Thursday, February 26, 2015

Adam Close: Dependent on Only Son (#8 of 52 Ancestors)

My 4th great grandfather, Adam Close, wrote his will on February 1st, 1865. He stated he wanted his debts and "funded expenses" to be taken care of, and then he proceeded to give money to his heirs. He bequeathed five dollars to each of his daughters: Catharine intermarried with M P Crosthwaite, Julia Ann intermarried with John W. McClintock, Jane relict of David W. McKay, and Harriet intermarried with Doctor John W. Riddle. And then he gives five dollars to his "son, James M Close (if living)."

From Adam Close's Will in Mercer County, Pennsylvania 1865
When I first came across this will, I was saddened to think that Adam didn't even know if his son was still alive. Was James off fighting in the Civil War? And, did he survive?

When I found James' death date, I became confused. James did fight in the Civil War and was killed on May 8th, 1864, about 9 months before Adam wrote his will. Why didn't Adam know his son had been killed? And did Adam learn of his son's death before he died nine months after writing his will?


Just a few days ago, I got more insight into this family. I was surprised to find that Adam's widow, Catharine, had applied for a pension for her son's service. But, after reading through forty-four pages, I understood why. I guess it was somewhat unusual, but a dependent father or mother could also apply for a pension. And, from this file, it appears that James' parents had been dependent on him.

Adam Close suffered from Phthesis Pulmonalis, also known as consumption, for at least five years and possibly for fifteen or more years. Now known as tuberculosis (TB), this bacterial infection can attack any organ in the body though it most commonly is found in the lungs. It was also called "consumption" because it basically consumed a body causing a severe weight loss. Besides weight loss, patients often suffered from weakness, fever, and night sweats. When TB attacked lungs, patients would suffer from coughing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. [From CDC site.]

Although this disease was contagious, at this time people thought it was hereditary. Many people with a TB infection don't suffer from the affects of it but can still spread the disease.

For the last three years of his life, Adam was confined to his "room and bed." One affidavit states that Adam "was so reduced by the disease that he was a charge and care to his wife and family instead of a support for them..."  It goes on to say that Adam refused prescriptions that an elderly doctor gave him which left James "soley and entirely" in support of his family... by his labor with all the necessaries of life for a period of five years previous to [James'] death. 

James took on the responsibility of caring for his parents. By the age of 16, he worked as a farmer and gave his parents all of his money "except so much as was necessary for his own clothing." While in the army, he sent money home in his letters.James registered for the draft in 1863 at the age of 21, but he actually joined Company H of the 150th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers on February 13th, 1864. Less than 3 months later, he took place in what I believe was his first battle, the battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. At the age of 23, James was shot "by a ball passing through from the back and coming out at the breast." [Widow's Pension Application]

Although James died less than three months after leaving to join the fighting, his parents evidently didn't know of his death for presumably many months. Some friends said that Adam and Catharine "could not maintain themselves but it became necessary for the neighbors to assist them in order to keep them from suffering." Catharine, who was only 62, was described as "old and feeble." "She has no means else of support and cannot possibly live without aid from some source having lost her husband and given her only son and support to her country."

So, Adam Close lived dependent on his only son for the last three to five years of his life. He suffered from a dreadful disease and had to watch his "feeble" wife depend on their son, and later their neighbors, too. As Adam approached death, it appears he held out hope that his only son was still living.

Adam's own father, Peter Close, had died when Adam was only about 12 years old. Though Adam lived with an older brother, I imagine he had to 'grow up' and take care of himself at a fairly young age. Adam was only 68 when he died and, though evidently quite ill, it must have been hard for him to depend on his own son for not only his welfare, but his wife's, also.

Source: All quotes are from Catharine Close's pension application for the service of James M Close (WC136993) found on Fold3

My Line of Descent
  • Adam Close (1797-1865) m. Catharine [Longwell?] (1804-1889) 
  • Julia Ann "July" Close (1826-1905) m. John W McClintock (1825-1890) 
  • Catharine Jane McClintock (1852-1929) m. Alexander Stewart (1852-1922) 
  • Andrew "Andy" McClinock Stewart (1882-1954) m. Bessie Waldron Merrill (1879-1959) 
  • James Edward Stewart (1910-1972) m. Hazel Lucille Peters (1910-1975) (my paternal grandparents) 
(Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow at "No Story Too Small" for creating "52 Ancestors" where we can share our ancestors stories, one week at a time.)

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net

10 comments:

  1. What a gripping and tragic tale, Dana. Thank you for sharing that. Although my ancestors who served in the Civil War didn't die in it, most suffered from its effects for the rest of their lives. One (Christian Hoover) ended up taking his own life in despair after years of pain. It was a terribly tragic time in American history with so many being so badly affected. It is, however, good to remember their sacrifices and good deeds.

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    1. Joanne, That is very sad that Christian Hoover was in such despair that he took his own life. This was a terrible time in our history and I know it caused pain to families all across the U.S. Most of my family members fought for the 'losing side', which must have had its own pain. But, James M Close fought for the Union. How sad that he died so young... he seemed like a great young man.

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  2. What a gripping and tragic tale, Dana. Thank you for sharing that. Although my ancestors who served in the Civil War didn't die in it, most suffered from its effects for the rest of their lives. One (Christian Hoover) ended up taking his own life in despair after years of pain. It was a terribly tragic time in American history with so many being so badly affected. It is, however, good to remember their sacrifices and good deeds.

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  3. What a sad story. Thank you for sharing it. Adam probably did hold out hope that his son was still alive.

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    1. Yes, I think he must have, but I wonder why he didn't know after all those months. It breaks my heart, but maybe not knowing was better than knowing.

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  4. What an awfully sad story. Thank you for sharing it.

    This might interest you. I found, when researching an ancestor who took a mother's pension (weren't any for father's only mothers with no living husband), a contemporary to the time article from the New York Times article explaining the pension and how to apply:
    http://www.nytimes.com/1862/08/12/news/army-pensions-instructions-forms-be-observed-applying-for-them-under-act-july-14.html

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  5. Thanks, Jo! That was helpful! I wonder why it doesn't mention fathers, though, where the piece of the document I shared included both fathers and brothers (which also weren't mentioned). Maybe they were added at a later date?

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  6. I found a site with a boatload of information on Civil War pensions. You are right. the website says the act was modified on July 18, 1866 to allow pensions to brothers, sisters, and fathers, and that it was modified again on July 27, 1868 & that one allows pension to mothers, fathers, and orphaned brothers and sisters under sixteen. Here's the website: http://drbronsontours.com/pensionsunderstandingcivilwarpensions.html

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    1. Thanks, Jo! We need to understand the laws that affected our ancestors, and that site is very helpful.

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  7. This is such a heart wrenching story. It's so tragic that his parents were not aware of their sons death for such a long time. Thank goodness they were able to receive some financial assistance through the pension.
    Thanks Jo Henn for the website info.

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