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The Last Documented Widow of a Civil War Veteran Has Died

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2021

On December 16, 2020, Helen Viola Jackson died in Marshfield, Missouri at the age of 101. She was the last known widow of a Civil War veteran, marrying 93-year-old James Bolin in 1936 at the age of 17.

James Bolin was a 93-year-old widower when Jackson’s father volunteered her to stop by his house each day and assist him with chores as she headed home from school.

Bolin, who was a private in the 14th Missouri Cavalry and served until the end of the war in Co. F, did not believe in accepting charity and after a lengthy period of time asked Jackson for her hand in marriage as a way to provide for her future.

“He said that he would leave me his Union pension,” Jackson explained in an interview with Historian Hamilton C. Clark. “It was during the depression and times were hard. He said that it might be my only way of leaving the farm.”

Jackson didn’t talk publicly about her marriage until the last few years and never applied for the pension — the last person receiving a Civil War pension from the US government died in mid-2020. As I wrote then, about the Great Span:

This is a great example of the Great Span, the link across large periods of history by individual humans. But it’s also a reminder that, as William Faulkner wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Until this week, US taxpayers were literally and directly paying for the Civil War, a conflict whose origins stretch back to the earliest days of the American colonies and continues today on the streets of our cities and towns.

(via @jerometenk)