African-American Genealogy - Civil War Sailor's Widow Drops Dead in Philadelphia
Pension File Paperwork Holds Genealogy Gems
Researched and submitted by
C. V. Brooks
Extracts from Lucy Tucker's typewritten deposition
appear here in paragraph form.
Note: The Special Examiner spells his name this way: M-a-l-c-o-m, without the second "1".
Lucy Tucker, 53, before C. William Malcom, Special Examiner,
Bureau of Pensions,
Philadelphia, May 7, 1921
"I am the widow of William Tucker. My mother, Violet James, pensioned as the widow of Washington James, late of the U. S. Navy, died at this address... S. Warnock St., on May 4, 1921... She was insured in the Philantropic Life Insurance Company. The office is in The Odd Fellows Temple, Broad and Arch Sts. She was insured in the sum of $50... I was named the beneficiary in the insurance policy. I was paid the $50 this morning. I paid the premiums on the life insurance policy. I paid 24 cents each week…
"Her pension check was not delivered on May 4.
She was off working that day and dropped dead just about 10 minutes after she got in the house here about 8 P. M.
"Her undertaker is R. S. Weaver of 740 S. 18th St. His bill will be in the neighborhood of $300. Pensioner is to be buried on Monday the 9th [at the Soldiers' National Cemetery]. The undertaker has made application for the $75 allowed by the County of Philadelphia for the burial of a pensioner. Pensioner left five children."
In addition to Lucy Tucker, the deposition names Nannie Mason, widow of George Mason (South Warnock Street); Maria, wife of John H. Campbell (Washington, D.C.); Martha Smith, wife of Benjamin Smith (Lancaster, Virginia); and John James (Lancaster, Virginia). "It is agreed between my brother and sisters that I make the application for reimbursement of pensioner's accrued pension," states Mrs. Tucker. According to the death certificate, Violet James died of chronic myocarditis.
Windom Bryant, Chief Clerk, Office of County Commissioners, City and County of Philadelphia, to the Bureau of Pensions, Washington, D.C.,
Philadelphia, June 4, 1921
"Application has been made to this Department for $75 toward defraying the expense of burial of one VIOLET JAMES... who is the widow of one WASHINGTON JAMES, who died some thirty-five years ago and is buried in St. John's Baptist Cemetery, Irvington, Lancaster County, Virginia…
"May we ask you to advise us the record of this man in the Civil War, as we are anxious to pay this claim. For your information, we advise you that the deceased veteran was a colored man."
The response, dated June 30, 1921, states that Washington James enlisted on January 1, 1862, and served on the USS "Mystic" to January 2, 1865. The sailor did not receive a pension; Violet James, his widow, received eight dollars per month from August 31, 1891, and twenty dollars per month from September 8, 1916. Following are two of several witnesses who supported the widow's claim for needed and deserved pension benefits.
John A. Palmer, notary public,
Lancaster, Virginia, October 26, 1891
"Violet James belonged to my mother, in times of slavery..."
Palmer certifies that "a year or two" after her husband died, Violet James left Lancaster for Baltimore and carried with her "a young and helpless family of some four or five children."
W. C. Lawson, 56, pastor, Macedonia Baptist Church,
Baltimore, Maryland, before S. Magruder Tubman, Justice of the Peace,
May 6, 1892
"I performed the ceremony of baptism for Nannie and Pauline James. The dates of their births were given me as Nannie born 29 Oct 1876; Pauline born 28 Nov 1878."
Source: Pension file of Washington James, National Archives