Thursday, March 10, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - Isaac Seaver's Civil War Pension Papers: Widow's Drop Report

It's Treasure Chest Thursday, time to share one of the documents or artifacts in my family history collection.  In previous posts, I have displayed documents from the Civil War Pension File of Isaac Seaver, my second great-grandfather. 

I received the complete Civil War Pension File for Isaac Seaver on 3 January - see my post My Christmas Present Came Today - Oh Boy! - and it has 81 pages in the file.  Some of them have little or no information on them.  I'm going to cherry-pick some pages for this and later Treasure Chest Thursday posts.

Last week, we saw that Isaac's widow, Alvina M. Seaver, was awarded a pension of  $12 per month in 1908.

This week is the last two dated documents in the Pension File - an envelope and the Drop Report - Pensioner that the pensioner has died.

The first image is the envelope mailed by the Pension Department to the Pensioner, Alvina M. Seaver:

Someone, probably the mail carrier or the town postmaster, has written "Deceased, Apr 20 1923" on the face of the envelope and sent it back to the Pension Department.

The second item below is the Drop Report - Pensioner that was put into the Pension File as a result of the report of death:

The top part of the card has the Pensioner's address typed or stamped on the card:

667027   ACT APR

The two parts of this card that were filled out read (filled in lines underlined, handwritten items italicized):


May 12 1923
Check No. 8755439   $ 30
dated  May 4 1923, Section 2
returned by postmaster with information that the
above-described pensioner died Apr. 20
19 23 has been canceled.


May 18 1923

The name of the above-described pensioner who
was last paid at the rate of $ 30 per month
to April 4, 19 23, has this day
been dropped from the roll because of death.

I'm concerned that the "word" of a postmaster or mail carrier would be taken, apparently without question, that a person has died.  I guess those were more innocent times.  You would think that the Pension bureau would request and receive a death certificate from the town clerk.

From this "record," we know the death date and last known address of Alvina M. (Bradley) (Lewis) Seaver, widow of Isaac Seaver 3rd (1823-1901).  We also know that the monthly payment had risen to $30 per month from $12 per month in 1908, although there are no documents in the pension file about the increase in payment.  Was it due to legislation and applied across the board to all pensioners?

1 comment:

Geolover said...

Randy, the pension files are indeed treasure troves. Your guided tours are helpful.

Regarding the postmaster - in the file of one of my cousins is a copy of the Pension Office's correspondence with a local postmaster, asking about the veteran's reputation and character! Hoboy . . . since the Postmasters were political appointees, and could be repositories of all manner of local gossip, this could be a minefield for us more recent readers.

You raise a question about what Act (of Congress) authorized an increase, and whether such were automatically granted.

Re: the 2nd part - pensioners got increases they applied for an qualified for. Since increases post-1909 were generally based on age, for instance, the pensioner had to prove age.

In the case of a distant cousin, this attempt to prove year of birth was via age given in the 1850 US Census. The pensioner's family was enumerated then under a wrong surname in the copy sent to the Pension Bureau, and the search for age-proof led to a notation's being made on the enumeration page regarding the correct surname, referencing the pension proceeding. All such help is greatly appreciated!

Re: the 1st part of the question, you recently noted a new database at - the pension payment cards for 1907-1933. Thanks so much, by the way - they solved a minor mystery for me (a cousin was pensioner noted in Soldiers Home records, but his application not indexed on for the pension index cards). One nice feature of the payment cards is notations as to what Act governed payments and increases. These annotations may not be complete, but you might find an answer there.