Saturday, March 9, 2013

Women's History Month - #9

March 9 — Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.

I had to really give this one some thought.

Gilbert Stephens was an ancestor of mine who fought in the Revolutionary War.  He served from Virginia, later moving his family to Morgan County, Kentucky.

Years ago, I sent for his pension file from the National Archives.  It was a large one, costing a total of $72!  The day it arrived was indeed a happy one.  And, nothing else got done in my house for several days as I read through it.

Gilbert was entitled to bounty land for his service in the Revolutionary War.  We were a country that was cash poor, but land rich.  The last years of his life was spent trying to secure the necessary proof needed for his land.

Then, he died.  Wife Nancy Osborn Stephens was left to continue on with the quest.  And, this quest went on for years.

She spent those years trying to produce the needed proof of her marriage to Gilbert.  Many, many documents are included in the pension file that attest to witnesses having known them all of their married life, and that they were indeed married.

It wasn't good enough.

Even their sons wrote that their parents were indeed married.

That wasn't good enough.

Nancy asked a man to go back to Virginia to see if anyone was alive that could remember the wedding, which took place at Thomas Leadingham's home, where she was a servant.

The man went, but died when he was there.  

One of the final pages in the pension file indicates the following:

Nancy states that after years of trying to prove she was indeed married to Gilbert Stephens, "she expects she will not be able to produce any public record of her marriage".

This absolutely touched my heart.  She was 88 years old and couldn't remember if she was married in 1796 or 1797.  Dozens of friends and relatives stated their knowledge of Gilbert and Nancy being husband and wife, including her own brother, Jesse.

But, none of it was good enough.

In the end, she actually was given the bounty land due to her and Gilbert.  

She died a very short time later.

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