Signed With His “X”

When Thomas Ray Allen joined th military in 1864, he was unable to sign his name.  I wonder how he learned to read and write. Did he attend classes? Did his wife, who had attended school as a child teach him? Either way, I was very glad when I first received his file and saw that he could sign his name.

Thomas Allen’s signature.

Henry Wiley – Brother and Witness

Henry Wiley, younger brother of Kate Wiley, was born free in 1855 to Woody and Sarah Wiley.  Soon after he was born, the family moved from Virginia to Athens Ohio.  He was the middle child.  Henry attended school along with his brothers and sisters and learned to read and write.

When his father Woody, died in 1873, Henry was 18. His father asked him to make sure that all his just debts were paid, he thought they could be paid by the sale of his horse and wagon, but if not Henry should pay them and get reimbursed from the sale of the land.  He was left one of the beds and bedding, with the remainder of the household goods going to his sister Sarah.  He also appointed Henry as executor and stated that the property be divided between three of his children, Henry, Sarah and Armintha, when Armintha came of age.

!n 1884, at the age of 29, Henry married 23 year old Polly Fish. They lived in Springfield, Ohio where they owned their own home free from mortgage. Henry was a brick mason, an occupation he followed for the rest of his life. Polly kept house. They had only one child, a daughter, Glenna Belle, born in 1885. Sadly, Glenna Belle died when she was just six years old.

He testified for her when she was applying for her widow’s pension on February 4, 1908.

Click to enlarge.

“Henry Wiley aged 53 years of 34 W. Clark St. – Springfield P.O., County of Clark State of Ohio who being duly sworn upon his oath declares as follows: That he is a brother of Kate Allen, widow of Thomas Allen late a member of Co. D. 5th USCCav. (United States Colored Calvary) and that he has known her all of his life, covering all of her girlhood days: that she was married to the soldier Thomas Allen March 5th 1880, and that they lived together continuously as man and wife until the date of his death which occurred November 10th 1907 and that she never was married to any one prior to her marriage to the soldier Thomas Allen, and that they were never separated or divorced from each other, nor has she remarried since the death of her said husband Thomas Allen – His means of knowledge of above facts are from his being a brother of said claimant and about her or in touch with her during all of her life.”

In 1912 Polly was 60 miles from home in West Elkton, Preble, Ohio visiting her eldest brother James and his family, when she died. She had been there for two days. Cause of death was congestion of lungs with ??? mitral regurgitation.  She was 50 years old. Her niece Janey was the informant.

Perhaps you can make out what that word is before “…of mitral regurgitation.”

Two years later Henry married Martha Johnson Edwards, a widow with six children.  The children were pretty much grown by the time of the marriage with only two remaining at home by 1920, a 20 year old daughter who worked as a servant and a 16 year old boy who wasn’t in school or working.

Tragedy struck again in November 1925 when Martha’s son-in-law, Floyd Strawder hit her over the head with an iron bar and killed her.  Her skull had been fractured. I expected to find him in prison in 1930, but he was living as a divorced (no surprise there) cement worker in a boarding house.

In 1933, Henry Wiley died at his residence of a heart attack, influenza being a contributory factor. Mrs. Will Jones was the informant and she did not have much information about him.   He was 78 years old and was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery and Arboretum in Springfield Ohio, a 240 acre combined arboretum and cemetery.

From the Ferncliff pinterest page.

Veteran’s Civil War Pensions

As I went through Thomas Ray Allen’s pension file, I wondered why it was so difficult for him to get his pension raised when his medical reports showed how debilitated he was. There were those who thought that many of the veterans were not really in need of their pension money, that it was a drain on the Federal coffers.

I have shared some quotes below with some of the hows and whys of this state of affairs. After reading about Arthur Bull, another Civil War Veteran trying to get his pension, on the blog Molly’s Canopy, I realized that Thomas was fortunate in not having to travel long distances to a doctor as some of the rural veterans did.

Thomas starts the process of receiving an Invalid pension a month after The Dependent and Disability Pension Act passed and was signed on June 27, 1890.

“The Dependent and Disability Pension Act was passed by the United States Congress (26 Stat. 182) and signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison on June 27, 1890. The act provided pensions for all veterans who had served at least ninety days in the Union military or naval forces, were honorably discharged from service and were unable to perform manual labor, regardless of their financial situation or when the disability was suffered. The bill was a source of contentious debate and only passed after Grover Cleveland had vetoed a previous version in 1887.”  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Dependent and Disability Pension Act

“The biggest single change to the pension system came in 1890 with the Dependent Pension Act. Because most veterans did some kind of manual labor to support themselves and their families, and their ability to do so declined over time, political pressure for more help increased (as did the public pleading and private, desperate letters). The 1890 Act expanded eligibility to veterans who were disabled and unable to do manual labor even if that disability was not a direct result of the war. They just had to have served ninety days and been honorably discharged. The result was a huge increase in expenditures and numbers of veterans receiving a pension. More than a million men were on the pension rolls by 1893 and pensions ate more than 40% of the federal government’s revenue. One of the side effects of this legislation was a large number of men transferring their pensions from their previous disability pensions to these new service pensions because the new pensions paid more.” Civil War Pensions by Kathleen L. Gorman

Public opinion eventually formed against the pensioner, believing that many were trying to scam the government out of money they didn’t deserve. Cartoon from the the Social Security History page about the pensions. Click the photo to go to the page.

“Those pensioners most often labeled as frauds were widows, especially young women who had married veterans much older than themselves, supposed “cowards,” and, in the Federal system, black veterans.” Civil War Pension…


United States Colored Troops At Camp Nelson

Thomas Ray Allen trained at Camp Nelson and must have witnessed and experienced what is described here.

Click to see the video that goes with this audio clip and the excert below – Camp Nelson Heritage Park.

“Eight U.S. colored regiments, as they were called during that time were founded here and three others were trained here. So roughly ten thousand African American men became soldiers at Camp Nelson. In 1864 and 1865. The significance of those recruitments, first of  all, was that it was the beginning of the end of slavery in Kentucky. Second of all, these men made a significant contribution to the union victory in the Civil War. A number of regiments were involved in large and small engagements. A number of soldiers were stationed at critical transportation nodes where they protected garrisons, they protected bridges, they protected supply depots.

The Camp Nelson a refugee camp was started in December 1864. And it began, had kind of a mixed beginning because these refugees, who were initially the wives and children of the enlisting U.S. colored troops, were not really supposed to come in the camp, but soldiers brought them them in because they were afraid their owners, former owners would retaliate against them. They also were hoping that the wives and children would also gain their freedom. So, they brought them into camp with them. They set up a lot of shanties throughout the camp. And finally in November 1864, the commander General Speed Fry, ejected all of the refugees from camp. Took them in wagons up towards Nicholasville on a very very cold November day. Many of them were exposed to very cold weather through the night. And out of the four hundred that were ejected, roughly one hundred died within a few weeks of this event. This created a large uproar. And the Army changed their policy.  And in December a month later, constructed what they called the come home for colored refugees. Their families, the families of the enlisting soldiers, came to Camp Nelson to escape slavery themselves. They escaped the immediate condition of slavery, and they also hoped to gain their freedom.”

Twenty-seven-fifteen N. Capital Street

Thomas Allen appears in the 1888 Indianapolis City Directory living at 2715 N. Capital street. He continued to live there until his death. His wife Kate lived there until at least 1913, her last appearance in the City Directory before moving back to Ohio.

It appears the house had been mortgaged by 1907.

The diagram below is taken from an Indianapolis Sanborn map from 1887.  A Wikipedia entry says “The Sanborn Maps were originally created for assessing fire insurance liability in urbanized areas in the United States.”  Thomas and Kate Allen’s frame house had 1.5 stories. The half a story meant that the upper story was under the roof and so only half as large as the first story because the eaves take up some of it. The dotted lines indicate a porch.

Thomas’ house is 1.5 story frame house. There are two rooms downstairs and two small porches, one in the front and one in the back. It seems to be the smallest house of those shown above.  On the back of the lot  was another dwelling, numbered 2715 r, where my great grandmother, and her family – including my grandmother, lived in 1902.  I thought it was interesting that the three black residents, all laborers, owned their houses free of mortgage. And that everybody on this chart was literate.

Looking through the enumeration district where the house was located in the 1900 Census, it was a mostly white district. There were a fair number of naturalized citizens and a number who had been born in Ireland or Germany or who had parents born there.

This map shows the location of Thomas’ & Kate’s house in the city in 1897. Go to the address at the top and follow the red line down to the “X”.


I found the information here in Thomas and Kate Allen’s pension file, the 1900 census on, the 1897 Sanborn map at this link, and Wikipidea.




Sarah Ann Wiley – Sister and Witness for Kate Wiley Allen

Sarah Wiley was the oldest of child of Woody Wiley, a farmer. She was born free to a free family of color in Virginia February 2, 1841. Her mother, Susan Freeman Wiley, died before she was one year old. Her father married Sarah Daniels soon after.  Nine more children were born.

We find Sarah “Sallie” Ann Wiley described in the Pittsylvania County Virginia, Register of Free Negroes.1807-1865. Reg # 467, Sept 24, 1852.  “SALLY ANN WILEY, a free negro born free in Pittsylvania County, is of yellow complexion, eleven years old the 2nd day of February last.” 

The extended Wiley family moved to Athens County Ohio, probably soon after the descriptions were taken in 1852. It is about 329 miles. I wonder how they traveled, but do not have time to investigate today!

The academy

Sarah and the other Wiley children attended Albany Academy until 1862 when a religious group took over the school and banned black children. The following year her father, her uncle and a group of other African Americans started their own school, The Albany Enterprise Academy,

“After being taken over by the Disciples of Christ, Christian Church, the Albany Manual Labor Academy “refused further admission to the black community,” according to Getting to Know Athens County by Elizabeth Grover Beatty and Marjorie S. Stone.

As a result, in 1863 the Albany Enterprise Academy was founded. The school’s first trustees included Thomas Jefferson Furguson (co-founder of the Ohio Colored Teacher’s Association, member of the Albany City Council and the first black to serve on a jury in Athens County), Cornelius Berry (father of Edward Berry of the Berry Hotel), Philip Clay, David Norman, Woodrow Wiley and Jackson Wiley.”

When Sarah was 25 years old, her youngest sister was born and her step-mother died. There were still six other children at home. Sarah stepped into the role of mother and housekeeper.

In July 1873, her father Woody was suffering from consumption and made out his will. He left everything to the three children that were still alive and living at home, Sarah (31), Henry (18) and Armintha (12).

Woody charged Sarah with seeing that Armintha received a good “common school” education and was taken care of materially.

When Armintha was 22, she married William Green Simpson, a neighbor. Armintha died within the next few years and William married again.  Sarah never married.

Click to enlarge. Sarah states that she is Kate’s sister and that Kate has nothing aside from her house and goods and that no one is bound to support her.

In 1908 Sarah gave testimony for her sister Kate Wiley Allen, who was trying to get her widow’s pension after her husband Thomas Ray Allen died. After Kate began to receive her pension, Sarah moved to Indianapolis and they shared Kate’s house for several years. They then returned to Ohio where Kate died in 1915.

In 1920, Sarah was living with her former brother-in-law, William Green Simpson, who had been married to her younger sister Armintha. His youngest son was still at home. They were both coal miners.  Sarah was the housekeeper. In 1924 William married a 3rd time, to Dora Parker, a widow with four children under ten. Sarah was 82.

By 1928, Sarah was an inmate in the Columbus State Hospital, a mental hospital in Columbus Ohio. Sarah died in the State Hospital in 1932, of atherosclerosis. She was 93 years old.

Ohio State Hospital

Her brother-in-law Henry Simpson was the informant on her death certificate. He died in April of 1935. He had been a miner for most of his working life and died of “miners’ asthma” also known as “black lung disease.”


I found this information on, and places on the internet linked to above. Using the information that I found, it is easy to fill in the blanks to make a story. The problem is, I do not really know the ends and outs and the personalities and the reasons involved.  I hope that I have, at least, gotten the “facts” right.

Richard Clay – Witness

Benjamin Clay first appears in the Indianapolis City Directory as a laborer in 1867. He and his wife, Zina Fishback Clay were born in Kentucky.  His son Richard was born in 1868, the second of seven children, all born in Indianapolis. All of the children attended school. Richard went through the sixth grade.

In 1892, Richard Clay married the first of his three wives, Minnie Cummings. Both we 24 years old.  She has also been born in Indiana, but could not read or write. In the 1900 census she had given birth to three children and one was still alive, but did not appear to be living with them.   He was working as a laborer and continued to work laboring jobs for the rest of his life, including a coal yard, a grocery/bakery and a foundry.

In 1901, Richard testified at Thomas Ray Allen’s pension hearing that he had heard him say that he suffered from various ailments. That same year he married his second wife, Hattie Elkins. I have Elkins cousins, but was unable to find a connection.He was 33 and she was 22.  They had no children.  Richard and Hattie continued to live in rental houses. In 1921, Hattie died of uterine cancer that metastasized to the abdomen. She was 40 years old. Her husband was the informant and gave her parents names. She was buried in New Crown Cemetery.

In 1929, sixty one year old Richard married forty year old Nettie Kelly, his third wife. She was born in Georgia, was literate and worked as a servant for a private family. By the 1940 census, Richard was 72 had not worked during the past year. She had worked as a home aide for 32 weeks during that year.  They rented their house and did not own a radio. Nettie had completed the 2nd grade.  She was the one who gave the family information to the census enumerator.

In February of 1948, Nettie Kelly Clay died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was buried in New Crown Cemetery. Richard was the informant. He did not know her parent’s names. The undertakers were Jacob Brothers Funeral Home.  I noticed that they were undertakers for quite a few of the people I am writing about.

In January 1941 Richard Clay applied for social security benefits. He gave his birthdate as 1858 and his birth place as Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Richard Clay died at home of stomach cancer on October 15, 1951. His age was listed as 93, although he was closer to 83. He had been seeing a doctor for six months. His nephew, Gilbert Hall was the informant.


Contradictions in researching Richard Clay.  In the earliest records, 1870 and 1880 censuses and the record for his first wedding, his birthdate was given as 1868. In the 1900 census his birthdate was given as 1855. In the 1910 census his birthdate was given as 1860. In all of these records, his birth place is given as Indiana.

In 1920 his birthdate is again given as 1855. In 1930 his birthdate was given as 1880.  In 1940 his birthdate was given as 1858. In his social security application his birthdate is given as 1858, as it is on his death certificate.  On all of these records his birth place is given as Kentucky, Olan County Kentucky or Bowling Green Kentucky.

His parent’s names are consistent.

I found the information for this post on and in the Pension File of Thomas Ray Allen.



William M Quinn – Witness

William Quinn was 36 when he testified for Thomas Ray Allen at the beginning of the pension process, when he was just trying to get his pension. This testimony was given in 1891. The pensions were instituted in 1890. This General Affidavit was “For the testimony of EMPLOYERS OR NEAR NEIGHBORS of the soldier, (other than relatives) who have known him before his enlistment or since his discharge and return from the army.” Quinn testified that he had known Thomas Ray Allen for twenty years.

William Quinn and Charles Kyte testified that: “he is a man of good moral character and not addicted to any vicious habits. We have often heard him complain of deafness and of his back hurting him, also of his stomach and he now suffers more or less all the time from the above disabilities – our knowledge of the facts above cited are gained from our often seeing him and from our intimate acquaintance.”

William Quinn was born into slavery about 1854 in Hodgenville, Larue County, Kentucky to Simon and Phoebe Quinn. He was the oldest of seven children.  Thomas Ray Allen’s first wife was also born in Larue County.

Twenty-two year old Quinn married Julia Ann Cole in their home county on May 31, 1876. She was eighteen.  By 1880 he was in Indianapolis, Indiana working at a barber shop. Julia was not with him. Probably she was waiting back in Kentucky for him to get settled.

By 1900 they had been married 24 years. There had been no children. Quinn was a barber. Julia did not work outside of the home, however they had seven lodgers so she had plenty of work.  All of the lodgers were born in Kentucky, except for the wife of one who had been born in New York.  Everybody was literate.

William Quinn continued to barber, eventually having his own shop.  Julia continued to have a house full of borders until 1940 when they were living in an apartment and neither was working. They did have another, unnamed, source of income.  Perhaps they were renting out the barbershop and the boarding house. Or maybe they sold them.  Quinn had never attended school while Julia had attended for three years. That makes it all the more impressive that they were both literate and that he was able to sign his name so well when giving his testimony.


The words on the back of this sheet showed through in a distracting way. I used photoshop to try and make it easier to read, hence the difference in color from other sheets in the file.

Julia Ann Quinn died of an intestinal obstruction at home in their apartment, on February 8, 1943. She was 83 years old. Her husband was the informant.

A little over a year later, on April 25, 1944, William Quinn died of hemiplegia, which means that half of his body was paralyzed due to a stroke.  He died at home in the old boarding house.  He was listed as 87 but if the earlier dates of his birth are correct, he was closer to 90. Thomas Quinn, his younger brother, was the informant. Thomas lived in Illinois so perhaps came down to be with his older brother while he was ill, or maybe he hoped to persuade him to move to Chicago and live with him.

William and Julia are buried side by side in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.


I found this information on,, Thomas Ray Allen’s Pension File (It is about 1/2 an inch thick when I squeeze it together, over 100 pages.). I also used google to find out about hemiplegia.

Lewis Pierson – Witness

Lewis Pierson (sometimes spelled Louis Pearson) was born in Shelby, Kentucky about 1837. By 1860 he was living in Danville, Indiana with the Atty. James M. Gregg family.  He had no occupation listed and was unable to read or write.

On July 4, 1864 Pierson enlisted in Company G US Colored Troops 28th Infantry in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was mustered out on November 8, 1865 at Corpus Christie, Texas. He was described as a farmer, 36 years old, 5 ft 9 in with black hair and black eyes.

He appears in the Indianapolis City Directory starting in 1879 as a barber and continued to follow that profession.  He applied for a pension in 1890. In 1904 he testified at Thomas Ray Allen’s pension hearing that Allen was who he claimed to be.

There were more USCT from Kentucky than from any other state, aside from Louisiana.

I could not find him in another census until 1900 when he was a lodger in Mrs. Jennie Sanders house on Center Street.  He and Mrs. Sanders shared quarters at several different addresses from 1900 to 1907.  She worked as a laundress while he continued barbering.  Neither one was able to read or write.

On December 7, 1907 Lewis Pierson died of pulmonary tuberculosis at home.  His father’s name was given as Dock Pierson. No name for his mother.  Mrs. Sanders was the informant.  I wondered if Mrs. Sanders was Lewis Pierson’s sister, but not knowing the mother’s name made it seem unlikely.  He was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

The information for this post came from records found on and Thomas Ray Allen’s pension file.

The Other N is Nelson Cantrell – Witness for Thomas Allen

Although I posted an “N” post yesterday, I had done so much research on Nelson Cantrell that I decided to write it up as the Other “N”.  Nelson Cantrell is listed on the same Declaration as Major Edmundson who we met earlier.   He testified that he knew Thomas was who he claimed to be.  He was literate and signed his name on the document below.

Nelson Cantrell was  born about 1873 in Sumner County Tennessee, the second of the eleven children of Reuben Moore Cantrell and Sarah “Sallie” Lawrence Cantrell. Reuben Moore and Sallie Lawrence were married in 1867.

In the 1880 census, the family was going by the surname of “Moore”. The father, Rueben did farm labor. The mother, Sallie kept house. Neither could read or write. The two oldest children, Eight year old Mary and seven year old Nelson attended school. The three younger children (ages five, three and one) were too young for school.

By 1895 the family begins to appear in the Indianapolis City Directory. Sarah is listed as the widow of Reuben. They are now using the last name “Cantrell”. Perhaps they, like Thomas Ray Allen, decided to use a different name because they no longer wanted to use the name of the former slave owner. This was not an uncommon practice and makes it confusing to track family members unless you realize there was a name change. I suspected there had been a name change because I could not find the family before 1880. When I found a marriage record for Sallie with her same last name and a Reuben in the same area that they were originally from, I was hopeful that I had found them. Then I found the couple in 1880 with children of the same name as they appear later. This caused a bit of joy on my part.

Nelson  first appears in 1895 as a hostler in Indianapolis. Two years later he and Julia Buckner were married. They shared a home with her family for several years. First her father was listed as head. Eventually Nelson was listed as head. Nelson continued to work as a hostler, a laborer and later as a trucker.  On his World War 1 draft registration card, Nelson was described as being tall and stout with black hair and brown eyes.

On February 23, 1930, Julia’s father, Robert Buckner died at the shared home. In May of the same year, Nelson’s wife Julia died of diabetes with lobar pneumonia as a contributing factor.

Nelson married again sometime before his death at 62 on February 7, 1940. His wife, Rosie, was 31.  The cause of death was pneumonia with emphysema as a contributing factor.