For years, I ran across undocumented information stating that my 4th gr-grandfather, Joseph Nickerson, was a War of 1812 veteran. Everytime I saw this information, I asked the presenter for any documentation. I'll bet I asked 20 different researchers over the years where their information came from, and no one could produce any sort of document alluding to his service. He did not have a military headstone. He did not appear in any of the online databases concerning the War of 1812. No family history papers handed down mentioned his veteran status. In addition, he would have been just 14 or 15 in 1812. But it has bothered me that I was not able to get this cleared up one way or the other.
Today, I received a promotional email from Fold3.com, stating that they were working on getting their War of 1812 files online, and they were ready to start on Q-Z. Without pausing to read the rest of the email, I went to the Fold3 site and started searching. Within 10 minutes, I had Joseph's War of 1812 pension file, all 14 pages of it!
I have a good degree of certainty that this is him - the location of his farm in Illinois falls within the military bounty land map from the War of 1812. The dates on the paperwork are consistent with his life span. The residence listed for him later in life is consistent with what I know of him. The maiden surname of his wife wasn't an exact match, but close ("Croble" vs. "Coble") and the place of their marriage was the same (Franklin co., Ohio). The year of their marriage was also not an exact match, but close (1819 vs. 1820).
There are a few discrepancies that still bother me though.
The file states that Joseph Nickerson was "about 19" years old at the time of his enlistment in April of 1814. My Joseph would have been 16 at the time. Did he lie about his age? Perhaps. It's not unheard of.
He is said to have married "Mary Croble" in 1820 at Franklin county, Ohio. My Joseph married Margaret Coble in 1819 at Franklin county, Ohio. I did not find any "Croble" family listed in the 1820 census in Franklin county.
Joseph applied for a pension in 1871, the year before he died. His wife, Margaret, had passed away in 1854, 17 years prior. His file lists a widow, Mary. Joseph had indeed remarried, to a woman named Hannah Maria Reves, who appears in censuses as "Maria." Is it too far a stretch to believe that "Maria" became "Mary" in the pension record?
According to information found at the FamilySearch.org site*, if a veteran had passed away, his widow would be entitled to draw a pension, as long as they had been married prior to 1815, when the war ceased. The rules were eventually relaxed, and after 1871, the year Joseph applied for a penion, all veterans and widows, as well as their children, could apply for pensions. So after 1871, his second wife should have been able to draw a pension on his service, if I understand the rules correctly.
Joseph's second wife, Maria, left Joseph's home and moved in with her daughter in 1866, after 11 years of marriage. The reason for this is unknown, perhaps she had a health-related issue that required more care than Joseph could give her, but she did live another 22 years. Shortly thereafter, Joseph moved to the home of his daughter.
One of these documents in the pension file was made with Joseph, age 73, present at the court. He signed a document stating that his wife was "Mary Croble." There could be legitimate reasons why "Coble" became "Croble" in the pension papers - perhaps Joseph did not speak clearly - but to forget the woman he married in 1819 was Margaret and not Mary seems a little harder to explain. Was Mary a nickname perhaps? But Margaret had a sister named Mary, so that seems unlikely. Dementia is also a possibility that comes to mind.
Another document naming a widow were obviously filed *after* Joseph's death in 1872, and the name of the wife/widow remains consistent as "Mary Croble." This is a typewritten form, filled in with a pen, and does not have a heading nor a hint as to its purpose. I have not found a widow's pension file, which of course does not mean one doesn't exist. Perhaps Joseph's earlier error was carried over to this document. Is there some other explanation? Certainly a definitive answer as to the existance of a widow's pension might help with interpretation.
The number of similarities between the Joseph in this pension file and my Joseph are great enough to make the declaration that this is indeed him, but a clear explanation for the differences as noted indicates there may be more to the story.