Category Archives: Military

The Real Reason for Memorial Day

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Memorial Day — or Decoration Day, as it was originally called — began shortly after the end of the Civil War. It was a way to pay respect to those who had lost their lives in that bloody conflict. Eventually, it grew as a way to honor those who died in any of our nation’s wars.

Like many of you probably do, I head out to local cemeteries on Memorial Day weekend. Ok, I go much more often than just that weekend, but the trip to cemeteries is a key event in my Memorial Day activities.

Gerald Ridenour was from my mom’s hometown. He enlisted in the Army and served in the Army Air Forces. He died in the line of duty in October 1943. His body was brought back to Perry County, Ohio for burial.

Mom was still in school at the time. She remembers that the entire school — and almost all of the town — went to his funeral. “I remember that he was wearing his uniform,” she told me on our visit to Highland Cemetery yesterday.

“At the end of the service at the cemetery, there was someone at the bottom of the hill playing Taps. None of us could see him. It’s something that I’ll never forget for as long as I live.”

Gerald V. Ridenour tombstone, Highland Cemetery, Glenford, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 23 May 2015.

Gerald V. Ridenour tombstone, Highland Cemetery, Glenford, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 23 May 2015.

Gerald Ridenour isn’t related to me, but his funeral is such a vivid memory for my mom, that he almost feels like it.

Sometime this weekend, please pause for a moment and consider the real reason we observe Memorial Day.

Philip Mason: Civil War Vet… and Ladies Man? (52 Ancestors #32)

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For Veterans Day, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight Philip Mason, my third-great-grandfather and veteran of the 14th West Virginia Infantry. Philip was born 20 November 1834 in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia, the son of John and Elizabeth (Everts) Mason.

Philip married Martha Hibbs in 1858 in Marion County, (West) Virginia. (Of course, theirs would be among the three marriage records on the page that don’t have the exact date filled in. Thanks, Marion County clerk.) Martha died in 1893.

Not too surprisingly, Philip remarried after Martha’s death. On 3 July 1894, he married Amanda D. Lowers in Ritchie County, West Virginia.

Philip Mason and Amanda Lowers

Philip Mason and Amanda Lowers

As was typical for widows of Civil War veterans, Amanda applied for a widow’s pension after Philip died in 1909. It was in her declaration for a widow’s pension that I got a bit of a surprise:

philip-mason-pensionPhilip and Amanda were married on 3 July 1894. (Yes, I knew that.) Amanda D. Mason was divorced from Weeden N. Lowers on 21 June 1894.

What? Not only was Amanda married before, but she divorced her husband a mere 12 days before marrying Philip.

I haven’t tracked down the divorce file for Amanda and Weeden, but the dates makes me wonder how it played out that Philip married Amanda just 12 days after the divorce was finalized. Was Philip a bit of a ladies man?

Philip died 10 January 1909 in Washington County, Ohio and is buried in the veterans section of Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta.

Below Ground for the Battle of Britain

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September 15 is Battle of Britain Day, commemorating the day in September 1940 when it became clear that England would be victorious against Germany in the skies over London. In June, I had the opportunity to go to the bunker where the Royal Air Force command directed the battle and Winston Churchill chewed his cigar for several hours, watching…  waiting…

I think America, as a whole, doesn’t quite appreciate all that England went through in the early days of World War II. By the time the United States entered the war in December 1941, England had already been at war with Germany for almost a year and a half. In May and June 1940, Germany had taken Belgium, Holland, and France — and then turned its sights on England.

After weeks of nighttime bombing, it became clear on 15 September that Germany was launching an all-out attack on England. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that England would win. Germany had more planes (though fewer pilots) and their planes were technologically more advanced the British fleet. And Germany was on a roll…

Churchill joined his commanders in a bunker outside of London. (The bunker is now surrounded by a middle-class subdivision.) Smoking wasn’t allowed. An officer told Churchill that he would not be able to light his iconic cigar. Higher-ranking officers were astounded that he said this. Churchill took it in stride. For the next several hours, he chewed — but did not light — his cigar.

Entrance to the Battle of Britain bunker. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Entrance to the Battle of Britain bunker. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Status board in the command center. This portion shows the Biggin Hill airfield. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Status board in the command center. This portion shows the Biggin Hill airfield. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Going down the stairs, you get a sense of claustrophobia. Everything is very close. From the command center, Churchill and his commanders could see the status of every squadron. The status board listed each unit in the airfields under this command; the lights indicated the units status — out of commission, preparing, scrambling, or in the air.

This portion of the status board shows the Biggin Hill air field and the status of each of its 4 squadrons.

Notice the clock in the lower left of the photo. The color coding of each 5 minute increment was a way that they could relay how current the information on the positions of the aircraft was. How did they track the plane while they were in the air? Radar and several skilled radar operators and map technicians.

You know that scene in numerous WWII movies where the women wearing headsets push model planes around on a table-top map? That’s what they did in the bunker. Radar operators would track the position of each plane — and try to filter out for things like flocks of geese — and relay the position to the map women. The women, in turn would then use the color code system so the commanders could see how current the position was. For example, if the time right now was in the blue, the commanders knew that anything with yellow was 5 minutes old and anything red was 10 minutes old. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a rather ingenious system.

Close-up of the planes used on the map in the plotting room. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Close-up of the planes used on the map in the plotting room. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

After the battle was over on 15 September, Churchill emerged from the bunker. They were exhausted, but relieved that they were victorious. It was here that Churchill first said the famous quote that he’d re-use the next day in his speech to the British people:

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Standing in the Battle of Britain bunker was quite an experience. You could almost hear the voices of the commanders and the servicemen and women. You could almost feel the tension. To visit, you need to make arrangements ahead of time, but it is well worth the visit.

I got to hold one of the plane pushers. It was pretty cool! Photo by Rachel Crow, 10 June 2014.

I got to hold one of the plane pushers. It was pretty cool! Photo by Rachel Crow, 10 June 2014.

View from the command center. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

View from the command center. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Hurricane outside the Battle of Britain bunker. This is the kind of plane that won the battle. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Hurricane outside the Battle of Britain bunker. This is the kind of plane that won the battle. Photo by Amy Crow, 10 June 2014.

Fleeing the War? James R. Steele, 1827-1902 (52 Ancestors #13)

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We usually can’t know with certainty what our ancestors’ motivations were for some of their actions. The best we can do is examine the facts and come up with a theory that fits. That is what I have with James R. Steele, my 3rd-great grandfather.

James was born in 1827 in Maryland or the District of Columbia, depending on which census you read. He married Mary E. Belt on 19 July 1849. They lived in Washington, DC in 1850 and 1860. It was in DC that their first five children were born, including my great-great grandmother Ella Steele. James was a carpenter.

By 1862, the family had moved from Washington to Ohio and by 1870 were living in Lawrence Township, Washington County, Ohio. What would make a journeyman carpenter pack up his family and move away from an urban area where he almost certainly had business contacts and settle in a small town two states away?

In a word: War.

If you lived in Washington, DC in 1860, there is no way you could avoid knowing what was happening. Talk of secession and war had been circulating for months. Lincoln’s election fueled the flames of rhetoric. South Carolina seceded 20 December; five more states seceded in January 1861. Rhetoric and politics turned to action on 12 April 1861 with the firing upon of Fort Sumter.

When Virginia seceded in April 1861, the District of Columbia was in a rather precarious position. Suddenly, the capital of the United States was bordered by a state that had just seceded. To make matters worse, although Maryland remained part of the Union, its southern sympathies were strong.

We will likely never know for sure why James and his family moved from Washington, DC to Ohio. But it isn’t hard to imagine that he saw the situation and decided that the risk of Washington becoming a battleground was too great.

Washington, D.C., 1862. Park of artillery (Excelsior Brigade) at Washington Arsenal. Photo by Mathew Brady. Downloaded from the Library of Congress; no known restrictions on publication.

Washington, D.C., 1862. Park of artillery (Excelsior Brigade) at Washington Arsenal. Photo by Mathew Brady. Downloaded from the Library of Congress; no known restrictions on publication.

James apparently stayed out of the Civil War. There is no listing for him in the 1890 veterans schedule in Ohio or Virginia (where he and Mary moved by 1900). There is no mention of service in his obituary. No listing for him or Mary has been found in the Civil War pension index. (Admittedly, he could have served without later applying for a pension.) But this also makes sense if he left DC to try to keep his family safe. If you’re trying to flee the war, you probably wouldn’t enlist in it.

Another avenue to pursue is James’ religion. He and Mary were married by a Rev. Mr. Evans. If that is Rev. French S. Evans, he appears to be associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. James is buried in Timber Ridge Primitive Baptist Cemetery in Frederick County, Virginia. But even if James was a pacifist, I don’t believe that would have required him to leave Washington, DC.

James R. Steele died in Whitacre, Frederick County, Virginia on 4 April 1902.


  • James Steele household, 1850 Federal census (population schedule), 4th Ward, Washington City, District of Columbia, p. 304a, household 1104, family 1141.
  • James Steele household, 1860 Federal census (population schedule), Washington, District of Columbia, page 204 (written), household 1346, family 1408.
  • James R. Steele household, 1870 Federal census (population schedule), Lawrence Township, Washington County, Ohio, page 44 (written), household 316, family 318. [Note: Son Harvey, age 8, is the first child listed as being born in Ohio. This would place the family’s move between 1860 and 1862.]
  • Jas. R. Steele FindAGrave memorial. Photo of his tombstone is on
  • National Genealogical Society, “The National Intelligencer, 1800-1850” online database. [Cites marriage of James R. Steele and Mary E. Belt married 19 July 1849; 21 July 1849 issue.]

Civil War Tombstones: A Quick Primer

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After bragging on my daughter last week for knowing the difference between a Union and a Confederate tombstone, I thought it would be good to look at government-issued Civil War tombstones in a bit more detail.

In a nutshell, the difference between Union and Confederate tombstones is the top of the stone. Union tombstones, such as that of Chas. Fetters, have rounded tops. Confederate tombstones, like that of Sgt. R. Shipp, have pointed tops.

Tombstone of Sgt. R. Shipp, Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

Tombstone of Sgt. R. Shipp, Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

Tombstone of Chas. Fetters, Stones River National Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 4 June 2005.

Tombstone of Chas. Fetters, Stones River National Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 4 June 2005.

A common question about tombstones such as Chas. Fetters’ is “How do you know what war he was in?” It’s a good question, since U.S. government-issued tombstones (other than Confederate) have this same basic shape. The answer lies in the shield.

The shield surrounding the name and the state (and, in this case, the grave number) was used by the federal government for graves of two wars: the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Graves of Spanish-American War veterans should have “Sp. Am. War” inscribed on the stone, though this was occasionally missed.

Genealogy, The Walking Dead, and a Proud Mom Moment

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My daughter and I both love “The Walking Dead” on AMC. When she was getting ready to head off to college, one of the things she sad about what that we wouldn’t get to watch “The Walking Dead” together. Skype to the rescue! Most Sunday nights will find us in front of our respective TVs and laptops, watching it “together.” (It’s especially fun when there’s a 4-second difference between our two TVs.)

She has also been to more cemeteries than most people her age. (Some moms take their little girls to Build-a-Bear. I took mine to cemeteries. Don’t judge.)

Confederate tombstones, Camp Chase Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

Confederate tombstones, Camp Chase Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

The March 9 episode of “The Walking Dead” featured the characters Daryl and Beth. Early in the episode, they walk through a cemetery. (Yay! A cemetery!) They stop to look at a tombstone; all the audience can see is the back of it.

The tombstone they’re looking at appeared to be white marble and was shaped like the ones here at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. Wanting the zombie apocalypse to be historically accurate, I said, “That better be a Confederate tombstone they’re looking at.”

My daughter, via Skype, replied, “Yeah. Union tombstones would be rounded on the top.” She’s exactly right.

It was indeed a Proud Mom Moment.

[UPDATE: See this post for a quick primer on Civil War tombstones.]

Retaliation on the Ohio Frontier: John McClelland (52 Ancestors #9)

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Life in the wilds of western Pennsylvania and Ohio during the late 1700s was one of retaliation. Whites encroached on the lands of the Native Americans, some of whom would raid the white settlements. After a raid, there would invariably be retribution against Native Americans. And the cycle would go on and on…


The tipping point in this tale was a horrific event in the settlement of Gnadenhutten, in present-day Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Moravian missionaries had converted many families of the Delaware Indians to Christianity. These Delaware tried to remain neutral between the British and the American colonists. In 1781, after a series of raids in Pennsylvania (perpetrated by others), the British ordered the Delaware to leave Gnadenhutten and move to Sandusky in northern Ohio.

Raids from sides continued. In early 1782, a militia led by David Williamson formed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania with the purpose to retaliate against the Delaware. Their target: Gnadenhutten, where some Delaware had returned to gather crops they had left in the fields the autumn before. On 8 March, despite the fact that these Delaware had not been involved in the raids, the militia rounded up 98 Delaware – men, women, and children – and held them overnight. The next day, the militia killed 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. Two Delaware lived to tell of the massacre.[1]


The atrocities against the Delaware at Gnadenhutten escalated the hostilities between Native Americans and white settlers. In May, General Irvine at Fort Pitt approved an expedition against the Native Americans in the Sandusky area:

“The object of your command is to destroy with fire and sword, if practicable, the Indian town and settlement at Sandusky, by which we hope to give ease and safety to the inhabitants of this country; but if impracticable, then you will doubtless perform such other services in your power as will in their consequences have a tendency to answer this great end.”[2]

Colonel William Crawford was elected to lead the militia. Along with him were four men elected majors: David Williamson (of the Gnadenhutten massacre), Thomas Gaddis, a man named Brinton, and John McClelland, my fifth-great-grandfather.


Map of the Crawford expedition made by Kevin Myers. Downloaded from Wikipedia and used under Creative Commons license.

Crawford’s militia of 480 men began their expedition on 25 May. Their plan was to reach Sandusky undetected and have the element of surprise on their side. The militia didn’t spot any Delaware until after they camped at the ruins of Gnadenhutten on 28 May. After that, the expedition sped up to reach Sandusky before the Delaware scouts could pass along the news of the advancing force.

Just after noon on the 4th of June, Crawford’s troops reached the village at Sandusky and were poised to strike, except that there was nothing to strike against. The village was deserted. Not only had the scouts arrived before the militia did, Crawford’s expedition had been watched ever since it crossed the Ohio River a week and a half before. Their arrival was anything but a surprise.

Crawford and his majors had a decision before them. Should they try to find the Delaware (and likely the Shawnee and Wyandot) or retreat to Pennsylvania? The vote: Press on.

None of them would have predicted the consequences.

A Coming Together and Coming Apart

Crawford’s men turned south to seek the Delaware. At the same time, the Delaware led by Capt. Pipe, followed by a band of Wyandot, were heading north. The meeting was inevitable. Crawford’s men were eventually out-flanked, but the terrain evened the match, with the militia holding a grove when evening fell. Indeed, Crawford and his men felt optimistic.

What Crawford and his majors didn’t know was that the Delaware and Wyandot would soon be joined by the Shawnee and a detachment of British. Weakened by the fighting on the 4th, Crawford’s force found itself outnumbered by the afternoon of the 5th.

With British and Wyandot forces to the north of them and Delaware and Shawnee to the south, Crawford realized that he could not battle his way out, and he issued the order to retreat south with the goal of reaching the Ohio River. The militia held its own until evening began to fall and the retreat started in earnest.

John McClelland and his unit led the forces south. The Delaware and the Shawnee were upon them almost as soon as they started. Crawford’s three other divisions scattered.

It’s here that Ohio history classes focus their attention on Col. Crawford. As the retreat started and forces surrounded the expedition, Crawford’s command scattered, leaving Crawford and a few of his men in the forest. The Delaware captured them two days later. What happened next was the true retaliation for the Gnadenhutten massacre. Crawford, being the leader of the Sandusky expedition, was to be made an example of. Over the next two days, he was beaten and tortured. On the morning of 11 June, he was striped naked and further tortured while tied to a fiery stake. After several agonizing hours, Crawford finally died.

Personal Epilogue

Crawford was not the only white man to die in the expedition. Reports put it anywhere from 50 to 100. Among the dead was John McClelland.

McClelland was in charge the retreat. Normally, the head of a retreat would be a safe position, but with Crawford’s militia being completely surrounded, there were no safe positions. McClelland was wounded trying to lead his unit to safety. Perhaps understanding the severity of his wounds, he gave his horse to John Orr, telling him to “clear himself.”[3]

It isn’t known exactly when or how McClelland died. John Slover, a scout with the expedition, had been captured by the Shawnee. On 11 June, he was taken to a Shawnee village where they showed him the bodies of three white men. Slover recognized William Harrison and William Crawford, (Col. Crawford’s son-in-law and nephew). Slover couldn’t positively identify the third body, but believed it to be that of John McClelland.[4]

The government of Pennsylvania paid special pensions to some of the families of the lost men. John McClelland’s estate received eight pounds, seven shillings, and six pence.[5]

John’s family consisted of his wife, Martha Dale; sons Hugh, Alexander, John, Samuel, and Charles; and daughters Joanna, Jane, and Elizabeth (my 4th-great-grandmother).

A Final Irony

The thing about retribution and retaliation is that it is inexact. David Williamson, the man who led the militia at Gnadenhutten – the travesty that set so much of this in motion – made his way safely back to Pennsylvania.

Ohio Historical Marker, Wyandot County. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 30 April 2006.

Ohio Historical Marker, Wyandot County. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 30 April 2006.

A Clarification:

Although the Fayette County, Pennsylvania county history and the Butterfield account refer to it as the Sandusky expedition, the events took place near present-day Upper Sandusky, not the present-day town of Sandusky, which is on Lake Erie.

[1] Ohio History Central, “Gnadenhutten Massacre,” online, accessed 3 March 2014.

[2] History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: L.H. Everts, 1882), p. 94. [NOTE: Pages 86-114 cover early raids by and against Native Americans, the Gnadenhutten massacre, and the Crawford expedition.]

[3] Butterfield, C.W. An Historical Account of the Expedition Against Sandusky Under Col. William Crawford in 1782 (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke, 1873), p. 221. [Available on Internet Archive.]

[4] History of Fayette County…, p. 108; Butterfield, p. 346.

[5] Butterfield, p. 248.

I Think My Ancestor Was in ZZ Top (52 Ancestors #4)

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Thomas Andrew Young, my great-great grandfather, was born in Washington County, Ohio 30 August 1847 and I suspect he was a founding member of ZZ Top.

Thomas was the son of John and Jane Mary (Douglass) Young. Among his 11 siblings were his two worthless brothers John and Douglass. Thomas lived his entire life in Washington County, with the exception of 1903-1906 when he and the family lived in Reynolds Store, Frederick County, Virginia.

He served in the Civil War for a brief period. He enlisted in the 189th Ohio Infantry on 20 February 1865 and was discharged in September of that year. For his service and subsequent disabilities of “heart trouble, rheumatism, throat trouble, chronic diarrhoea and deafness in left ear,” he originally drew a pension of $6/month. This was raised periodically. By the time he died in 1920, his pension was $19/month. His widow Ella (Steele) Young, whom he had married 10 August 1879, drew a pension of $40/month.

So, why do I think Thomas Andrew Young was one of the founding members of ZZ Top? Compare his photo (circa 1910) on the right to that of two members of ZZ Top (shown on the left).

Thomas Young, circa 1910.

Thomas Young, circa 1910.

ZZ Top by Renato Cifarelli. Used under Creative Commons license.

ZZ Top by Renato Cifarelli.
Used under Creative Commons license.


Thomas Andrew Young died in Washington County, Ohio 23 October 1920 and is buried in Lynch Cemetery. Ironically (or maybe not so ironically), his cause of death was “cancer of the face.”


  • Young, Thomas A. Civil War pension file application 1122569, certificate 1000598.
  • Young, Thomas A. Death certificate #36644 (1920), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus.
  • Young, Thomas A. and Ella M. Steele marriage record, vol. 6, entry #5819, Washington County, Ohio marriage records.

John, This Is Your Daughter: Or, How a Timeline Uncovered a Family Story

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John Peter Kingery managed to stay out of the Civil War until the 18th of August, 1864. He and his wife Elizabeth Jane had only been married for three years. They had 15-month-old son and Elizabeth Jane was pregnant with their second child. And when I say “pregnant,” I mean she was very pregnant.

Mary Kingery, daughter of John Peter and Elizabeth Jane, was born 1 September 1864. That’s a mere 14 days after John enrolled.

John probably saw his baby daughter before he left for his service with the 173rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The 173rd didn’t muster in until 18 September. John likely didn’t leave for Gallipolis, where the 173rd was mustering, until a few days before.

Imagine what Jane (as everyone called her) went through. A young mother with a toddler and a brand new baby, and her husband is going off to war. By 1864, the war effort is boding better for the Union cause, but it certainly wasn’t a guarantee of safety for anyone who was serving at the time. What were the weeks like for her as she waited for John to return home?

Did she get a letter when John was admitted to the hospital in January 1865? Did she know about the fever and the disease that caused his hair to fall out and his legs to swell “to unusual size”? John stayed in the hospital in Nashville until March. Did Jane learn that he had been furloughed home because of his illness? I almost hope that she didn’t, because on the way home, he became more ill and ended up in the military hospital in Cincinnati, and was there for several more days. He didn’t make it back to Lawrence County until sometime in April.

We’ll never know exactly what happened at his homecoming. But it isn’t hard to imagine that he spent some time reintroducing himself to little Mary, who had grown from a newborn when he left to a 7-month-old — an eternity to a baby. 

(NOTE: If John and Jane sound familiar, you might remember the story of Jane’s death and her burial as an indigent widow.)

Genealogical Tip:
This story was buried in John’s pension file. I didn’t find it until I put together a timeline of events as they were listed in the pension. Among the events:

  • 18 August 1864 – enrolled in the 173rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, per service record abstract from the War Department, in John’s pension file
  • “about the 22nd day of August 1864” – enrolled, per John’s “Declaration for an Original Invalid Pension”
  • 1 September 1864 – birth of Mary E. Kingery, per John’s pension questionnaire, dated 23 March 1915

At first, I didn’t think that John was home when Mary was born. I needed to establish two dates: Mary’s birth and when John actually left. John’s list of his children wasn’t written until 1915. How accurate was his memory? After all, he wasn’t exactly sure when he enrolled, and in one place in his pension, he lists his marriage to Jane as being in 1862, when the marriage record from the Lawrence County Probate Court clearly shows it was 1861. (At least he had the month and the day right.)

Mary later married John C. Stumbo. The 1900 census lists her birthdate as September 1864. Other censuses are also consistent with a birth in late 1864.

So when did John leave for service with the 173rd Ohio? Enrolling doesn’t necessarily mean that he left right away. There was often a delay between the time a man enrolled and when the regiment mustered in (when it officially came together). According to the Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, the 173rd didn’t organize until September; Company E, John’s company, didn’t muster in until 18 September. In all likelihood, John didn’t leave Lawrence County for Gallipolis until closer to mid-September.

Moral of this story: Always create a timeline for your ancestors. Sometimes there is a story just waiting to be teased out.


  • Kingery, John P. Civil War pension file. 173rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Application 574110, Certificate 428276.
  • Kingery, John P. 1870 U.S. Census. Windsor Township, Lawrence County, Ohio. Page 604.
  • Roster Commission. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion. Vol. 9. Cincinnati: Ohio Valley Press, 1889.
  • Stumbo, John C. 1900 U.S. Census. Mason Township, Lawrence County, Ohio. ED 71, sheet 2A. (Showing Mary Kingery Stumbo’s birthdate.)


The Veteran’s Indigent Widow

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John Peter Kingery and Elizabeth Jane Murnahan, my great-great-grandparents, married in Lawrence County, Ohio on 5 September 1861. The United States had been at war with itself for just a few months, and there was still hope that the war would be over soon.

John managed to stay out of the war until August 1864. He might have been drafted or he might have voluntarily enlisted, which would have given him a small bounty. He needed the money. He and Jane (as everyone called her) had one baby and another on the way. John wouldn’t see his daughter Mary until she was almost a year old.

Jane was fortunate that John returned home from serving in the 173rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, healthier than many of his comrades. But John wasn’t “healthy.” He had spent two months in hospitals in Nashville and Cincinnati from a fever that caused his legs to swell “to unusual size” and his hair to fall out. The pain was severe.

John and Jane’s family grew, but their fortune did not. They had no land and no personal property of value in 1870. In 1900 and 1910, they lived in rented houses. John was a day laborer, a term used in the census to indicate someone who worked for others in an unskilled profession.

After John’s death in 1917, Jane received a pension based on John’s service and disability. Though her file doesn’t mention the amount, it was likely $8 – $12/month. Clearly, Jane wasn’t going to become wealthy — or even financially secure — based on this pension.

In 1884, Ohio passed a law allowing county commissioners to pay for the burial of honorably discharged Union veterans who “died without leaving means sufficient to defray funeral expenses.” Later, this law was amended to include veteran’s widows. It was under this law that the Lawrence County Commissioners paid for Jane’s funeral and burial.

Jane Kingery's Burial Record

Jane Kingery’s Burial Record

“…after a careful inquiry into and examination of all the circumstances in the case, do find and report that the said Jane Kingery died on the 12 day of May A.D. 1921; that we have caused her to be buried in a decent and respectable manner in Kingery Cemetery; that the occupation of said decedent while living was Housewife, that the said decedent died in indigent circumstances, that his [sic] family is unable to pay the expenses of the burial…”

We often don’t think about the families of the veterans. What would Jane’s life have been like had John not served or had not become disabled?

John Peter and Elizabeth Jane (Murnahan) Kingery

John Peter and Elizabeth Jane (Murnahan) Kingery


  • Kingery, Jane. Indigent Soldiers Record of Burial. Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.
  • Kingery, John P. Civil War pension file. 173rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Application 574110, Certificate 428276.
  • Kingery, John. 1870 U.S. Census. Windsor Township, Lawrence County, Ohio. Page 604.
  • Kingery, John. 1900 U.S. Census. Mason Township, Lawrence County, Ohio. ED 71, sheet 1B.
  • Kingrey, John. 1910 U.S. Census. Windsor Township, Lawrence County, Ohio. ED 107, sheet 6A.
  • Revised Statutes of the State of Ohio, Including All Laws of a General Nature in Force January 1, 1890. Volume II. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke, 1894. (Page 2535, downloaded from Google Books.)

[EDIT: I’ve added a new story that I teased out from John’s pension record, “John, This Is Your Daughter.”]