Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Beeks line: Civil War Records and Pension Records for David Wise

It is such a joy to read the records for David Wise, because there is much genealogy material in them, but also because it helps make one man, and his experiences, come alive.  It is one thing to know about the end battles of the Civil War, in Georgia and the south, and another thing to know that your children's ancestor was there.  Even though I still have many, many questions about his life, I have this much information, which is invaluable to me.  Yes, I was doing my happy genealogy dance when I got these records last week!

First, as to the war records:  David was drafted, and mustered in on October 21, 1864, in Wabash, Indiana, for a term of one year.  At the time he enlisted, he was 25 years old, was 5' 9 1/2 inches tall, had grey eyes and black hair, with a dark complexion, and resided at Lagro Township, Wabash County, Indiana.  He was a farmer. 

The records of his payroll show that in January and February of 1865 he was part of a detachment of company I, 23rd Indiana Infantry that was temporarily attached to Co. C of the 25th Massachusetts Infantry.  The records don't show why he was assigned there.  It may have been for training, or to boost the numbers of the 25th Massachusetts until new Massachusetts troops could be provided.  This unit was at Brice's Creek, near Newberne, N.C. on payday.  for the March -April payroll he was marked as absent, sick, 4 Division and marked as hospitalized at the time the company was paid.  (I found no further mention of this in any of his papers, so I don't know why he was hospitalized.)  The last muster roll, for May-June 1865, shows him absent sick in hospital 4th Division, Louisville, Ky. since June 20, 1865. He was discharged from the hospital (personal witness in later affidavit says he was very weak at the time) on July 20,1865 and discharged from the service at the same time.  He was due $11.97, which he was paid, as he had not been paid at all since his entry into the service. 

The illness that hospitalized him at Lousiville was "yellow jaundice", which he was showing signs of when the regiment left Raleigh, N.C. I found mention in these records that the unit was also in Dublin, Ga. and Georgetown, (apparently Virginia, as it was near Washington D.C.) so the unit had travelled quite a bit.  One or two of the affidavits say he contracted the jaundice due to exposure, severe cold, or/and the usual hazards of military life. 

That's as much as the records show, and some of that came from the pension files rather than the compiled military service record.  I'm sure glad I ordered the pension files, also!  Much of the pension files is medical information. David was examined early and often, all through the rest of his life as he tried from 1890 to get a pension and then get increases in his pension.  His principal medical complaints were jaundice, stomach and bowel trouble, loss of eyesight (blind in one eye by 1873 with gradual loss of vision in the left eye) and later neuralgia, rheumatism, asthma, inguinal hernia, catarrh, loss of hearing, and eventually "marked senility both physical and mental ."  I feel funny about putting so much of his medical history on line, but it helps us understand his fight for what he felt was due him.  He was unable to perform manual labor for much of his life, although the records start only in 1890.  David died in 1927.

This is some of the personal history of David, as gleaned from different pages in the pension file.  He never learned to read or write, and did not know his alphabet, although an affidavit from a neighbor, Jospeh Slirey, says he and his family had gone to school with David.  So was he a "slow learner", or did he only stay in school a short time?  I learned that his family had come to Lagro Township about 1842 and "stayed there always."  David was born October 10, 1837 in Shelby County, Ohio, so he was not quite five years old when they made the trip.  His mother died when he was seven years old or less, so about 1844.  (David's parents were Andrew Wise and Mary Searfoss, not mentioned by name in the records.) On January 10, 1864 he married Matilda Martin in Lagro, with the ceremony conducted by Squire Hedges, J.P.

Andrew, who had never remarried, went to live with the couple when they established their own household. David and Matilda had five children.  Andrew was born June 22, 1865; Hannah, December 10, 1867; Elizabeth, August 10, 1870; John Philip, June 14 (or 15, he gave each date on a separate occasion) 1873, and Martin, January 22, 1876.  As of 1915, Hannah, Elizabeth and John Philip were still living.  Matilda died in the fall of 1876, but no exact date is given in the records. In fact, he twice says 1876 and once says 1877.  David had three brothers and two sisters who were all deceased when David was trying to prove his birthdate.  He had affidavits from several people who said his birthday was always celebrated as October 10, 1837 but no written proof and no one who knew him when he was born could be found.  There was a family Bible but it had been taken by John Searfoss (Surface), David's uncle,some 50 years ago, and he did not know where either could be found. (Note: I suspect this was a Searfoss family Bible, and I'd sure love to know what happened to it!)

The pension records show that David was never a well man after he was discharged from the service, which would have made it hard to thrive as a farmer and a laborer.  As he aged, more health problems developed and at the end of his life, he was pretty much helpless.  Hannah Harris took care of him for many years, and then John and Elizabeth Beeks cared for him.  After Elizabeth died, he went to live with his grandson, Wilbur Beeks and Cleo.  He died there, in Andrews, on April 5, 1927, never having remarried.  I have not yet found where he is buried but it is likely somewhere in Lagro Township.  I would love to make sure that he has a veteran's marker on his grave, if I can find it. 

I'm honored to be able to share this much of David's story.  He was not educated, and he didn't have the money to provide a substitute when he was drafted.  However, he faced the challenges in his life and raised his family by himself, at a time when most men would have remarried.  He must have been a tenacious man, as he certainly was determined to make sure he got all the pension money he could.  (The $8 he started with was raised gradually to $72 a month at the end of his life.)  He had friends who were willing to provide affidavits on the subject of his birthdate and also on his health issues.  I don't know his religion, if any, as it isn't mentioned anywhere in the records. 

I know there are great grandchildren of David's who are alive and may remember him, or remember stories about him, and I'd love to hear from them, or from anyone who can help give more details to David's story.

The line of descent is:

David Wise-Matilda Martin
Elizabeth Wise-John Beeks
Wilbur Beeks-Cleo Aldridge
Mary Margaret Beeks-Cleveland Harshbarger
Their descendents