill). Basically, this would completely take her out of the loop as far as any pension claim down the road. Nancy Jane and Lewis probably didn't know it at the time. Pa Bill was living still in Moultrie County, although away from his step mother and it is logical to assume that the document signed by Nancy Jane and Lewis Garrison giving up their rights was also an attempt to help him in his bid to receive the forty acres of land left by James HC. It should be noted that this document was completely notarized in Scotland County, Missouri and was discovered in the probate office in the courthouse in Moultrie County, Illinois. The later investigators who examined James HC's probate file would have seen it, too. On February 21st, 1873, Robert W. Rodgers, James HC's oldest son, would also take back what he must have felt was his and for a very small amount of money (even for those days) paid Harriet, his step mother, $250.00 for the forty acres of land she and Hiram Colvin had been farming. Pa Bill would then move onto this property and begin to farm it. It is presumed that Harriet and Hiram and her children by both James HC and Hiram left Illinois at this time and moved to Texas County, Missouri. According to the census of 1870, Harriet and Hiram had a small child living with them, a William H. Colvin, as well as John, Demira, and Louisa Rodgers. Harriet Colvin would then again petition the government for James HC's pension money.
The first document in the timeline is dated June 11th, 1875, and is from the probate court of Texas County, Missouri. It is a simple document that gives power of attorney to one Thomas White who would do the legal work of the Colvins at both the state and federal level. John and Demira Rodgers are the only children of James HC listed in this document.
The beginnings of the investigation seemed to be triggered by the fact that the government had all previous documents related to the death of James HC and the new information seemed to be in conflict with the old information. Mr. White went out of his way to prove to the government that Harriet was married to James HC Rodgers. He first sent a form letter to former Captain Alsey B. Lee back in Moultrie County who was James HC's last commanding officer just before he died. This affidavit by Captain Lee explains that he knew James HC Rodgers and was with him when he died in Little Rock, Arkansas. Captain Lee further states that James HC was the same Corporal Rodgers involved in the case. Mr. White then sent a new application for a pension naming only Demira and John Rodgers as James HC’s children. It should be noted that this "Declaration for Minor Children in Order to Obtain Army Pension" would have been sent in just after a more liberal pension law was passed by Congress.
At approximately the same time Mr. White sent a form letter back to Jennings County, Indiana in an attempt to help prove that Harriet and James HC had indeed been married and that John Rodgers was their child. This affidavit was completed by a Wilkerson H. Rodgers (James HC's brother), and a Lourine Davis. (How Lourine is related or involved in the family is unknown). They state they knew both Harriet and James HC well and that they were present on July 7th, 1860 when John Rodgers was born. (It is now confirmed this document was in error and the actual birth date was July 7th, 1861.) Never-the-less, Mr. White is trying to create proof that James HC and Harriet were the parents of John Rodgers. Time passed and again Harriet was denied any part of the pension. On December 29th, 1882, Harriet would hire another lawyer to continue to prosecute the claim. It is important to note that each time Harriet would re-file a claim, the pension laws relating to Civil War veterans was changed and expanded. I would argue Harriet was aware of this.
Attorney M.V. Tierney would continue to pursue Harriet's claim and from late 1882 until 1886 it would seem that Mr. Tierney would submit affidavits and James HC's original family record to the pension department. Harriet again would file an affidavit claiming Demira, John, and Louis were her only children and she had no idea where the others were living. Very clearly a falsehood based upon later affidavits but that didn’t matter too much because it would seem there was no action on the part of the government. On August 30th, 1886, Harriet wrote to the pension office in her own hand. It is a remarkable letter written by a barely literate person, pleading for reconsideration of her case. She must have gotten some response, but as the pension laws changed, her son John R. Rodgers would also start to see dollar signs and the investigation would really take off.
John Ray Rodgers was born on July 7th, 1861 while James HC was doing his first tour of duty during the Civil War. He lived with his mother and Hiram Colvin longer than any of James HC's other children, being listed with them as late as 1880 at the age of nineteen. John made an application for pension under the new Dependent Pension Act of 1890 that was previously described. This new law allowed for John to request pension funds independent of his mother, which he did on June 26th, 1891. John claims in his application that his sisters Demira and Louisa are dead. He makes no mention of his two half brothers and two half sisters, and obviously lied about knowing their whereabouts.
In the pension timeline, this is also the first time that one of Harriet's applications appears in its original form. Her application seemed to be approved at first, but it appears that a reviewer or supervisor vetoed the question and stopped the application for several years. There is no reason stated for the veto. It would seem that once again a long time would pass before there was any further action on the part of the government. The next document in the sequence is dated November 11, 1891, when it seems the pension office was now going to investigate the claim personally. A special examiner was dispatched to Texas County, Missouri to speak personally with Harriet and with her son John Rodgers.
The first issue at stake seemed to be the discrepancy between what Harriet stated John Rodgers' birthday to be. She explained in her first deposition that John's birth was July 7th, 1861, not July 7th, 1860 as previously stated by Wilkerson Rodgers, James HC's brother in his 1875 deposition. Harriet stated, interestingly enough, that she knew John's birthday was what it was because she could remember that John was born after President Lincoln’s Inauguration of March 1861, "as only a parent would know." She reaffirmed that the family bible record written by James HC before he died was accurate. The date was important because the new law provided for $8 a month for the life of a child up to age sixteen and the government would have wanted to know as to the date so they could pay less if possible. This interview also must have included talk of James HC's first marriage to Mary Ann Moore Rodgers Love, too, because the next document is a certified copy dated November 18th, 1891, from Scotland County, Missouri, detailing James HC's and Mary Ann's divorce. The special examiner also tracked down two people in Scotland County at this time who knew James HC and Harriet as husband and wife as well as two people who knew that Louisa Elizabeth Rodgers had died, as claimed by John Rodgers in his application.
Reuben E. Lancaster states in his deposition that he knew both Harriet and James HC since "long before the war." John Ridge, who was Harriet's brother, states basically the same thing. The special examiner then traveled to Howell County, Missouri and spoke to a Mary A. Harris, who was one of Hiram Colvin’s daughters from his first marriage who confirmed in her deposition that James HC and Harriet had three children Demira, John (and was the first to state John’s middle name was Ray), and Louisa. She stated Louisa died at about the age of eleven. The special examiner also interviewed a W.H. Harris, who is presumably Mary's husband. He refers to Louisa as "Lizzie" and that she died in the winter of 1873 and that his wife went to the funeral. It would seem that as far as this examiner was concerned, the case was closed. Presumably, he filed his findings and that was it. It would seem, though, that other examiners were at work on the other side of the family and would arrive in Scotland County, Missouri to find the rest of the children of James HC Rodgers in July of 1893.
On July 19th, 1893 Lewis F. Garrison of Mount Pleasant Township, Scotland County, Missouri gave a deposition in which he talks about the death of his wife's sister Sally Ann Rodgers. Lewis states that Sally Ann died on January 12th, 1875 at the home of Martha J. Dye from small pox. He further states that Sally had been married, but living separate and apart from her husband and had no children and that he knew this information from the doctors and nurses who attended her and from taking her effects to Sally Ann's mother. That same day Lewis' wife Nancy Jane Rodgers Garrison gave a similar deposition, but added that she attended her sister Sally Ann after her death and went to her funeral. After researching the death of my great great grandfather's sister Sally Ann, I discovered her marriage license dated February 22nd, 1872 in which she married Joseph Rath of Clark County, Missouri. I have been unable to locate a burial site for her, unfortunately.
The next two affidavits to come along at about the same time are clarifications from Elias and Sarah Pierse. First they state that they are sure Harriet had no heirs other than her children with James HC, and second, Elias claiming he was with Louisa Rodgers when she was dead, got the coffin, etc. and that she died on February 12th, 1873, and was buried on February 13th, 1873. His wife Sarah confirms this information. Lastly, Harriet submits a deposition claiming that Demira left home at about age eighteen without her permission on about September 26th, 1870 and hadn't contacted Harriet in any way. Harriet states she believes that Demira is dead and submits this information on August 28th, 1893. Satisfied as to the widow’s claim for pension, Harriet was allowed on April 10th, 1894 a total of $8 a month from the time of James HC's death to her remarriage to Hiram Colvin for a total of $192.00. In 2007 dollars this would be approximately $4600.00. Again, this money was to go to Harriet as a part of her pension, but the question of the children had not yet been answered. Technically, she should have shared the money with her children but apparently she did not.
John Ray Rodgers, Harriet and James HC Rodgers youngest son would continue the process to receive his pension on May 3rd, 1895. He had moved away from his mother and step father and was now living in Plum Valley, Texas County, Missouri. He hired A.B. Nichols Company of Washington DC to prosecute his claim. Since there was substantially more money at stake, the pension office sent out another special examiner by the name of R.F. Jones to interview several people associated with the case. Of course, Mr. Jones would start with Harriet Colvin in Texas County, Missouri on July 16th, 1895.
On July 16th, 1895, R.F. Jones interviewed Harriet Colvin near Dykes, Texas County, Missouri. She confirms her identity to Mr. Jones and states that she filed a claim for a pension, but that it was not allowed until April of 1894. Harriet testifies that she furnished the pension office with a copy of her marriage certificate to James HC Rodgers and that she was first married to John Harlan under the maiden name of Harriet J. Camlin in Clark County, Kentucky near the city of Perryville by a justice of the peace whose name she could not remember, that she was seventeen years old, but couldn’t remember the exact date, and had no official record of the marriage. Harriet goes on to say that she lived with Harlan for about eighteen months and that he then shot a man by the name of Tom Pittman in Boyle County, Kentucky. She then states that Harlan was arrested and she immediately left Kentucky to go live with her mother in Scotland County, Missouri.
Harriet says she was in Scotland County for about three years before she married James HC Rodgers and that she never knew if John Harlan was dead or alive and never heard anything from him again. Harriet named several people who knew John Harlan and their locations at that time.
Harriet continues to describe her relationship with James HC and that he was married to Mary Ann Moore in Indiana and that he had four children with her, Nancy Jane, Robert, William Henry, and Sally. She states she believes that William Henry and Nancy still lived in Scotland County, Missouri, and confirms that William married a daughter of John Ray and that William lived at John Ray's place. Harriet finally gives the confirmation as well, of the old family story that John Ray's wife (Sallie Ann) was James HC Rodgers sister. I had been told for years by different members of our family that my great-great grandparents were first cousins. This was more proof.
Harriet speaks of the marriage of Nancy Jane Rodgers to Lewis Garrison and that the last time she heard from Robert Rodgers that he was living in Pratt County, Kansas. Harriet confirms that Sarah (Sally) Rodgers, James HC's youngest child with Mary Ann died around 1874. Harriet talks about her children with James HC then, naming John R., Demira, and Louisa E. Rodgers. Harriet states that Louisa died when she was nine years and three months old, that John R. was still alive, and that she didn’t know where Demira was. She confirms their dates of birth for Mr. Jones.
When asked about Demira, Harriet explained that she left when she was just about eighteen years old and that Demira has never contacted her since. Harriet said that most people believed that Demira ran away with a married man named Shannon, but that even after writing her many times and trying to track her down she was not successful and she even tried to contact Shannon's family who lived in Randolph County, Illinois after hearing from Robert W. Rodgers, her step son, that he saw Demira on a steamboat on the Mississippi River and that Demira got off the boat in Randolph County.
This also was a confirmation of family stories given to me that Robert spent much of his early days on steamboats in the Mississippi. According to Cousin Volana Gleason and Great Uncle Bobby Lee Rodgers, Robert was a river boat gambler. Volana has also stated that Robert courted her grandmother at some point in time before her grandmother married her grandfather John Henry Ray. Harriet further states in her deposition that she thought Shannon's first name was William and that Robert Rodgers reported Demira had a child with her on the steamboat.
Harriet goes on to name a Jasper Fegley who knew the Shannon family in Illinois and that he should be contacted for more information. Harriet (incorrectly) states that James HC's land in Moultrie County, Illinois was sold to various people, even though she sold her interest to Robert. I would argue she was not being entirely honest. The examiner seems very interested in Demira and Harriet gives a description of her saying she has dark hair, scars under both her right and left eye, and a (mole) on her right ear. Harriet states she can’t give any more information on Demira and the tone of the deposition is that she is very bitter about it. The examiner then asks again about the children of James HC from his first marriage to Mary Ann Moore.
Harriet concludes her testimony by confirming the ages of the children to Mr. Jones and states she sent a record of their births to the pension department when she made her first application and that James HC Rodgers wrote the dates in his own hand. This record was in the pension file when I found it in Washington, DC.
(As I am transcribing these depositions right now, I am having some very powerful memories of the day I found all of these records in the National Archives in Washington, DC. My son Ehrich Rodgers and I had originally gone just to see if we could confirm where James HC Rodgers had died and perhaps where he was buried. Nothing concrete was known about James HC's life and times to any degree as of October 2006. We had some files from Scotland County, and some from Jennings County, but nothing—nothing could compare to what we found in Washington DC. I couldn’t even figure out who Harriet Colvin was at that moment in time! The worker in the National Archives brought us a file that was five inches thick and contained over two hundred documents, the transcription of which you are reading now and that are scanned in their entirety to the CD.)
On the next day, July 17th, 1895, Special Examiner R.F. Jones traveled to Plum Valley, Texas County, Missouri which is about five miles away from Dykes, Harriet's home. It would appear from the responses that John Rodgers, Harriet's son, was asked basically the same questions as his mother and gives mostly the same responses; however he gives several more concrete details in his account.
The first was that his sister Louisa Elizabeth died on February 12th, and although he doesn’t state the year, this was very important to tracking down the official record of the death. John also clarifies that he received letters from his half brother Robert talking about the time he saw Demira on the steamboat on the Mississippi and that Demira had sold her interest in James HC's land in Moultrie County to Robert and William Rodgers. John also states that he met someone who saw Demira in Moultrie County and that Demira stated William Shannon had died and that she had lived in Chester, Illinois close to the state prison. John stated that his step sister from Hiram Colvin's first marriage, Martha English, met Demira in Chester as well and confirmed these details.
John concludes his testimony by stating that "the Colvins" received pension that belonged to him and that his mother and step father never let him see any of the paperwork for it and spent the money on themselves. You can definitely tell he is not on good terms with his mother. The special examiner would confirm this in his report.
It’s so remarkable how these interviews were conducted and how it is assumed the interviewees are being completely honest. After each round of examinations the examiners would send a report on the interviews to their superiors in Washington, DC with suggestions on how to proceed.
Mr. Jones reported to his superiors on July 21st, 1895. He explains that he was sent to Texas County, Missouri to ascertain whether James HC had any children under the age of sixteen (the limit of age for pension applications at that time) and the time Harriet was married to Hiram Colvin. He was also to confirm the whereabouts of these children if he could.
Mr. Jones was very candid in his report on the claim of John R. Rodgers. He states that John R. Rodgers is "regarded as worthless, and his reputation…is far from good," but that he believed the account John Ray Rodgers gave to him. Mr. Jones makes the same statement about Harriet and refers the reader to her deposition as proof, essentially calling her dishonest. Mr. Jones also puts forth the idea that had all the facts about Harriet been known originally to the Bureau that her claim for a pension would never have been allowed because he believes that Harriet was never the legal widow of James HC Rodgers because she was never divorced from John Harlan.
Mr. Jones then recounts the testimony of Harriet and names all the people Harriet counted in her testimony as possible witnesses in the case and that they should be contacted in Kentucky to be interviewed about her relationship with John Harlan. Mr. Jones also suggests the older children by James HC and Mary Ann Moore should be contacted as they may have some valuable information. Mr. Jones concludes his report by saying that John and Harriet are not on good terms because she "squandered" his inheritance. He finally states that John Rodgers’ claim for a pension is "unmeritorious."
The next depositions in the timeline are truly very close to my heart as they come from my great-great grandfather and his sister while they lived in Scotland County, Missouri. The details they give about our family filled in so many holes and gaps of what we didn't know and sent me in several different directions in my research. The first interview was with Nancy Jane Rodgers Garrison. I think it is interesting to note that it would take nearly six months from the time of the Plum Valley interviews to the ones in Scotland County. Time sure did move a lot slower in those days!
Special Examiner L. H. Paxton interviewed Nancy Jane on January 7th, 1896 at her home near Bible Grove in Scotland County. She starts her testimony by stating her age and that James HC Rodgers was her father and that Mary Ann Moore was her mother. She confirms they were married in Jennings County, Indiana and states all the children by James HC and Mary Ann including their dates of birth of herself and her brother Robert. It is interesting to note that she didn't know the dates of birth of her brother William Henry and her sister Sally Ann. However, she did state that Sally Ann married a man by the name of Rath, had no children with him, and that she died about 1880 or so.
Nancy Jane also confirms the story she was told about John Harlan killing a man in Kentucky and that Harriet left and came to Scotland County and called her a "grass widow." (A grass widow is an old term meaning an unmarried woman who has had a child.) Nancy Jane then describes Harriet's relationship with Hiram Colvin and that Harriet lived with Hiram for awhile before they were married in Illinois after they left together. Nancy Jane further states that when her parents divorced the "old family record was torn out of the bible and no one seems to know what happens to it." Nancy Jane provided the only clue about her mother's situation to date in her deposition saying that her grandmother was married twice, once to a Moore and once to a Roscoe, and she also confirms all the children for the special examiner.
Nancy Jane concludes her testimony by confirming James HC Rodgers' death of May 6th, 1865 and says the family moved back to Scotland County shortly thereafter and the following fall Harriet left with Hiram to go back to the farm owned by James HC. She alludes to the fact she didn't go with them. Nancy Jane was the first member of the family in the timeline of examinations to actually sign her own name on the form as well. I was surprised that she signed her last name "Garison" and not "Garrison" as our family has always spelled it. Mr. Paxton would next interview my great great grandfather William Henry Rodgers (Pa Bill.)
On January 17th, 1896, Pa Bill was questioned in his home about the situation. For all intent and purposes, Pa Bill would only confirm all the information his sister Nancy Jane would give, but just as each succeeding interview would do he would provide a few more details to the picture. Pa Bill refers to his siblings by Harriet as brothers and sisters of the "half blood" and states that he thought Harriet's name at the time of her marriage to James HC was Harriet Ridge. The special examiner made a note to remember this item of information as he would later interview some of the Ridge family members. Pa Bill states that he got the date of his birth from his father's sister Sallie Ann Ray and presented the special examiner with James HC land grant he received from his service in the Mexican War that also had the dates of his siblings birth on them. (This document has been passed down through the generations and the original is in the possession of my cousins Kevin and Becky Rodgers.) Pa Bill also signed the deposition in his own hand. The special examiner lastly would interview a John Ridge on January 24th, 1896 who was Harriet Colvin's half brother. John Ridge had no new information for the special examiner as he said he left Harriet in Kentucky when he was a very small child and wasn't there when all the alleged incidents with Harlan and Pittman happened. Mr. Paxton would then file his report to his superiors.
Mr. Paxton's report of January 30th, 1896 is unremarkable in most ways except one: He makes the statement for the first time that James HC's children Nancy Jane, Robert, and William are probably entitled to pension money as the law stood then. The disposition of this will be explained later, but the important part is that Pa Bill and his siblings birth dates are authenticated and entered into the official record and it is the opinion of the special examiner that James HC Rodgers wrote the dates himself and are accurate. For the pension claim to proceed this is essential because the dollar amounts are based solely on the dates of birth since they can only receive money up to age sixteen under the original laws. Mr. Paxton concludes his report by stating an examiner needs to be sent to Boyle County, Kentucky to discover the truth behind Harriet's relationship with John Harlan. These interviews would not be very flattering to Harriet.
In an actual typed letter, one of the only ones in the file, a Wm. Lochner wrote back to Mr. E.H. Jennings. "Herewith are returned to you the papers…together with your report…which is deemed unsatisfactory."
Mr. Lochner continues on to say that the facts in place at the time and by the testimony of Harriet that Mr. Jennings' investigation was completely sub par. Jennings was told he should have examined all the courthouse records and indeed, interviewed people about the prostitute that Harlan had killed Pittman over. Mr. Lochner even goes so far to say that Harriet was the prostitute in question and that Mr. Jennings should have realized that. Mr. Lochner orders Mr. Jennings to continue the investigation in Boyle and surrounding counties before any further investigation or interview of Harriet takes place.
About one month later, April 27th, 1896, Mr. Jennings returned to visit John Harlan's sister, Mrs. Sophia Harlan Taylor. His only question of Mrs. Taylor was whether or not John Harlan was married prior to his moving to Texas and how she would know. Mrs. Taylor is very clear in her memory that John Harlan lived with her and their mother right up until the time Harlan shot and killed Pittman. After his trial, Mrs. Taylor says, John Harlan went to Kansas and then to Texas. Mrs. Taylor concludes by basically calling Harriet a liar. Mr. Jennings would next interview John Harlan's brother, James L. Harlan.
Again, Mr. Jennings asked flat out if John Harlan was ever married before he went to Texas and gets the same response: "I will state most positively that (John) was never married in (Kentucky)." Mr. Jennings then asks James if he had ever heard of Harriet. James said yes he had heard of Harriet and told his part of the story. "Harriet Camlin," James Harlan says, "was the daughter of a man named Ridge who married a Camlin and Harriet must have taken his name. Harriet was a young girl…a prostitute. John was going to see her...(and) got into a difficulty (with two other men) and (my brother) John was cut in 17 places. They (the two men) were cousins of Tom Pittman whom my brother met soon after getting out of bed (and who) he was forced to shoot." James Harlan goes on to say that Harriet was indeed the cause of the "difficulty" and that Pittman was killed by his brother John Harlan because he was continuing to see her. James Harlan concluded he hadn't heard anything of Harriet or her family since she moved to them in Missouri. James also stated that he thought there may be Pittmans still alive in the county and Mr. Jennings would next interview the brother of the man John Harlan killed, Mr. W.H. Pittman.
On April 26th, 1896, Mr. Jennings interviewed W.H. Pittman who again states very surely that John Harlan was not ever married in Kentucky. Mr. Pittman was asked if his brother was shot by John Harlan and he at first stated that he didn't know. Mr. Jennings prompted him asking if the shooting was on the account of a woman and Pittman said he "wouldn't be surprised." Pittman said John Harlan was "keeping" a prostitute named Harriet Camlin for over a year during which time they had a child but Mr. Pittman is positive the two were never married. Mr. Pittman also is the first to allude to the idea that Harriet's mother was also not married when she gave birth to Harriet. More on this will be discussed later. Next in Boyle County, Mr. Jennings would find the niece of the man who married Harriet's mother.
On April 30th, 1896, Mr. Jennings interviewed Annie E. McKenzie who was the niece of James Ridge, the man who married Harriet's mother Lucinda Camlin and would, of course, take the name of Ridge as well. Ms. McKenzie goes on to state she was sure Harriet was never married in Kentucky but did have a child out of wedlock that drown in a well. On the same day Mr. Jennings interviewed a sister of Ms. McKenzie, an Amanda Holt.
Ms. Holt continues to give the same testimony as everyone else in Boyle County has and it seems that Mr. Jennings is trying to hammer this point home: Harriet was a prostitute who had a child out of wedlock with John Harlan that died before age two. They were never married and she left as not to be a witness at his murder trial. The last private citizen to be interviewed was considered the most reputable of the interviewees in Boyle, the county pharmacist, Dr. A.J McGrarty.
On May 1st, 1896, Mr. Jennings interviews seventy five year old AJ McGrarty who finalizes this round of depositions in the same way the others had. I argue Mr. Jennings saved the best reputation for last and the good doctor had no problem speaking his mind about both Harriet and John. He said he was sure they were never married, that Harriet was "not considered respectable," and that John Harlan was "very wild." The doctor finalizes his short testimony saying that John Harlan regularly rode into town with his gun and "everyone would close up." The doctor even states that John even came to his door with his gun out and that the doctor would just give him what he wanted so he would leave.
The last deposition Mr. Jennings would obtain was from the sitting Clerk of the Boyle County Court, J.B. Nichols, Jr who states: "I have carefully examined the marriage record on file in my office from 1848 to 1855 and can not find any record of a marriage between John Harlan and Harriet J. Camlin or Harriet J. Ridge. The above is correct and understood." Mr. Jennings would then file his second report to his superiors.
Mr. Jennings second report was short and didn't not say much more than his first other than he emphatically states that Harriet Camlin and John Harlan were never married and if Harriet still wants to claim the marriage that she be required to provide proof. It seems clear to all those concerned that there never was a marriage. The question was, why was Harriet claiming so adamantly to have been married to John Harlan before leaving Kentucky? The pension office would next send another special examiner to visit Harriet who was still living in Dykes, Texas County, Missouri.
On June 16th, 1896, Special Examiner R.H. Jones interviewed Harriet J. Colvin at her home where she would give the most detailed testimony to date about her situation in Kentucky and her supposed marriage to John Harlan, which she still emphatically claims happened.
Harriet states in her deposition that she was married near Perryville at John Harlan’s uncle’s home by a Justice of the Peace named "Hollans." Harriet says that there was no one present at the ceremony except John Harlan's uncle, his aunt, and some "negro slaves," one of which was named "Tilda." She can’t remember the month or the year, but that it was in the "winter time." Harriet says that she and John lived with his uncle for several weeks and then John went to Louisville to attend medical college and that after he returned he had a "falling out" with the Pittmans and killed Tom. John was put in jail for the crime and was there for the summer. Harriet tried to go visit him in jail but was told she couldn't see him as "no women were allowed" in the jail. After this Harriet went to her grandmother's in Lincoln County, Kentucky and then to Scotland County, Missouri to live with her mother. Harriet says she has no proof of the marriage beyond her word as she didn't keep the license she was supposedly given.
Harriet then states that she did indeed have a male child with Harlan and that the boy drowned in a well when he was about two years old. At long last, Harriet finally explains the name situation that has for so long been a confusion to me. Harriet's mother married (her mother's) cousin whose name was Will Camlin and was Harriet's father. Will died when Harriet was very young and her mother married a man named James Ridge who also had died. Harriet concluded by saying her mother is still alive and lives with Harriet's half brother James Ridge at Crawford Station, Scotland County, Missouri. It is very clear from her testimony that Harriet truly believes she was legally married to John Harlan. Just as the other special examiners had, Mr. Jones files his report to his superiors in Washington, DC.
Mr. Jones summarizes Harriet's testimony in his report and puts forth the theory that John Harlan concocted the wedding ceremony in an attempt to keep Harriet to himself and to perhaps legitimize the child they had together. Mr. Jones further argues that Harriet is emphatic that she was married and if no one else, at least Harriet's mother would know of the correct situation. It is Mr. Jones recommendation that a special examiner be dispatched to Scotland County, Missouri to interview Harriet's mother.
It is kind of amazing to me that the first time I saw the name Lucinda Ridge was many years before I knew much about James HC Rodgers or his life and times. The first time I saw that name was when I made a copy of James HC and Mary Ann Rodgers divorce decree that stated Mary Ann accusing James HC of having "criminal intercourse with Mrs. Lucinda Ridge!" I never gave it much thought until after I found out that Lucinda was Harriet's mother. If you take the literal interpretation and believe the accusation, James HC Rodgers was having an affair at some point in time with his second wife's mother.
On August 17th, 1896, Lucinda Needham was interviewed by Special Examiner W.H. Nehus at the home of her son John Ridge in Memphis, Missouri. She states she is seventy-four years old and the mother of Harriet J. Colvin. (Just as a side note, if Lucinda and Harriet are accurate in giving their ages, it means Lucinda was thirteen or fourteen years old when she gave birth to Harriet.) Lucinda states that about 1853 she moved to Missouri and that Harriet was about twenty years old and did not accompany her to Missouri, but lived with the sisters of her second husband John Ridge whose names were Annie McKenzie, Polly Taylor, and Eliza and Mary Ridge near Danville, Kentucky. Lucinda goes on to say she hasn't heard from these women since the Civil War and doesn't know if they are alive or not.
Mr. Nehus asks Lucinda if Harriet was married prior to her marriage to James HC Rodgers and Lucinda states that as far as she knew Harriet was never married to anyone but did admit that Harriet stayed in Kentucky because she was seeing John Harlan and he had promised to marry her. Lucinda says that Harriet never talked about him after she came to Missouri about 1855. Lucinda confirms again that Harriet was pregnant by John Harlan before Lucinda left for Missouri and that the child drown in a "spring that he fell into by accident." Lucinda says she is sure Harriet was not married to Harlan because first off, Harriet would have told her, and second off, Harriet never would have left because the Harlan family was quite wealthy and Harriet would have been entitled to a lot of property and money as his wife, ex-wife, or widow.
Mr. Nehus reports to his superiors he is under the impression there never was a marriage and questions Harriet truthfulness and puts forth the opinion that Harriet is simply trying to conceal the fact that she was "in the family way" outside of marriage in an attempt to save face and to save character. He recommends further investigation into the situation with the sisters of John Ridge, if they can be found, and of John Harlan's family. In the short term it doesn’t seem like this was going to happen and a long time passed before the next deposition, which is without a doubt my favorite, the deposition of Robert W. Rodgers, my great-great grandfather’s brother.
I am not sure why Robert W. Rodgers' (Uncle Bob's) deposition is so incredible to me. Perhaps it is because he was remembered by several of my living relatives as quite a character in his youth and these stories have been passed down through the generations. It could also be that Robert's deposition is the easiest to read and gives the most information, in the clearest fashion, about my family's early history. Again, I was surprised that over seven months had passed in the deposition timeline.
On March 17th, 1897 at Augusta, Woods County, the Territory of Oklahoma (Oklahoma did not become the 46th state until 1907), H.M. Burfield deposed and interviews Robert W. Rodgers who states he was born March 19th, 1852 and is the oldest son of James HC and Mary Ann Rodgers.
Robert states that his father enlisted "the last time" in the 18th Illinois Infantry, Company H, and that he remembers his father well. Robert says, "My father and mother had separated before the war and I lived with father. All of the children, but Sally lived with father. She lived with my mother. My mother and father were divorced before the war and mother married a man named Love, and she died on Nov. 26, 1893 at Crawford Station, Scotland County, MO….The children born to my father and mother were Nancy Jane (now Garrison), myself, Wm. H. Rodgers, and Sarah (Sally) Ann Rodgers. Nancy Jane is about two years older than I. Wm. H. is about two years younger. I don't remember much about Sally Ann as she was the baby and mother kept her. She died about 20 years ago, I understood. I always understood that my father and mother were married near Scipio, Jennings Co, Ind. and they were divorced in Scotland Co., Mo. I can remember the trial but was too young to comprehend the meaning. I lived with my Uncle Dave Pruitt (this would a great uncle who was married to Robert's grandmother Elizabeth Wilkerson Rodgers' sister Polly) between the time of father and mother's separation and their divorce, near Memphis, Scotland County, Mo. I remember when my father brought my stepmother Harriet J. Rodgers home. After they were married we moved from Scotland County, Mo. to Jennings County, Ind. My half sister Demira was born before we moved. My half brother John R. was born near Scipio, Jennings County, Ind. and at that time my father was in the army. I think the three month service, for I remember I went to the doctor to attend my stepmother. We next moved to Lovington, Moultrie Co. Ills., and Elizabeth was born there. So the children of the half blood were Demira, John, and Elizabeth. While we lived near Lovington, Ill., my father enlisted in the 18 Ill. Inf. and I took him to the station when he went away and while he was in the Army I kept my home with my step mother though I worked out a good deal."
Robert continues, "Soon after we heard of father's death we moved back to Scotland Co., Mo. I think in the fall of 1865. The next spring I remember Hiram Colvin and my stepmother left Mo. together and went back to near Lovington, Moultrie Co. Ills to the farm left by father (40 acres). My brother Wm H. went with them. It was the talk that Colvin and Harriet were not married when they went away and that they lived together in Ills until they were compelled to marry."
I remember the first time I read this testimony of Robert in the National Archives in Washington, DC. It was phenomenal! All of the questions I had been looking for answers to were there in a simple couple of pages, clean and clear as day. Robert's testimony would allow me to conduct probate research in Illinois and in Little Rock, Arkansas to finally confirm where precisely James HC had died and what became of his body. Ultimately, it is Robert's deposition that would allow me to make the final claim to the government on behalf of my family and James HC Rodgers for the creation of a grave marker that was erected on August 22nd, 2007. I am getting ahead of myself a little bit however. Robert's testimony would also confirm for the special examiners the fate of his sisters and half sisters and that would just about close the case.
Mr. Burfield asks Robert about Harriet next and Robert tells Mr. Burfield that Harriet told him that she was married to a Harlan in Kentucky and had a child by him who drowned in a well. Robert told Mr. Burfiend that Harriet said her husband had killed a man in Kentucky and was sent to prison for life so she came to Missouri. Robert was then asked about his half sister Demira.
Robert told Mr. Burfield that in the summer of either 1877 or 1878 he got on a steamboat at Cairo, IL to go to St. Louis when he ran into Demira by accident. Robert says Demira was with a man named Shannon who she said was her husband and that she had a small child with her so young that (he) couldn’t walk yet. Demira told Robert that she was going to live in Chester, IL for awhile and then return to the farm their father left. Robert says he has never seen or heard of Demira since. Robert was then asked if he had a birth record of all of his family.
Robert told Mr. Burfield he had no record of the births and deaths of his family, but that the "paper" Burfield showed him looked like the record he use to see in the family bible and that he thought it was correct. He also stated he had an uncle named Wilkerson Rodgers who loved near Scipio, IN and that Wilkerson was older than James HC. Robert further states that his mother's maiden name was Moore and that she had a brother named Bob. In beautiful cursive, Robert W. Rodgers concluded his testimony and signed his name. Again, thanks to Uncle Bob, I was able to conclude my investigations with visits to Moultrie County, IL and once again returning to Jennings County, IN in the summer of 2007.
Mr. Burfield's report to the Pension Office was short and shed but little more light on the situation, but he does put it right on the line saying, "There is scarcely a probability that the widow (Harriet) was ever married to John Harlan as she alleges. She was a woman of easy virtue as shown by her living with Hiram Colvin between two and three years as his wife prior to their marriage on May 9, 1868." Burfield further makes the suggestion that a special examiner be dispatched to Illinois to discover the current whereabouts of Demira.
Special Examiner Lewis O. Rogers (no relation to us), on April 1st, 1897 interviews Martha Ann English in Macon County, Illinois who claims she is forty four years old and a step daughter of Harriet, saying that her father was Hiram Colvin by his first marriage. Martha claims complete ignorance to the situation, not knowing anything about Demira, claiming she hadn't seen her for nearly twenty years. Mrs. English shed nothing on the subject as Mr. Rogers stated in his report, but he adds, "It is my opinion that Demira is her mother's own child, and practicing her traits living with men as their wives without legal rights is hiding somewhere unknown to her kin-folks. I believe (from reading all the reports) that Mrs. Rodgers No. 2 alias Harlan was the legal wife of James HC Rodgers (and) that it was her first marriage." Special Examiner Rogers was the first person in the timeline to state that the claims of the children who were still alive were entitled to pensions!
At long last, nearly thirty three years after his death, the pension of James HC Rodgers was just about concluded. The Chief of the Special Examination Division is given a final report on the issue of whether or not Harriet J. Colvin was the legal widow of James HC Rodgers and whether or not her children and step-children are entitled to pension money. On April 15th, 1897, Mr. Frank E. Anderson reports very clearly that regardless of what Harriet may state, it is very clear that there was never a legal marriage between her and John Harlan. Mr. Anderson states that an exhaustive investigation by six Special Examiners, submitting nine reports, across two decades, from testimony from the family and relatives of Harlan and from respectable citizens who knew all concerned and all the details. The facts show beyond a reasonable doubt, according to Mr. Anderson, that Harriet and John Harlan's relationship was concocted by Harlan so that he could keep Harriet to himself and to provide legitimacy for Harriet's birth of a son outside of marriage, and to conceal her notoriety as a prostitute. Mr. Anderson concludes: "The pensioner Harriet J. Rogers (sic) was the legal wife of the soldier, and was his lawful widow until the date of her remarriage to Colvin." With one exception, the case was closed. The pension officers now had to calculate the pension money based upon three different Acts of Congress, and make a conclusion about the whereabouts of Demira H. Rodgers. It is amazing to me that the Demira issue would take three more years of investigations.
Although it is circumstantial evidence, it would appear that the next piece of the story was initiated by John Ray Rodgers, James HC's youngest son with second wife Harriet. I am assuming the pension office contacted him to say they had made the conclusion that he was entitled to pension money, but that it was being withheld because there was confusion about John's sister Demira's status. Based upon the fact that the next couple of "depositions" were not on the standard government pension office forms as ever single other one in the case file was, I believe John hired someone to take these to prove Demira was not alive.
On January 29th, 1898, Mr. Frank A. Marsteiner of Chester, Illinois gives a deposition on his knowledge of Demira’s situation. This deposition was not done by a Special Examiner, but a notary public of Randolph County, Illinois. Mr. Marsteiner states that he was well acquainted with William H. and Demira Shannon, as well as their young son, William Edward Shannon, as he was their "next door neighbor."
Mr. Marsteiner says that he believed William H. Shannon died in about September of 1879 and he attended the funeral and that after William H.'s death Demira went to live with an "old lady name of Cedars, where (Demira) died about the autumn of 1880. Marsteiner states in a second deposition that he believed both William H. and Demira Shannon were buried in the Anderson Graveyard near Chester, Illinois. He concluded by saying that the son, William Edward Shannon, then went to live with a Catholic priest who arranged for one Lawancz Shmania, who Marsteiner described as a "Polander" to raise Demira's son. Finally, Mr. Marsteiner states that William Edward Shannon lived with Schmania until he was about eighteen years old and at the time in question lives about three miles from the city of Chester in Randolph County, Illinois. The next deposition is of William Edward Shannon himself.
On January 31st, 1898, William Edward Shannon gave testimony to a notary public saying that he does not remember his parents, William H. and Demira (Rodgers) Shannon, but that he was always taught that they were his mother and father and that he "respect(s) their memory as such." He reiterated Mr. Marsteiner's testimony that his parents died when he was very young and that Lawancz Shmania raised him until about the year 1896 when he moved out to "work for (him)self." William Edward Shannon's neighbor Mrs. Amanda Knapp gives the next statement which is exactly the same as the first two. Although circumstantial I believe that John Ray Rodgers, Demira’s brother, was given these three depositions and then sent them, along with a personal statement of his own stating this was his proof that Demira was dead, to the Pension Office in Washington, DC. The office stamped that they received the documents on May 21st, 1898, but the examiner was not taking John Ray Rodgers word at face value.
As sent to Mr. Coleman, Chief of Section, W. Berger states that he was not satisfied that Demira was indeed dead based upon conflicting information about the dates of her death in the depositions John Rodgers sent and the earlier reports of Special Examiners Jones and Paxton. Mr. Berger puts a hold on the case and says, "before we drop Demira's name and divide her share between her brothers the case should be returned…to verify the alleged fact and date of death of Demira…" It is significant to note that the newer pension laws now didn't just erase a claim if a child had died, but would have divided the share amongst surviving children, giving them each more money.
It would seem from the next Special Examiner reports that the depositions sent by Frank Marsteiner, John Ray Rodgers, and William Edward Shannon were correct. The first Special Examiner E.E. Clark dispatched to Randolph County, Illinois interview a Jasper Phegley who had been previously named by Harriet Colvin in one of her depositions as someone who knew the circumstances surrounding Demira. He was interviewed on October 19th, 1899, but states that he knew nothing about Demira and that Harriet had him confused him with his brother Merida Phegley who actually knew the family. Special Examiner Clark in his report states this as well as the fact that he made very careful inquiries in Randolph County for the Shannon family and was unsuccessful. He recommends that an examiner be dispatched to Scott County, Missouri to interview the Merida Phegley.
Merida Phegley was sixty-six years old when he was interviewed on November 19th, 1899 and, in my opinion, did not have a very good memory. He stated in his deposition many very confusing facts about the situation, confusing James HC Rodgers with his son John Ray Rodgers, and otherwise had no information useful to Special Examiner J.R. Hanna except that he thought someone named William Harris, who lived in Howell County, Missouri had married one of James HC Rodgers' daughters. This, too, would be incorrect, but it allowed for another lead to be followed.
On December 29th, 1899, Special Examiner F.W. Moore interviewed William H. Harris at his home in Howell County, MO. Mr. Harris states that he did indeed know the family, but that he had married a daughter of Hiram Colvin, Harriet's current husband and not one of James HC's daughters as Mr. Phegley had stated. He did give some further information about Demira, however.
Mr. Harris told Special Examiner Moore that Demira had run away with a married man named Shannon in 1878. Mr. Harris further states that he thought he had heard she appeared back in Moultrie County, Illinois a couple of years later to sell her share in the land James HC had left, and that she died shortly after that. Special Examiner Moore makes the recommendation after relating this in his report that someone be sent back to Moultrie County to confirm Mr. Harris' testimony.
On March 13th, 1900, nearly thirty five years after James HC Rodgers' probate record was filed in Moultrie County, Illinois, Special Examiner C. E. Hayward examined the documents with the Deputy Clerk C. W. Green and concluded that a Demira W. Rodgers is mentioned as an heir to James HC, but that there is no information as to her current location or what she did with her share of James HC's estate. Next, Mr. Hayward walked across the hall of that courthouse in Sullivan, Illinois and examined the title abstracts with the Abstractor of Titles, Mr. G.G. Martin and discovered a deed from Demira Shannon to a Catherine E. Latch dated November 12th, 1880 for Demira's interest in the forty acres of land she inherited from her father James HC. Mr. Hayward would state in his final report that neither Demira's address nor Mrs. Latch's address were given. He further says that the land was completely owned and later sold by Demira's "half brother." (We now know that was Pa Bill.) Mr. Hayward concludes his report by saying "all sources of information appearing to have been exhausted I recommend that the papers be referred for the consideration of the Chief of Board of Review." The investigation that had lasted thirty five years was over. The payment vouchers were sent to William Henry and John Ray Rodgers on April 16th, 1900.
We have already taken a look at the pension system of the United States. The operative law when the investigation into James HC's pension was concluded was the Act of March 2nd, 1895. This Act revolves around two main issues related to James HC's family. First, when did Harriet cease to be a "widow," in other words when did she remarry, and second, when did the children still living turn sixteen years of age.
The government philosophy relating to marriage at the time generally put forth the notion that a widow was only in need of government support as long as she wasn’t re-married. As soon as she did marry, her new husband was responsible for all her support and that of her children. Harriet became James HC's widow on May 6th, 1865 and became entitled to a pension that was paid to her up until her remarriage to Hiram Colvin in March of 1868. I would argue Harriet was a smart woman and put off legally marrying Hiram as long as possible, even though they lived together as husband and wife, for as long as possible, knowing that as soon as she married Hiram her pension would cease. As noted earlier Harriet received $192.00 ($4,600 in 2007 dollars) on April 4th, 1894. The issue of James HC's children by his two wives was clarified by the Act of 1895.
As long as the children were under the age of sixteen they were entitled to a pension under the original legislation that would first go to the widow of the soldier to be used as she saw fit. Again, as soon as she ceased to be a "widow" by remarrying, that money would cease. Nancy Jane Rodgers Garrison and Robert W. Rodgers, James HC's two oldest children turned sixteen years old in 1866 and 1868, respectively, before Harriet's official marriage to Hiram Colvin. This immediately excludes them from any pension money going directly their way. That money went to Harriet. William Henry Rodgers, the third oldest child would have turned sixteen on January 6th, 1870, so he was eligible. Sally Ann Rodgers Rath, the fourth child who died on January 12th, 1875 was eligible, but her share would have been taken by Harriet originally as would the youngest child Louisa Elizabeth who died on February 9th or 12th, 1873. Neither of them would be eligible for later money because they died before the Act of 1880. That leaves John Ray Rodgers and Demira W. Rodgers Shannon. John would have turned sixteen on July 7th, 1877 and Demira on October 2nd, 1874. Since it was confirmed that Demira was still alive when the Act of 1880 was in place, her share should have been divided equally to her half brother William and her full brother John. Therefore, John Ray Rodgers and William Henry Rodgers were eligible for $8 a month from May 10th, 1868 (Harriet's remarriage) to July 6th 1877 (John's sixteenth birthday) under the new Act and $2 a month from the time of Harriet's remarriage until they each turned sixteen years old.
As of this writing I am attempting to trace the actual figures and find a copy of the payment vouchers John and William would have received. Unfortunately, because of several factors, the least of which that the vouchers were paid out of Topeka, Kansas, I have been unable to find them yet, as there are thousand of pages of these vouchers to go through. Another trip to Washington, DC is in order, I guess. Never the less, I am confident of my calculations based upon these laws are accurate and are as follows:
William Henry Rodgers would have received $920 of his own pension and one-half of Demira's ($1058) for a total of $1449 in 1900's dollars. John Ray Rodgers would have received $1096 of his own pension and half of Demira's for a total of $1625 in 1900's dollars. I say "1900's" dollars because in 2007 dollars it would be obviously far more money. For the purposes of calculating how much money William Henry and John Ray Rodgers would have received in 2007 dollars, I have chosen to use two different comparisons: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) and an unskilled labor index.
The CPI is probably the most well known comparison of money over time, but in our case it becomes somewhat of a conservative estimate because the CPI is really only valid when comparing dollars on the same standard. For example, since 1900 the United States has used a gold standard, a silver standard, a paper standard, etc. It is difficult and very complicated to compare money using these different monetary units. Putting it all together, however, William Henry Rodgers, using the CPI would have received $35,886.78 in the year 2007. This is a dollar to dollars comparison, and does not really take into account how much the money was actually worth to him as opposed to the unskilled wage standard.
The unskilled wage standard is not very well known and was developed to compare how much money an unskilled worker would make in one year, extrapolate that out using a variety of factors, and compare it to a future year. This standard gives us an idea of how much manual labor costs in the 19th compared to the 21st century, or maybe more precisely how much someone would be paid in the year 2007 compared to 1900 for the same amount and type of work. To William Henry Rodgers, the $1449.00 he received from James HC's pension would be equivalent to $165,372.30 in 2007! Whether you choose to use the nearly $36,000 CPI figure or this much larger one, or something in the middle, it must have been quite a shock to Pa Bill when he received the payment voucher because he was not the one pursuing the claim, his half brother John Ray was. One can only imagine how he felt on that April day in 1900 when the mailman showed up at his home.
I have heard since I was a little boy about Pa Bill. How he was a banker and very well respected farmer turned business man in Memphis, MO. I have heard my Dad and my Uncles talk about how wealthy he was and how they always wondered where that money came from. It now seems pretty clear that the money came from his father's Civil War service and that he used it to build a home and support him and his family for the rest of their lives. As I conclude this composition, let's briefly talk about the family and Pa Bill's siblings and their families, and take one last look at James HC Rodgers. The descriptions are brief but please contact me or refer to the family CD for detailed records and photographs of many of the people named.
William Henry Rodgers (Pa Bill) married the daughter of his father's sister, his first cousin, Miranda Ellen Ray (Grammie) on July 20th, 1882 in Memphis, MO. To this union four children were born. The oldest, Alfred D. Rodgers (Uncle Doc) was born on September 1st, 1883 or 1884 in Scotland County, MO and died in 1966. He married Emma Waterbury and they had four children, Robert William, John H., Florence, and Otis (Ned) Rodgers. They spent their lives in northern Oklahoma and now have descendents all over the United States.
Pa Bill and Grammie’s second child was never named and lived only 14 days, dying on January 29th, 1885. The boy is buried next to his parents in Pleasant Hill Cemetery near Memphis, MO.
Their third child was born while the family was living near Robert W. Rodgers (Uncle Bob) in Kansas. My great grandfather Charley Rodgers was born in September of 1887 in Pratt Kansas, and died on December 19th, 1958 in Kirksville, MO. He married Beulah Anna Barr on November 29th, 1906 and had six children: An infant that died very early; my grandfather Harley Harold Rodgers; Evelyn Kathleen Rodgers; Cecil Wayne Rodgers; Charles William Rodgers; and Bobbie Lee Rodgers. I find it interesting to note that my Great Grandma Beulah Rodgers had her first and last child over twenty-three years apart with my Grandpa Harold being born in 1907 and Great Uncle Bobbie Lee in 1930. Charles William Rodgers (Junior) died in 1966 and is buried in the Memphis Cemetery. My Grandpa Harold and Uncle Cecil are buried with Charley and Beulah in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery near Memphis, MO. All of this family with the exception of my Great Uncle Bob who is still living and Evelyn Kathleen (Aunt Kathleen or Aunt Katie) are buried in Scotland County, MO. She is buried in Hygiene, Colorado, with her husband Raymond Johnson (Ole).
Pa Bill and Grammie’s youngest son, John Riley Rodgers' was born on July 28th, 1889 in Scotland County, MO. He was drafted while living in Idaho and served during World War I in France. The family has passed on a story that he was exposed to mustard gas while there and was "never quite right" after. He never married or had any children and died on June 19th, 1939 in a veteran's hospital in St. Louis, MO. John is buried in the Pleasant Hill cemetery next to his parents.
Pa Bill would die on August 12, 1934 at his home of 333 S. Knott Street in Memphis, Missouri at the age of eighty. His obituary was one of the first (of many) confusing items about our family I found, but it was very helpful in getting me started fifteen years ago. He left his entire estate to his wife and three sons. It was substantial for the times, for reasons that are now clear totally $11,402.14. Just using the CPI, Grammie received $180,672! She divided the money amongst her three sons with Alfred, Charley, and John receiving $3267.38 each in 1934 dollars and equaling $49,193.71 in 2007 dollars. Grammie would keep the family home and $1,600 for herself ($24,089.62 in 2007) and an interest in the old farm. Grammie would live for some thirteen more years dying on June 1st, 1947 also at the family home on Knott Street. She was the last of the ten children of John Kestler Ray and Sallie Ann Rodgers Ray to pass away. Pa Bill and Grammie are both buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery northwest of Memphis, MO very close to many, many of their family members with the exception of Pa Bill's two oldest siblings.
In the spring of 2006, I received a tip that Pa Bill's older sister Nancy Jane Rodgers Garrison and younger brother Robert W. Rodgers had lived their last days in northern Oklahoma. I confirmed this through the 1910 and 1920 census and in July of 2006 visited Alfalfa County, Oklahoma to find their graves. It was a very moving moment to know that even though this branch of our family had left Scotland County, MO many years before that they still were close to each other, and even to at least one of their half-siblings from their mother's second marriage to Abraham Love. Nancy Jane's husband Lewis Fidel Garrison died on September 13th, 1911 in Alfalfa County and is buried in the Aline Star Cemetery there. It would seem that after his death Nancy Jane would spend her last days with her brother Robert and wife Katie as she is in their home in the 1920 census. Nancy Jane died on September 7th, 1921. Nancy Jane and Lewis' son James Garrison and his wife Mattie are also buried in that cemetery as are several other Garrisons I believe are related. Just down the road in the Pleasant Ridge cemetery is the last resting place of Robert W. Rodgers, his half brother Charlie Love, and their wives. There is also a memory stone there for Uncle Doc Rodgers.
Robert W. Rodgers died on August 15th, 1924. Unfortunately, I don't know too much as of this writing about Robert's time in Oklahoma. I need to go back there some day and do research on his life, but I haven't as of yet. He was the postmaster of several communities it would seem so I am sure there is much to be found. Robert's wife Katie L. died on November 10th, 1927. Directly, next to their stone I was surprised to see a memory stone for Alfred (Uncle Doc) Rodgers who was Pa Bill's brother. I am told Uncle Doc died in Carmen, Oklahoma and is buried there. It is a mystery as to who would have put that memory stone up and why. Robert's half brother Charlie Love is also close and he died in 1935. Charlie, Robert, Nancy Jane, and Pa Bill all had the same mother, Mary Ann Moore. Mary Ann, incidentally, is buried in the Friendship Cemetery near Crawford Station, Scotland County, MO with her second husband, Abe Love, who was a Civil War Union veteran.
The one other child of Mary Ann Moore and James HC, Sally Ann Rodgers Rath died of small pox on January 12th, 1875 at the age of twenty. She had married Joseph Rath on February 22nd, 1874. I have not been able to find her burial site in Scotland County, MO as of yet. Lastly, there are the three children James HC Rodgers and Harriet Colvin.
As already discussed, it would seem that Demira married a William Shannon and died sometime in the fall of 1880 in Chester, Randolph County, Illinois. I am currently conversing with local researchers there to see if there is any more information on them. I have discovered that their son William Edward Shannon married Minnie Thieret on September 15th, 1898 and they apparently had several children. It would seem William Edward Shannon would die by 1910 as Minnie is listed on the 1910 census as having been widowed. I have been unable to make contact with this branch of our family as of this writing to confirm. Also, it was confirmed during the pension investigation that James HC’s youngest daughter Louisa Elizabeth (Lizzie) Rodgers died at age ten in February 1873 in Dykes, Missouri. The last remaining child was John Ray Rodgers.
Thanks to John Ray Rodgers much of what you are reading is possible. It was he who started the pension applications that resulted in an exhaustive and conclusive investigation into the family of James HC Rodgers. It would seem that John was estranged from his mother and step father Harriet and Hiram Colvin, and would move from Texas County, MO to Greene County, Arkansas over the course of the 1900-1930 censuses. He married Effie (maiden name unknown) prior to 1900 and over the course of time had nine boys and one girl according to a letter I received from Rick Dillinger who is a descendent of John Ray Rodgers. As of this writing I have not had a chance to research them too much, but I was thrilled to spend some time on the phone with John Ray Rodgers granddaughter Billie Jean Brown a year or so ago. That branch of our family has grown rather large over the years with at least one of John Ray Rodgers' daughters having ten children herself! I hope to meet with some of these people in the near future to hammer out the details. I would also like to talk to Hiram and Harriet Colvin's descendents, but they, too, have not been found at this time.
HIRAM AND HARRIET COLVIN
Hiram and Harriet Colvin would make their way to Garfield County, Oklahoma by the 1900 census. I have often wondered if they had any contact with their step children Nancy Jane Garrison and Robert Rodgers who would have lived fairly close to them, but there is no proof of this. I found a record that puts them shortly after in Skagit County, Washington. Hiram is listed at a Mount Vernon, Washington cemetery as dying on January 24th, 1908 and being buried at the "IOOF Cem 25 Jan 1908." Harriet is also listed in the same cemetery as dying on April 13th 1908. Her cause of death is listed as "liver." Apparently, more of the Colvin family lived near as her son William Colvin is listed as the informant. Harriet is listed as living there for five years. As hard as I have tried, I have not yet been able to find any of Hiram and Harriet's descendents.
The last chapter of this story was written on August 22nd, 2007 in the Pleasant Hill cemetery where at long last I was able to honor my great-great-great grandfather, James HC Rodgers. Early in June of 2007, I was finally able to make an application to the Veterans Administration for a memorial marker for James HC. The rules for this type of situation were very clear and required much of the research you have read about in this composition. I first had to secure the service details of James HC from the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Veterans Administration requires the official service file of a soldier and proof that he was never provided an official military funeral or was buried in a mass grave. After I copied James HC's official files from the National Archives detailing his units in the Mexican and Civil War, I traveled first to Moultrie County, Illinois, which was his last residence. In Moultrie County, I copied his probate file in the courthouse to prove that his body was never returned home and that no funeral took place in Moultrie County. After that, and in consultation with the Veteran's Administration, it was necessary to travel to where James HC died on May 6th, 1865, Little Rock, Arkansas.
In Little Rock, Arkansas I researched those last days of the war and found the exact location that James HC was last alive. Called "Regimental Hospital" in his death record, this building was originally a Confederate stronghold and taken over by Union forces near the end of the war. It was later named the Little Rock Barracks and was a federal arsenal for many years and General Douglas MacArthur was born there in 1880. It is now a museum to General MacArthur's life. The original records of the Barracks are storied at the Butler Center for Arkansas Study in downtown Little Rock. It was here that the information that James HC Rodgers was buried in a mass grave with many hundreds of other men who died in the last months of the Civil War as a result of disease and the terribly unsanitary conditions in the hospital.
Having all of this information I was then able to make copies and fill out all the paperwork to request a Civil War era tombstone be made for James HC Rodgers. The forms required me to state where the tombstone was going to be erected and it could only be delivered to a licensed funeral director, so I contacted Mr. Waldo McWilliams in Memphis, MO to request permission to put the stone up in Pleasant Hill Cemetery and where exactly that might be. I also secured delivery of the tombstone to Mr. Ronnie Tinkle, Director of Payne Funeral Home in Memphis, MO. All of these details secure, I sent in the paperwork to Washington, DC in early June, 2007.
On July 1st, 2007 I received a phone call from the Veterans Administration informing me that the request was very unique and one of the first of its kind in many, many years. The VA representative requested a couple of clarifications about James HC's Mexican War service and told me that once she confirmed the information in the archives she would get back to me.
On August 7th, 2007, I was informed that my request for a tombstone for James HC was approved and would be constructed and shipped to Payne's Funeral Home in Memphis, MO. On August 14, 2007, I received a call from Ronnie Tinkle that the tombstone had arrived. Finally, on August 22nd, 2007, my first cousin once removed Kevin Rodgers, his wife Becky, my wife Karen, and I picked up the tombstone and erected it at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery next to William Henry Rodgers who was James HC's son. I must say it was a little strange digging in a cemetery, but we were successful, and the memorial stone for James HC Rodgers is now in place for all time. I am very proud of James HC and the sacrifices he made for our county and the incredible perseverance of his children surviving and being successful after losing their father at such a young age. Thank you for reading this story and please pass it on to all those who come after you for they are James HC's true legacy!
The Scotland County, Missouri Genealogical Society, especially Joanne Aylward who has always been ready and able to help find the pieces of the puzzle I needed over the years; The Scotland County Gen Web site and its Coordinator, John Slavin, as well as all the people who have contributed time and effort to the history of Scotland County Genealogy and that web site. The very fine folks at the Scotland County Courthouse who patiently let me pour through all their documents, make copies and further inquiries, all while trying to do their jobs, and the Scotland County Library, their supporters and employees and; Chris Feeney and the Memphis Democrat for publishing the story of my search.
The Jennings County, Indiana Gen Web site and their Co-ordinator Sheila Kell for all her help in tracking down the Joseph Wilkerson situation and connecting me with so many of the people of Scipio, Indiana who helped in my research, as well as all of the contributors to that web site, and the current land owners of all of the Wilkerson and Rodgers places I was able to visit in my search for Joseph's grave; Lynn Hayes and Steve Goodwin for making the letters of Rachel Wilkens to Polly Sprout available (1860) in which James HC Rodgers was mentioned; Denise Schafer who was in charge of the genealogy department at the Jennings County Library for all her time and efforts; and all of the fine folks at the Jennings County Courthouse for allowing me to peruse and copy their records.
The Moultrie County, Illinois Gen Web site and their current Coordinator Greg Hamblin, and all the people who contributed to that web site; Kaye Webb who showed me the county on my visit, made many copies, helped in the courthouse, and especially for taking me to the land that James HC Rodgers last lived before he died.
Finally, I would like to thank the National Archives of the United States of America for keeping every scrap of paper about the pension of James HC Rodgers in pristine condition for well over one hundred years and more. We are all truly blessed to be Americans.
Thanks for reading.
If you are unable to access the CD, would like further information or
copies, please contact me at;
2256 Valkyrie Drive NW
Rochester, MN 55901
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Please contact Bruce Rodgers
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