No Happy Ending

Well, I had hoped to find a positive resolution to John C. Mattson and his widow Rebecca’s pension requests. Sadly, from the very beginning of the the quest with the initial pension application in 1892, till the very end with Rebecca’s last rejection in 1916, the file is filled with petitions, requests for more evidence and rejections.

The pension folder has numerous physician, personal friends and minister affidavits pledging that John suffers from a heart condition, he is unable to work anymore and is penniless.

Physician Affidavit 19 Sept 1893

They worked with pension attorneys and answered every letter with more information, never seeming to get anywhere in the 24 year correspondence. The pension commissioners alternate by saying he doesn’t meet the 90 day minimum service or that he really doesn’t have a debilitating heart condition despite the many physician letters stating the contrary evidence.

Medical Denial 18 Dec 1893

Later, his widow Rebecca is even asked to send proof she really was married to John C. Mattson and that she divorced her 1st husband.

Bureau of Pensions Letter 8 Nov 1902

It is hard to know if this was normal civil administration bureaucracy or deliberate screening where only the most persistent, affluent and sophisticated pursuers get the prize.  Granted, John did not serve in the military for the full 90 days and I don’t know if his military service actually resulted in a heart condition, but it seems to be a very sad end to a hard life.

The file generates more questions than it answers.  For example, how many people got pensions that didn’t fit the criteria?  What type of politics played into the screening process?  I am left feeling like there is more here to uncover to understand the historical context that influenced my ancestors ability to survive. These were the years before Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid and this was the last chance for many soldiers and their families to get some type of relief. Abstract historical facts suddenly have become very personal.

Personal Note:  I will not be filing a blog for the next 2 weeks, as I will be in Rochester, New York for my daughter’s wedding!  Of course, I am planning a few field trips to the genealogical libraries in the area, so I will return with new entries by the 1st weekend in July.

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1 Response to No Happy Ending

  1. Kathleen says:

    I hope the process for recieving benefits improves by the time I get to cash in at 60! I’m also amazed that one would anticipate a war to happen for 90 days instead of today’s formula. It is sad; however, that Rebecca went through so much and still nothing came to fruition. Interesting blog honey.

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