This is my first post in almost 10 months. I haven’t been writing at all or really working on my own genealogy this past year; my last post was about my father’s death and I’d been struggling for some time with it. It took me over a year to put up his military medals, the flag that flew over West Point for him, and his photo. I had clearly not handled his death well and genealogy, even as an escape or distraction, was not appealing to me. The only thing that helped get me through the harder days this past year was my work at the cemetery where I’m digging through Civil War records and doing VA applications to get replacement headstones for the veterans there that didn’t have one or theirs are broken or illegible. My dad was a Civil War fanatic, especially Gettysburg, and I think he would be so interested in this project, especially since so many of the veterans in my cemetery served at Gettysburg. I think it would thrill him further to know that we’re related to many of them distantly as cousins.
As I’d been immersed in the cemetery work and still healing/reeling from dad’s death, I’d been sitting on some of my own family records for quite some time. I don’t know what made me suddenly open my 3rd great uncle’s Civil War pension record the other night but I did. Maybe my dad was influencing me and urging me to get on with it finally! My great uncle Nathan J Wickham served in Company G of the 176th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteers and he died January 7, 1865, while in hospital in Nashville, Tennessee of “pneumonia resulting from measles.” Nathan left behind his widow, Mary Ann Hart Wickham, who was over 6 months pregnant, and a 2 year old son, Asbury. Mary Ann filed a widow’s pension application in April 1865 and her pension file held a few surprises for me. (1)
At the bottom of her claim, it was witnessed by her brother-in-law, Daniel Wickham, (my other 3rd great uncle) and to my utter surprise, the signature of her young sister-in-law, my 3rd great grandmother, Nancy Jane Wickham. Nancy Jane was just 18 years old in 1865 and likely hadn’t met her future husband, Jesse Archer, yet as he was serving down South in the Civil War until July 1865 when he was mustered out. (I’ve written about Jesse & Nancy before. Click to read if you’re curious.) Jesse can later be found living with Nancy Jane’s other brother Jacob Archer in the 1870 census who also served in the war, which leads me to believe that Jacob and Jesse likely met during the war as Jesse was originally from Guernsey/Morgan County, not Noble County like the Wickhams. (Fun family fact – the census was conducted on the day they were married!) Jesse’s pension file (which I’ve also written about here) held the signature of his daughter, Esther Archer Stewart, my second great-grandmother, so to find Nancy Jane’s in a pension file too was just amazing! Two pensions, two grandmother’s signatures.
But the pension gets even better (and then somewhat sadder) because on the near last page, Mary Ann had asked for an increase in pension and is providing information about her children but she notes that her daughter Martha Jane is the only child now living, meaning by this September 1866 increase application, little Asbury has died. As Mary Ann had given birth to their daughter Martha Jane just two months after Nathan’s death, two witnesses appear to say they were present at the birth of the child – Nathan’s parents, my 4th great-grandparents, Jeremiah and Esther Ackley Wickham. Neither Jeremiah or Esther could read or write but they made their marks instead. I don’t care if it was just an X or not, it was lovely knowing that my grandparents and other family members came together to help take care of Nathan’s widow and child in the wake of his devastating loss. Sadly, their daughter Martha was not long for this world and passed away at 3 years of age. They are buried beside Nathan’s headstone at Archer’s Ridge Cemetery.
It left me with a bit of a mystery after researching this. Nathan is reported on the Civil War Roll of Honor as being buried in the Nashville National Cemetery in Tennessee, but I’ve been to Archer’s Ridge and stood before his headstone. Is it just an epitaph or was his body sent home at a later date? I’m going to have to do some more digging because now I’m all curious. As for Mary Ann, I believe she married her 2nd cousin, Henry Miller, in 1869. Henry also served in the Civil War and I believe they went on to have more children together. I hope that after losing her husband and both of her children in such a short amount of time, she was able to find happiness and rebuild a life for herself.
It was interesting for me to note too, that my 3rd great-grandmother, Nancy Jane Wickham Archer, named her children Esther (her mother’s name) and then Asbury, which was Nathan’s little son’s name. I had always wondered where Asbury came from and this was the earliest mention I’ve found of that name in our tree. It was touching to see my grandmother pass that name along. She must of thought very much of her oldest brother and her little nephew.
- Deposition of Claimant, 14 April 1865, Mary Ann Hart Archer, widow’s pension application no. 90,362, certificate no. 69,021; service of Nathan Wickham (Pvt., Co. G, 176th OH Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D.C., database with images. Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 February 2023), entry for Nathan Wickham and widow Mary Ann Hart Wickham, Ohio.